Are “Sanctuary Cities” Supported By the Bible?

TEXT:  THE BOOK OF NUMBERS 35:2, 6, 11-29, 31-34; Joshua 20

By now, I think most of us are familiar with the term “Sanctuary Cities”, in communities which openly pledged a place where undocumented immigrants may be safe without fear of apprehension and deportation by federal officers.  There are even “Sanctuary Churches” that have been established in our communities.

I’ve listened to Christians and non-Christians alike, who claim that they were inspired by or heard from others that the ancient “cities of refuge” found in the Bible substantiate their support.  Supporters argue biblical precedent for sanctuary cities.  As Vogue magazine puts it, “Now approximately 300 American cities are carrying the torch first lit by those sacred altars.”

So are today’s “sanctuary cities” a modern biblical expression of the Bible’s “cities of refuge?”  No, not even close!

HISTORY (Numbers 35)

Just before Israel entered the land of Canaan, God told Moses to choose 48 cities for the Levites’ priestly tribe (Num. 35:7), since they would have no land while all the other tribes did have land, but each of the tribes would supply a place for them.

Though the TEMPLE be in Jerusalem only, the LEVITES would be everywhere to minister the Word of God to the people.

SIX OF THOSE DESIGNATED CITIES would be CITIES of REFUGE.  Three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west side of the Jordan River.  They were designed for the people who accidentally MURDERED someone–to save them from being killed by kin of the murdered victim.  They would then live in the city of refuge until the trial where they would stand and be judged.  If a man intentionally killed another, he then could reside in the city, but at trial be charged “GUILTY” and worthy of death by the avenger.

But if a man unintentionally killed a person, after the trial, when he was proclaimed innocent, the man could live in the city of refuge and remain there.  If he went out of the city of refuge, he would risk being killed by the avenger.  The avenger wouldn’t be judged because the “murderer”, though innocent, should have stayed in the city of refuge.  And he would have to live in that city of refuge until the High Priest died.  When the High Priest died, he was free to leave the city and was free of his GUILT.  The AVENGER had to respect the fact that the man was innocent of all that he committed.

REASONING FOR LAW – BLOOD defiles the land.

The KILLER, even though innocent, couldn’t return to his land UNLESS the DEBT of Murder was paid even though it was a mistake that the DEATH occurred.  There could be no “satisfaction”, or ransom money paid from some kind of ‘trust fund’, to free the man from guilt.  The only thing that could free the man from GUILT was the death of the murderer.  The BLOOD of the murderer alone cleansed the land of the BLOOD of the victim.  But when the High Priest died, the man could return to the land.

The DEATH of the High Priest REDEEMED  a man from guilt, freed him from the debt to pay for by his own blood.

The Picture of the High Priest Dying is Significant –

Instead of the unintentional murderer, a perfect picture of JESUS, the Great High Priest dying on the Cross instead of us.

The wonderful thing is all of this is that our own High Priest died and then rose again from the dead.  And the unintentional murderer could return to the land where his home is.

And the Bible said that this land where his home was, is also the land where the LORD dwelt.  [Come on!]

Notice the idea presented here of returning to the place of home, or his possession – Numbers 35:28 (AMP)

[28] Because the manslayer should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest.  But after the high priest’s death, the manslayer shall return to the land of his possession.

God gave the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis for the land of our possession.  But our SIN drove out, and the only thing that would pay for the crime is our own blood.  That meant our own deaths.

No other means would PAY for our SIN other than our own blood.  But what good would that do for us?  We couldn’t enjoy the land again for we would be dead!

Numbers 35:31 (AMP)

[31] Moreover, you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer guilty of death; but he shall surely be put to death.

Numbers 35:33 (NIV)

[33] “Do not pollute the land where you are.  Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on  which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.”

No other “satisfaction” (KJV) or ransom money or ransom payment of any kind would do.  The only other recourse was death by the high priest (Numbers 35:22).  That meant if no other payment besides his death could remove the GUILT OF BLOOD IN THE LAND, and…the high priest’s death accomplished the same thing, then the BLOOD of the high priest was as good as the BLOOD of the slayer.

A Time for Notable Comparisons–

The Cities of Refuge references in our Bible, first of all, were LEGAL–Sanctuary Cities are not!  

