“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.

“Assure yourself that your God in Christ will never unson you” by Edward Fisher

“Whensoever your conscience shall tell you, that you have broken any of the Ten Commandments, do not conceive that the Lord looks upon you as an angry Judge, armed with justice against you.

Much less do you fear that He will execute His justice upon you, according to the penalty of that covenant, in unjustifying of you, or depriving you of your heavenly inheritance, and giving you your portion in hell fire.

No, assure yourself that your God in Christ will never unson you, nor unspouse you: no, nor yet, as touching your justification and eternal salvation, will He love you ever a whit the less, though you commit ever so many or great sins.

For this is a certain truth, that as no good either in you, or done by you, did move Him to justify you, and give you eternal life, so no evil in you, or done by you, can move Him to take it away from you, being once given.

And therefore believe it whilst you live, that as the Lord first loved you freely, so will He hereafter ‘heal your backslidings, and still love you freely,’ (Hos. 14:4).

Yea, ‘He will love you unto the end,’ (John 13:1).”

–Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, as quoted in Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: An Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 7 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1850), 7: 353–354.

“Whatsoever is in God is God” by Thomas Brooks

“Premise this with me, that God is essentially holy, and in this sense, none is holy but Himself. Now essential holiness is all one with God Himself.

God’s essential holiness is God’s conformity to Himself. Holiness in God is not a quality, but His essence. Quicquid est in Deo, est ipse Deus, Whatsoever is in God, is God.

Holiness in angels and saints is but a quality, but in God it is His essence. The fallen angels keep their natures, though they have lost their holiness; for that holiness in them was a quality, and not their essence.

Look, as created holiness is the conformity of the reasonable creature to the rule, so the uncreated holiness of God is God’s conformity unto Himself.

God’s holiness and His nature are not two things, they are but one.

God’s holiness is His nature, and God’s nature is His holiness. God is a pure act, and therefore, whatsoever is in God is God.

It is God’s prerogative royal to be essentially holy. The most glorious creatures in heaven, and the choicest souls on earth, are only holy by participation: ‘There is none holy as the Lord,’ (1 Sam. 2:2).

God’s holiness is so essential and co-natural to Him, that He can as soon cease to be, as cease to be holy. Holiness in God is a substance, but in angels and men it is only an accident, or a quality.

The essence of the creature may remain when the holiness of the creature is lost, as you may see in Adam, and the fallen angels; but God’s essence and His holiness are alwa

“God is a gardener” by Andrew Wilson

“God is a gardener.

We know this from the second chapter of Scripture. “The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east” (Gen. 2:8), and this garden is complete with trees, fruits, vegetables, flowers, rivers, minerals, onyx, gold, birds, animals, human beings, marriage, sex, life, and the presence of God himself (Gen. 2:9–25).

It is not just lush and idyllic—the Greek word for garden here, paradeisos, gives us our word paradise— but enormous as well, and probably mountainous, given that it serves as the source for four rivers.

It is more like a primeval Yosemite than a vegetable patch or a manicured lawn. By planting a garden, placing humanity in it, and walking alongside them in the cool of the day, God is showing us the connection between his creativity, his love, his abundance (every tree that was pleasant to the eye and good for food, every beast of the field, every living creature, and so on), and above all his presence.

Eden is a place of life, love, and harmony because God lives there. The first garden is a temple, and from now on all temples will be gardens.

That might sound like a stretch, until we study the designs of the tabernacle and the temple in detail (which, since they are lengthy and a bit repetitive, most of us don’t). They are full of garden imagery, pointing us to the verdant, lush, life-giving bounty of the gardener God who lives there.

Consider: the temple is made out of cedar trees, “carved in the form of gourds and open flowers,” and the floor is boarded with cypress (1 Kings 6:15–18).

Like Eden, it is guarded by cherubim, built on a mountain, entered from the east, and adorned with gold and onyx (1 Chron. 29:2). The doors of the sanctuary are made of olivewood, carved with palm trees and flowers in bloom (1 Kings 6:31–32).

The bronze pillars are festooned with hundreds of pomegranates, and “on the tops of the pillars was lily-work” (1 Kings 7:20–22).

The panels are set with livestock (oxen) and wild beasts (lions), and as you walk across the court, you find yourself surrounded by fresh water (1 Kings 7:23–29). There is a tree-shaped lampstand outside the Holy of Holies, and a further ten made of pure gold (1 Kings 7:49).

