God Sees To It
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The angel who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; and he measured the city with his rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits by human measurement, which the angel was using. The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass. I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Recently I read a book that is considered a classic. It was first published in 1940 and a new edition of it came out in 1972. Its called How To Read A Book. The premise of this book is that we do not teach our children to read properly. We only teach them to read one way and that’s for information which is the lowest type of reading. The authors call it elementary reading. I bring this up because if you are reading this passage for information you are going to get lost in the trees and not see the forest. To understand this passage you have to read for understanding and not get caught up in the symbolism found here. In fact much of what you read here is very similar to what you will find in Ezekiel 40-48 and parts of Isaiah 60.
If you just look at the symbolism you discover several things, the foundation of the new city is on the teaching of the apostles. The Gates are for the twelve tribes. The entry way to this city is found through the OT with the foundation being the NT if you will. The number 12 is a complete and whole number that symbolizes perfection as is the number 7. 3 represents the trinity 4 stands for the earth thus the number 7 is Holy and pure, once again perfection. The different jewels are that same as or similar to the jewels that were found in the breast plate of the high priest. So with a quick look at the symbolism you might leave this text thinking, “OK well this means perfection, the new creation will be perfect.” That is true, but I think there is a greater point we may miss.
We might miss how really huge this city is. It is a huge perfect cube about half the size of the moon. We might miss that the gates are always open. We might miss that is no one is shut out. The reference in 27 that only those in the lamb’s book of life can enter is because that is all that is left. The judgment has taken place. We might miss the nations of the world will bring glory to the city. (But this is odd since there will be no more old order.)
But we are still missing the point. What is this description of the New Jerusalem really telling us? Well lets go back aways. That might help. Back to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.
After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!” “Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.” He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.”
Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together. Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?”“Yes, my son.” “We have flint and wood, but where’s the sheep for the burnt offering?”Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering.” And they kept on walking together. They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. 10Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son. Just then an angel of God called to him out of Heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes, I’m listening.” “Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me.”
Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Abraham named that place God-Yireh (God-Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of God, he sees to it.”
OK, now I know you are saying to yourself, “Preacher where are you going with this?” Well I am going right here. The point of both passages is that God will see to it. On that same hill where Isaac was offered up to the Lord is where the temple was built. Now the Dome of the rock is over that site because the Muslims believe that the rock or stone is where Mohammed was taken up to heaven by an angel. That is precisely where we find the new Jerusalem as well. Except there is no Temple because God the Father and the Son are the Temple itself! Is it any wonder that Abraham named this site God will provide or God sees to it.
That is the whole story of the Bible. God sees to it. From the beginning he sees that Adam and Eve are clothed. He sees to it that the promises to Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob are kept. Although they don’t always live up to their end of the covenant. He sees to it that Pharaoh lets his people go. He sees to it that his people are fed and clothed in the wilderness. He sees to it that his people enter the promised land. He sees to it that his promise is kept to Abraham that his people will be a blessing to the nations when Jesus is born in Bethlehem. God sees to our salvation when Jesus dies on the cross for you and me and is resurrected ushering in the beginning of the new creation. God sees to it with the defeat of death decay and evil when he brings heaven to earth. And in that new creation he is the light and he is ever present negating the need for a temple or churches. God is right with us!
This is the story of the Bible. It is a story of new creation, it is a story of God seeing to it or providing. About 25 years ago I was calling on one of my customers in Raleigh, North Carolina. I hadn't seen him in about 6 months and I knew he was a new dad. On the credenza behind his desk was a picture of his wife in the hospital with his new daughter. It was a great photograph. This was just a few years after Alison being born so I was really emotionally involved in that photograph. I asked him how the child was doing and his face beamed. I then asked, "And Mom, how's she." His face didn't sour, but it became more serious. "she's dead, he answered. He then went on to tell me she was suffering from an extreme case of post partum depression and she had committed suicide.
Now as he is telling me this I start praying asking God what I should say to this man, how could I comfort him. But he said, " you know my parents are missionaries, they're retired now. But they raised me to believe in Jesus and Jesus is getting me through this. Do you know Jesus Rob?" He asked me. You see I was all worried that I did not know what to say and wanted God to provide the words for me. I wanted God to see to it. But he did it in a most unusual way. The words I wanted came out of the other person and comforted us both. I had found a ram in the bushes just like Abraham. God will see to it. I was comforted, Tom was comforted, and God had wiped the tears from our eyes. God saw to it.
The message of the New Jerusalem is that God will see to it. And since we are people of the resurrection and since we are already people of the New Creation, he sees to it now. Whatever you are going through now, God will see to it. It may come in a very unexpected way as it did for me that day. Be ready to see it, don’t get caught up looking for facts and information when you should be looking for understanding and meaning.
N.T Wright a well know Anglican theologian writes in his book “Surprised by Hope” that the Bible from beginning to end is the story of God’s creation and new creation, a “story that doesn’t just inform the hearers about the narrative, but invites them into it, enfolds them within it, assures them of their membership in it . . .
Beloved, understanding the story means being in t participating in it, living it. It means that you live your life knowing that God will see to it.What a message fo hope during this time! All of it. Are you living it?