Cities of Refuge were authorized under the Mosaic code to serve as part of Israel’s justice system–Sanctuary Cities, in contrast, are ILLEGAL and outside the justice system altogether and do not exist to protect due process.  They exist to enable the GUILTY to escape punishment altogether.  The mere presence of an illegal alien on American soil is an illegal, criminal act subject to proper law enforcement.

Those, no matter how well-meaning they are, who help others avoiding the LEGAL consequences of criminal conduct, are subverting the system of justice by not cooperating with it.

  • A City of Refuge worked with law enforcement.
  • A Sanctuary City works against it.
  • A City of Refuge served to guarantee that a man had his day in court.
  • A Sanctuary City works to prevent the accused from ever facing a day in court.
  • A City of Refuge existed to ensure that every man received a fair trial.
  • A Sanctuary City exists to enable a man to avoid a fair trial altogether.

As you can clearly see by the above comparison there is no similarity supported by the Bible.

BIBLE APPLICATION:  Hebrews 6:18-20 (ESV)

HEBREWS 6, in the New Testament, mentions the fleeing for refuge, which brings us back into the picture the LAW of the City of Refuge has for the manslayer. 

But it mentions something else–the elements from a totally separate LAW in the above verses (Heb. 6:18-20).

The Law of Atonement and the Law of the Cities of Refuge.

ASPECT OF THE VEIL (“curtain”)

The Day of Atonement had a High Priest enter the holiest; the VEIL, where God’s presence dwelt, so long as he had the BLOOD of a spotless LAMB.

Now putting both aspects together, you have a man out of his home where God dwells, but meeting DEATH should he try due to his SIN not having been paid for.  And the only way he can return is when the high priest dies removing his SIN and cleanses the land.

And we have THE HIGH PRIEST, carrying BLOOD past the VEIL into the holiest where God dwells, removing SIN.

Put the two together and you have a picture of returning to the Garden of Eden where Man and God dwelt together in the Garden.

But Man’s sin DEFILED the land and he was driven out (Genesis 3:24).

So the Garden Story brings together the elements of the CITY OF REFUGE LAW AND THE VEIL ASPECT OF THE DAY OF ATONEMENT.

  • MAN became a prisoner outside of his true home, and one who is confined from his home is a PRISONER.


And that PLAN provided MAN, not just any prisoner, but a prisoner of HOPE!

A man couldn’t return, for he would have died to try.  There standing at the entrance to the Garden was a flaming sword.  Just like the avenger of blood, the flaming sword was there to kill him should he return home.

But one day, in the future, since Adam was driven from home, there was going to be a High Priest that was to die.  And that DEATH allows the SINNER to return to home.



EDEN means PARADISE or HEAVEN in English.

The Apostle John saw HEAVEN opened and he saw what occurs in Heaven, the true Holiest of Holies:

Revelation 5:6 (KJV) –

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a LAMB as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

Revelation 5:8-9 (KJV) –

[8] And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.

[9] And they sang a new song, saying,  Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.

THE LAMB is the HIGH PRIEST, as well.  His death REDEEMED us ALL to God.

Why Are Two Old Testament Stories Involved In This Story?

The only flaw I see with the Old Testament picture of the HIGH PRIEST was that you couldn’t find a man who could be killed and bring his BLOOD into the Holiest of Holies showing that the SINNER’S BLOOD could be paid for by the High Priest’s own blood.

And in another picture, the DEATH of the High Priest allows the slayer to return home.

Put them together, the High Priest, JESUS, dies, and takes His own BLOOD into Heaven to pay for our SIN, and allows us to go to our eternal home into HEAVEN, behind Him.

And that’s what Hebrews 6 said.

Isn’t it wonderful when all is said and done, God looks at us as PRISONERS away from home, but not only PRISONERS BUT PRISONERS OF HOPE!



The American Family Radio (AFA);  “Sanctuary Cities…Cities of Refuge” – March 27, 2017.

Photos:  Google Image Search – Settings, Advance search…

Bible Translations used:  Amplified Bible (AMP); English Standard Version (ESV); New International Version (NIV); King James Bible (KJV).

Bible Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.


Events Have Transpired-The Shadow of Things to Come (Part Two)


As we have seen, the four Spring Festivals presented in Part One, have been FULFILLED by JESUS, who was our Passover Lamb; died on the day of Passover.

He was, without a doubt, buried of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Jesus was in the grave during the day of Unleavened Bread; He was the kernel of wheat buried in the earth.