It would have felt like an orchard, a well-watered garden, a paradeisos. It spoke to Israel: the God of the garden lives here. Welcome.

So gardens are places of abundance and divine presence. But they are also places of romance and love. The first marriage and the first love song took place in a garden (Gen. 2:18–25), and this profound mystery is a picture of the love between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31–32).

Numerous biblical couples get together in garden-like places, under trees or at wells or both.

The Song of Solomon is full of plants, trees, flowers, orchards, fruits, fountains, and gardens, reinforcing the connection between our intimacy with God and our intimacy with one another.

This connection, interestingly, is still reflected today, every time a couple gets married surrounded by carnations, arbors, garlands, lilies, trellises, and petals of confetti.

We design our wedding venues like a garden of love, not least because we first knew love in a garden. Yet the garden is also a place of tragedy.

We do not just remember paradise; we remember paradise lost. Eden was not just the garden of love but the garden of love spurned.

Life was rejected in favor of the knowledge of good and evil, marriage was spoiled, and verdant abundance became thorns and thistles and pain in childbirth.

As human beings, we were meant to take the garden with us, filling the earth with the life and harmony we found there, but instead we were exiled from it, frog-marched out by the eastern exit, with cherubim on guard to prevent us from coming back.

From that day on, we lost our unrestricted access to the presence of God, both in the temple-like garden and in the garden-like temple. We have been pining for it ever since.

The human story has been a long and often disastrous series of attempts to get back to the garden.

It is fitting, then—as well as glorious beyond words—that our access back into the garden, with all the abundance and presence and love that goes with it, was secured in two gardens.

The first, which we know as the garden of Gethsemane, reversed the decision of Eden, replacing Adam’s “not your will but mine” with Christ’s “not my will but yours.”

The second, as Jesus stepped out of the tomb just a couple of days later, reversed the consequences of Eden.

Where Adam brought death to everyone in a garden and then went to hide, Christ brought life to everyone in a garden and then made himself as visible as possible.

This connection may be what John is hinting at when he says that Mary thought Jesus was the gardener (John 20:15). In more ways than one, he was.

The result, as Jesus had said while being crucified, is that those who trust him can be brought back to God. “Today you will be with me in [paradeisos]” (Luke 23:43).

We are welcomed into the abundance and vitality of a new and better Eden.

The cherubim blocking your way have been stood down.

The serpent has been crushed.

The garden of love is open, and the Gardener has been preparing a place for you.

When we finally see it, in the final two chapters of Scripture, we get the most delightful sense of déjà vu—there is a river and a tree and leaves and fruit and gold and onyx and a wedding.

And in the midst of it all is God himself, so bright that there is no need for the sun, and so present that there is no need for a temple (Rev. 21:22–23).

Welcome home.”

–Andrew Wilson, God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 81-84.

“The joy of the saints in heaven shall be a lasting joy, an uninterrupted joy” by Thomas Brooks

“The joy of the saints in heaven shall be a lasting joy, an uninterrupted joy. Here their joy is quickly turned into sorrow, their singing into sighing, their dancing into mourning.

Our joy here is like the husbandman’s joy in harvest, which is soon over, and then we must sow again in tears, before we can reap in joy.

Surely there is no believer but finds that sometimes sin interrupts his joy.

Sometimes Satan disturbs his joy. Sometimes afflictions and sometimes desertions eclipse his joy.

Sometimes the cares of the world, and sometimes the snares of the world, and sometimes the fears of the world, mars our joy.

Sometimes great crosses, sometimes near losses, and sometimes unexpected changes, turns a Christian’s harping into mourning, and his organ into the voice of them that weep.

Surely there is hardly one day in the year, yea, I had almost said one hour in the day, wherein something or other doth not fall in to interrupt a Christian’s joy.

But now in heaven the joy of the saints shall be constant; there shall nothing fall in to disturb or to interrupt their joy: Ps. 16:11, ‘In thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand is pleasures for ever more.’

Mark, for quality, there are pleasures; for quantity, fulness; for dignity, at God’s right hand; for eternity, for evermore. And millions of years multiplied by millions, make not up one minute to this eternity of joy that the saints shall have in heaven.

In heaven there shall be no sin to take away your joy, nor no devil to take away your joy, nor no man to take away your joy: John 16:22, ‘Your joy no man taketh from you.’

