Lesson 11: An Urban Paradise

If Isaiah’s Peaceable Kingdom is the most fleshed out picture of salvation in the Old Testament, certainly John’s New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and 22 is the New Testament’s. The latter offers much the same promises as the former but in an urban rather than agrarian setting.

The religious sillies have so misread Revelation that we often miss that it is trying to picture history’s fulfillment just as much as Isaiah. Humans do not go to heaven; God comes to earth. That is always the direction of biblical salvation. God comes to us. Twice John wrote “I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God”. The point is always healing the creation and calling us to participate in this here and now.

Again the promise of safety is the most prominent. Isaiah speaks of wolves living with lambs and children playing with snakes. John writes the gates of his city are never shut and its walls too low to keep out an enemy. There is no need for defense. The promise still speaks to us who are afraid to walk most of our cities’ streets.

Both promise a justice and well being not enjoyed by all now in any of our historical societies. In Isaiah you reap what you sow. The rich do not take it from you, the government does not tax it out from underneath you, and armies do not pillage it. John pictures an extremely fertile city with its river of life and fruits of the month. And it’s all free. “To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” No longer will Rome deforest Israel, taking its lumber to build the Eternal City. No longer will pollution rot our modern cities.

John goes even beyond Isaiah’s promise that salvation promises long life for all. He says there will be no death at all. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”

He also opens up creation to all people. The city is actually a cube 1200 miles on a side. There will be plenty of room for all. The prophet makes clear we shall need the room, because the leaves of the trees are for “the healing of the nations”.

In our urgency to stress we should not take the poetic picture literally, we often miss John’s introduction of beauty into salvation. He wants us to see how attractive this city with its streets of gold and bejeweled buildings is for all people. The source, of course, is “the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.”

John can promise more than Isaiah, because he has seen God himself come to earth when the Word is made flesh at Christmas. He is sure this will happen again when Christ returns. God will not only hear the cries of his people quickly. He will now be speaking with them face to face, immediately knowing their needs.

No wonder we respond to this picture as John does with “Amen. Come Lord Jesus”.

Most, if not all, of the other biblical pictures of salvation are short illustrations. Next week we’ll examine how that works in the Christmas Story, using it as a picture of salvation.

Tags: Salvation, Urban Paradise, Peaceable Kingdom, Holy City, Come Lord Jesus, New Jerusalem

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