Theme: The New Jerusalem
In this week’s lessons we learn what the earthly Jerusalem means in Scripture, and of our own need to pray for the unity of the church.
Scripture: Psalm 122:1-9
We are instructed to pray for the peace of our Jerusalem today. And yet, we also look for the heavenly Jerusalem still to come. For we are still pilgrims. We have not yet fully arrived, and our eyes are fixed not even on the church, as wonderful as it can be, but on the heavenly “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).
We catch a glimpse of that city in Revelation where the Holy City, new Jerusalem, descends from heaven. It is no mere copy of the earthly city that had been destroyed for its sins. It is a glorious new city described in what we would call surrealistic terms:
It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Rev. 21:11-14).
John describes the city as a perfect cube, about 12,000 stadia or 1,400 miles long on each of three dimensions. And when he looked for the city’s temple he did not see one because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Moreover,
the city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21:22-27).
A river of life is in the city, flowing down from the throne of God. It causes trees to bear fruit, and their leaves are for “the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2). John’s description ends by glancing at God’s servants, those who see God’s face and bear his name on their foreheads. They dwell in perpetual light and reign with him “forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).
It is hard to know what to do with these descriptive elements. They bear ties to reality, for heaven is a real place, not merely an idea. Yet they are also clearly symbols, all with a rich biblical history, pointing to the glories, joys and eternal security of those who are truly God’s people. What really matters, however, is that we are going there. For Christians are pilgrims who know that God is able to keep them from falling and at last to present them before his glorious presence with great joy (see Jude 24).
What will the temple be in the new Jerusalem?
Who will inhabit the new Jerusalem?
In what sense are we still pilgrims?
What symbols and imagery of Jerusalem are an encouragement to us now?
Reflection: Do you look to the eternal city whose architect is God, or are you focused on earthly matters?
Prayer: Pray for an unbelieving friend to come to know Christ as his or her Savior.
Key Point: Christians are pilgrims who know that God is able to keep them from falling and at last to present them before his glorious presence with great joy.
For Further Study: James Boice’s studies on the Psalms can be used for a variety of teaching settings, as well as for personal and family devotions. Order your copy of the three-volume paperback set, and receive 25% off the regular price.