“We look for the city that is to come” by Andrew Wilson

“The fundamental urban contrast in Scripture is not between one earthly city and another but between all earthly cities, whether past, present, or future, and the heavenly city that is to come.

One of the most astonishing things that Jesus ever said, from the perspective of a first-century Jew, was that Jerusalem was going to face the same fate as that of other imperial cities: it would be invaded and destroyed and judged for its evil deeds (Matt. 23:37–24:28).

Forty years after he said that, this is exactly what happened. The Romans razed the temple and set it on fire, and Jerusalem went the way of Babylon, Nineveh, and Tyre.

No city built with human hands, not even the city of David, could put the glory of God on full display.

All cities center on something. In the ancient world the center was usually a temple of the local god. In the modern world the gods are still there, but the temples have changed their appearance; they now look like skyscrapers, government buildings, billboards, or public squares. In some cities the local deity is instantly identifiable, as in Mecca, Moscow, or Manhattan.

In others it is more ambiguous: my city centers on Ares, god of war (from Westminster to Trafalgar Square), Eros, god of sex (from Piccadilly Circus through Soho), and Mammon, god of possessions (from Bank to Bishopsgate).

Wherever you go, the urban god(s) reflect the highest good of the city, which in turn reflects the highest good of the civilization. But there is no city on earth—not Jerusalem, Constantinople, or Rome—that is unequivocally devoted to worshiping the true God, and him alone.

Yet. There will be, though. The apostles were clear about that.

There is a city that Abraham looked for, whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:10).

There is a Jerusalem above, who is free, and she is our mother (Gal. 4:26).

There is a heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, filled with worshiping angels and the assembly of the firstborn (Heb. 12:22–23).

There is a new Jerusalem, a city coming down out of heaven from God, like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband (Rev. 21:2).

Her gates are made of pearls, her walls of precious stones, her streets are made of pure gold, like glass, and she has a crystal river flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb.

Nothing unclean ever enters her, and her gates are open the whole time. She is an enormous cube, twelve thousand stadia each way, half the size of the United States and reaching to 280 times the height of Mount Everest.

And she is so thoroughly indwelt by the living God that she does not have a temple; she is a temple (Rev. 21:9–22:5). In new Jerusalem all of the evil features of your city and mine are removed.

All of their good features—Sultanahmet, Table Mountain, the Piazza San Pietro, Chinatown, the Louvre, Central Park—are amplified. She is full of art without idolatry, abundance without greed, and peace without injustice.

There is music, wine, laughter, and street food. Old people sit in their porches at dusk, and boys and girls play in the streets (Zech. 8:4–5).

And best of all, she is centered not on an urban park or monument or skyscraper, nor even on a cathedral or temple, but on a throne.

God is in the midst of her, and she shall never be moved.

We look for the city that is to come.”

–Andrew Wilson, God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 184-186.

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