For the Love of God, Volume 1/December 30
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 35; Revelation 21; Malachi 3; John 20
AT LAST WE REACH THE CLIMAX of redemption (Rev. 21). In his final vision, John sees “a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1). Some notes:
(1) The absence of any sea (21:1) does not establish the hydrological principles of the new heaven and new earth. The sea, as we have noted before, is symbolic for chaos, the old order, death. And so the sea is gone.
(2) John also sees “the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (21:2). We are not to place this New Jerusalem within the new heaven and the new earth. They are two quite separate images of the final reality, two ways of depicting the one truth—not unlike the Lion and the Lamb in Revelation 5, where although there are two animals there is only one Jesus to whom these two animals refer. One way of thinking about the consummated glory is to conceive of it as a new universe, a new heaven and earth; another way of thinking about it is as the New Jerusalem—with many entailments to this latter image.
(3) Yet a third way of thinking of the consummation is to focus on the marriage supper of the Lamb (21:2, 9; cf. 19:9)—and here the bride is the New Jerusalem. The metaphors have become wonderfully mixed. But all can see that the consummation will involve perfect intimacy between the Lord Jesus and the people he has redeemed.
(4) Doubtless the perfections of the New Jerusalem are so far outside our experience that it is difficult to imagine them. But one way of getting at them is by negation: we are to understand what ugly things connected with sin and decay will not be present: there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (21:4).
(5) The city is an inherently social reality. The consummation is not a place of lone-ranger spirituality. Nor are all cities bad, like “Babylon,” the mother of prostitutes (chapter 17; see meditation for December 26). This city, the New Jerusalem, is described in many symbol-laden ways to depict its wonder and glory—too many to unpack here. But note that it is built as a perfect cube. This no more reflects its architecture than the lack of sea betrays the ultimate hydrological arrangements. The cube is symbolic: there is only one cube in the Old Testament, and that is the Most Holy Place of the temple, where only the priest could enter once a year, bearing blood for his own sins and for the sins of the people. Now the entire city is the Most Holy Place: in the consummation all of God’s people are perennially in the unshielded splendor of his glorious presence.