~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
Beginning with the Old Testament prophets, God’s future redeemed world is portrayed as a city. In Revelation 21-22 which points to the ultimate fulfillment of God’s creative and restorative work, we see that the result is indeed a city containing walls, gates, and streets. For those of you who love our modern cities and their conveniences, this may be an ideal future. For those longing for more space and predictability than our cities often allow, just know that the great city of God will be far better than any city of of our wold today.
Revelation shows that God’s holy city will go far beyond even the best aspects of our cities, yet it will have none of the negatives. In fact, the city of God seems to perfectly balance the glorious benefits of human destiny and diversity with all the beauty and peace of nature. This city will be more of a garden-city, depicted as having a crystal river flowing through the middle, bordered on both sides with the “tree of life” (Revelation 21:1-3). With sin and evil having been vanquished God’s people will finally thrive in peace and productivity (Revelation 18).
As one of the Bible’s greatest surprises, this city is not new, but is, in fact, the same garden we see in Genesis. Yet God has worked and cultivated it, expanding it to be the garden-city of God, the dwelling place for his renewed creation.
Why is this important? In the beginning God directed Adam and Eve to “rule over” the earth (Genesis 1:28). This is an aspect of bearing God’s image – that humankind should, like God, take up the work of cultivating and ordering the created world, not just as busyness, but for a purpose. It is an invitation to create culture, beauty, and abundance where none existed before. Gardening is the original human vocation, and a gardener neither leaves the ground as is, nor does he destroy it. It is reordered for a purpose.
“It is an invitation to create culture, beauty, and abundance where none existed before.”
In the same way we are still called to take up this work today. We have a hand in cultivating our communities, in producing for the good of others, and in maintaining order so that all might thrive. Of course we know this work is hindered by the effects of sin. The order we create does not stay in place for long. Our world suffers decay, brokenness, and injustice, and our urban areas feel this the most.
Our cities are beautiful places, still reflective of God’s original design. They contain diversity, innovation, and creativity. Yet they are also plagued by violence, racial tension, finite resources, and oppression. As Christian people, who long for the perfect order and peace of God’s holy city, we still have work to do here. We continue to be invited and called into God’s great plan of redemption and as we live our lives in light of Jesus saving work we become light to the world like a city on a hill.
Over the next two weeks, August 2nd and August 9th, we will be joining with the Southeastern District and area congregations to pray for our cities and the needs faced by all within. We ask God to give the peace that only comes from knowing him, and to make us his instruments for bringing about reconciliation, mercy and hope. Our worship services on these two Sundays will be filled with special music and prayers so that we might reflect on God’s creating work, and to seek his hand in bringing about peace and freedom from affliction so that his people might live in harmony. We seek God’s help, even as we await the final day when we will dwell with him in his holy city.
“We seek God’s help, even as we await the final day when we will dwell with him in his holy city.”