JESUS arose from the grave as “First Fruits” of the barley harvest, He Himself being the first to rise from the dead.

Finally, the promised New Covenant arrived during the Feast of Pentecost, or Weeks, to gather all the believers in Christ Jesus to be God’s Spring Harvest on earth.

THE FALL FEASTS–A Prophetic Foreshadow of Things to Come!

FEAST OF TRUMPETS (Leviticus 23:24):

Feast of Trumpets
Feast of Trumpets

“Say to the Israelites, On the first day of the seventh month [almost October], you shall observe the day of solemn [sabbatical] rest, a memorial day announced by the blowing of trumpets,  a holy [called] assembly.”

A 2014 Announcement…

This year, between September 25-26, Rosh Hashanah occurs.  Coincidentally, the FEAST OF TRUMPETS falls on my 50th Wedding Anniversary. We will be listening for the blast of the TRUMPETS.

GOD Seems to ENJOY Trumpets sounding… 

Ever since Issac was spared by the ram caught in the thicket by its horn, God seems to have enjoyed the TRUMPET.

He used it when Joshua conquered Jericho, and in Leviticus 25:8-10…He specified its use in having trumpets sounding,  “proclaim liberty throughout all the land…”  (The quotation appears on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia demonstrating that America was founded by Bible readers).

The FEAST OF TRUMPETS occurring in our month of September (Tishri on the Jewish Calendar), and the jump in time from the FEAST OF PENTECOST in May or June, represents the Church Age in God’s planning.

The “TRUMPET” Was A Signal…


The field workers of old, when they heard the shofar (the Ram’s Horn) blasts, they were to come into the Temple to worship God almighty.  The HIGH PRIEST actually blew the trumpet and the faithful would stop the Fall Harvest.

Since the TRUMPET unquestionably represents the RAPTURE, or the “catching up” of the Church; when we hear the sounding trumpets, those who are in Christ, the living believers will cease their HARVEST and will rise from the earth (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17):

“Take notice! I tell you a mystery (a secret truth, an event decreed by the hidden purpose or counsel of God). We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed (transformed).  

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the [sound of the] LAST TRUMPET CALL. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead [in Christ] will be raised imperishable (free and immune from decay), and we shall be changed (transformed).

For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us, this nature that is capable of dying] must put on immortality (freedom from death).

And when this perishable puts on the imperishable and this that was capable of dying puts on freedom from death, then shall be fulfilled the Scripture that says, Death is swallowed up (utterly vanquished forever) in and unto victory [Isa. 25:8]”  (1 Corinthians 15:51-54 AMP).


“The LORD said to Moses,  The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the Lord by fire.  Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God”  (Leviticus 23:26-28 NIV).

This FEAST on the Jewish Calendar provided a day of confession, the highest of holy days.  On our calendar, the FEAST  OF ATONEMENT begins on October 3rd 2014 at sunset and ends on October 4th 2014 at night fall.

“Yom Kippur”…

Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the HIGH PRIEST (nobody else) may enter the Holy of Holies and meet there the glory of the LORD (the Shekinah)(Hebrews 9:7).

The High Priest…

The High Priest makes ATONEMENT for himself and for the people of Israel by the blood sacrifice of goats and bulls (Leviticus 16).

 HEBREWS 9:14:

“How much more surely shall the BLOOD OF CHRIST, Who by virtue of [His] eternal Spirit [His own preexistent divine personality] has offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice to God, purify our consciences from dead works and lifeless observances to serve the [ever] living God?”

So Through JESUS’…

Through Jesus’ DEATH at the cross, our way to the Father is FREE…for everyone, at anytime (Mark:37, 38).

“And He [that same Jesus Himself] is the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours alone but also for [the sins of] the whole world”  (1 John 2:2 AMP).

“God presented Him [JESUS] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–”  (Romans 3:25 NIV).

At Jesus’ Second Coming…

When JESUS arrives on planet Earth for the second time, He will come out of the HOLY OF HOLIES (heaven).  And when He returns, besides other functions, He will come as the HIGH PRIEST to His chosen people (Zechariah 12:10).

This is the one FEAST not already fulfilled by the church…

The church owes no ATONEMENT.  The Church is not innocent, but it is exonerated.  The Greek word katallage [See footnote [i] ] is a noun derived from katallasso (RECONCILE), found in four places in the New Testament with the meaning “reconciliation.”  However, in each instance it is clear from the context that such “reconciliation” of sinners with God has come about only as a result of Christ’s work of atonement through His death on the cross (cf. Rom. 5:11; 11:15; 2 Cor. 5:18, 19).


