the eternal city
"For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:10 ESV)
"And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." (Revelation 21:2 ESV)
In one of our weekly Bible studies, we've been reading through the book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). Dr. Lewis Johnson's messages on Revelation in the late 1980s have been so very helpful. Here are some excerpts from "The Metropolis of the New Earth", a sermon by S. Lewis Johnson.
The subject for today as we come near the end of our study of the great apocalypse is, “The Metropolis of the New Earth”. According to the word of God, Cain built the first city, but he built it in independence of God. Man’s innate desire to have a common life evidently is good. Nothing is said in Scripture about the fact of the building being contrary to his will, but characteristic of human cities is that they are failures, for God is forgotten. In the Bible, we’ve just had occasion to reflect upon Sodom, which appears in the Book of Revelation, incidentally also, and especially upon the great city of Babylon, the city of the future.
Bismarck the German Chancellor once said that “great cities are great sores upon the body politic”. I think he was right. Our cities are great sores upon the body politic, and as you look around at the cities of the world today, you cannot help but think that they seem to be becoming greater sores than they have been in the past.
The author of the Epistle of the Hebrews had the right idea. He wrote, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Heb 13:14) John witnessed this eternal city in the visions that we are looking at in the Book of Revelation, the metropolis of the new creation. A literal city although described in symbolical language is said to be the new Jerusalem. One of the things that we can learn from this, I think, is that embodiment is the end of all the ways of God. There is no pallid, anemic "beyond" for the soul. We look for a real city.
Now we know even from science that things that cannot be seen are nevertheless real, and it is definitely in accordance with the word of God that even though at the moment we cannot see lots of things, there are things that are real, and this city is a real city symbolically presented in the word of God, but still a real city.
Suzanne de Dietrich who wrote a very interesting book relating to the Book of Revelation, incidentally, said that “the future city is not some pale paradise peopled by pure spirits”, but we are talking about a truly real place; the new Jerusalem. And it’s also helpful to remember that the Bible teaches the redemption of the body not the redemption from the body.
We’re taught in Scripture that we look forward to the resurrection of the body, but when we look forward to the resurrection of the body, we are looking forward to the resurrection of this body, not some other body, but this body. In other words, there is an identity between this body and the glorious resurrection body that we shall have.
The Apostle Paul illustrates this: ...when you put a seed in the ground and a beautiful plant comes up from the seed, you’re looking at the same plant, which at one point is the seed, but now has bloomed and blossomed. We are looking at identity and, consequently, with reference to the resurrection body, we in the Bible learn that our body is part of our divine redemption. We have not received it yet, but we shall receive it at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not delivered from the body, but we experience a bodily redemption as well as a spiritual redemption.
“For the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of the body.” (Romans 8:21)
Credits. "The Metropolis of the New Earth", a sermon by S. Lewis Johnson, can be heard or read here. The painting above is "Urban Perspective" by Paul Klee (1928).