Text: Revelation 21:1-27 ESV
IntroductionTonight’s title, “The End of Heaven” refers principally to heaven as the goal or destiny of all the works of God.
This must be centred on Jesus, for “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16 ESV). Heaven wasn’t first of all created for humans like us but for the Son of God as the Word made flesh (John 1:14 ESV).
Heaven was created to be inhabited in the presence of God by embodied beings; principally Jesus.
The union of God and humanity in Christ means the separation between heaven as the realm of God and earth as the realm of humanity has come to an end at the deepest level of being (Ps 115:16 ESV).
At the End of “the present evil age” (Gal 1:4 ESV) the heavenly City “comes down from God” because in graciously descending to “the lowest regions, the earth” the Son of God has glorified the destiny of all things1)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:2, 10 ESV; Eph 4:9-10 ESV cf. John 3:13 ESV; John 6:33, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58 ESV.
The New Testament is clear that the goal of heaven is a City e.g. Heb 11:10, 16 ESV; Heb 12:22 ESV; Heb 13:14 ESV and it is the imagery of Revelation 21 which uniquely unveils that this City is also the Church.
“vs.9 “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” vs.10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,” (Rev 21:9-10 ESV).
At the consummation of God’s eternal plan the Church birthed on earth will be indissolubly one with the heavenly City in love radiant with the sacrificial glory of the Beloved2)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 1:3 ESV; Rev 21:11 ESV.
This intimate unlimited union of God with his people as City-Bride-Church without is the answer to the prayers of Jesus in John 17 that his people be one with him in the eternal love and glory of the Father.
That the Church is a Bride and a City is rarely understood. In some eras the Church has looked down on worldly pursuits and elevated an inner mystical spiritual journey to attain the afterlife.
The separation between the earthly/temporal and the heavenly/eternal is referred to as dualism.
Often traced back to the Greek philosophy of Plato, who conceived of an eternal transcendent world beyond space and time of which this world is but a poor imitation. The purpose and meaning of life were found in a realm removed from this world. The cultural influence of Plato on Western, including Christian, thought is undoubtable, but its attractiveness must be traced back to the root of sin.
But turning away from a holy and prayerful approach to the structures of life and work here on earth means the Church will be taken captive by contemporary cultural forces.
In practice the earthly takes primacy over the heavenly through forms of idolatry that are disguised as “blessings from heaven” (cf. Col 2:23 ESV).
Despite the alleged influence of Augustine’s City of God, which distinguished between ecclesiastical and temporal power, the medieval Western Church elevated itself into a political position.
Whereas Augustine critiqued the power and virtue of the Roman Empire, Church tradition claimed the ability itself to sacralise the political realm.
For instance the Holy Roman Empire became a worldly power directly authorised by God. Christian civilisation, Christendom, became a mode of culture that dominated Europe for centuries.
Though on the wane, it still persists in, for example, the American “civil religion” of a patriotic “In God We Trust.” variety.
Slabs of the contemporary Church has been ensnared in the realms of politics, where Christians often polarise to the Right or Left claiming this is supported by their faith. Or more subtly are taken captive by renouncing such political allegiances in any form, as in some schools of Anabaptism.
Refusing to embrace the eschatological and apocalyptic view of the New Testament; seeing things from the End and from heaven contemporary Western Christianity is progressively being overcome by the world.
In practice, larges sectors of the modern Church function as if the heavenly City does not exist and faith in the unseen realm is sidelined.
The intrusion of psychology into the realm of healing and spirituality e.g. the latest fad of “emotional health”, the dominance of pragmatic business principles in the realm of Church governance and finance, preaching motivational messages, music as a form of entertainment etc. are all signs of secularisation.
The Image of the End
Through “reading the Bible backwards” it becomes plain that the foundational image of God is not Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden but the Lamb of God in the City from heaven.
The Father established his original Image in eternity; “a lamb without blemish or spot… chosen before the foundation of the world…. the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (1 Pet 1:19-20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV).
vs.21 “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. vs.23 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.”
This City was always God’s original plan as a place fit for his Son to live forever with his Bride, the Church.
