Waiting for the City Foursquare
By Kenneth Westby
Now we wait…and hope. We wait for the arrival of God’s judgment and the bursting forth of the everlasting Kingdom of God. We also seek…and we endure. We, like Abraham, have in our minds a picture of a beautiful, shiny city coming from heaven to earth. It is to that city we seek our never-ending future in the presence of our Father and his Son. From the New Jerusalem a voice calls to us, “Come, lay down your burdens, sing for joy, and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.” Soon the waiting will be over. Then what?
We wait for what we know is coming. We don’t wait for what we know won’t be coming. We don’t wait for what can’t possibly happen. (One doesn’t wait for an ocean liner to pick one up in Arizona.) We can wait patiently if we know for sure the Kingdom of God is coming to earth, that Jesus is coming and his reward is with him. We can be sanely sure of it since God promises he is going to inaugurate his kingdom on earth and create all things new. Jesus promised that he would return as king in that kingdom. Are there more sure words than those from the Maker of the universe and his Son?
Our faith is a solid belief in the promises made by the Rulers of the cosmos. That faith imparts strength to “endure/overcome to the end,” Waiting takes patience …patience grounded in the strength of the promise by God that his Kingdom is sure to come. The vigorously faithful prophet Habakkuk, a contemporary of Jeremiah, received these words directly from God:
…The revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
It will certainly come and will not delay.
…The righteous will live by faithfulness. (Hab 2:2-4)
Waiting makes sense given who made the promises and who tells us to wait patiently. We are wise to wait and wise use the waiting time to prepare for the inevitable arrival of God’s Kingdom. When it does burst forth upon the earth all God’s sons and daughters can expect to be fully occupied in new royalty roles as rulers, leaders, and teachers. Among the first orders will be to let the inhabitants of earth know who God is and what he is doing. We will be about our Father’s business to fill the earth with “the knowledge of Yahovah as the waters cover the sea.” There will be work to be done.
What is it that God is doing? What is he planning? What is earth’s future…our future?
These are big thoughts. We need to be asking the big questions and thinking big thoughts. Where are the answers to be found? In science? Is seems science likes to play answer man to the big cosmic riddles. Nobel Laureate Sir Peter Medawar says science, however, is mute when it comes to the really big questions of beginnings, endings, and purpose.
The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions having to do with first and last things—questions such as “How did everything begin?”; “What are we all here for?”; “What is the point of living?”
Turtles All the Way Down
Man has always had ideas of how our world is. Primitive pagan cosmologies (the theory of the universe as a whole, its origin, its parts, its laws) and modern evolutionary cosmologies are not that different from each other.
The First Cosmology:
The world is not flat, as it appears, but round, like a ball.
Then what holds the world up?
The great god Atlas holds the world on his shoulders.
But what does Atlas stand on?
He stands on a huge island.
But on what does the island rest?
It rests on the back of a giant turtle.
No need to ask further. It’s turtles all the way down!
Modern scientific cosmology has discovered several new turtles in the chain, for which achievement it is very proud of itself. But what if there is no Atlas, no island, no turtles? What if our modern materialist’s Atlas—the Big Bang and undirected random evolution—are also silly myths? Are they any closer to understanding how and why man and the universe exist? What of the childlike questions about which Sir Medawar says science is silent. Has the cat got their tongues? Or is it that science self-limits itself to strictly materialistic possibilities? How can material create itself, bring forth ordered systems, create energy, life, and all that is our cosmos—seen and unseen?
Science and Scripture are not enemies nor are they incompatible. Science marvelously describes, in part, a universe of things, of laws, and the workings of life on earth, yet candidly admits that it knows little of what’s truly “out there” but is busy discovering new information every day. But remains silent on the big questions. The Bible specializes in explaining the big things.
