I was refreshed this past week in my understanding of what drives one’s personal faith and commitment. That which is central can often become so common that it is assumed and taken for granted. And what is central to the Christian faith is a love for Jesus. Before one assumes that this is something any of us would miss, I would suggest that not only sin and selfishness lead us away from loving Jesus, but often much of the language and teaching that pervades mainstream evangelical life. Over and over we are told to come to Jesus to find healing. To find joy. To find freedom. To find peace. To find meaning. To find purpose. To have our problems fixed. Well, you get the point. Statements like these are not inherently wrong. Jesus does lead His followers into these things. Granted some of these things are a bit superficial and self-centered. But some of the things we speak of Jesus giving us are not that at all. We also are told to come to Jesus to gain forgiveness. To gain heaven even.
My concern is that cumulatively we have begun to think of Jesus as a means to an end, the bridge, the stepping stone to all the things that we think are valuable and worth having, when in reality the gospel is really the very opposite of this. Forgiveness gets us Jesus. Heaven gets us Jesus. New life gets us Jesus. Healing and freedom give us access to Jesus. This is the gospel. We get Jesus. To love, enjoy, worship, and serve now and forever more. The Father who so supremely delights in His Son has granted redemption to humanity that they might enjoy Him forever just as He does. Paul tells us in Philippians 3:10 that his determined purpose is that he may know Him, that he may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly. This is why Paul could speak of death as gain. Death meant the full and glorious presence of Jesus to enjoy without pain or distraction or toil. This is what drove Him.
I find that the final picture the Bible leaves us with in Revelation 21 helps put this magnificent truth in proper perspective for us. Everything is done. Human history has drawn to a close. That which God began on the first day of creation has been brought to fruition. This is the end of the story. The goal of it all. And what do we see? Oh it is glorious indeed.
The angel takes John up to a mountain from which he is told he will see the bride (the church). And what John sees is the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, coming down out of the sky to meet its groom. We must understand that what is being described in this passage is a picture, it is figurative imagery. Thus, the city is not a literal city but it is a way of describing the bride, which is clearly stated in 21:9-10. The passage shows us what eternity entails for us.
The first thing we see is that we will be enjoying the presence of Jesus (21:10-11, 15-17). The reason a city is used to symbolize the church here is because it speaks of dwelling. We are to see that the bride is to dwell with Jesus, to be with Him. Human history ends with the uniting of Jesus and His bride, entering into full covenant relationship together forever. In the same way, the cube spoken of in 21:15-17 speaks of the Holy of Holies, the room in the temple in which the full presence of God would come to meet with the high priest (representing all of Israel) once a year on the Day of Atonement. This is a picture of full and perfect intimate fellowship.
The second thing we see is that we will be remembering the great, cosmic salvation of Jesus (21:12-14). The city is given twelve gates representing the twelve tribes of Israel as well as twelve foundations representing the twelve apostles. This reveals to us that this city, the bride, includes all of God’s redeemed, from Old Testament and New. This is a cosmic and full picture of salvation because it includes all of God’s redeemed. We are to take note of and remember all that Jesus has done in bringing salvation to mankind. Note that the high walls likely speak of the safety and security that is now found in this eternal communion. This city will not be torn down or penetrated. We will live without fear.
The third thing we see is that we will be displaying the light of the glory of Jesus (21:18-20). Revelation 21:18 tells us that this city is made of pure gold and is clear as crystal. It is a see-through city. Why would this city be portrayed as clear? Because the purpose of the city is to display the brilliance of the one who dwells there. In the same way the precious gems that are included are meant for a very specific purpose: to make much of the light that will shine forth through them. This is such an incredible picture. The body of Christ, the church, Jesus’ chosen and perfected bride was brought to this place to display the magnificence of the light of Jesus, their groom, in all of His glory. A clear city inlaid with precious gems, when filled with this glorious light, will send it into the far reaches of creation, never again to be diminished or withdrawn, shining forth in brilliant color and force.
This is what we will do in eternity. Dwell with Jesus. Remember what Jesus has done. Display the glory of Jesus. It will be the full and complete radiance and worth and greatness and glory of Jesus every moment of every second of every minute of every hour of every day to celebrate, honor, worship, serve, and delight in forever. This is the end to which human history is moving. This is what we are being prepared for. This is the gospel. You get Jesus.
This is why we must be cautious not to become focused on the supposed benefits that Jesus brings while missing that which is of greater value and importance. If we don’t really want Jesus, we won’t want heaven. If we get tired of it being about Jesus here and now, wait until heaven. Heaven will be hell to those who find no delight in Jesus Himself, who see Jesus as a means to an end, who think they can use Jesus as a stepping stone to their own personal ends.
I can hardly imagine what that day will be like one day. The one we have sung about and praised. The one we have sought to honor and obey. The one we have trusted in for salvation, a salvation no other could offer. He will appear, in all His glory. He will come for us. And we will see Him. Our King, our Master, our Savior, our Friend, our Lord. We will be His and He will be Ours. And we will be together forever.