An eschatological-apocalyptic perspective recognises that as the created image of God (Gen 1:26-27 ESV) draws its substance from the coming of Jesus, “the image of the invisible God”3)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Col 1:15 ESV cf. Rom 5:14 ESV; 1 Cor 15:44-49 ESV, and as human marriages are made possible by God’s plan to have a Bride/Church for his Son4)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:24 ESV; Eph 5:32 ESV, so the existence of earthly cities is a type of the eternal City of God.
In each case in human history the reality comes after the temporal symbol (image, marriage, city) which is purposefully related to what is manifested at the End. The corruption in human nature, marriages and cities doesn’t alter this essential divine ordering.
Although humanity will only fill the City after Jesus’ Second Coming the heavenly metropolis existed with its celestial inhabitants before the creation of the world.
This is suggested when the Lord commands Moses to build the tabernacle according to the pattern revealed to him on the mountain5)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ex 25:9, 40 ESV; Num 8:4 ESV cf. Ps 78:69 ESV.
This implies a heavenly temple pre-existed the earthly sanctuary as part of a heavenly city.
Some of the dimensions of the life of this city are sketched in Hebrews 12:22 ESV ff.
From this perspective the Lord who appeared from time to time in the Garden of Eden6)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:15 ESV ff., Gen 3:8 ESV was a Father nurturing (Luke 3:38 ESV) Adam and Eve with all wisdom and care to be prophets, priests and kings fit to rule with him forever in the City of God.
“As first created by God, man was made to be prophet, priest and king…endowed with knowledge and understanding, with righteousness and holiness, and with dominion over the lower creation.”
The command to ““Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” (Gen 1:28 ESV) was a mandate to spread beyond the Garden and fill the world with the glory of the image of God.
This mission would have involved the development of cities. The rise of technology from Eden onwards is a manifestation of the image of God7)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 3:7 ESV; 4:22 ESV.
Without sin, these would have been cities radiant with the presence of God for history was designed to be a going forward to a much more glorious future than the limits of Eden.
That the precious stones in Eden adorn the foundations of the City in Revelation8)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:12 ESV; Ezek 28:13 ESV; Rev 21:19-20 ESV indicate continuity between the beauty of the pristine first creation and the perfected new creation.
Cities were called to be places of spiritual growth, communion and the advance of God-given creative imagination. Places of economic vibrancy, justice and social peace. Places leading to human discovery of truth, beauty, and goodness in the created order. Places where humans imitated the Creator through the creation of godly culture filling the earth with the glory and knowledge of God9)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES cf. Isa 11:9 ESV; Ps 72:19 ESV; Hab 2:14 ESV. (Darrow Miller)
Unfallen, cities would have been places in which God would be pleased to dwell10)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 14:2, 23 ESV; Rev 21:3 ESV.
This will be true of the City of God, but only by Christ undoing the effects of the Fall.
THE FALLEN CITY
When Adam fell his communion with the heavenly City of God was lost and the building of the cities of this world became substitutes for the eternal.
His communion was in the Word of God spoken to him and which created all things in heaven and earth. The split between heaven and earth was a disaster for humanity’s’ understanding of the meaning of the city.
Some commentators e.g. Jacques Ellul in his influential, The Meaning of the City, have taught that the city is essentially a counter-creation, humanity’s agent to separate self from God.
The cities of earth are empty and vampiric on the living world because God did not build them.
Since the city is man’s greatest work it is his greatest piece of rebellion. They are seductive, saturated with idols, cursed by God and irredeemable.
This is why the prophets always attack the city.
This perspective is understandable under the aspect of time, but it is tragically pessimistic from the perspective of eternity. Its suggestion that God somehow mercifully revised his original plan to incorporate a City as the final place of human destiny is unbiblical.
The great secular cities of the Bible are consistently portrayed as focus of evil.
Babel is the archetypal city of this world.
Instead of seeking to impart the blessings of God beyond themselves As in the primal commandment of Genesis 1:28 ESV, often called the “cultural mandate”, by which humanity is given stewardship over the world so that the civil, social and personal dimensions of life accord with the will of God for maximum human flourishing.
This might include economic engagement, scientific inquiry, literary exploration, and creative conservationist responses to the natural environment (Ps 8:3-8 ESV), the city builders represent a concentration point for pride and self – reputation.
