The Heavenly City

I'm almost at the end of my year-long reading through "The Message," a contemporary English version of the New Testament. Earlier this week was the 21st chapter of the book of Revelation, a glorious portrayal of the new heaven and of the God who will reign there.

If you don't know your Bible, you may be surprised to know that heaven is described as a city. Yes, what many of us viscerally consider to be dirty, sinful, and unsafe is what the Bible describes as the final destination for believers: a city.

But not just any city. It's a city where evil has been banished, God's presence is constant and illuminating, and a diversity of people stream in to render to that God the adoration He is due. What a vision of perfection!

Our cities, circa 2011, are a far cry from such a vision. Though there are slivers of goodness, we city dwellers are often weighed down by the constant onslaught of evil: violence, decay, brokenness, despair. It's enough to want to pack up, give up, or tune out.

But the powerful imagery of Revelation is intended to give us hope. The appeal of it all is meant to stoke our longing for a better place. But the fact that we are to end up in a city should cause us to redouble, and not abandon, our efforts to bring some of that goodness into the present day and into our urban settings. Here's hoping we are thusly renewed for today's work.

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