“And the LORD said…Say to the Israelites,  The fifteenth day of this seventh month, and for seven days, is the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths to the Lord”  (Leviticus 23:34).


From the age of 12 to the age of 18, my parents used to mark on the calendar on the back porch wall, specific days that the family was going camping in the mountains of Southern California [Idyllwild State Park].  We would pitch a tent after mom would rake, even sweep the ground where the tent would be placed with a camp broom (mom was more than ‘just neat’).  Our family CELEBRATED our days of family camping.

God Wanted to CELEBRATE the FEAST…

God wanted to celebrate the fact that He provided a shelter for the ISRAELITES in the wilderness.

Each year, devout Jews build little shelters or “booths” outside of their houses and WORSHIPPED in them.  And so TABERNACLES represents the Lord’s shelter in the world to come for those who believe in JESUS as their Lord and Savior.  His great TABERNACLE to exist in Jerusalem during the Kingdom Age (Revelation 20).

The LORD will establish HIS TABERNACLE in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 37:26) and the world will come every year to appear before the King of kings to worship Him (Zechariah 14:16, 17).


You’ll probably agree, after reading this TWO PART SERIES, Christianity’s Jewish Roots offer an eye to the future as well as the past.  The next time someone mentions “The Seven Feasts of Israel,” you’ll realize they’re talking about the Seven Feasts of all time!


*For Footnotes, See PART ONE







My Name Is “Cleo” – Part Three of Three

Walking to Emmaus
Walking to Emmaus

Luke 24:13:

I decided to return to Emmaus.  Luke went with me, and as we walked, we rehearsed all the things that had happened.  As we walked, a man came up to us asking what we were talking about, and why we were so sad.  Why I did not recognize Him at first, I still don’t really know.  But we said, “Where are you from? Don’t you know all the things that have happened in Jerusalem over the past three days?”  “What things?”  He asked.  “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet might in word and in deed–who was crucified.  We were hoping all along that He was going to redeem Israel, but now…  Now today, some of our women went to the tomb and found it empty, and said they saw angels who told them He was alive again.  But when two of the men went to investigate, they found the tomb empty alright, but they didn’t see Jesus.  We frankly don’t know what has happened to Him.”

Then do you know what He said to us?  “You fools.  Have you never read your Bible!”  And within minutes, He set our hearts to pounding as He opened the Scriptures for us as we had never before seen.  We had no copies of the Scriptures with us, but this man didn’t need it–its whole significance in the saving plan of God was firmly fixed in His mind.  And that significance He explained to us in detail.  And it was not just Moses’ law only–but the whole of the Scriptures–in its larger picture and in its details–He saw it all as pointing forward and having direct bearing–indeed, final fulfillment–in Jesus.

The smoldering embers of my faith began to flicker as He took me back to the very beginning and showed us that in the very Garden of Eden, God had promised deliverance from the Tempter thru the bruising of the deliverer!  He reminded us of the Passover in Exodus–which we had just gone in Jerusalem to commemorate.  And He reminded us how God delivered our fathers from the Death Angel in Egypt through the sacrifice of a spotless lamb!

He reminded us of the Guilt Offering and Day of Atonement and the whole sacrificial system.  “What was God intending to teach us in all that?”  He asked.  What of the innocent victim, the slain lamb?  What of the transferring of guilt to its head and then its death?  What is all that designed to teach?  Was there not in all that the clear indication that it was necessary to have an innocent substitute to die for the sinner if the sinner was to go free?

And what of the priest himself–did He not work in a representative capacity, bringing the people into the presence of God through the sacrifice that he offered?

And why, he asked, did the sacrifices need to be repeated?  Why was it necessary for the priest to make atonement every year?  If the sacrifice made atonement, then why does it need to be offered again and again?  Or was it designed to point forward to a Greater Sacrifice?

And the He quoted the prophet Isaiah who said of the Messiah, Jehovah’s Servant, that “God will make Him a guilt offering for the sins of His people.  He said that God would bruise His servant and by His stripes effect the salvation of all of His people!”  There it was–I had heard it read in the Synagogue, but never really understood its significance.