Their “Let us make a name for ourselves” (Gen 11:4 ESV) turns the city into a site of judgement.
The characteristic statement of the mega-cities of the Bible becomes, “I am and there is no other” Babylon Isa 47:8 ESV | Nineveh Zeph 2:15 ESV | Rome Rev 18:7″
Their proud self reliance, “she glorified herself” (Rev 18:7 ESV), is a rejection of covenantal fellowship with God and means such cities of evil must be destroyed by divine wrath11)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 14 ESV; Ezek 28 ESV; Rev 18 ESV etc..
All Earthly Cities Are Places Of Depravity.
“The city intensifies everything, and this includes devotion to false gods.” (John Dawson)
The end-time Babylon is adorned with the same splendid attire, “gold”, “precious stones”, “pearls”, as the New Jerusalem12)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 17:4 ESV; Rev 18:12, 16 ESV; Rev 21:18-21 ESV.
This is a part of her seductive power to lead all nations, and if possible, even the elect, astray13)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 24:24 ESV; Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 18:3, 23 ESV. The Whore of Babylon is an economic persecuting agent14)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 17:2 ESV; Rev 18:6, 12, 16 ESV fused with idolatrous religion.
Contextually in Revelation this is the Roman Empire and the worship of its emperor. Today it might be Islam, or the state capitalism of China.
THE ELECT CITY OF GOD
The one city called to be an exception to these corruptions is the “city of God”, “the city of the great King” (Ps 48:1- 2 ESV etc.), Jerusalem (Ps 46:4 ESV; Ps 87:3 ESV).
She alone is elected by God15)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:44, 48 ESV; 1 Ki 11:32, 36 ESV; 1 Ki 14:21 ESV etc. and called to be holy16)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 87:1 ESV; Ezek 20:40 ESV; Dan 9:16 ESV as the site of God’s dwelling place on the earth17)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:27 ESV; 2 Chron 6:2 ESV; Ezra 6:12 ESV; Ps 68:16 ESV etc..
The centrality of Jerusalem to Israel’s faith comes out especially in the so-called Zion Songs
• Ps 46 ESV • Ps 48 ESV
• Ps 76 ESV • Ps 84 ESV
• Ps 87 ESV • Ps 122 ESV cf.
• Ps 137 ESV
Here Jerusalem is exalted in extravagant language drawn from sources as diverse as the creation story18)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 46:4 ESV; cf. Ge 2:10 ESV; Eze 47:1-12 ESV, the famed patriarchal city of Salem19)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 76:2 ESV; cf. Gen 14:17-20 ESV and Canaanite mythology (Ps. 48:2 ESV).
Zion is simply incomparable in beauty (Ps. 48:2 ESV). Of special importance for the Church is the triumph of Yahweh over all the hostile nations that come against Zion, “because God is in the midst of her she shall not be moved” (Ps. 46:5 ESV).
In its oneness with the heavenly Jerusalem, to which she has come20)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 12:22 ESV; Rev 21 ESV, the Church on earth is ultimately invincible because Christ and his Spirit indwell her21)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1Co 3:16 ESV; Eph 2:19-22 ESV; 1 Pe 2:4-5 ESV.
The behaviour of the chosen city is to image to the nations the glory and praise of the one true God.
This would happen through all the spheres of life regulated by law and cult. God however always warned his people that should they rebel against him Jerusalem would be destroyed22)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Ki 21:23; 2 Ki 23:27 ESV.
Despite the warnings of the prophets, who were characteristically stoned23)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Chron 24:20-21 ESV; Neh 9:26 ESV; Matt 23:29-39 ESV, Jerusalem’s unrepentant pride in its own divine election meant inevitable destruction24)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Jer 7 ESV; 13:9 ESV etc..
A city full of idols had to be broken and the glory of the Lord had to depart from its abominations (Ezek 8-10 ESV). Punishment is to Babylon, the supposed antithesis of Jerusalem and the epitome of idolatry and ungodliness. Here the people were cleansed finally of their false worship.
The return from Babylon however did not restore the former glory of the divine presence in land, city and temple25)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES e.g. Ezra 3:12 ESV; Hag 2:3 ESV.
