In the 21st chapter of the book of Revelation, John gives us a magnificent vision of the New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, coming down out of heaven from God: a city that shines with the glory of God, displaying the beauty and radiance of a bride adorned on her wedding day for her husband.
Its streets are of pure gold, transparent as glass. Its walls and foundations are encrusted with precious jewels, and its 12 gates are made of an enormous, precious pearl of great price.
The dimensions of the New Jerusalem—an image of the New Creation—stagger the imagination: a perfect cube, 1,400 miles long and wide and deep! The width of the New Jerusalem would stretch from Boston to Chicago and four hundred miles beyond.
Customarily, during Advent and the Christmas season our minds are filled with images of the little baby Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem, surrounded by Mary and Joseph, the cattle and the wise men. Why is it fitting now to recall this enormous, glorious image of the New Jerusalem? The answer is that in the grand narrative of biblical revelation, God’s purposes for Christmas are connected to the fulfillment of his purposes for creation, church and salvation.
Jesus, then a lowly infant, now glorified in heaven at the right hand of the Father, did not intend to leave creation behind when he finished his redemptive work, but rather to bring it to a glorious new, beautiful and perfected state. The salvation achieved by Jesus, our Immanuel (“God with us”), is not for us as individuals only, but for the whole Church, the beautiful Bride of Christ.
The salvation trajectory that began in Bethlehem in the manger will finally be brought to completion with the arrival of the New Jerusalem, the center of a New Creation, whose beauty and magnitude stagger the imagination—an image indeed of the incomparable greatness of salvation wrought for us, whose breadth and length and height and depth surpass all that we can imagine. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come…and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing.”
John Jefferson Davis, Ph.D.
Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics