The Book of Psalms

Monday: God’s City


Theme: Holiness in God’s City
In this week’s lessons, we consider the difference between the City of God and the city of man.
Scripture: Revelation 21:1-2
The literature of the world is filled with utopias, but all of these utopias are different from the one that we find in the 21st chapter of Revelation. In it we read of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. The remainder of the chapter spells out the details of that revelation, which differs from the human utopias we have seen in literature. Most of the utopias of this world go in either one of two directions. On the one hand, you have a description of what the author of the utopia would like to see happen. An example would be Plato’s Republic or Thoreau’s Walden. Or, on the other hand, you have the author warning us about what might happen. An example in this case would be Huxley’s Brave New World or George Orwell’s 1984.
The difference with what is described in Revelation 21 is that the New Jerusalem, in some ways, reminds us of what already is even as it reaches an even fuller measure at the time of Christ’s return. In theology, this is usually spoken about in terms of the already and the not yet. The kingdom of God is already here. Even before his death and resurrection, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” And yet, at the same time, he instructed us to pray for God’s kingdom to come.
The New Jerusalem, the holy city, is a perfect example of that. If you study the first chapter of Revelation, you’ll find that the New Jerusalem is characterized by certain important things. The most important thing is that the presence of God is there. John writes that he heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now, the dwelling of God is with man and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be their God.”
It follows from this first characteristic that the city is also marked by holiness. We’re told that every expression of sin, and the sinners who do them, are excluded. No unrighteousness will come in. Or again, we read that there will be no death, sorrow, or suffering in the city. John is writing what he sees, which is of that perfect city that will one day be, and yet it is also true that something of this vision exists in some measure of the people of God even now. We look forward to that day when the presence of God will be seen and known in all its fullness, even as God is with us now in the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to his disciples just before his arrest that he would send the Spirit to dwell in them, and by extension to all those who belong to Jesus Christ by faith. This holiness that marks the true church is something that increases as, by God’s grace, he conforms us increasingly to the image of Christ.
Study Questions:

How does the biblical description of the New Jerusalem differ from secular approaches to utopia?
From the study, list and describe the two things that characterize the New Jerusalem. How is each one both “already” and “not yet”?

Prayer: Pray that holiness will increasingly mark your life, as one who already possesses salvation while also waiting for the fullest expression in the City of God.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to James Boice’s “Heaven Prepared for You” set. (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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