The Holy CIty
E. J. Strange, Bridgwater
"I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven " (Rev. 21. 2). The holy city to which reference was made in the last paper is described more fully from verse 9 onwards of Rev. 21. There are points of similarity between the description and that of the vision of Ezekiel, but the differences are such that it may be assumed that Ezekiel's vision is of Millenial and Earthly glory, while John's is that of the Eternal and Heavenly. It is the City of God coming down to the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Both are visions and il has been truly said that a vision consists of symbols associated with some great central spiritual reality. The central reality of the City of God is God in Christ dwelling with men, so one with His people, that the city is " the bride, the Lamb's wife."
We will notice first of all some of the positive aspects of the city. In its walls we sec the city's Security ; in the gates, her Liberty ; and in the streets, her Purity.
Security. " It had a wall, great and high," Rev. 21. VI. The wall of a city was always built for the security of its inhabitants. Although along the straight and narrow way Mistrust and Timorous could come tumbling over the wall, " as thieves and robbers," none shall ever climb the walls of the city. They are " great and high." " Thou shalt call thy walls Salvation." The vision is surely the symbol of the eternal security of the City of God. Thieves cannot break through there and steal, so that is the place where to lay up treasure.
Liberty. There are twelve gates, three facing each point of the compass. From every people and from every tongue shall mankind enter by those gates. God has no favourites among the nations of the earth. We sing in a missionary hymn of them " Coming, coming from afar," from the four quarters of the earth.
" The gates of it shall not be shut at all by day : for there shall be no night there." That is, the gates will always be open. An open gate reminds one not only of welcome but of liberty. Just as the Lord spoke of the liberty of His flock, " going in and out and finding pasture," so the open gates of the City of God tell us of its eternal freedom.
Purity. " The street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." The vision is one of surpassing purity. The finest cities of earth are marred by dirt. Because of the purity of the heavenly city, " Nothing that defileth shall ever enter in "; because of its beauty, " nothing that worketh abomination shall be there " ; and because it is the abode of Truth, the place for everyone that loveth and " maketh a lie " will he outside—in the lake of fire.
Secondly we notice some of the negative aspects of the glorious vision. There is no temple ; no sun or moon ; and no more curse.
No Temple. The city of Jerusalem had as its centre the temple. This was divided so that there was the inner sanctuary, the " Holy of Holies." Thus the city consisted of holy places and profane places (profane—used literally). The most holy spot was where the glory of God abode in the sanctuary. In the City of God there is no temple, for there are no grades of holiness there—there is no profane place. All the city is pervaded by the holy presence of God so that it may be described as one vast sanctuary. " I saw no temple therein : for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it."
No Sun or Moon. There will be no need of the sun neither of the moon to shine in it, for " the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." What is Light ? In its physical aspect we may regard it as " Beauty" ; in its intellectual, as " Truth"; and in its moral, as " Purity". " God is light and in him is no darkness at all." He is Eternal Beauty, Truth, and Purity. The Lord Jesus, the Lamb, is the outshining of the Eternal Light. His presence will light up the City of God. When upon the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples saw His glory, they said His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light, white as no fuller on earth could whiten, flashing like the lightning, glistening like the dazzling snow on Hermon. Well might Peter say, " Master, it is good for us to be here "! What will it be to live for ever in the unfading glory of the presence of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us ? " The Light of that world is Jesus."
No More Curse. The curse alighted upon the first creation because of man's sin. The ground brought forth thorns, and in the sweat of his brow man ate bread, toiling until he returned to the dust of the earth from which he was taken. The dark stream of death flowed unceasingly in this sin-cursed earth. The Lord Jesus was made a curse for us. He sweat in His agony great drops of blood ; His holy brow was crowned with thorns; He became obedient unto death, and that the death of the cross, the death spoken of with disgust and horror by the Roman writers, the death of the curse for the Jew, for it was written, " He that is hanged is accursed of God " (Deut. 21. 23). He has taken away the curse. From the throne of God and of the Lamb there flows the pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal. Wherever the river flows, there is life, fruitfulness and healing. There shall be no more curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb is in the holy city and is the guarantee of a perpetual flow of the blessings of eternal life.
We shall conclude this paper by noting the inhabitants and their occupation.
The. inhabitants are " the nations of them which arc saved," they which are written in the Lamb's book of life " and, " (hey that wash their robes." The descriptions of the inhabitants of the heavenly city may be compared with the descriptions of the members of Christ's Church in Eph. 2—Saved by grace; made to live and sit with Christ; made nigh by the blood of Christ.
The occupation of the inhabitants shall be the unwearied service of the Lord and unceasing occupation with Him. They serve " as His priests conducting the sweet praises of the heavenly choir and doing what other high and blessed service He may delight to employ them in." " They shall see His face."
" Just to be there and to look on His face, Will through the ages be glory for me."