The far-seeing prophets however envisaged exile and return in more than natural terms; they prophesy not only a more glorious city and temple but a divine presence enduring forever in a new heavens and earth26)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 2: 2-4 ESV; 11:6-9 ESV; 60:5, 11 ESV; 61:6 ESV; 65:18-20 ESV; Ezek 40-48 ESV; Joel 3:20 ESV; Mic 3:7 ESV cf. Isa 14:32 ESV; 28: 16 –17 ESV; 60: 3,8,11 ESV; Zech 8:3- 5 ESV.
It was against this prophetic and eschatological expectation that Messiah came. Yet “the city of the great King” (Matt 5:35 ESV) did not recognise its own Lord because their hearts remained far from him (Mark 7:6 ESV).
Arrogant confidence in their election through Abraham and their favour before God through Moses was their true ruler27)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 3:9 ESV; John 8:33 ESV. For Jerusalem to become “the joy of the whole earth” (Ps 48:2 ESV) she would have to be the site of the most evil action of any earthly city.
Only by the killing of her own Husband and God could her salvation and that of the world be brought about. Through the sacrifice of Christ she would become the light to the nations the Lord had decreed and the redemptive mother of the cities of mankind.
No one at the time, except Jesus, could understand that grace works through judgement and that God would take the judgement on himself. An eternal foundation for a city in which both God and humanity could peacefully dwell forever depended on the slaughter and resurrection of the “designer and builder” himself (Heb 11:10 ESV).
The Cross and the City
When Jesus came preaching, ““The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18 ESV ff.) he was expounding Isaiah 61, a passage set within an eschatological vision that embraced the transformation of heaven and earth.
This was the goal of his coming and he longed for his friends to be able to join him in the coming kingdom of God.
In Christ’s prayer, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24 ESV), the shared residence he had in mind for his friends was the eternal City of heaven.
He will “go and prepare a place” (John 14:1-3 ESV) for them in the way of a true Prophet of God; “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”28)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 16:21 ESV cf. Luke 24:26 ESV, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’” (Luke 13:33 ESV).
He is the rejected prophet who will be crucified on common ground outside the holy city’s gates 29)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:20 ESV; Heb 13:12 ESV.
The economic and religious power of the city of Jerusalem was concentrated in the temple, not as a house of prayer for all nations but a den of robbers.30)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 56:7 ESV; Jer 7:11 ESV; Mal 3:1 ESV; Matt 21:12 ESV; Mark 11: 15-17 ESV.
The powers that be understood that for the corruption of the holy city to continue unabated Jesus must be crucified (John 11:48 ESV). This action will combine the Gentile powers with the rulers of Israel so that both Jew and Gentile might be redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice31)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 2:2 ESV; Acts 4:25-28 ESV.
The blood and water flowing from the pierced Lamb of God are powerful to forgive the sinful city and to cleanse it from its pollutants bringing to birth a new creation32)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 1:29 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV.
The water flowing from the cross is one with the water of life which will nourish and heal the nations in the City of God33)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:34 ESV; Rev 22:1-3 ESV.
Through the cross thee New Jerusalem is saturated with the presence of Christ. It comes down from heaven only as “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”” (Rev 21:9 ESV), its twelve foundations are named after “the twelve disciples of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14 ESV) and its inhabitants are those “written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27 ESV).
In this City the glory of God is inseparable from that of the Lamb (Rev 21:22-23 ESV).
The City is full of dynamic activity as “the kings of the earth will bring their glory…. and honour…. into it”34)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:24, 26 ESV cf. Isa 60:3, 5, 11, 16 ESV; Isa 61:6 ESV.
This is only fitting as Revelation is the testimony of “Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” (Rev 1:5 ESV).
These are the rulers who have continually opposed the true “King Of Kings”35)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 6:15 ESV; 17:2 ESV; 18:3 ESV; 19:19 ESV but are conquered by his power (Rev 17:14 ESV).
The kings who enter the City of God with their tribute stand for the peoples redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and established as priests and kings before his throne willingly worshipping him forever36)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 5:9-10 ESV; 7:9 ESV.
The glory of the nations which the kings bring into the New Jerusalem is one with the wealth of the City because in the union of heaven and earth all things are filled with the image and life of Christ.
