The last two chapters of the Book (Rev 21-22) begin with a wedding. The musicians sound the opening notes of the processional, the doors at the back of the sanctuary open, the mother of the bride rises to her feet, and all eyes turn to the bride. John writes,
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
This is an impressive event, marking the greatest change since Creation. Several things to notice about it.
The old is done away with (Re 21.1). Everything physical that you know—the earth and everything in it, the universe, all of it—is gone. Like a ratty old coat, it’s tossed aside and replaced.
At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I suppose it’s a little like junking an old car. You liked that car; maybe you even had a name for it. It took you lots of places, and you have lots of memories of good times with friends and family. It wasn’t perfect, but it was yours, and you have had something of a relationship, as odd as that sounds.
But the mechanic has given you the talk. There’s a lot wrong with the old car, and fixing it would cost more than it’s worth. Cheaper to buy a new one.
And so, with regrets, you do.
I’m a happy guy. For all the old world’s flaws—and they are many, and deep-seated—she’s a beautiful place, with Rocky Mountains and river rapids and birdsong and thunderstorms and honeysuckle. God has been exceedingly good to us in placing us here, at the bottom of an ocean of all the air we can breathe, and giving us the abilities to sense all of these graces in multiple ways.
But this world is indeed broken, physically and socially and politically and in a thousand other ways, and we were designed, in God’s image, for a much better place than this—one without all the disappointments and frustration and pain and death.
A new universe. A new earth.
New constellations. New glories. New delights.
The old will be replaced, and the new will come.
God will bring history full circle, making new again all that has been damaged, replacing the broken and worn with the new and shiny and perfect and completely functional.
As in the beginning.
God himself, the Creator, moves right into the neighborhood (Re 21.2-3).
That has always been his plan, that we would be neighbors—no, family members, living on the same land and enjoying unbroken fellowship forever. In Eden, he walked with Adam and Eve. In the Sinai, he gave Moses instructions for a tent where his light would shine perpetually and guide his people. Eventually David made plans for a permanent structure. And then—remarkably—the Son took on flesh and tabernacled among us (Jn 1.14).
But now it all comes to perfection. God lives on our street, and we live on his.
Why do away with the beautiful, old earth if you’re not going to get rid of what’s wrong with it?
Miraculously, magnificently, God destroys evil at its source. All the violence, all the injustice, all the deprivation. And with it go its effects: the suffering, the tears, the death (Re 21.4). Sin will die, while God’s people will live as they’ve never lived before (Re 21.6-8).
And this is just the beginning.
Next time, life in the big city.
Part 3: The Look of the Big City | Part 4: Life in the Big City | Part 5: On Track
Photo by Béatrice Natale on Unsplash