The City is the Future

By Joel A. Hess

Gloriosissimam ciuitatem Dei siue in hoc temporum cursu – Augustine, City of God

I love Chicago, but it’s not for everyone. Masses of people are walking, driving, running, yelling, pushing, and crying 24/7. It’s busy and cramped. A large city is humanity on steroids or under a microscope. Everything good and bad stuffed into a small box, so that’s all we see.

So needless to say, when a lot of people think of eternity, they don’t really like to imagine living forever in a city. Certainly my friends from northern Michigan would agree. A city is smelly, congested, and loud. We all sort of default to an imagination of heaven as being wide open spaces. For some reason, when someone dies, we often like to say, “He’s probably out fishing.”

By the way, if you want your kids to reject God, tell them that in heaven they will be “singing in the heavenly choir” or “it’s one long worship service.” I digress.

When I think of the new heaven and earth, I imagine those Elysian fields, those rolling green hills, blue skies, clear waters (or maybe that’s that old Hamm’s commercial.) You know what I mean.

So imagine my surprise as I read the Revelation given to John, chapter 21. 

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

A city! Not a meadow. Not a ranch, an island, a suburb, or even a quaint New England town—a city! Filled with people and God in their midst. 

Now don’t start joining some other cult that promises a cute cottage on Neptune. There will be something very different about this city of God. There will be no sin, death, or Satan. There will be no crime, no murder, no stealing. There will be no poverty, racism, jealousy, or lust. There will be no disease, pollution, mental illness, broken families, broken minds, or broken bodies. There will be no insane desires or tempter to lure us inward. You will love your neighbor, and it won’t be hard! More importantly, they will love you and it will be easy, unlike today. You won’t be a jerk.

This city is coming. It will not be the result of politicians’ plans or a general’s order. In fact, it seems like any time we try to build a utopia people die. Watch out for smiling power brokers who promise to make the world a better place. Like Thanos in the Avengers, when men pursue utopias a lot of people die. Getting rid of poverty, disease, and despair usually means getting rid of people. How can broken people make a world that doesn’t break after all?

This city is coming down from heaven. It was made by heaven’s King, built by the Son of the King with His own sweat and blood. The one who has endured all our violent utopias allowed himself to be broken in order to bring us into His city.

His city is coming, yet it is also here. It hides among sinners trusting that they are saints. It is present here in Chicago. Just like the Word made flesh, the Holy City hides in flesh. You see glimpses of it with every helping hand, warm hug, and the sharing of the Good News that sins have been paid for, death has been conquered. Man’s city needs Jesus’ city right near it. Today I believe in this holy city. Soon I will see it with my own resurrected eyes! 

2 thoughts on “The City is the Future

  1. Interesting topic indeed. I have reflected on Heaven, and often envisioned it in various ways, yet I fear my thoughts might turn out totally wrong. Many writers, including Biblical scholars and theologians, have postulated theories, only theories at that. Since the Bible often describes things through the use of metaphors and similes, I use caution when trying to extrapolate. In my view, the exact depiction of Heaven would have to be extraordinary and a place of great beauty, since our Creator has an eye for detail and has shown it even in the things He constructed in the cursed earthly abode our species inhabits. From the rich colors of the Bumblebee and deep sea creatures, and the flowers of the desert, to the formidable diversity of the eco-system and the seasons, the clockwork movements of the universe, the moon and the stars, it is all so very awesome and a testament to God’s presence. The human body itself is a work of wonder in too many ways to list, albeit cursed with illness and decay since the Fall. But my real question is about the nature of people, and how memory and personality are changed in Heaven. Being sinless is easy to understand, as our Lord already paid our ransom, but what of memory? Our earthly experiences, our connection to our loved ones, friends, and even enemies during our walk here, some will surely be among the saved masses in Heaven. I suppose, at 74 and a half years old, I will know the answer sooner than later, as the Lord calls me at the appointed hour. Being a follower of Jesus makes the thought of Heaven even more joyous, because I will see Him at last, and the details of Heaven’s exact description will be revealed. If the Lord comes before I die, all bets are off. We will all know about Heaven more quickly than we anticipated.

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