02: Heaven on earth – Thought Starters
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[Thought questions for Heaven on Earth October 9, 2013]

Prayer, like incense, ascending to God

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

1. Corporate prayer. Offering incense may have been a once-in -a-lifetime experience for Zechariah. He would spend a week ministering in the temple. It was in the temple that he would burn incense. The smoke would go upward as a reminder that the prayers of the people would go to the dwelling place of God. Zechariah had a special prayer that he and other righteous people prayed. He prayed that the Messiah would come. Little did he know that this prayer was about to be answered. As he was trained, the priest performed his duty while looking toward the mercy seat. Zechariah added his personal prayer to those of the people. All was silent during this ceremony. (Rev. 8:1-5) Then he saw him! An angel standing on the right side of the altar of incense! Why do you think the angel appeared to Zechariah in the temple during prayer? Have you ever had an experience with God in church? Why do we call prayer in church “corporate” prayer? Do you feel closer or further away from God when you pray corporately? What about with a prayer group? A prayer partner? Why?

2. Within you. Bionic implants are said to improve the life of the wearer or user. Cochlear implants improve hearing and speech. A brain patch restores mobility to damaged and alienated limbs. A heart pacemaker assures your heart a regular life-pumping beat. With all of these implants, something ‘outside’ the human is introduced to the body to improve their earthly lives. Do we give our spiritual life the same priority? We have Someone who wants to “dwell within us.” (1 Cor. 3:16) Can we trust such a clearly superior force to improve our lives and help us to reach our potential as the temple of God? Do we consider the request for the Holy Spirit to be a priority or a risk? How will others know that the Spirit is dwelling within us?

3. Eden the meeting place. Gardening takes on a new dimension in Genesis 2, when God Himself plants living vines, trees, and other plants in a special part of Eden for Adam to call home. Provisions were made for nourishing those plants, for a river ran through Eden. There God walked in the cool of the evening, communicating with man. Can you imagine Adam’s joy when he sees his old home again in Eden restored? When he sees the one with whom he conversed so long ago?

4. The earthly sanctuary. In contrast to the garden of Eden, the earthly sanctuary was not constructed of living plants and trees.  However, the same desire from the Creator accompanied this sanctuary as well-the desire of God to dwell among men.  One of our most beloved Bible verses tells us that Jesus is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-3). In faith, we may say to a friend in parting, “I will see you on the corner of Blessed Boulevard and Love Street!” Given the descriptions we have of Eden, its garden and the Holy City with its surrounding countryside, what are we expecting? What part does the Creator have in our expectations? What of His desire to dwell among us? Do you believe this desire will be fulfilled at last? 

5. The language of the sanctuary. With a little study we can see that the architecture and physical structure of the sanctuary resembles the magnificent buildings of the heathen Canaanites. Is it surprising to you that God would use pagan sources of harmony and beauty in designing a place where He could meet with His people? Wouldn’t this have been an ideal time to introduce a new style of design? Why not? Why does God use symbolic language throughout Scripture? What can we learn by studying this symbolism? Will we speak and learn of God in symbols throughout eternity? Why or why not?

6. The temple of heaven. Where was John when he looked for the temple in the New Jerusalem and there wasn’t one? What reason did he give for the absence of a holy temple in heaven? (Revelation 21:22). How does the New Jerusalem qualify as the eternal temple of God? Does God even need a temple through eternity? Doesn’t He reside in all of the universe and the countless universes He has created? Will we be seeing God with such advanced insight that will no longer rely on symbols to understand Him? Or will symbols multiply as we study God’s laws forever?

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02: Heaven on earth – Thought Starters — 8 Comments

  1. Joyce what you say in #5 raises a question in my mind. Does God copy from the devil or is it the other way around?

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    • Tyler, I don't see Joyce saying anything about God "copying" from the devil.

      (Neither do I see Satan copying from God. Satan perverts what God has created. If he truly copied, Satan's character would be like God's!!)

      That the Hebrew temple was in the approximate format of temples existing at the time appears to be historical fact based on archeological excavations. I don't know enough to judge whether or not they got their dates right, but there's no compelling reason to believe they did not.

      When God communicates with man, He uses human language and human concepts so we may understand Him. (How far removed from the language of heaven this must be!) It should not be surprising, then, that he used a building pattern similar to what the people were used to as a place of worship. And He filled it with symbols teaching His truth.

      I appreciate the central concept of this week's lesson: It appears to be focused on "God With Us." He comes to us in our time and in our culture. He came to us in human form, rather than divine, so we could see Him and relate to Him.

      Likewise, it seems to me that He used the pattern of a recognizable place of worship so the Hebrew people could begin to understand what He wanted to teach them.

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      • Well, Inge, your comment raises a whole host of questions concerning God and how he relates to fallen humanity.

        I raised a question about God having Moses copy from pagan sources which I believe is a product of Satanic twisting.

        1) I always thought that God was the great originator of all knowledge. Is He also the source of paganism and all its practices? If not then where did paganism get all the designs they had?
        2) Was the Heavenly sanctuary also a copy of paganism? After all, that was the pattern Moses was to use wasn’t it?
        3) Certainly God communicates with fallen humanity on a level that we can understand and certainly that includes using things that we are familiar with but how far do we take that? Does God also use the practices of Baal worship to teach us heavenly things?

