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.

BUT GOD HAD A PLAN!

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.

ADAM=MAN

So ADAM waited as a PRISONER OF HOPE for centuries, UNTIL…THE HIGH PRIEST JESUS CHRIST CAME AND DIED…AND MAN COULD RETURN HOME AGAIN.

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!

______________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS & SOURCES –

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.

 

Connecting the Dots: The Resurrection and Ascension of Christ

He is not here!
He is not here!

THE TIMING OF THE RESURRECTION & CHRIST’S ASCENSION:

Harmonizing Biblical stories of the Resurrection of Christ Jesus and His post-resurrection appearances and all the events that took place that day has proven a challenge for many Bible scholars.  So in saying, as a Word Detective, I am going to investigate the Four Gospels and search for the biblical truths of Christ’s Ascension.  So grab your Bibles, and let’s get started.  And by the way, this isn’t a light read.

Harmonizing the Biblical Stories–

Bible skeptics love to take potshots at the Gospel stories; try to discredit the Scripture as in-breathed of God, therefore ‘one cannot rely upon the Bible.’

An important reminder.  God could have all four Gospel writers record all the events exactly the same way, but would that prove anything?

Four Aspects Presented by Four Writers:

All four Gospel writers were under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, depicting the four aspects of the Life of Jesus while here on earth.

Matthew – Writes his gospel with a view of Jesus as King.

Mark –  Shows Jesus as a Suffering Servant of God.

Luke – Depicts the Humanity of Christ.

John – Views Jesus’ Divinity.

Putting ALL the events in chronological order: (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1,10; John 20:1)

The Three Women at the Tomb–

Not less than 3 women go to the tomb that early morning, including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome.  There is the possibility they don’t go as a group but as two separate groups, meeting at the tomb at slightly different times.  Take note that Mary Magdalene is especially singled out by all the Gospel writers on the resurrection day.

Making their way to the tomb, an angel of God descends from heaven–rolls the stone away–the earth quakes–the guards faint– and the said angel, sits on the stone (Matthew 28:2-4).

Arriving at the Tomb…

1.  Mary Magdalene finds it empty and runs to tell the disciples (John 20:1-2).  The other women mentioned remain behind.

2.  An angel shows them the empty tomb, telling them JESUS CHRIST has risen from the dead!  “Go and tell” – (Matt. 28:5-7; Mark 16:2-8; Luke 24:1-8).

Happenstance doesn’t occur in the Bible– Old Testament or New Testament.  

There are many points of comparison in Scripture showing the Holy of Holies is prophetic of the EMPTY TOMB.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Cherubim covering the Mercy Seat of The Ark of the Covenant
Cherubim covering the Mercy Seat of The Ark of the Covenant

1.  The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant– the Presence of God, while the empty tomb contained the body of Christ Jesus.

2.  The Veil covered the entrance of the Holy of Holies and the Stone covered the opening of the Tomb.

3.  Worshipers were not allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and the tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers.

4.  The Veil covered the Holy of Holies–JESUS’ body was covered in a shroud (Matt. 27:59).

5.  Blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat and on the worshipers in the temple for forgiveness of sins–the BLOOD poured out of JESUS on the Cross and then in the tomb for the forgiveness of sins once and for all (Past, Present, and Future).

6.  Two carved Cherubim (angels) faced the empty space above the Ark of the Covenant, covering it with their wings, while TWO ANGELS greeted the women at the empty tomb.

Left Alone Weeping…

Mary Magdalene returns to the scene and stoops down looking into the tomb.  She sees two angels sitting where JESUS had lain, one at the head and the other at the feet.

They question her, she replies and as she turns around, she sees JESUS, thinking that He is the gardener, pleading with Him for the Body of Jesus.

JESUS then calls her by name and suddenly…Mary recognizes Him.  She responds and reaches out to touch JESUS, cling to Him, who quickly cautions her saying,

John 20:16-18:

[16]  Mary!  Turning around she said to Him in Hebrew,  Rabboni!–which means Teacher or Master.

[17]  Jesus said to her,  Do not cling to Me [do not hold Me], for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  But go to My brethren and tell them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.

[18]  Away came Mary Magdalene, bringing the disciples news (word) that she had seen the Lord and that He had said these things to her.

The Bible Verse Most Believers Have Overlooked (John 20:17):

They missed this “ascension” of Christ in which He must first present Himself pleasing before the Father.

Most Christians believe that there is only one ascension of Christ, and that it took place right after He spent 40 days with His disciples following His resurrection (Acts 1:1-5, 9).  However, John’s Gospel clearly points out Jesus’ own words–-He must not be touched with human hands until He goes up to see His Father, our Father, His God, our God.

WHY?  The Book of Leviticus Chapter 16 gives answer:

On that given day, it was the one day of the year the high priest was allowed to offer a blood sacrifice in the Holy of Holies; sprinkle the sacrificial blood of a lamb before the presence of Yahweh, covering the sin of the people.  The high priest was the only one who could do it!

The Day of Atonement–

Yes, alone and unassisted, the ATONEMENT had to be made by the solitary high priest (Lev. 16:17).