The Bible is not a science book, it is more. The great Jewish rabbi, sage and Torah teacher Maimonindes (12th century) said: “The account of the beginning [Genesis 1] is natural science but so profound that it is cloaked in parables….Study astronomy and physics if you desire to comprehend the relation between the world and God’s management of it.” The more one understands God’s revelation in Scripture the more perfect the symmetry becomes between design and Designer, between creation and Creator. God has some amazing things waiting to be revealed at the moment of his choosing. What might they be?
God’s Secret Wisdom
Paul expands on words from Isaiah in this inspirational message to the Corinthians:
Eye has not seen,
nor ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him. (1Cor 2:9)
In the same chapter Paul directs to “the mature” profound comments concerning elements of “God’s secret wisdom.” He taught that the hidden wisdom of God is being revealed to the mature by God’s spirit and via His Word—a wisdom far above the limits of scientific inquiry. Paul speaks of the need for spiritual understanding to search “the deep things of God.” Further, he cautions, “no one knows the thoughts of God” except through God’s spirit guiding them.
He appeals to Christians to seek “spiritual truths” that give understanding of what God is actively preparing for his people, but stipulates that “they are spiritually discerned.” That is, mature seekers of God’s wisdom will humbly incline themselves to look deeply into God’s word, to see the marvels of design, the symbolism and parallels, and thus glean insight into the mind of God.
God himself pointed us in this direction:
For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart…I will be found by you” (Jer 29:11-14).
The key words for us to note, if we want to find God and his plans for us, are the words “seek” and “with all your heart.” This means not stopping with a casual surface study of Scripture, but mining it for all the diamonds below the surface. We’re talking about serious study and meditation, real effort and time. I liken the Word of God to an expertly cut diamond, shine a light source over it and behold it coruscating upon various facets each reflecting different jewel-like colors. Then move your viewing angle and you see yet different light reflections and new colors. So it is with this amazing book called Scripture.
Eden, the Sabbath, New Jerusalem—the Golden Cube
Last time we considered the Grand Plan of God exploring parallels between the earthly Eden of Genesis and the heavenly Eden pictured in the closing chapters of Revelation, the New Jerusalem, the city Foursquare coming down to earth. The first three chapters and last three chapters of Scripture (Genesis and Revelation) are most important to understanding God’s plan and beginnings and ends. We also considered the symbolism of the perfect cube that was the Holiest of Holies in the tabernacle, overlaid in gold, with the perfect cube city coming down from heaven with streets of pure gold. The element in common: the Presence of Yahovah, the Creator and Father of all mankind. And at his side, a glorified High Priest, his Son, Jesus, firstborn son and firstborn from the dead, and crowned King of Kings.
The Sabbath is central to the Grand Plan of God as it pictures that never-ending Kingdom of God, the final rest from sin, wars, want, and death—all that have caused tears to flow for as long as man has followed the evil path. The Sabbath is perfectly fulfilled when “The dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev 21:3). The world will rest in peace and prosperity with its Maker. Biblical symbols like Eden, the Sabbath, the Golden Cube of the Holist of Holies and New Jerusalem, are the keys to unlock the secrets of the meta-story, the blueprint of what God is doing.
It is important to consider the Genesis 2 terminology the author used of the Sabbath for it points toward an ultimate destiny and condition for mankind. John H. Walton offers an excellent treatment of the Sabbath rest in his new book, The Lost World of Genesis One—Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. The Hebrew verb sabat (Gen 2:2) from which our term Sabbath comes basically means “ceasing” (cf. Josh 5:12; Job 32:1). But this cessation leads into a new state which is described by another set of words having to do with entering a place of divine rest. The verb nuha and its associated noun, menuha involve entering a position of safety, security or stability and the noun describes the place where that is found. The verb sabat describes a transition into the activity or inactivity of nuha. We know that when God rests (ceases, sabat) on the seventh day in Genesis 2, he also transitions into the condition of stability (nuha) in a beautiful garden paradise with his image bearers, because that is the terminology used in Exodus 20:11. God’s “ceasing” in Gen 2:2 leads to his “rest” which is located in his “resting place” (menuha) in Psalm 132.
Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool—“arise, O Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.” For the Lord has chosen Zion [Jerusalem=New Jerusalem], he has desired it for his dwelling: “This is my resting place [menuha] for ever and ever; here will I sit enthroned, for I have desired it.” (Ps 132:7-8, 13-14)
The footstool is paralleled by the ark, and the temple (“dwelling place”) is paralleled with “resting place” (menuha).
Eden pictured God’s resting place, his temple. The City Foursquare pictures God’s resting place with mankind. Divine rest is in a temple, the place of God’s presence. So it was in Eden so it will be in the New Jerusalem. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that there is a coming Sabbath rest in God’s resting place, his temple, his kingdom.
Flowers and the Bible
Everything God has made is both simple and complex. Take a flower, for example. There are thousands of them in the field, all yellow daffodils, for it is springtime in the Skagit River valley in Washington State. Simple yellow flowers that look pretty with their long green stems and become spectacular when they are tens of thousands in fields as far as one can see. Just simple flowers that one can appreciate at a glance and thus receive a bit satisfying mental nourishment from their beauty. Yet when one pauses to look at them more closely, at how their peddles are arranged to form a trumpet shape and discover the other colors inside the yellow trumpet, even more beauty is enjoyed by appreciating the daffodil’s unique structure and design. How did this all come forth from a homely dry-looking bulb put in the ground? But the investigation of the lowly but comely little daffodil is just beginning.
With the help of powerful scientific tools one can actually see the marvelously complex inner universe of this flower, its cells, its pigments, its systems of growth and nutrition. Going even deeper in the complexities of what makes a daffodil work one enters the micro, sub-micro and nano-world of atoms, protons, electrons, invisible particles, and into the genetic material that contains the discrete information that directs living material to form into such a bright yellow flower; a life energy that can push the cold earth away and announce the snows are over and spring has come.
The genome of a daffodil is only partly understood, but the hidden instructions contained therein could fill libraries. A simple flower that can be understood and appreciated on the surface of things, but that simple flower is anything but simple when its workings and complex design are considered. It is a product of the mind of a Creator whose handiwork is amazing, almost beyond comprehension. The Bible is like that daffodil.
The Bible=A Depth of Wisdom in Layers of Understanding
There are solid and obvious truths to be understood from reading Scripture. These are spiritual and common moral truths that can guide the learned and unlearned alike. The Bible can and does speak plainly in its essential guidelines for living a Godly life. These are clearly visible at a surface, literal reading and will be heeded and followed by the wise.
But as with all things God has made in the cosmos, there is a depth and complexity to be explored which offers marvels hidden below what the naked eye can see. This is true of celestial bodies, of butterflies, of the human body, of daffodils, and especially true of the Word of God. It is essential to realize that there are meanings to the Bible that are not apparent from a casual reading. Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology profoundly constructed by God himself. It cries out for understanding, but it demands much from the reader. The search for meaning expands on the literal text, not by whim, but upon history and insights of Godly men and women led by God Spirit.
A literal reading of the Bible reveals only a part of the wealth of information held within the text. Some of the Bible is of a poetic structure with meanings that go well beyond the literal text and include subtleties held within the words and even the form. “Maimonindes taught in regard to Proverbs 25:11, ‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a filigree vessel of silver’—the vessel (the literal meaning of the text) is beautiful and valuable, but the golden apples held within the vessel (the inner meanings of the text) are even more beautiful and valuable.” There is a depth and complexity to Scripture to keep us in discovering wonderment until our last breath.
Like the packaging reads on a piece of expensive and complex electronics: “Some skill and tools may be required for proper assembly”; perhaps publishers should consider labeling the box containing a new Bible with an advisory: “Wisdom, tools, and spiritual guidance needed for proper understanding—The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge.”