All things are Christified. The manifest glory of the final City is continuous with the life of the Church as the Bride of Christ, the household of God and the temple dwelling place of the Spirit now37)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Cor 3:16 ESV; Eph 1:22-23 ESV; 2:19 ESV; 1 Tim 3:15 ESV; 1 Pet 4:17 ESV.
Years ago as I was praying on the streets of Lausanne in Switzerland I was overcome with grief at the sight of row upon row of shop windows peddling beautiful things, gems, leather goods, clothes etc, with no acknowledgement of God as the giver38)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Acts 17:16 ESV; Rom 1:20-21 ESV.
Then suddenly I was totally overcome by the SPARKLING presence of Christ in everything, as the indwelling source of beauty in all things. I laughed aloud with exuberance.
For those with eyes to see it, the glory of Christ is in everything everywhere39)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 6:3 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV.
To sense such beauty is to be aware of the final destiny of all creation, which is the beautifying of humanity in the image of God/Christ. Such a Spirit of ultimate beauty is the presence that makes a marriage beauteous, which has the power to beautify the transparency in a commercial transaction or the relationships between office staff.
God’s vision for his Church in every city, is to bring his beautifying Spirit into all the spheres of existence- business, politics, art, education, law, media, science, health etc. The Spirit calls us to a holy and total war in which Jesus is presented through us as an object of attraction and desire more alluring than any worldly thing.
The Church for the City
When Jesus ascended into heaven he entered the City of God and sent his Spirit (Acts 2:33 ESV) to build the Church as a community fit for the beauty of the heavenly metropolis (Eph 5:26-27 ESV).
It is the relationship between the heavenly City and the Church as God’s dwelling on earth that empowers us to transform the temporal city. On the one hand this involves strongly disavowing the allure of the economic and religious structures of the cities of this world which are doomed to perish.
This is a great theme represented in the prophets, whether the destruction is of Nineveh, Tyre, Sidon, Babylon or Rome40)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Nah 1-3 ESV; Isa 47 ESV; Jer 51 ESV; Ezekiel 26:4,12,14 ESV; Rev 18 ESV.
“Let us then go out to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the one to come.” (Heb 13:13 –14 ESV).
We inherit a City with eternal foundations whose architect and builder is God and it alone is unshakeable41)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 11:6, 10, Heb 12:25 ESV ff..
The proud cities of this world can never reconcile their mortality.
For example, after the attacks of 9/11 on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the United States simply depended on its financial and military might to strike back in “the war on terror”. It seemed quite unable to receive God’s prophetic message; despite a professing Christian in the Whitehouse!
In their worldly ambitions and lifestyle most contemporary Western Christians refuse to be grasped by the Word spoken to those who overcome this world (cf. 1 John 5:4 ESV); ““The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”” (Rev 21:7 ESV).
Few understand the inheritance of God’s sons is his City.
The deep biblical background to this is a foundational messianic promise vs.13 “He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. vs.14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” (2 Sam 7:13-14 ESV).
This promise is fulfilled in Jesus (Heb 1:5 ESV). Sharing an inheritance with him of all the good things of God42)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rom 8:16-17 ESV; 1 Cor 3:21-22 ESV we partner with Christ in God’s work upon the earth directed towards the coming down of the heavenly City.
To change this we must to look upwards to receive insight that the City nurtures the Church; “the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother”43)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gal 4:26 ESV cf. Heb 12:22 ESV.
This insight has a special focus on suffering because the heavenly Church that populates the City is comprised of those who have “come out of the great tribulation” (Rev 7:14 ESV).
These saints inherit the kingdom44)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 1:6 ESV; Rev 11:15 ESV through faithfulness to Christ though the beast is “allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them…. and kill them”45)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:7 ESV; 13:7 ESV.
Ordinary mortals are qualified as overcomers inheriting the City of God and the Lamb46)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:5, 12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:2 ESV in their union with the suffering of Christ for the lost cities of this world.
As we pray, serve, forgive and bless the fallen city in the name of Jesus47)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 5:44 ESV; Rom 12:14 ESV; 1 Pet 3:9 ESV the power of the blood of the cross and the living waters of Jesus prepares the life of the fallen city to participate in the City of God.