But is was not just Moses and the prophets.  He took us also to the Writings–the Psalms and so on.  There He quoted the words of the Psalmist who said in prophecy, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  I had heard those words myself only 3 days ago–Jesus quoted them while He hung there dying!  He quoted parts of Psalm 16 in which David expressed such confidence that God would not allow him to rot in the grave–but he did decay in a tomb, this man reminded us.  David, being a prophet, spoke of someone else–He spoke of Messiah!

And on and on He went through the Scriptures.  In Jesus, He showed us, a whole stream of ancient anticipations found their answer and fulfillment.  Jesus was that prophet like unto Moses.  But He was also the deliverer Joshua.  And He was Aaron the priest who offered sacrifice.  Indeed, He was innocent Isaac who was offered by Father Abraham in sacrifice.  He was the sacrificial lambs, which for centuries had been offered in hopes of atonement.  He was David the King.  He was Noah by whom deliverance was brought to those who went with him in the ark.  He was Jonah who was–mark it–three days in the fish’s belly.  In Jesus a whole stream of ancient anticipations met their fulfillment.

I tell you, things were finally taking shape, and I thought my heart would pound right out of my chest with each new passage of Scripture He cited.  Jesus’ death was no accident!  God had not allowed things to get out of hand.  God had given His Son in death–a death which was in place of all of His elect people.  He–the only righteous one ever to live–died under the awful judgment of God so that sinners would go free. O, my heart did burn and began to swell and my faith began to revive.  In the death of Jesus my own salvation had been secured.

When we arrived in Emmaus, this stranger seemed intent on going further, but we weren’t about to let Him go.  And finally prevailed on Him jesus-recognized-GoodSalt-lwjas0176and convinced Him to come and eat dinner with us.  And when we sat at the table, I was the host–but He took the bread, and blessed it, and broke it and gave it to us to eat.  And then, all of a sudden, we looked at Him as if for the first time all day–it was Jesus!  He was alive!  There He was, at my table.  No wonder this stranger knew so well the whole plan of God–it was a plan of His own making and doing!

But just as soon as we recognized Him, He was gone– He just vanished out of our sight.  We looked at each other with both fear and amazement!  Our faith in Jesus was vindicated–He was alive!  I believed–but I couldn’t believe it!  We had seen Him ourselves–we talked with Him!  He was alive again!

All of a sudden we didn’t need to eat–for the 4th time that day I walked that 7-mile road between Emmaus and Jerusalem  and found the eleven and those with them–they were gathered together in a room at John Mark’s house.  We burst in to give them all the news–but before we could say a word they all shouted–“Jesus is alive! He appeared to Peter!”  As it turned out, we were not the only ones Jesus spoke with.  There were also women. Mary Magdalene.  But we told them of how He had come to us and how He had opened the Scriptures and set our hearts aflame. 

Now mind you, we were behind locked doors–we still were not sure what the authorities might do.  But as I told them of Jesus’ appearance to us and His teaching and His breaking of bread–there He was again, standing there in the room with us.  Most of us thought it was a ghost–so would you!  You must remember that the strong image of His dead and mangled body was fresh and firm in our minds.  We were terrified.  Funny, as I look back–He asked, “What are you afraid of?  Look at my hands, my feet–you can see that it is I Myself.  Touch me and see–you ever hear of a ghost with flesh and bone?”  And then He took food, and began to eat in front of us.  It became clear–it really was Jesus.

The realization of what was going on gradually settled on us, and He proceeded again to teach us from the Scriptures how it was necessary for Him–the Messiah–to die and to rise from the dead the 3rd day, and that as a result, repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

This was not the last we saw of Him.  During the following days and weeks, He showed Himself on many occasions–once to over 500 of us at once.  And yes, I was there in Bethany when He ascended into Heaven.

Well, that is my story.  What is important is not that I was Jesus’ uncle.  And no, it is not important at all that you remember me–except in that you remember me as one who can affirm first-hand that Jesus is alive.  I saw Him…I touched Him…I talked with Him and ate with Him.  He is risen–just as He said.

Listen, the faith that is proclaimed here in the Blog is a well-founded one.  The Great Object of our faith is not a good man who spoke well and did nice things–and who died.  The great Object of our faith is the Lord from Heaven who came, lived among us, died for us, and lives again as our faithful and eternal high priest and King.

If the faith you profess for salvation is founded in Jesus, you rest in good hands.