The Key of Desire
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth...(Rev. 21:1)
In Revelation 21, Jesus arrives on the scene on a white horse, fire in his eyes. For a thousand years he reigns and leads the final battle against Satan.
We know how this one ends.
What happens after the thousand year holy war is hard to imagine. A new city descends from heaven like a bride adorned for her husband. It is beauty and opulence the likes of which the world has never seen. Gates made of a single pearl. Even the foundation of the city walls are decorated with precious stones. The streets are pure, translucent gold.
This new city - "New Jerusalem" - will be about 1,380 miles in land area. There are no lights in the city, for the glory of God illuminates everything. Neither is there night in this perfect place. Who needs it?
1,380 miles sounds like a large area but it isn't, at least not if you try to count up the saints who have lived throughout history (saints meaning those saved in Christ). In fact, this New Jerusalem is terrifyingly small - about the size of Rhode Island.
I don't think this means people are packed together like a Chinese slum. No, I think this means there are less people in this city than many of us would otherwise think. So what is the x-factor here? Where did everyone go?
The lukewarm aren't there. (Rev. 3:16)
When I think of all of the people throughout history who have claimed to be Christians, I realize the New Jerusalem residency process is more stringent than I thought. This is unsettling.
I bet C.S. Lewis is there.
I bet Martin Luther is there.
The Apostle Paul is certainly there.
So I wonder, will I be there? This is playing like a depressing game of one of these things is not like the other. What on earth would make me think I'd have an address in the New Jerusalem? As I thought about this, the lyrics of the song In Christ Alone came to mind:
In Christ alone, my hope is found, he is my light, my strength, my song...
Surely the New Jerusalem isn't a club for the pious elite. Though the likes of Lewis, Luther, and Paul probably make their way down the golden streets, there will be many others who carry no such fame. There will be former drunks and prostitutes. There will be average people there. There will be slow people and smart people, rich people and poor people. Beggars and bikers and bankers will share a table. What is the common thread here?
Performance won't get you in. Pedigree or social standing is irrelevant. What gets you there is wanting to be there in the first place. And I'm not talking about the gold streets and happiness of the place - I am talking about the desire to be there with God himself. The heavenly city is just a bonus, for those who love God would seek him anywhere.
You see, many won't want to be in the New Jerusalem. They might think they want to be there, but they don't. Many of us live for our own glory, and thus we are jealous for our glory. To give our glory to God is abhorrent. We are glory mongers. All of us have this disgusting trait to some degree, but some are consumed by it. Just as the glory monger is unwilling to crown Jesus in this life, these people would not feel at home in the New Jerusalem where Jesus reigns as King.
The desire for Jesus is the difference.
Imagine the joy of a huge city unified around a common love. Imagine their love it not an idea, but God himself. Imagine he walks among them. That's heaven.
Salvation is open to all, but not all are open to salvation. I believe in that God is the sovereign saver and that he is the one who rescues us from our death. I believe he calls and then we respond. The proper response to this call - the only possible outcome of meeting Jesus - is desire. This desire is a gift from God, not something we cook up for ourselves.
Desire for God is the greatest gift, and it also happens to be the path to residency in the New Jerusalem.