By grace all dimensions of life, work and culture are reckoned worthy to be continuous with the life of the eternal City. Everything is being made worthy through and for the Lamb (Rev 5:2-5 ESV).
As the Church loves the city that persecutes and kills those who hold fast the testimony of Jesus48)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 16:6 ESV; Rev 17:6 ESV; Rev 18:20, 24 ESV; Rev 20:9 ESV the radiance of the New Jerusalem begins to break in on the streets of the earthly city.
The things presently obscured in the City above become shared very much in part with the cities in which the Church abides below. In the transparency of the City of heaven (Rev 21:11, 18, 21 ESV) eternal things become visible, people are saved and social structures are renewed.
Since Job 28:19 ESV compares wisdom to “pure gold” perhaps the transparent gold of the streets of Revelation speaks of the exceeding value of the wisdom displayed in the sacrifice of the Lamb.
The treasures which the kings of the earth bring into the City of God (Rev 21:24-26 ESV) are the “good works” that “follow” the saints into heaven49)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:13 ESV cf. Eph 2:10 ESV.
This may be taking in the homeless, feeding the poor, providing justice through the legal system, incorruptibility in representative government, holistic truth in education, sound work for a fair price in the trades, the provision of equal access to medical help, healing creativity in the arts etc.
Presumably the Garden-City contains all the glories and wisdom God has imparted to humanity, both the horticultural skills of Eden, nurturing, tending, working with nature, and those of the metropolitan life, arts, education, finance, law etc. The Church is called to be a Church for the city with a breadth and depth of loving wisdom that only a city space can actualise. For a statement that captures such a vision. see “Our Vision For Tasmania“
When in the brilliance of the light of Christ (Rev 21:23-24 ESV) the glory of the Lord fills the earth (Hab 2:14 ESV) it will be clear that this splendour was always designed to be a divine-human glory.
In the cleansing power of his sacrifice the Lamb of God will draw all the goods, artefacts and instruments of human culture to himself.
As the power of the blood of Christ is expressed cosmically the purpose of the “cultural mandate” shall have reached its goal and the Church in Jesus will fill all in all50)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Eph 1:22-23 ESV; Col 1:19-20 ESV; ?2:9-10 ESV.
The power of this vision is immeasurable but deeply resisted by human flesh and evil powers.
If such wonders are beyond our awareness it is because the economic and religious power of Babylon has invaded the Church, for the seductive inducements of the city of man corrupts the Church’s vocation to image the City of God again and again.
The insidious power of the harlot city described in Revelation derives from its counterfeiting/counter-parting the true City of God;
|• Immorality (Rev 17:1-2 ESV; Rev 18:9 ESV)||“vs”||• Chaste Bride (Rev 21:2,9 ESV)|
|• Kings Of The Earth Submit To Babylon (Rev 17:18 ESV)||“vs”||• Kings Bringing Their Glory Into The New Jerusalem (Rev 21:24 ESV)|
|• Babylon Extorts The Wealth Of The World (Rev 18:12-17 ESV)||“vs”||• Riches Freely Brought Into The City (Rev 21:24-26 ESV)|
|• Babylon Is Impure, Abominable And Deceptive. (Rev 17:4-5, Rev 18:23 ESV)||“vs”||• The New Jerusalem Is Inhabited By Only Those Who Have Forsaken Such Impurities. (Rev 21:8, 27 ESV)|
|• Babylon Slaughters And Sheds Blood (Rev 17:6, Rev 18:24 ESV)||“vs”||• Healing And Life (Rev 22:1-2 ESV)|
|• Judgement On Those Who Don’t Separate From Babylon (Rev 18:4 ESV)||“vs”||• Blessing On Those Entering The New Jerusalem (Rev 22:14 ESV)|
|• Babylon Seek To Reach To Heaven (Rev 18:5 ESV)||“vs”||• The New Jerusalem Comes Down From God (Rev 21:2 ESV)|
|• Babylon Is Split Into Parts (Rev 16:17-18 ESV)||“vs”||• The Bridal City Remains Forever (Rev 21:6 ESV)|
|• The Names On The Foreheads Of The Inhabitants Differ (Rev 17:5 ESV; Rev 22:4 ESV), The Names Not Written (Rev 17:8 ESV)||“vs”||• Written In The Book Of Life (Rev 21:27 ESV).|
|• Babylon Glorifies Itself (Rev 18:7 ESV)||“vs”||• Reflecting God’s Glory (Rev 21:11, 23 ESV)|
|• The Dwelling Place Of Demons (Rev 18:2 ESV)||“vs”||• A Dwelling Place Of God (Rev 21:3, 11, 22-23 ESV)|
Personal examples of this corrupting power come to mind. Paul/David Yonggi Cho powerfully impacted my life with a testimony about prayer and revival in the late 1980’s. In 2014 he was convicted of embezzling $12 million from the church.
