When we think of heaven, we usually think of some place in the sky. But in John’s vision, heaven is a new city. I love this image. We can easily imagine a new set of city gates leading to a downtown that supports all the city’s residents to the glory of God. Let’s take a stroll through that city and see what we find.
First, the tree of life is present in this city. The last time we saw it was in Genesis when Adam and Eve were banned from ever tasting its fruit. But in this new city the damage that was done by humanity’s first parents—and then replicated by all of us over and over—is healed. We are able to live in the presence of God and one another for eternity. This is because our metaphorical robes have been washed by the gift of grace in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Jesus sends an angel to declare that he is the rightful ruler descended from king David, but even more than that he is the “bright Morning Star.” His presence declares a new day. He is a light that guides our every moment in this new city.
All who wish to drink the water of life and receive it as a free gift are invited to come into this city. The thirsty will thirst no more. Perhaps this is more than just a physical thirst. Perhaps it is also a thirst for love and mercy and justice. All of these things we now only experience in part. In this city we will experience them in full.
The author of Revelation ends the book with a prayer we all can pray: Come, Jesus, and be our Lord. Do not tarry any longer. Let us no longer sit in the shadow of harm and injustice and the lack of love that we experience in the cities and towns and countrysides where we live today. Come, Jesus, and remake our life together according to your will. Amen.
How can you begin to help build this kind of city, this kind of life together?
How did you first hear about the gospel? Was it from your family or a friend? Or was it from a completely unexpected source? This week’s readings remind us that God uses many different techniques of revelation. Paul and Silas are in prison in Philippi, and the guard of the prison has no idea that he is about to encounter the power of God and come to faith. The psalmist says that creation itself reveals God’s glory and power. In Revelation, Jesus speaks directly about his future return and reign, as attested by his messenger and by the Spirit. Jesus prays in John for his followers, because through their unity the gospel will be proclaimed to others. Although Jesus ascends to heaven, the revelation of his plan and purpose does not end.
Read Acts 16:16-34. Recall a difficult time in your life. Were you able to continue to praise God through this time?
Read Psalm 97. Write your own word picture of what it means to be a child of God, who is in control.
Read Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. How has Jesus’ invitation to partake of the water of life changed you?
Read John 17:20-26. What signs of division do you see in your community? How can you work toward the oneness to which God calls us?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.