Archives For New Jerusalem

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the seriesThe Light of the World

Jesus is the light of the world. John tells us all about that in his gospel. But the most striking picture of this actually comes on the last pages of our Bibles.

Revelation 21-22 give us a picture of the world set to rights, of the world as it was meant to be. God’s justice has finally been satisfied. He has done away with death, with evil, with sorrow, with pain, with every effect of the curse. He has wiped every tear from the eyes of his people. Now God’s people dwell with him in a new heavens and a new earth. And God’s holy city, the New Jerusalem, comes down to earth. And Jesus is the light of that city:

“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.” (Revelation 21:23-25)

Isn’t that an amazing description? We actually see this imagery twice at the end of Revelation. The concept of Jesus as the light of the world will take on an even greater significance at the end of the world.

No Sun, No NightHere we see echoes of Genesis 1 of the light scattering the darkness. We see echoes of John 1 of Jesus chasing away the darkness and not being overcome by it. We get a picture of a world in which there is no sun, moon, or stars. Yet this is a world without darkness. A world without night. Why? Because Jesus is the light of that place.

Jesus is now the light of the world. And when we finally see him face to face and dwell with him forever, he will be the light of the world.

This image of the light of Jesus filling the earth ought to flood our dreams. It ought to inspire our actions. This is the hope for which we are living. It is our privilege now to be set ablaze in Jesus, to bear that holy flame in our very being, glowing with the light of life. One day it will fill the earth directly, making even the sun and moon embarrassingly inadequate and unnecessary. But right now the lamp through which Jesus sheds his light is us, his church. A city on a hill.

 

GateRevelation is a tale of two cities. I just finished teaching a three-week summer session of New Testament Survey, which culminated in reading the book of Revelation overnight. As I read through this enigmatic book in a very short period of time, I was struck by the contrast it makes between two cities.

On the one hand is Babylon. The wicked city. The city that embodies all opposition to Christ and his kingdom. That timeless city of evil.

In Revelation, the might of Babylon puts to death the followers of Jesus and becomes drunk on the blood of the martyrs. The first readers of Revelation would have certainly seen Rome reflected in the descriptions of Babylon. We can see many other historical and current nations reflected there as well. In the future, a great city or nation may well arise that plays the role of Babylon.

But identifying precisely which nation “Babylon” refers to is not the main point. Revelation speaks of Babylon to unmask the forces of evil. They look so powerful, so alluring, so unstoppable. But Babylon is wicked. And it will fall. Revelation devotes a solid chunk of poetry to describing Babylon’s destruction (see chapters 18-19).

And one of the major reasons for which Revelation is written is to call us out of the wicked city. If we read the descriptions of Babylon and see our own nation reflected, we are called to acknowledge our nation for what it is. Insofar as we find ourselves colluding with the Babylons of the earth, we are called to step away. To exit the wicked city:

“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Rev. 18:4–5)

Where do we go once we have exited the wicked city? Into the other great city in Revelation: the New Jerusalem. This is our true home. It’s the city we were made to live within. It’s where our true citizenship lies.

Revelation 21–22 offer a description of this city that has brought tears to the eyes of weary and oppressed Christians for centuries. No more sin. No more death. No more tears. There is no temple, because God is dwelling directly with his people. There is no sun, because God himself is the light of that glorious place.

Though these two cities are in conflict throughout the book of Revelation, there is only one city left standing at the end of the book. And we are called to enter it:

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Rev. 22:14)

Revelation would have us take stock of our allegiance. When you look at your life, do you conduct yourself as a citizen of Babylon or of the New Jerusalem? Do you spend more time in the wicked city or the heavenly city? To the extent that the nation in which you live embodies the descriptions of Babylon, have you “come out of her”? When you examine your deepest longings and commitments, have you “washed your robes” that you may “enter the [heavenly] city by the gates”?

Ultimately, there are only two cities in this world. Eventually, there will be only one. According to Revelation, the city you choose makes all the difference.

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