Summary: God’s ideal of community in not something we simply wait to happen at some future point – it is a something we strive to create here and now.
Big Idea: God’s ideal of community in not something we simply wait to happen at some future point – it is a something we strive to create here and now.
I must make a confession to you this morning. While engrossed in the exegesis for Rev. 21 I awoke early one morning with the text rolling through my mind. I still remember my first thoughts and words. Before I ever got out of bed I said (to myself) “Drats! Heaven is a city!”
Not only is it a city – it’s a HUGE city. It is approximately 1500 square miles (and 1500 miles high!). That is a footprint equivalent to half of the U.S.A. From Boston to Kansas City is right at 1500 miles. From Kansas City to Los Angeles is right at 1500 miles. From New Orleans to the Canadian Border is 1500 miles! The New Jerusalem is huge! It can hold a lot of people … very possibly more people than have ever lived on the planet (remember it is also 1500 miles high). Did you know that the Time Warner building in New York City only covers 3 1/2 acres? Did you know it is only 1700 feet high and hosts over 40,000 people a day!? That helps put the size of the New Jerusalem in perspective.
I was very sad when I discovered heaven was a city. That may not sound like a big deal to you but, as sad a commentary as it might be, I was genuinely disappointed. I don’t want to live in “the city.” I, like many of us who live here on the north side of the Adirondacks, have made deliberate life choices precisely because I do NOT want to live in “the city!”
The city offers a different lifestyle than we have here in our North Country college town. Rural environments like ours, particularly ours, offer a serene and pastoral setting. It offers time to reflect, enjoy the river, the mountains, and a rhythmic pace of life. It offers a degree of personal space that is not available in the city.
I really wanted Heaven to be a garden – more accurately, a state park.
The city represents evil
When I think of city life I think of dirty streets and murderous alleys, adulterous bedrooms, corrupt courts, hypocritical synagogues, commercialized churches, thieving tax-collectors and traitorous friends. I think of things like fragmentation, stress, poverty, fear, division, violence, insecurity, and loneliness. I think of things like guilt, frustration, disillusionment, hate, and bitterness. When we hear news from “the city” we hear of fraudulent commerce, blasphemous words, and corrupt politics. These daily bruise our ears. You name a negative human emotion-a human experience-and it is found in the city.
Then there is the hubris! Cities constructed by human beings are at worst idolatrous expressions of human pride. It is exacerbated by all the noise and self-assertion, forgetful defiance of God, the battering and abusive persons. The first city, Enoch, was built by the first murderer, Cain, and destroyed in Noah’s flood. The second city, Babel, was built in an arrogant attempt to storm heaven and was abandoned in a tangle of broken languages. When St. John gave us his vision of judgment, it was a CITY that was destroyed: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” (Rev. 18:2).