“He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. Eh uh, no, make that he, he romanticized it all out of proportion. Better. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.” From the film “Manhattan.” (Woody Allen)
In the Old Testament, you had a pretty good idea where God was. He was in the Holy of Holies. When David moved God’s residence to Jerusalem, it was for good.
Evangelicals don’t talk much about the New Jerusalem. We might be tired of all of the charts and diagrams. St. John’s vision of the New Jerusalem is God’s way of saying, “Heaven is a real place.”
If you think New York City is inspired (cf. Thomas Howard’s “The Secret of New York City”), imagine the magic of the New Jerusalem? The New Jerusalem, shaped like a cube (cf. the Holy of Holies), will be the place where God lives. If you thought Mayor Koch was great, imagine a city where God is in charge.
St. John the Revelator offers his take: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” It’s a heavenly version of imperial Rome’s choir governed by God.
“If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be; if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.”
C. S. Lewis
Thomas Aquinas made famous the “QUINQUE VIAE” (aka five proofs for God’s existence).
1. The unmoved mover.
2. The first cause.
3. The argument from contingency.
4. The argument from degree.
5. The teleological argument (“argument from design”).
There are plenty of reasons to believe in God’s existence. One reason is the very existence of Jerusalem
The existence of Jerusalem points to God. What other city has been attacked (52 times), captured (44 times), and beaten (23 times)?
Jerusalem is mentioned ten times as much as the Church (800 occasions). Jewish mystics believe there are 70 names for Jerusalem and that each of us is born with a Jerusalem heart. God made mankind with an innate love for both earthly Jerusalem and the Jerusalem from above.
Unknown to most spiritual treasure hunters is the gold mine of 4th Ezra. This fictional book takes place a decade after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Ezra cannot understand why God allowed His city to fall. In the midst of his despair, he encounters a woman also grieving over Jerusalem. Ezra’s channels his inner rabbi and exhorts her saying:
“Shake off your great sadness then and put away the multitude of your sorrows so that the mighty one may show you favor and the Most High may give you peace and rest from your labors. While I was speaking to her, look! Suddenly her face shone brightly, and her countenance became a flashing splendor. I became afraid of her, and I wondered what was happening. Without warning, she let out a noise, a great voice full of fear so that the earth itself shook with the sound. I watched, and she no longer appeared to me as a woman, but there was a city built and a place with great foundations.”
Ezra asks us to stop grieving over our earthly Jerusalem’s and start yearning for the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem isn’t a top priority for this Christian. I don’t share that homesickness that our Jewish brothers when they pray, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem is our way of acknowledging the reality of the New Jerusalem. Like John, when we experience the Holy City coming down from heaven into our hearts, it is God’s grace. The longing for Jerusalem is really about your love affair with Christ, her husband. “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.”