Whatever We Value Most Will Preoccupy Us

Revelation 21: 1 -22:5.

Our hearts are naturally more commonly fixated on our daily routine or struggles, but that ought not to stumble us in our spirituality. In our transient context, it becomes an opportunity to demonstrate that as entities saved by grace, despite possessing a deceitful heart (Jer 17:9-10; c.f., Heb 8:10), we are filled by His Holy Spirit and our focus is towards our transcendental and eternal ‘treasure,’ Jesus Himself (Matt 6:19-21; c.f., Prov 4:23). And although we have yet to experience the complete reality of salvation in our present predicament (Rom 8:23; 1Peter 1:5), we are encouraged to keep our focus on the Hope that purifies us (1John 3:3). Jesus Christ represents the new heaven and the new earth, and although John elaborated little, we know that his descriptions are apocalyptic; where the entire old order will permanently disappear (Rev 21:1-8; c.f., Isa 65:17-19; Gal 4:26). The fact that the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven implies that this will be God’s initiative, where the city is also ‘a bride;’ a social paradigm with historical and theological roots in the Old Testament where the Jews were the bride of Yahweh. Fast forward to the New Testament, the incarnation continued to model the latter to include Gentile believers, but its consummation is future-oriented (Rev 21:3-4; c.f., Lev 26:11-12; Ezek 37:27-28), when the fallen order of degeneracy and mortality, impermanence and lamentation, will be supplanted by the presence of God Himself where righteousness and eternal life, stability and celebration prevail (Isa 35:10). In reality, those whose names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life have already gained a foretaste of this most intimate sonship with their Creator.

The Apostle John was shown the symbolism of the New Jerusalem: the city which is the church and the bride of the Lamb, with all of God’s glory within her – shining like a bright crystal clear jasper (Rev 21:9-21). This description to first-century readers was an enigma, for the knowledge to cut and polish precious stones was not known yet. Nevertheless, the representations implied grandeur, majesty, security, equilibrium, purity, pricelessness, and completeness; it speaks of the unadulterated presence of God. Now, what is distinctly absent from the New Jerusalem? (Rev 21:22-27). The ‘temple’ is missing, as God and the Lamb are the temple, and at this point in the revelation, mediation becomes unnecessary. The sun and moon are not mentioned since God’s unhindered glory radiate through the city and night and day are indistinct. Furthermore, the gates to the city will always remain open, without any fears of terror or insecurity, and anyone can enter and exit the city at any time. Finally, nothing unclean or impure will enter it; only those whose names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the believers, will be allowed in.

The allegory of the river of life flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, and the tree of life bearing fruit all year round referenced us back to the original Paradise, where its fruit will yield a life without death, implying that eternal life in the new heaven and earth had been secured by God through work of the Lamb (viz., Jesus Christ). However, the crux of the whole symbolic narrative is that we will see God’s face (Rev 22:4a; c.f., Ex 33:20), for everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1John 3:3). Our treasure lies in the Person of Jesus Christ, He must unequivocally remain the centre of all our relationships if we are to be an effective testimony of His grace and love in this world. He must increase, but we decrease (John 3:30).