As a High Priest, JESUS laid down His life as the represented Passover Lamb.  He was the SACRIFICE.  He took His own BLOOD and He went up (“ascended”) in to the Holy Presence of God, where He presented it before His Father, after which He came back out to where He first entered in.

HOW LONG DID THIS TAKE?

How long did it take for JESUS our Lord to ascend and come back down?  It didn’t take very long, not even minutes.  When Aaron the high priest took the blood of the sacrificial lamb into the Holy of Holies, he certainly didn’t dilly-dally in that place.  He sprinkled the blood on the Mercy Seat and came right back out.  That was why small bells were attached to the rim of the high priest’s garment.  Outside the Holy of Holies, you could hear the bells as the priest moved about.  No bell-ringing? The priest wasn’t found worthy in the sacrifice and was struck dead.  The other priest could then drag him out by his feet.

JESUS, as the High Priest:

As a High Priest, JESUS laid down His life as the Passover Lamb.  He was the SACRIFICE…He took His own blood and went up in to the Holy Presence of God and presented it before His Father, after which He came back out to where He first entered in.

How long did this take for JESUS our Lord to ascend and come back down?  Didn’t take long, not even minutes.

The Revelation…

Now, with this revelation in hand, let’s continue to look at the events as follows:

1.  Mary Magdalene–goes off to tell the disciples she has seen the Lord (Mark 16:9), and Christ goes up (ascends) to His Father, His God.  And then comes right back down again.

2.  The Guards–having raised themselves, report the empty tomb scenario to the authorities, who then bribe the guards to say that the disciples have stolen the body of JESUS  (Matthew 28:11-15).

3.  JESUS meets the women–on their way to tell the disciples the NEWS the angel has given them.  JESUS greets them, and they draw near and hold His feet, worshiping Him.

*[Note:  JESUS could now be touched].

4.  JESUS comforts them, and reaffirms the instructions the angel has given them (Matthew 28:8-10).

 It is at this time, the Old Testament saints resurrect and many go into the city of Jerusalem and appear to many (not all) of the disciples  (Matthew 27:52-53). 

* [A Note about Matthew 27:50-54]:

The word “and” appears often in the New Testament.  This conjunction can sometimes confuse readers, because of the way Scriptures were translated; marked off into verses for the ease of locating particular words and phrases.

The original written manuscripts were in Greek, which didn’t separate words, nor used accents and punctuation marks.  Even in Luke 23:44-47, appears misleading in comparison to Matthew 27:30-34.

Nevertheless, the proper readings of the two passages are as follows:

Matthew 27:50-54:  

1.  After JESUS had given up His spirit, an earthquake happens.  At the same time, the VEIL in the Temple in Jerusalem was torn into, top to bottom.

2.  After the RESURRECTION of Christ Jesus (on the 3rd Day), the graves were opened [Remember, there was also an earthquake as an angel descended and rolled away the stone in front of the grave].

3.  THE SAINTS of old resurrected and many of them went into the city of Jerusalem and appeared to many of the Disciples.

Luke 23:44-47:

1.  From about the sixth hour (12:00 PM) until the ninth hour (3:00 PM), there was DARKNESS over the land because the sun was darkened.   2.  The VEIL of the Temple was rent (torn) as JESUS gave up His spirit crying,  “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”.

3. Mary Magdalene and the other women meet the disciples and relate what they have seen and heard (Mark 16:10-11; Luke 24:9-11; John 20:18).

4.  Later the same day, JESUS appears to Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).  

Cleo and a friend in dismay…”JESUS had been crucified…who would redeem us now?”

In the late afternoon of the same day, JESUS meets up with Cleopas and another disciple on the road to the village of Emmaus, a distance of about 7 1/2 miles (12 kilometers) from Jerusalem.

As the day turns to evening, they all sit down at the dinner table.  JESUS breaks the bread, and the disciples suddenly recognize Him.  They immediately return to the city (15 miles round-trip… in one day!), and report the event to the Eleven and others (Luke 24:13-35).

Later that night… 

JESUS appears to the disciples in a closed room…and Thomas the disciple is found missing (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25).

And again, after 8 days…

JESUS appears again to His disciples in a closed room, but this time, Thomas is present (John 20:26-31).

Following that, and over a period of up to 40 days since His resurrection, JESUS appears a few more times–to seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-25), and to about 500 disciples in Galilee and to His half-brother James (1 Corinthians 15:6-7).

The Great Commission…

While JESUS is with the disciples, He commissions His disciples, teaches the Scripture and the PROMISE to send the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-5).

The Ascension…

After 40 days, JESUS ascends into Heaven (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-12).  

It becomes quite clear, that as He ascends, He takes the resurrected Old Testament saints up with Him, for they are no longer held in captivity by the Prince of Darkness who has held them in Sheol (not Hell) all that time.

The POWER of the Resurrection…

By the POWER of JESUS’ resurrection from the dead, these saints are now Christ’s captives.

JESUS sets them free into Paradise as He ascends to sit in His Father’s Throne (Ephesians 4:8; Matt. 27:52-53; Rom. 1:4).

JESUSONTHETHRONESURROUNDEDBYANGELS
Sitting on the Throne

There you have it.  READING your Bible is more than just scanning the pages.  It’s a conscious effort to search for the truth with the help of the Holy Spirit in “connecting the dots”.