Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Touring the future Heavenly city

Revelation 21:9-10 9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” The New Jerusalem
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

Personal Note: Yesterday I flew home to my family after having buried my father's body last week. My dad is very much alive in the presence of Jesus. When Jesus returns, there will be a catching up of all the saints and my dad's soul/spirit will be reunited with a transformed, glorified resurrected body. As I think on the promises of scripture, I think about the city of God so often spoken of in the Bible. Revelation 21-22 gives the reader the most detailed description of that future heavenly home. If you have trusted in Christ as Savior and Lord, then what follows ought to thrill your heart. If you haven't trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord, call upon Him and acknowledge your sin and separation from God, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 16:31) Why is what I just wrote so important? Because I would like to see you have the thrill that my dad, myself and other Christians have in knowing their ultimate destination - the future heavenly city! Check it out below!

Introduction & Review
In yesterday's post we listed some observations about the New Heaven's and New Earth.  We first of all noted 15 things that will be absent in the Eternal Heavenly Glory of Revelation 21-22.  Next we considered how the New Heavens and Earth are described by a theme of "better than", noting that in comparison to Genesis 3, God's aim is to have a "better than paradise".  These thoughts led us to the third consideration of how the New Heaven will be better than the current third heaven where believers go to now to be with the Lord.  We chose to pick up with today's post in further explaining how the New Heavens and Earth, particularly - the New Jerusalem, aid us in seeing just how glorious the Eternal heavenly Glory will be.

Pausing and reflecting on how the promise of heaven keeps our faith firmly planted in the ground
One morning I had occasion to share the text of Colossians 3:1-3 with some people: "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." This text can be equally used in practically applying the truths of the current heaven and the New heavens and earth described here in Revelation 21-22.  Reflecting upon both yields the same fruit - assurance, hope, encouragement and strength for the journey. 

Dr. John Piper notes concerning how Jesus functions as the anchor for the soul in Heaven in Hebrews 6:18-20 - "Now here is the burning question for me. Is the anchor of my soul as firmly attached to my soul as it is to the altar of God? In other words is the picture here of an anchor with its hook and chain bound unbreakably to the altar of God in the holy of holies so that nothing could loose it from that end, but with the rope just hanging out of heaven in the air? Is the only point of this text to say "Take hold of the loose end of this rope and you will have safety and firmness and assurance?" Piper later writes: "When he says in verse 19 that we have an "anchor of the soul" I think he means that the anchor is firmly anchored in heaven, and the anchor is firmly attached to the Christian's soul."1

The City whose builder and maker is God
We know from other scriptures that the concept of Heaven being likened unto a city is found throughout the Biblical authors.  According to Hebrews 11:9-10, Abraham the patriarch had been in search of it through faith.  We as Christians are already designated a citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem above. (Galatians 4:26; Philippians 3:20) Presumably these references are talking about the "third heaven" where believers in the Lord go when they die in Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:5-6; 12:4). Jesus then told his disciples in John 14:1-3 that He is going away to "prepare a place" which we can presume to be the grand city described in Revelation 21 and 22. 2   Evidently by being with Jesus through His Kingdom age (compare Revelation 20:1-6), where He is, we will be, and thus the whole point of Revelation 21-22 is to demonstrate that God in Christ with His people has come to tabernacle, and thus Heaven will characterize earth and earth's physical nature will characterize Heaven in the Eternal glory of these chapters. 

A quick tour of the New Jerusalem
We first of all note it is a Heavenly city. (Revelation 21:10-11) This is most likely the same city spoken of by Jesus in John 14:1-3. As a heavenly city is secondly a costly city, composed of solid diamond gemstones (Revelation 21:12) and other costly materials such as gems and transparent gold. (21:15-20) Thirdly it is a promised city, as seen by the names of the patriarchs and apostles inscribed on its gates and foundations. (Revelation 21:13-14)

The fourth thing we can note about this city is its size: 1500 miles in each direction, with the same length characterizing its height.  Quite literally this is a cube that is the size of North America or most of Europe.  The height of this city has led many sound interpreters to conclude that the city may be composed of multiple stories and levels. To wonder if there would be enough space to live, some rough calculations yield that if the New Jerusalem, with all of its levels being a mile of distance from top to bottom (and this 1500 levels high) had tracts of space laid out for 8 billion people, each person would easily have 250 acres! What we must realize of course is that God is a big God and that the whole point of large proportions in any of His creations is to display His glory. (Compare Psalm 19:1-6) So in being a heavenly, costly and promised city that is quite grand in scope, we can notice yet another trait, fifthly that this city is a God-centered city. (21:22-25) In as much as its studded gemstones and unfathomable beauty describe the New Jerusalem, without God as the light and the Lamb as the light, this city would never shine, would never be precious and would never be grand. We can note yet another trait, number six, that this city will be a life giving city. (22:1-5) Notice how this city has a healing tree, a river of life and unending light.

So let us quickly review what we have noticed thus far about the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21:9-22:5
1. Heavenly City
2. Costly City
3. Promised City
4. Large city
5. God-centered City
6. Living City

But now understand dear friend, John has been shown this glorious New heavens and earth with the glorious new Jerusalem, however right now that city is unoccupied.  Henceforth there is one last trait we must notice that will be true of this city, namely that God and the Lamb desire it to be an occupied city.  All those chosen in grace and so inclined to receive the free offer of such grace by faith will be in that city. Is that you? Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? If you haven't trusted in Jesus, please do so today!

Tomorrow we will consider the grand appeal to come and be a present citizen and future occupant of Eternal Heavenly Glory.


2. Often in our songs of praise and even in our doctrines we tend to blend the truths of the third Heaven and the Jerusalem found here in Revelation 21:10-27 & 22:1-5. Clearly there are many similarities, however there are some differences to note as well.