Then there are number of Australian ministries I can think of who have been ruined by chasing dollars; “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10 ESV).
All spiritual triumphalism e.g. dominion theology and triumphing over the Seven Mountains of culture hates the message that the people of God must suffer seemingly terminal defeat before receiving resurrection power51)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:1-13 ESV cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV ; Phil 3:10 ESV etc..
Those addicted to church growth not understanding that God’s kingdom builds the Church, not the other way around e.g. Matt 16:18-19 ESV cannot acknowledge that all the forms of Church in this world will be succeeded by the life of the City from above.
It is impossible for them to be whole heartedly committed to ministry beyond the congregation.
It is only the cross which makes everything beautiful in its own time, and reveals “what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Eccl 3:11 ESV); that as the Lamb of God Jesus is the alpha and omega of all God’s purposes52)SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Pet 1:20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV cf. 2 Tim 1:9 ESV.
The spiritual crisis afflicting the dominant mode of Church in Western Christianity is that an attractional/“seeker” church cannot market the cross to today’s city-dwellers demands a revolution in church practice.
The problem is wider than the obvious Pentecostal and Evangelical candidates like Hillsong, Lakewood or Willow Creek.
Walking past the Southern Territorial Headquarters for the Salvation Army in Melbourne last week I noticed that their building was covered with words like words like Hope Love Others Dignity Justice Compassion. But the name Jesus was nowhere to be seen!
Remembering that it is the Lord himself that has a heart to transform the cities of this world our city Hebrews speaks to us today, vs.13 “Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. vs.14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Heb 13:13-14 ESV).
If we are willing to suffer with Jesus for the city in serving it and to bear the ostracism of the power systems of organised Christianity, God will indeed release the resurrection power of the new creation in our midst. This is the gospel promise.
Years ago the Lord spoke to me in a Catholic chapel in Buenos Aires airport through a small pamphlet with the Spanish heading, “Fifteen minutes in the Company of Jesus”. This contained a very unusual map of the world. Transposed across it were the airport runways, at the centre of these was the heart of Jesus from which were lines radiating through each continent, the one place in Australia where the two met was over Perth.
This was a message from the Father that if we sought his suffering heart in Christ (John 1:18 ESV) we could see revival in our own city.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 16. Sep, 2018 Location: Alive @5
Author: Dr. John Yates
YouTube or PODCAST:
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:2, 10 ESV; Eph 4:9-10 ESV cf. John 3:13 ESV; John 6:33, 41, 42, 50, 51, 58 ESV|
|2.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 1:3 ESV; Rev 21:11 ESV|
|3.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Col 1:15 ESV cf. Rom 5:14 ESV; 1 Cor 15:44-49 ESV|
|4.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:24 ESV; Eph 5:32 ESV|
|5.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ex 25:9, 40 ESV; Num 8:4 ESV cf. Ps 78:69 ESV|
|6.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:15 ESV ff., Gen 3:8 ESV|
|7.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 3:7 ESV; 4:22 ESV|
|8.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gen 2:12 ESV; Ezek 28:13 ESV; Rev 21:19-20 ESV|
|9.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES cf. Isa 11:9 ESV; Ps 72:19 ESV; Hab 2:14 ESV|
|10.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 14:2, 23 ESV; Rev 21:3 ESV|
|11.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 14 ESV; Ezek 28 ESV; Rev 18 ESV etc.|
|12.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 17:4 ESV; Rev 18:12, 16 ESV; Rev 21:18-21 ESV|
