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Lesson Four - The City of God

As we have seen, the restoration of the natural Temple pre-pictures the present-day restoration of God's spiritual Temple. But this wasn't the end of the restoration process. After the completion of the Temple, God called Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls.

"In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter..." Isaiah 26:1-2.

The Spiritual City

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" Revelation 21:2.

At the close of this age, we see the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, described as a bride prepared for her wedding day. The city itself is not the bride of the Lamb, but the people of that city. The city of God is just a matter of physical structures, but characterised by its citizens.

This city is the culmination of all of God's purposes for mankind from the beginning of time till the return of Christ. Now, moving backwards through Scripture, we will see the outworking of this plan through history.

Hebrews 13:14

"And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come" Hebrews 13:12-14.

The constant motivation of Christians down through the ages is the vision of this "city that is to come." Christians have endured suffering, persecution and rejection, all because of the assurance of that city.

Hebrews 12:22

"But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God...to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven" Hebrews 12:22-23.

When we stepped into Christ, we became citizens of that city (Philippians 3:20; Ephesians 2:19), a city which is described in the Bible on three levels:

As citizens of this city, even now, our hearts are stamped with its vision and its name (Rev. 3:12). It changes the way we live down here on earth.

Hebrews 11:10,16

"By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" Hebrews 11:9-10.

Abraham's eyes were fixed on that eternal city and this was the basis of his faith (Hebrews 11:1). This vision caused him to live "like a stranger in a foreign country", and a similar hope also has the same effect on us.

"Instead, they were longing for a better country a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" Hebrews 11:16.welve differ

The City with Foundations

The New Jerusalem is set apart from other cities by its foundations, which represent its permanence (Hebrews 11:10).

"One of the seven angels...said to me, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal...The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" Revelation 21:9-11,14 (read also verses 18-20).

Note that it was the city walls that had foundations, set deep down onto bedrock. These foundations are described in terms of twelve different precious stones, each a layer of the foundation. But the overall description is one of purity of reflective light: "It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal."

Jasper is believed to be the same as the diamond. If you hold a diamond up to the sun, it catches the sunlight, splintering it in all directions, breaking it up into its component colours. This is what the glory of God, shining through the city, is like. Each of us is different, like a facet cut into a diamond. The glory of God shines through each Christian's life in a completely unique way.

Adorned with Gems

"The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone..." Rev. 21:19.

The foundations of the walls were adorned with precious stones, again representing the tremendous variety of human lives that make up the city. In Ezekiel 8:7-17, God shows Ezekiel the spiritual condition of the people, a progression which applies to us in this day:

Today, too, the Church has adorned the foundations of its walls with the things of this world. Part of the restoration work of the Holy Spirit is to purify the Church, so that what adorns the foundations will truly be "gold, silver, precious stones" (1 Corinthians 3:12; Isaiah 54:11-14).

The Walls of the City

"You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord...Because they lead my people astray, saying, 'Peace,' when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, 'Where is the whitewash you covered it with?' Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: In my wrath...I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the Lord" Ezekiel 13:5,10-14.

When Ezekiel 13 was written, the natural walls of Jerusalem were intact, but its spiritual walls were broken down with numerous breaches and gaps (Ezekiel 22:30). But the leaders of that day built "flimsy walls" to cover the gaps and covered them in whitewash (see Acts 23:3). God is presently destroying the false walls and restoring the true walls of His city.

The Gates of the City

"No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise" Isaiah 60:18.

The New Jerusalem is described as having twelve gates, each made of a single, massive pearl (Revelation 21:12-13,21). A pearl is formed out of suffering, and represents the Lord Himself - the "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:45-46). He is the only entrance-way into the city (read Revelation 21:22-27; 22:14-15; Psalm 87).

"He has set his foundation on the holy mountain; the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are said of you, O city of God...Indeed, of Zion it will be said, 'This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her'" Psalm 87:1-5.

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Copyright © 1995 Paul, Bunty and David Collins. All rights reserved. This study may be freely used and reproduced, wholly or in part, by the Christian Church for the non-profit purposes of study and training only, provided copyright and contact information is included.

Unless otherwise stated, all scriptures quoted in these studies are from the New International Version of the Bible, © New York International Bible Society, used by permission. Other versions referred to are: KJV (King James Version), NKJB (New King James Bible), TLB (The Living Bible), Amp (The Amplified Bible) and The Message. All versions used by permission.

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