The Great Salt Lake, The Grand Staircase, and Hurricane, Utah
When I visited Utah early in 2016, I stayed in the city of Hurricane and drove into nearby Mt. Zion National Park, between the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon on what is called the Grand Staircase, the only place on the globe to view in layers of earth the longest recorded history of the world.
God has a way of speaking to us through His creation in order to point us to Himself. Though we live on earth, our power for life is heavenly in nature. Mt. Zion represents that connection between heaven and earth. Coming to the mountain of God, the New Jerusalem requires clean hands and pure heart. That is why only those who are trained by correction, those with spirits made righteous, can dwell there. God, blessed be His name, has made a way. He uses circumstances for His glory, to draw our attention to our need for Jesus, our Savior, and the only way to enjoy unbroken fellowship with God in the presence of His holy angels. As a whirlwind carried Elijah up into heaven, God, at the right time, will cause us to rise to meet the Lord in the air. In the meantime, we are called to live faithfully as servants of Jesus doing God’s will wherever He has us in the world.
Zion, situated as it is between the two canyons, Bryce to the north and Grand to the South, provides a unique perspective. In a way, it joins what came before in history with what came after, all visibly laid out in the earth’s strata. Similarly, the true Mt. Zion is where Jesus reigns over His people, transforming our past, empowering our present, and giving us confidence for the future. Citizens of the New Jerusalem are willing to follow wherever Christ leads. Zion rises above every mountain, every other kingdom, and reminds us that the will of God in heaven is not a pie in the sky hope but a reality to be lived in the earth.
As Hebrews twelve describes it, Zion is not a physical place of fire and smoke. Since Mt. Zion is much more than a temporal location, how then are we to ascend God’s holy mountain, or is it all just wishful thinking?
Hebrews makes it clear that the New Jerusalem is where the souls of people made righteous already dwell, where the holy angels gather, and the place where we arrive through God’s process of training us through correction to produce true righteousness in our lives. Ascending Mt. Zion requires clean hands and a clean heart, which means that getting there will involve God correcting us in such a way to produce in us a heart that is true to Him and actions that align with the new heart and spirit He puts within us. This is why we should not despise the Lord’s correction but rather draw near to God to be trained by it.
When Elijah went up on the mountain to seek the Lord because of his problems, God reminded him that he was called to live obediently in the circumstances of life, where he could be the servant God was calling him to become. The Lord explained how He was in control though it did not appear so and told him to go back down from the mountain. Doing the one thing God called him to do moment by moment and keeping the divine appointments prepared for him are what ultimately led to the prophet’s ascension in the way God had ordained it. It was, however, an event that occurred after the prophet completed what God had him to do in a succession of events, culminating in his being carried up into heaven in a whirlwind.
Coming to Mt. Zion may be understood with the imagery of the Wilson’s Phalarope, a bird that flies in small circles over the Great Salt Lake in Utah, considered the Dead Sea of the United States. It may appear that very little life, if any, exists in the Lake, but the whirlwind caused by the Phalarope’s flight, some believe, causes a force to draw life up to the surface of the water providing food for the bird. God’s work in our lives has a whirlwind effect of producing His life in us when life seems bleakest. He speaks life where we may only see hurt, discouragement, failures, and disappointment.
Francis Schaeffer described the role and responsibility of believers in the world this way. Jesus died and rose and ascended all at very specific points of time in history, on certain days on the calendar and certain times on the clock. If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we became saved or made alive at a certain historical point of time on the calendar as well. Each of us is called to live as if we have been raised up, having gone to heaven and having returned to earth to do God’s will. That means that what we do reflects a new citizenship we have been granted in heaven. The earth has no claim upon us but it is the environment in which we obey our Savior who is in heaven. Christ is with us by His Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.
As the light of the world appearing in the darkness, Jesus came to draw all people to Himself, but He also came to descend into the lowest parts of the earth, so He could fill all in all. He is the Alpha and Omega and so sees the beginning and the end. He knows the depth of our sin yet envelops us with His love and unites our hearts to His ultimate goal for us. His death and resurrection made the way for all who came before to come to Him and all who came after to be raised up with Him. When Jesus finished His work, He went up to heaven. When the time is right, we shall ascend with Him with all those who await His return.
Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind up into heaven. The wind separated him from Elisha, yet Elijah’s mantel fell upon Elisha. When Jesus went up to heaven, the mantel of His commission fell upon his disciples, and in turn, upon us who walk in the anointing to be His witnesses.
In order to see Christ’s return and not be surprised by it, we have to be where God wants us to be and doing what He desires us to do. When the time is right, God’s whirlwind will call us up into the clouds to Himself and to His throne where He reigns forever.