What a Beautiful City

Post date: Jun 14, 2013 2:23:17 PM

“Then one of the seven angels said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates, twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:9-14

It’s a peculiar image, to my modern mind, but the ancients often used the metaphor of a wife to describe their cities. Beautiful, precious, carefully adorned and protected, treasured as the keeper of hearth and home. Consequently, it doesn't really surprise me that this city, the worthy spouse of the Holy God, should be compared to a very rare jewel. She is perfection, with her 12 gates, 12 angels, 12 inscriptions of the 12 tribes, standing on 12 foundations of the Lamb’s own 12 apostles. Twelve is one of those perfect numbers, combining symbols of both heaven and earth – the triune nature of the divine choosing to dwell within the four corners of the world.

What I do find fascinating is that John sees this perfect city coming down out of heaven to take her place on earth. Frankly, it would make a lot more sense to me if the angel had just carried John away to heaven, but that’s not what happened. John is very much on the earth, and so is this new city. She’s everything you’d expect a city to be, but made perfect with the glory of God’s presence. I may be wrong, but I don’t think most of us think of our cities as a worthy spouse of the Holy God, but maybe we should. If we treated our community, and the people who live here, as a precious thing of beauty, to be adorned and protected, treasured as that which we value most, we might be surprised how keenly we could feel God’s pleasure in us, as the bride he adores.

We see many things when we look at ourselves, but we rarely see what God sees, because we do not have eyes of love. I don't know which is the cause and which is the effect - maybe it's a never-ending feedback loop - but I sense two things essential to our thriving, and they are inextricably linked together: the deep conviction that God's love is making our community beautiful and perfect, and our own commitment to treat every member with the compassion and respect due to one beloved by God.