The joy of the saints in heaven is never ebbing, but always flowing to all contentment. The joys of heaven never fade, never wither, never die, nor never are lessened nor interrupted.

The joy of the saints in heaven is a constant joy, an everlasting joy, in the root and in the cause, and in the matter of it and in the objects of it. Æterna erit exultatio, quœ bono lœtatur œterno, their joy lasts for ever whose objects remains for ever.

Isa. 35:10, ‘And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joys upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall fly away.’

In this world not only the joy of hypocrites and the joy of profane persons, but also the joy of the upright, is oftentimes ‘as the crackling of thorns under a pot,’ (Eccles. 7:6) now all on a flame, and as suddenly out again.

But the joy of believers in heaven shall be like the fire on the altar that never went out. (Lev. 6:13)

So when your hearts are sad and sorrowful, oh! then think of these everlasting joys that you shall have in heaven.”

–Thomas Brooks, “The Best Things Reserved Till Last,” The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, Ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2001), 1: 425–426.

“Once in Christ, ever in Him” by Thomas Boston

“Once in Christ, ever in Him.

Having taken up His habitation in the heart, He never removes. None can untie this happy knot.

Who will dissolve this union? Will He Himself? No, He will not; we have His word for it; ‘I will not turn away from them,’ (Jer. 32:40).

But perhaps the sinner will do this mischief to himself? No, he shall not; ‘they shall not depart from me,’ saith their God. (Jer. 32:40)

Can devils do it? No, unless they be stronger than Christ and His Father too; ‘Neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand,’ saith our Lord, ‘And none is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand,” (John 10:28, 30).

But what say you of death, which parts husband and wife; yea, separates the soul from the body? Will not death do it? No: the apostle is ‘persuaded that neither death,’ terrible as it is, ‘nor life,’ desirable as it is; ‘nor’ devils, those evil ‘angels, nor’ the devil’s persecuting agents, though they be ‘principalities, nor powers’ on earth; ‘nor’ evil ‘things present,’ already lying on us; ‘nor’ evil ‘things to come’ on us; ‘nor’” the ‘height’ of worldly felicity; ‘nor depth’ of worldly misery; ‘nor any other creature,’ good or evil, ‘shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord,’ (Rom. 8:38-39).

As death separated Christ’s soul from His body, but could not separate either His soul or body from His divine nature; so, though the saints should be separated from their nearest relations in the world, and from all their earthly enjoyments; yea, though their souls should be separated from their bodies separated in a thousand pieces, their ‘bones scattered, as one cutteth or cleaveth wood,’ (Psalm 141:7) yet soul and body shall remain united to the Lord Christ.

For even in death, ‘they sleep in Jesus,’ (1 Thess. 4:14); and ‘He keepeth all their bones,’ (Psalm 34:20).

Union with Christ is the grace wherein we stand, firm and stable, as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed.”

–Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: Human Nature in Its Fourfold State and a View of the Covenant of Grace (ed. Samuel M‘Millan; vol. 8; Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1850), 8: 180.

“A Prayer for Spiritual Reformation” by D.A. Carson

“And now, Lord God, I ask your blessing on all who read this book, for without it there will be no real benefit.

We may have education, but not compassion; we may have forms of praying, but no fruitful adoration and intercession; we may have oratory, but be lacking in unction; we may thrill your people, but not transform them; we may expand their minds, but display too little wisdom and understanding; we may amuse many, but find few who are solidly regenerated by your blessed Holy Spirit.

So we ask you for Your blessing, for the power of the Spirit, that we may know You better and grow in our grasp of Your incalculable love for us.

Bless us, Lord God, not with ease or endless triumph, but with faithfulness.

Bless us with the right number of tears, and with minds and hearts that hunger both to know and to do your Word.

Bless us with a profound hunger and thirst for righteousness, a zeal for truth, a love of people.

Bless us with the perspective that weighs all things from the vantage point of eternity.

Bless us with a transparent love of holiness.

Grant to us strength in weakness, joy in sorrow, calmness in conflict, patience when opposed or attacked, trustworthiness under temptation, love when we are hated, firmness and farsightedness when the climate prefers faddishness and drift.

We beg of You, holy and merciful God, that we may be used by You to extend Your kingdom widely, to bring many to know and love You truly.

Grant above all that our lives will increasingly bring glory to Your dear Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip us with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

–D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 225-226.