There was a time not long ago when no one knew what a cell looked like, much less that the human genome, just 3 percent of our DNA, is an information code of 3.5 billion letters and could fill a whole library. Think how much information God packed into each of our body’s 10 trillion cells. Each cell has this information tightly coiled within, which if uncoiled to its actual length the DNA would be roughly 2 meters (about 80 inches). Since there are about 10 trillion (up to 100 trillion, size counts) cells in the human body the total length of DNA is a mind-boggling 20 trillion meters (there are about1600 meters in a mile—how many miles is 20 trillion meters!). Each of the trillions of cells in our bodies has a data base larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Think how much information our Creator has intelligently designed and packed into each cell. Should we be surprised that the Bible is also information-rich and unlimited in its power to teach?
It used to be assumed that light propagated instantaneously throughout the universe. Latter it was discovered that light is fast, but not that fast. For much of my lifetime it was assumed that the speed of light is the terminal velocity—186,000 miles per second or 8.3 minutes for the sun’s light to reach earth. That was the max speed limit for anything. Science settled on that as the limit. Recent discoveries, however, require that we throw away that old limit of lightspeed and open up our understanding to yet faster things. Gravitation, for one, has been discovered to be almost “instantaneous” with its influence on a sea of agent “particles,” such as C-graviton, causing speeds exceeding 1010 times the speed of light! But even at these hyper-velocities it takes gravitation 1.5 years to move across the observable universe—a mere infinitesimal portion of the full universe.
Things in God’s spirit-world may travel at truly instantaneous speeds. The spirit world of God is a totally new frontier, one not restricted by limits which in reality may not be limits.
We tend to believe in limits and then believe that the yet new limits are now truly limits. When considering what God is planning for infinity, we must not limit our imagination to just what we see or have experienced. What was that heavenly city like in Abraham’s mind that so motivated him to remain faithful and keep moving Godward? I speculate his vision was a fantastically attractive scene of heavenly glory with Yahovah at its center. Whatever it was it was beyond the limits of our physical world—it was other-worldly.
“Coming Down from Heaven”
God gave to John, not to you or me, a vision of the Holy City—the place from which His Majesty reigns. That vision was carefully recorded and preserved to be shared with the faithful, including you and me. It was intended to become a teleological image to which we in awe are drawn. Moses and the seventy elders of Israel saw the sapphire pavement below God’s throne. In visions Isaiah and Ezekiel saw spirit machinery, awesome angelic creatures, God on his throne, and such overwhelming power displays Isaiah believed he might not survive. Read of these manifestations and put your imagination to work, build pictures in your mind.
Release your God-given imagination to embrace what is perhaps its ultimate use—picturing the Glory of God and his Kingdom. John, even before his vision in Revelation, seems to have this ultimate reality as the object of his affections. He characterizes the grand plan of God as “the love the Father has lavished on us.” His words to fellow believers are just as relevant now as then—and we live two thousand years closer to the event he describes:
Dear friends, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1Jn 3:1-3)
Before my mother left her native Norway as a 19-year old for the shores of America, she had a detailed dream. Margit Ludvigsen had read all she could about this big, beautiful and unique land of opportunity. Her vision of America inspired her to overcome considerable difficulties that may have discouraged others. With tears flowing she beheld the Statue of Liberty as her ship, the Stavangerfjord, pulled into New York’s harbor. Here at last, the place of her dreams. Well, dreams are often dashed by a reality that doesn’t quite match. The Great Depression hit three years after she arrived and life became full of struggles, yet she retained her youthful dream of America, the greatest country on God’s green earth. That love for this country endured to her death at age 93. A goal can be a dream in color. America beckoned, she came, and her children are forever grateful.
Usually, reality doesn’t match the dream. Usually, there is a measure of unreality in the dream itself that insures disappointment. The miners who came for California gold in 1849 were led by dreams of easy picking, as were those who braved extreme hardships in the Alaska gold rush. Most were disappointed with the pickings. But that the power of vision to give strength to overcome great privation cannot be doubted.
I fear many of us are too comfortable with the status quo, satisfied practicing easy religion, and lacking the passion to seek after the visionary goal God has put before us. We can do something about that, which is the purpose of this article.
