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"Holy" seems to be the most precious word used to describe God. It is the only word emphasized three times to describe God (Isaiah 6). The Hebrews used this literary device to emphasize. If a word was used twice, such as "Truly, truly...", what was about to be said was very true. If a word was used three times it was absolute and ultimate. God is described not as being "holy, holy" but as "holy, holy, holy".
Revelation 4:8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,who was and is and is to come!”
The word "holy" means different. But it's more than just obscure, it means different in the sense of not common, very very special. As it pertains to God, the word holy carries a sense of beauty, magnificence, awesome. While God is holy, holy, holy, what is directly associated with Him is holy. Thus, God calls His redeemed people, holy. To be a Christian is to be made holy. Without being made holy, a person cannot see God let alone enter Heaven after this life-
Hebrews 12:14Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
But, unlike God whose intrinsic nature is holy, we who have come to realise our need for God, are holy by virtue of God's election of us. In this sense it is a new legal standing for us. It is an apt adjective of what Christ has done for us. But we are also told to be holy. In this sense, holy is a verb for a believer- something we are required to do or be.
2Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body* and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
In the Book of Revelation, which I have written an easy to access eBook about, the word holy is used very strikingly. It is used in it's absolute sense to describe God ("holy, holy holy"). But it is also used to describe the people that God had called to be holy, yet were not. Initially in the Book of Revelation, Jerusalem is described as "the holy city". But then God laments that it was the city which had rejected His Son and become like Sodom and Egypt.
Revelation 11:8and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.
So God calls a New Jerusalem into existence with the New Covenant. He then designates this new people (comprising of converted Jews and Gentiles) as the holy city.
Revelation 21:2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The people who were called to be holy under the Old Covenant failed to transition to the New Covenant. Yet they went further than just missing it - they opposed it! The Book of Revelation describes them not just as "Sodom and Egypt" (Rev. 11:8) but as Babylon (Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2; 18:10, 21). Their depiction as "Babylon" conjures up the memory of ancient Babylon which on several occasions had significant demonstrations of God's glory (read the Book of Daniel) but still maintained their idolatry and wickedness. To be described as Babylon was to be labelled as "unholy". The Book of Revelation describes their backslidden state in terms drinking wine of lusting and immorality.
Revelation 14:8Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”
Revelation goes on to describe the people who were supposed to be holy as having "prostituted" themselves with the world.
Revelation 17:5And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”
The modern application that we can draw from this chilling book is that God is holy. He calls His people to be holy. To be called to holiness and to refuse to comply is called wickedness (which God takes a rather dim view of). But for some believers, holiness is about mere rule-keeping looking good. Those Christians who react to this form of legalism regard holiness as something entirely derived from God and therefore nothing to be overly concerned about. For the former group of believers there is great effort involved. This effort sometimes leads to distinctions being made in their lives that takes them so far from the everyday reality of the people around them that they become irrelevant. For the latter group their concept of holiness is one that says they have been made holy by God and there is nothing they can add to that so why not relax and enjoy the freedoms and liberties that God's grace has afforded them. This might include drinking, smoking, casual church commitment, loose language, lurid entertainment. What the latter group accuse the former group (legalists) of doing, they themselves manage to commit just as successfully - albeit, unwittingly. This is because they are no longer different, distinct, mysterious, other-worldly. That is: they are no longer living as if they are holy.
The lessons of the Book of Revelation for today is that just as God wanted the Old Jerusalem in the world as a beacon of difference - a light to the world - so He has called the New Jerusalem (the New Covenant Church) down from Heaven to be in the world but not like the world. By living like Daniel lived in Babylon, we can be holy and relevant. This is one of the greatest applications from one of the greatest books in the Bible.
2Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, February 26th 2008