Scripture Text:  Hebrews 11:8-10  Title: Eternal City

Question of the Day: Since believers are to live in an eternal city, the New Jerusalem, why do we begin our existence confined to a world full of sin?

Imagine this: beginning your existence in the New Jerusalem with all of its glory and splendor, living with the second person of the trinity, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior providing the light for that city, and living with people who are righteous and holy, having never known sin and rebellion!  WOW!  What a treat that would have been, and what would we have missed here on earth?   We would have no sinful past to put behind us, no understanding of the holiness and righteous character of God, and no knowledge of redemption.  Then what if God had put us down here on earth with the free will to sin if we wanted and follow Lucifer in rebellion, and we had the opportunity to turn away from all the glory of heaven and the New Jerusalem that we had been used to.  What a contrast between the two, and so we come to the question of the day: why did God chose to have us be born into a world of sin and rebellion and then offer us the gift of salvation?

In a previous devotional we considered how believers long to live in that new city, the heavenly Jerusalem, to be in heaven with God and have access to the temple of God and the worship ceremonies there, and to be free from sin and rebellion once and for all.  Here are a few thoughts from Hebrews about that:

Hebrews 11:8-10: “By faith Abraham obeyed when God told him that He would be living in a place, and it would be his to leave to his descendants, and so he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he lived in the land of promise, in a foreign land in tents with his son Isaac and his grandson, Jacob, who were also heirs of that same promise.  How did he do that?  He was actually looking forward to a city with massive permanent foundations whose designer, architect, and the One who built it was God Himself.”

Hebrews 12:22-23: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the Jerusalem in heaven, to the place where an innumerable company of angels reside, to the huge gathering of those who have been born again who now live in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all of His creation, and to the spirits of all believers who now live in heaven and have been made perfect and complete.”

Hebrews 13:14: “You see, this world in not our permanent place to live, but we are looking forward to that city which we will yet live in forever.”

So what would we have missed if God had chosen to let us live in the New Jerusalem first and then sent us to earth?  First, we would have no clear picture of the holiness of God.  The main reason for God’s creating the angelic hosts and mankind is to demonstrate to all of His creation that He is a holy God (and thus the consistent contrast throughout Scripture between light and darkness), and then to make it possible for mankind to experience His grace and love in buying them back from the slave-market of sin.  Second, we would have missed the thrill of gathering in eternity with millions whose lives have been touched by God’s grace, and who have made the choice to accept the gift of eternal live, offered by God’s overwhelming love—with full knowledge that not one of us deserved such an existence.

Then we would not have been able to see the ultimate outcome of those who chose to reject that love and grace, those who chose to rebel against God even though they were created in heaven and have access to all that we hope and long for, and to see them all cast forever into the lake of fire!  When we see that, we will understand the wrath and anger of God against all sin and rebellion, and the impression will be indelibly there for all of eternity.

And finally, we would not have lived a life here on earth full of faith, hope, and love:  by faith we accept all that God has promised us—both here and in eternity—and receive the gift of eternal life even though we live in sinful bodies and await their transformation, and by faith we believe all the things that have been promised us for all of eternity; we live in hope because what we see in this world is nothing compared to the glories of heaven, the privilege of being with our Lord Jesus Christ forever, living in a new body, the righteous life we can live; and we would know nothing of the love that come from a heart of gratitude having been transformed by the power of God, and the One who gives us the ability to love others—including ourselves—who are very unlovely.  It is by looking at these facts that lets us know that God’s plan to have us born into a world of sinners, being a sinner ourselves, but giving us the opportunity to be transformed by His amazing power into creatures of righteous living and people who know what it is to have an overwhelming love for our great God!  All of this prepares us for that Eternal City.

Prayer: O God, the more we know of Your perfect plan of redemption and of Your eternal plan for us, the more we marvel and anticipate eternity with Jesus Christ.  We can now worship and praise Your wonderful name, but we look forward to having redemption complete and worshipping You unhindered by the sinful body in which we now live.  What a great time it will be to worship You with all of our body, soul, and spirit and joined by the entire heavenly host for all of eternity!  This city, the New Jerusalem, will be a city that explodes with praise and worship to You, and to You alone!  Amen!

David B. Virts has written a book called “Knowing, Seeking Worshiping — a study of the character of God.”  It is available by calling 615-945-0611.