The dream God offers us and encourages us to make our own is guaranteed not to disappoint. In fact, our picture of the Holy City and the New Earth, no matter how exquisite in beauty and glory, is guaranteed to be exceeded by the coming reality of the Kingdom of God. Isn’t that how Paul characterized the secret, deep things of God prepared for those who love him—spectacular things far beyond the glories our mind’s eye can conjure. Yet, God wants us to seek Him and make as our dream His future for us and our world. We must put thought and effort into constructing such a dream, a dream that motivates us to wait, to overcome all obstacles, and to endure to the end. Such was the dream that moved Abraham Godward for over 100 years. As he walked the dry hills of the Middle East, he saw ahead a shiny city “whose architect and builder is God.”
The City Foursquare is something we can picture. Like the symbolic picture of the wolf and the lamb, and the leopard and the goat lying down together in peace, and a child safely leading a lion about. These word pictures need inscribing into the mind’s eye. New Jerusalem anticipates human existence as we have never known it—life abundant and fully satisfying. God’s blueprint is for the whole earth to become a temple city filled with people who are holy, as God is holy.
Take a quiet moment alone, soon, to slowly read Revelation 21 and 22. Let your imagination convert the symbols and colors into a picture. Then picture life in that garden city with its crystal clear river and fruitful trees. Hear the music, the singing, the laughter, the celebrating. See the joy and smiles on the faces of a happy, safe and secure people. Imagine the abundant wealth, glorious jewels, translucent gold—everything so clean and brilliant. Don’t hesitant to make your dream specific. Rainbows are full of color, yet they are discrete, arranged in a beautiful arching shape, not just a blob of color. The city is so described to give us material upon which build our picture, to imagine how it will be. Take the next step and see yourself in it, walking its streets, and celebrating with family and friends. It will be your home for the next quintillion years and into infinity. Let’s get used to the idea that this is the place of our citizenship.
The greatest glory of the City Foursquare is the presence of God Almighty and the Lamb. We will finally enter God’s rest. We shout with David, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” A never-ending Sabbath Rest awaits the citizens of the City Foursquare. Lift up your eyes as you wait for the heavenly kingdom. “Rest in Yahovah and wait patiently for him.”
 Rev 2:7, 11, 26; 3:5, 12, 21
 Isa 11:9; Hab 2:14
 Quoted by John C. Lennox in his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? P. 42. The quote is from Sir Medawar’s book Advice to a Young Scientist.
 “Cosmology is the study of the general nature of the universe in space and time—what it is now, what it was in the past and what it is likely to be in the future.”—Scientific American
 Flandern, Tom Van, Dark Matter, Missing Planets and New Comets, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, 1993, intro.
 Yahovah is one of several attempts, perhaps the best, to vocalize with vowels the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (four consonants) YHVH or YHWH, the sacred name of the Creator God appearing almost 7000 times in the OT. Yahweh and Jehovah are other popular transliterated pronunciations from the Hebrew YHVH. Yehovah and the others take up seven spaces when the vowels are added. “Why seven spaces to spell the name of God? The number 7 occupies a special place in the Torah. The Sabbath is the 7th day of the week, the 1st day made holy in the Bible. Traditionally, the Sabbath is a sign acknowledging that God created the universe…a subtle form of information transfer.”(from Schroeder’s book, Genesis and the Big Bang, p. 183)
 Walton, John H., The Lost World of Genesis One—Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, IVP, 2009, pp 71-74.
 Heb 4:4-11
 Schroeder, Gerald L., Genesis and the Big Bang, the Discovery of Harmony between Modern Science and the Bible, Bantam Books, 1990, p 20-21.
 Flandern, pp. 31-44
 Exo 24:9-11
 See Isa 6 and Ezk chapters 1 & 10.
 Heb 11:10
 Isa 11:6-8; 65:25
 Ps 62:1, 5
 Ps 37:7