Revelation 21 and 22
The final pages of the Bible offer a picture of the age to come as the ‘new Jerusalem’ a spectacular city in which God dwells with His people.
The writers of the New Testament were familiar with the old Jerusalem which was a precious city but vulnerable. It had been destroyed some six centuries before by the Babylonians and now again by the Romans. Some of the apostles had been to Rome which was a marvellously sophisticated city in art and architecture but hideously immoral and cruel in its culture.
The new Jerusalem will not only be glorious and beautiful, it will be safe and secure forever.
Developing images from Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, the risen Lord Jesus gives His Apostle John a vision of a shining paradise garden city whose inhabitants are refreshed by a river of life and nourished by the tree of life.
The painful imperfections of our present cities and countries will be no more for the old way of living and suffering and dying will itself be dead. The new Jerusalem will be the home of resurrection and eternal life in which God comforts His children and makes everything new.
This is just a brief glimpse. Elsewhere the New Testament says no eye has fully seen what God has prepared for His people but there is more than enough here to whet our appetite! Let’s note some things there are and some things there are not in the coming kingdom.
Firstly there will be life in all fulness. A river of life flows from the throne to refresh and invigorate the inhabitants of this city. The tree of life which was in the garden of Eden back at the beginning in Genesis now reappears, yielding fruit every month and bearing leaves with healing properties.
In this present earth farmers take a ‘first cut’ from the fields and perhaps later in a good year a ‘second cut’ before harvest. In New Jerusalem the harvest is unending! The city will blossom and flourish perpetually.
The implications are wonderful. No one goes hungry in the kingdom of God and the Lamb. Everyone receives in abundance. And there is healing for the nations. No more corona virus! No more cancer or disability or depression or dementia! Think of the foretaste Jesus gave while here on earth – when God makes all things new the lame will walk and run in His service, the blind will see His face! We will rejoice as we enjoy everlasting wholeness in bodies raised incorruptible like His. No more curse so nature is restored to paradise. And no more funerals or heartbreak, just life!
Secondly let’s consider how the culture will be different. There is no more evil or sin, therefore no more darkness or fear. God’s love has redeemed us and driven out fear so the dominant aspects of heavenly culture are reverence and grateful celebration. The city is described in idealised terms as dazzlingly beautiful and of exquisite quality. We read ‘the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it’ and ‘the glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it’.
Think of all the gifted art and design and enterprise of every place and people on earth, not obliterated but enhanced and surrendered to honour God and Jesus. No longer will we build towers of Babel to glorify ourselves or march in defiant human pride. Rather we shall bring all our talents and resources together in thankful, joyous, colourful celebration of the Lord and His grace!
And there’s a third thing, a wonderful new society. Here will be true inclusivity and diversity! People from every nation living together without racial tension. People from widely different backgrounds living together without any confusion or frustration!
No more greedy abuse, no more jealousy, resentment or bitter conflict. No more ruthless competition but positive cooperation for the common good as pleases our King will be the order of this new day.
Again what fabulous wealth and variety there will be as people of every nation and skin colour and tribe and tongue are united in harmonious community, united in our loyalty to the one Lord and Master Jesus. We get a small taste of this now as we share together in online worship and fellowship on social media.
I love how even now I have friends who are my spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ from Nigeria and South Africa, Portugal, Ukraine, Italy and the US, England, Scotland, Ireland North and South and we are promised to share as God’s family together in this new Jerusalem.
And that’s a fourth thing to consider. Wherever we come from, whatever our present location or accommodation on earth, New Jerusalem is our true home. Just as a compass points north our hearts as God’s people, reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit are already directing us to Him.
How lovely that the closing pages of the Bible describe our destiny not just as a gloriously beautiful garden city of wonderfully renewed life and culture and society but as home, the ‘dwelling’ of God with His people.
Picture yourself arriving at your house or apartment on a dark night. The first thing you do when you enter is to switch on the light. No need to in New Jerusalem where the Lord lives. The comforting light of His love is constantly shining there. We shall live with God and He will wipe every tear from our eyes!
The gates of the city stay open for there is no night, no threat of crime. And it’s important to note the words of caution given here that no sin at all is tolerated. Nothing is allowed to spoil or corrupt. Those described here as ‘impure, cowardly, unbelieving, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, those who practise witchcraft, idolaters and liars’ are firmly excluded, indeed punished with eternal death.
Are we practising deceit or malice? Are we idolising other things before God or ignoring His commands regarding sex? Are we involved in occult, in manipulation or simply spreading doubt in place of God’s truth? We need to stop. We need to ask His help to change our ways. We need to humble ourselves and trust if we want a part in the new heaven and earth and new Jerusalem.
Because these things may come upon us more quickly than we expect. Three times in these pages Jesus says, ‘I am coming soon.’ The Lord is coming and He will bring all this to pass. Is your name in His book of life? Are you waiting in eager expectation? Are you living to serve Him and praying with all your heart, ‘Come Lord Jesus’?
‘Like a thief in the night He will come,
There will be nowhere anyone can run.
You can fall with the night
Or you can rise…’ with the Son of God, the bright morning Star, Whose coming brings the dawn of this wonderful new age we’ve been reading about.
Don’t fall, you don’t have to.
Trust Him now so that when He comes, we’ll be ready to rise!