|13.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 24:24 ESV; Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 18:3, 23 ESV|
|14.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:8 ESV; Rev 17:2 ESV; Rev 18:6, 12, 16 ESV|
|15.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:44, 48 ESV; 1 Ki 11:32, 36 ESV; 1 Ki 14:21 ESV etc.|
|16.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 87:1 ESV; Ezek 20:40 ESV; Dan 9:16 ESV|
|17.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Ki 8:27 ESV; 2 Chron 6:2 ESV; Ezra 6:12 ESV; Ps 68:16 ESV etc.|
|18.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 46:4 ESV; cf. Ge 2:10 ESV; Eze 47:1-12 ESV|
|19.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps. 76:2 ESV; cf. Gen 14:17-20 ESV|
|20.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 12:22 ESV; Rev 21 ESV|
|21.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1Co 3:16 ESV; Eph 2:19-22 ESV; 1 Pe 2:4-5 ESV|
|22.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Ki 21:23; 2 Ki 23:27 ESV|
|23.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 2 Chron 24:20-21 ESV; Neh 9:26 ESV; Matt 23:29-39 ESV|
|24.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Jer 7 ESV; 13:9 ESV etc.|
|25.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES e.g. Ezra 3:12 ESV; Hag 2:3 ESV|
|26.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 2: 2-4 ESV; 11:6-9 ESV; 60:5, 11 ESV; 61:6 ESV; 65:18-20 ESV; Ezek 40-48 ESV; Joel 3:20 ESV; Mic 3:7 ESV cf. Isa 14:32 ESV; 28: 16 –17 ESV; 60: 3,8,11 ESV; Zech 8:3- 5 ESV|
|27.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 3:9 ESV; John 8:33 ESV|
|28.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 16:21 ESV cf. Luke 24:26 ESV|
|29.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:20 ESV; Heb 13:12 ESV|
|30.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 56:7 ESV; Jer 7:11 ESV; Mal 3:1 ESV; Matt 21:12 ESV; Mark 11: 15-17 ESV|
|31.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Ps 2:2 ESV; Acts 4:25-28 ESV|
|32.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 1:29 ESV; Gal 6:15 ESV|
|33.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES John 19:34 ESV; Rev 22:1-3 ESV|
|34.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 21:24, 26 ESV cf. Isa 60:3, 5, 11, 16 ESV; Isa 61:6 ESV|
|35.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 6:15 ESV; 17:2 ESV; 18:3 ESV; 19:19 ESV|
|36.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 5:9-10 ESV; 7:9 ESV|
|37.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Cor 3:16 ESV; Eph 1:22-23 ESV; 2:19 ESV; 1 Tim 3:15 ESV; 1 Pet 4:17 ESV|
|38.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Acts 17:16 ESV; Rom 1:20-21 ESV|
|39.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Isa 6:3 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV|
|40.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Nah 1-3 ESV; Isa 47 ESV; Jer 51 ESV; Ezekiel 26:4,12,14 ESV; Rev 18 ESV|
|41.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Heb 11:6, 10, Heb 12:25 ESV ff.|
|42.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rom 8:16-17 ESV; 1 Cor 3:21-22 ESV|
|43.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Gal 4:26 ESV cf. Heb 12:22 ESV|
|44.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 1:6 ESV; Rev 11:15 ESV|
|45.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:7 ESV; 13:7 ESV|
|46.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26 ESV; Rev 3:5, 12, 21 ESV; Rev 12:11 ESV; Rev 15:2 ESV|
|47.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Matt 5:44 ESV; Rom 12:14 ESV; 1 Pet 3:9 ESV|
|48.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 16:6 ESV; Rev 17:6 ESV; Rev 18:20, 24 ESV; Rev 20:9 ESV|
|49.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 14:13 ESV cf. Eph 2:10 ESV|
|50.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Eph 1:22-23 ESV; Col 1:19-20 ESV; ?2:9-10 ESV|
|51.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES Rev 11:1-13 ESV cf. 2 Cor 4:7-12 ESV ; Phil 3:10 ESV etc.|
|52.||↑||SEE BIBLICAL REFERENCES 1 Pet 1:20 ESV; Rev 13:8 ESV cf. 2 Tim 1:9 ESV|