Monday, October 15, 2012

THE NEW CITY






The New City
Jeremiah 31:38-40

In this section, God declared the building and expansion of the city. The city is not named in these verses, but is clearly Jerusalem. He said, although it is about to be destroyed by the Babylonians, he will eventually rebuild it so that it will never be destroyed. 

We know, of course, that the Jews returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt it. (Nehemiah 3:1)  They did not build it as big as it was before exile. It certainly was not built as big as it was under Hezekiah or Solomon. Nehemiah only built the walls around the area that had been the city of David and the Temple Mount.

 

We also know that Nehemiah’s city was destroyed. The Romans destroyed it in 70 A.D. They destroyed the Temple also. 






The picture above is a carving in the Arch of Titus in Rome, commemoration the looting of the Temple by the Romans. 

Jesus told the Jews it would happen.

 
Famously, in Matthew 24, when shown the majesty of the Temple from the Mount of Olives, Jesus told his disciples the Temple would be torn down until no stone rested upon another.  (24:1-2) (Mark 13:2)



Therefore, we know God was not promising that the post exile Jerusalem would last forever. So, when he said through Jeremiah “it” shall not be uprooted or overthrown anymore forever, to what Jerusalem does he refer?

I believe he speaks of the new creation, the New Jerusalem that will last forever. Notice that this promise does not come in the passage devoted to God’s promise to return Israel to the land. Rather, it comes in the passage dealing with the New Covenant.

Let’s look at Revelation 21:1-22:5. Here are some facts about the New Jerusalem\New Creation.

First, the first heaven and earth passed way and there was no more sea.  I do not know if this means the world was destroyed and a new one made, or if the old one was remade. Since the Lord said he made all things new, you could think the latter.

The old creation is destroyed, or made new, so that there is no more evil or sin in the world. The destruction of the sea does not mean there will be no water in eternity. Rather, the sea to the Jews was a symbol of chaos and evil. This is another way of saying there will be no evil or chaos in the new creation. God will keep everything in perfect order and we will joyfully submit to it. The picture of the city in Jeremiah 31 expanded to cover new territory is an image of the same thing, using something they knew to portray something greater in the future. Jeremiah said the city would expand through the whole valley of dead bodies and ashes.  Those areas were unclean because of the dead bodies. But God will expand his kingdom to sanctify the areas that were once unclean. All of the earth in fact will be devoted to him in the New Creation.

Second, John saw the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven. The earth has been remade and now God repopulates it with his sinless people. It is a picture of the Church given the new earth on which to live forever. John said the city was adorned as a bride for her husband. Who is described as the bride of Christ? It is the church!  The Church has been taken into heaven awaiting the end of the final judgment, when all evil persons are cast out. Then the earth is remade and the Church is given the New Earth. The sense of anticipation is so strong at the end of the book that it says “the Spirit and the Bride say come!” (Revelation 22:17) The church, together with the Holy Spirit who dwells among its members, eagerly desires the Lord’s return and our final redemption.

The story of Adam and Eve has come full circle. God made the Earth and then made it habitable for Adam and Eve. They ruined it with sin. God will remake it so the Church may live as he intended Adam and Eve to live: in perfect fellowship with him.

Third, God will dwell with the people of the Church there. Revelation 21:3 says he will tabernacle with men and dwell with them. This is what God always wanted to do. This is what he did with Adam and Eve, walking with them in the Garden every day. (Genesis 3:3) When they sinned, they were driven from the Garden where the presence of the Lord dwelt. Although God cast them out, he began working to dwell among men and women again.

God again agreed to dwell among his people after he redeemed them from Egypt. He had a tabernacle built, and he filled it with his presence. He had them build an Ark and put it in the Tabernacle and said “there I will meet with you and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat”. (Exodus 25:22) When it was completed, “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle”. Exodus 40:38. This showed the Lord was dwelling among them through his presence in the Tabernacle.  

This process was repeated when Solomon built the Temple. When the priests placed the Ark in the most holy place, “the cloud filled the house of the Lord so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 8:10) Again, the Lord dwelt among his people.

Ezekiel recorded the departure of the presence of the Lord from the Temple in chapters 8-10. Ezekiel 10:18 says “then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple…”

When the 2nd Temple was built, the Scripture does not say that the glory of the Lord filled that Temple. There was also no ark of the covenant.

But God’s intent and desire was still to dwell among his people. The next step was for the Father to send the Son to dwell among his people. He spoke through Isaiah to tell us one would come who was named Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14) Immanuel is literally “God with us”. Matthew applied this verse to Jesus in Matthew 1:22-23. He is “God with us”.

John recounted this same fact by saying “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. (John 1:14)  The word for “dwelt” means pitched his tent”. He temporarily dwelt among his disciples in human flesh. The word “tent” conveys this meaning of temporary dwelling.

But, when Jesus died in the flesh it was not over. God promised to continue to dwell among his people. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, saying “He dwells with you and will be in you”. (John 14:17) In Matthew 18:20, Jesus said that where two or more are gathered in his name, he is there in the midst of them. Paul even said that the church, his body of believers was the temple. He said “Do you not know that you1 are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16) In Ephesians 2:19-22 he says God’s people are being built into a holy temple in which God dwells in the Spirit.

Yet, this spiritual dwelling among his people is not the final fulfillment. The final fulfillment will come in this new creation, this New Jerusalem, when God will dwell with them. (Revelation 21:3) He will be their God and they, the believers, will be his  people. This is the same language he used of Israel in the Old Testament.

As this New Jerusalem, or New Creation is known by who is there, it is also known by what is not there. There is no sorrow, no pain and no death. (Revelation 21:4) All of those things are result of sin and have no place in God’s new city.


But let me remind you of this. Revelation tells us of the perfect church to come, when God dwells with his people. But the present church is a foreshadowing of that perfect church. John 1:14 says God the son became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus said he is with us always, to the very end of this age. (Matthew 28:20) God the Holy Spirit dwells with us and is in us. (John 15:16-17)

Hebrews 12:22-24 speaks of our heavenly Jerusalem also. It says believers have come to the heavenly city with many angels celebrating, to the church, the assembly of the first born, to the Father and to Jesus.

In Revelation, the New Jerusalem has no sin or evil. The church is to be holy and sanctified today. (1 Peter 1:14-15) We are to be a foretaste of that heavenly assembly, that new city. People should look at us and want to be in that future city.

So, go out this week and be the church. Be holy.  Be happy.

Godspeed.
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