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        • First of all, Tyler, I think we need to recognize that two things being alike does not mean that one is a copy of the other. Just because my garden is laid out similar to yours does not mean I copied from you, for instance.

          Joyce did not say that God had Moses "copy from pagan sources."

          Joyce said that "the architecture and physical structure of the sanctuary resembles the magnificent buildings of the heathen Canaanites. Is it surprising to you that God would use pagan sources of harmony and beauty in designing a place where He could meet with His people?"

          That the Hebrew temple was of similar proportions as the Hittite/Canaanite temples is a fact verified by archeologists.

          I think Joyce's question is relevant in view of the fact that contemporary Christians say we should not do certain things because of their pagan associations (which no one knows about without delving into history). Certainly the Hebrew temple proportions could have been deemed to have "pagan associations" because of its format. But that didn't stop God from using the pattern. (We don't know how or why the Canaanite temples were of similar proportion and we can only speculate.)

          I suggested that God communicates to us by using concepts with which we are familiar, and I base them on the pattern in which God has related to man throughout human history. And there are some interesting specific examples in the Bible.

          I think of God's covenant with Abraham. We read the story of the Abraham laying sacrifices on the ground and watching over them till evening (Gen 15:8-17), and we think "What strange behavior!" But Abraham had asked God, "How will I know that what you say is true?" And so God used the procedures for making a legal covenant in Canaan to assure Abraham that the covenant was binding. He condescended to pass between the pieces of the sacrifice in the form of a "smoking furnace and a burning lamp" just as a human guarantor of a covenant would have done.

          It seems to me that saying God "copied" heathen practices in this instance rather distorts the picture, don't you? Instead, I say that God used the familiar to assure Abraham of His intentions. It was like God coming down to you right now to make a covenant with you, and you ask, "How shall I know that you will actually do it?" And God says, "Fill out a legal contract and meet me tomorrow the same time." And on that day, God goes to the court house with you and signs the contract, having it witnessed and sealed by a lawyer.

          Did God need to do this with Abraham? If not, why did He do it this way?

          You also wrote, "certainly that includes using things that we are familiar with but how far do we take that?"

          Well, I think we had better take it no further than Jesus did. ;)

          Remember that story Jesus told about Lazarus and Abraham's bosom? It was a well-known story of the time, and there have been times when I wished heartily that Jesus would have used a different illustration to make His point. But he used a story that had some false theology embedded in it to make a point. I've known preachers to do the same today by using a story of someone going to heaven and meeting St. Peter at the gate who asks the applicant on what basis he deserves to enter heaven. Now the preacher knows very well that there's no Peter at the gate of heaven. But he uses the story to make a point about entrance requirements to heaven. He uses the story just like Jesus used the story of Abraham and Lazarus.

          It tells me something about how far God will go to communicate with us in a manner we can understands. He wants to meet us down here, right where we are. He's much more "down to earth" than many of His followers.

          The point is that God wants to be "with us," and He wants us to be with Him. And He'll meet us way more than half-way!

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  2. Joyce the statement in #6 about Rev 21:22 does indeed raise some interesting questions doesn’t it? For about the last 20 years or so I have consistently thought the New Jerusalem as depicted in Revelation was symbolic every bit as much as the earthly sanctuary was. I know that bothers some people and they will point me to Christ’s promise, “In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (Jn 14:2 NKJV) but I consider the two entirely separate. Certainly there will be places for the saved to stay in when they are transported to Heaven. We can’t deny that although one could rightly argue that they won’t be mansions.

    The point is that if the vision John had of the New Jerusalem was symbolic then what he said concerning the temple in it should be thought of as theological instead of literal shouldn't it?

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    • We Adventists believe the physical reality of the heavenly sanctuary (last sentence of Monday lesson on "Copy of the sanctuary") as well as the physical reality of the New Jerusalem. "The New Jerusalem is the city for which Abraham looked (Heb. 11:10). Within that vast city Christ is preparing mansions (John 14:12), or as the original word indicates, abiding places-real homes. But the redeemed will not be confined within the walls of the New Jerusalem. They will inherit the earth. From their city homes the redeemed will go out into the country to design and build their dream homes, to plant crops, and harvest and eat them (Isa, 65:21)..."Seventh day Adventist Believe p. 377

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  3. [Please be sure to use your full name as stated in the SSNET Comment Guidelines when commenting on this site. Thank you.]

    Well, Satan knew the heavenly temple. Its possible he copied it here on earth before God did. When Moses asked for compelling evidence, God used the very staff Moses was familier with. When Moses much later pleaded with God for Miriam to be healed of Leprosy, God reminded Moses that in their culture she had to be ostracized for a week. So, yes, God uses whatever we understand with little regard for previous associations.

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  4. ERROR, in paragraph 3 "God walked in the cool of the evening " The Bible says in the cool of the day, Genesis 3:8 . Such error may bring credibility of contribution into question . Thank you.

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