In the last book in the Bible, called Revelation, we see an amazing picture of God’s perfect city.
We believe when the end of this age has come, God will create a new heaven and a new earth. This is a picture of that new city.
Rev 21:22-27 "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life."
Before Jesus came into the world God’s relationship with us had many conditions and rules. If you’re ever curious what those rules are you can look for one of the earlier books in the Bible called Leviticus. The list kept getting longer and longer as people had to put more rules on themselves in addition to the rules God put on them since no matter how many rules there were, we kept breaking them. The system was God-given but a temporary fix. I’ve said in the baptism classes I've taught for children, it was sad for the animals who were substitutions for what Jesus was going to do on the cross.
The exclusivity of the group God (the Israelites) had selected to be the chosen few was great. You could be adopted into the Israelites but there were always limitations on how one could approach God. Even the Israelites in good standing with their Creator couldn’t get direct access to Him, they had to go through priests.
When Jesus died for our sins, when he took the ultimate consequence for our sinful nature, something supernatural shifted in our relationship with God. Those who believe Jesus’ sacrifice was for them and wanted to align themselves with his mission were no longer slaves to sin and we could surrender ourselves to him. We could get access to an amazing, challenging relationship with our Creator.
Those who have been living in alignment with Jesus for a long time often have a difficult time remembering what it feels like to be without him. We forget that we have to reach those who are far from God with the hope we have. Our habits and traditions can become a stumbling block for us reaching out to those around us with the hope we have.
In Revelation when it talks about the nations bringing their glory and honor into God’s new city, what do you think that looks like? Can you imagine the cultural differences all standing shoulder to shoulder in awe and worship of God?
I can get mighty uncomfortable when I get into a cultural context that differs from my own. And to clarify, this is a difference in cultures not defined by skin color. I have friends of different melanin levels than my own, but many of those friends have kids the same age as my kids, have careers and passions similar to my own, dream the same dreams I do. We share a similar cultural context.
I was raised in a family with lots of kids, dad worked outside the house, mom kept the house amazingly clean on her own, and we didn’t have a lot of stuff. Even our yard didn’t have a lot of the toys, equipment that you would have expected. I’ve never asked her about it, but I sense it was because the less you have the simpler life is. We didn’t have a lot of extra cash to spend but we did do some great family vacations-very thoughtfully.
Compare that to some friends of mine who have two kids, mom hires a maid to keep the house clean (I have some theories on why that is a great idea if you have the budget for it), and they have lots of extra things inside and outside the house. Think huge play forts. This family has a beach home and takes vacations frequently.
Do you think this is a different type of cultural context than what I was raised in? You better believe it. And our melanin levels are comparatively the same. My friends are Catholic background, I have a Protestant background. They have two kids, I have more. Did we find a way to be there for each other when life got difficult? Absolutely.
When God sees his new city, he sees a version of people who give each other permission to be themselves and find common ground in their love of Him.
Why is this important? The alternative is saddening. The Holy Spirit is at work to draw all people to align themselves to the mission of Jesus and we get the privilege of having first-hand knowledge of what that looks like in our lives. We can have the open gates described in the New City because the glory of God is our light and the Lamb is our lamp.
Before Jesus Christ, the temple was Members Only. And to be part was a long process. This gate has been flung wide open. Who needs to hear it?