Tabernacles Day 1: City of God vs. City of Man

Most people who link the time of universal peace between humans and animals mentioned in Isaiah 11 and 65 with the Feast of Tabernacles, also link it with the Millennium of Jesus’ rule. The problem arises because Isaiah 65:25 belongs to the section that begins with verse 17, which gives the time-frame of that section as belonging to a time of a new heavens and new earth, like that mentioned in Revelation 21 and 22.

If Isaiah 11:6-9 is correct, Satan should not be able to go out afterward and deceive the entire world. There should be peace forever afterward. Something is wrong with tying Isaiah 11:6-9 and 65:17-25 with the Millennium, before a new heavens and a new earth.

Here is the problem: they match John’s description of what happens after a new heavens and new earth are created in Revelation 21 and 22 much better than it matches anything before.

Compare Is. 65:17-19 with Rev. 21:1-5 and you will probably see what I mean. Even Is. 65:20 (which Herbert Armstrong interpreted to refer to a period of 100 years of post-mortem evangelism to resurrected human beings) actually refers poetically to the lack of death in that time. Only really bad translation can make that come out to mean that everyone lives only 100 years. The point is that the theoretical death of anyone at age 100 would be seen as equivalent to the tragic death of a child. Those pitiful ones who don’t even get to age 100 must have really ticked God off mightily to be cut down as the equivalent of newborns!

Remember that resurrection is not once spoken of as a definite reality in the Bible until the book of Daniel, so the revelation to Isaiah was not as complete as that to John, who wrote the book of Revelation.

Speaking of a new heavens and a new earth, John’s next order of business in Revelation 21 is to describe what the angel tells him is “the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” What the angel shows him is a city comprised of gold and precious stones that has “people of God” written all over it symbolically.

For instance, the twelve precious stones that adorn the foundations (v. 19) are exact equivalents (at least semantically) to the 12 stones found on the breastplate of Israel’s high priestly garments in Exodus 28:17-21.

The 12 Gates are named after the 12 tribes of Israel (as if the number 12 itself were not the first clue.)

The foundations of the gates are named after the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ.

The city is a cube, just like the Holy of Holy of the Tabernacle/Temple.

Each side and its height measure 12,000 stadia, which is exactly the same number as that of each tribe represented in Rev. 7:4-8 (which is another place where what John hears and what he sees are different, yet represent the same thing).

But why represent the people of God as a city?

Because the contrast is being made between the “harlot” who is “drunk on the blood of the saints” as the city “Babylon the Great.”

The readers would have seen the city of Rome as what John names Babylon the Great, which really represents the human Evil Empire, the ultimate human delusion of bringing humanity under one Emperor.

The game of empire began shortly after the Great Flood of Noah’s day, when Nimrod began his rule in a city later named Babel (Gen. 10:8-12), extending it to Akkad and Erech, and later into northern Mesopotamia (later Assyria) with Nineveh, Calneh and Resin.

Genesis 11 gives further illumination about the beginning of empire-building with the incident of the Tower of Babel. The original intent was to prevent the scattering of all people around the world by building a city and a “tower that reaches to heaven.” (God had commanded Noah and his descendents to “multiply and fill the earth,” obviously requiring humans to spread out over its surface.)

God scatters them by confusing the languages. Presumably Nimrod must now go out to attempt to gather them once more into other cities to regain control over at least a significant fraction of the human beings that have not yet moved out of Mesopotamia. Thus is born the idea of Empire. If humanity won’t come to your city-state, make their cities part of your empire.

It is not surprising many of the subsequent world-ruling empires take Babylon (yes, Babel by another name) as a least a regional administrative centre. Alexander the Great actually even moved there and made it his capital until his demise. Its allure was great for centuries.

It is not surprising then, that John takes the ancient image of man’s city, made with ordinary materials and powered by gross immorality and compares it metaphorically with the “city” of His morally pure and redeemed people.

God’s City reaches much farther into the heavens (1500 miles!) than man’s most exalted structure. Our atmosphere extends to roughly 200 of those miles, but is only breathable up to almost 6 miles.

If it were literally a city, its square footage would be roughly that of the moon! It would cause massive tilting of the earth and could be seen from Mars or Venus with only a small telescope.

Mankind’s best does not even rate comparison. The two cities are actually comparisons of two ways of living: under human empire or within God’s will.

Mankind’s empire is characterized by hubris, hypocrisy and oppressive force. God’s will is characterized by justice, mercy and faithfulness. Today, we get to pick our side. We need to evaluate which one we pick very carefully.

Only God’s “city” will last into the new heavens and the new earth, where rivers of living waters spring out of the ground and water the Trees of Life.

Jesus is calling, “Come to me, all who are thirsty!” (John 7:37-39).

About John Valade

I facilitate and teach in Wascana Fellowship. I have been married to Wanda since 1984. M.Div. from Briercrest Seminary, SK in 2011 and B.R.E. Canadian Bible College (now Ambrose University College) in 2000.
This entry was posted in Faith, gospel, Religion and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tabernacles Day 1: City of God vs. City of Man

  1. mymoss says:

    “Jesus is calling, “Come to me, all who are thirsty!” (John 7:37-39).
    I was thinking that after the Day of Atonement and going without water for 24 hours we should all be thirsty – physically at least. The key is to be thirsty spiritually and you certainly have whetted my appetitite for more understanding of the festivals of God.
    On the Day of Atonement we symbolically confess our sins, individually and collectively, as the people of God. There are benefits to confession such as unburdening ourselves of a heavy load of bottled up guilt and negative stuff.
    Jesus promised us rest if we would give our burdens to him and I think we become more open to his teachings then.
    Speaking of rest, the new heavens and new earth picture eternal rest as you have mentioned in your excellent post. Thank you.

    • John Valade says:

      Thanks for your encouraging words, Mymoss. Treating the Old Testament festivals as symbolic reminders of the various aspects of our salvation in Jesus Christ rather than as requirements offers many advantages. As symbols they can remind us on many levels that may not have been available to the original Israelite believers. This also allows Christians to determine for themselves what level of entering into these festivals is appropriate for their own circumstances. We can celebrate those aspects which have been fulfilled, while anticipating those aspects that await final consummation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.