THE CITY TO COME
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Abraham was looking for a city that has foundations. This strikes me as being a peculiar request. Most cities have foundations, don’t they?
For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10)
Where did Abraham get a vision of a city with foundations? Was he reflecting on the instability of our present world?
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. (Psalm 24:1,2)
Seas and waters are not the best of foundations, are they? Probably most of us have found that life is not dependable. Just when we think we have established some sort of security, something goes wrong. We lose our job. Our test for cancer proves positive. One of the children becomes seriously ill.
It appears the patriarchs were given a vision or an understanding that God has better things for us than this present world.
People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 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 11:14-16)
They were looking for a heavenly country. This is the greatest hope of mankind — that somewhere there is a place of enduring righteousness, love, joy, and peace. We call that country “Heaven,” and that certainly is as good a name as any. “When we die and go to Heaven, all will be well with us.” That is the hope of the Christian, and probably of the members of other religions.
But does the Bible teach us that our goal is to be saved so we will go to Heaven when we die? Is that the hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God? There is a verse, also in the book of Hebrews, that presents a different picture of our cherished hope:
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
“The city that is to come.” It appears from the verse above that the city that has foundations is destined to come from Heaven to the earth, doesn’t it?
Did John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostles preach that our goal is to be saved to go to Heaven when we die? Think about it. Did they preach about a heavenly city that has foundations?
- I think John the Baptist preached about the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
- I think the Lord Jesus preached about the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
- I think the Apostles preached about the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth, and that we are supposed to refuse to yield to our sinful nature so we can inherit the Kingdom.
Am I correct? Did the original Christian preachers proclaim a city without foundations in Heaven, or did they preach about the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth? If it is true that the New Testament is about the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth, then the current Christian preaching is incorrect.
This is all fine and good, and perhaps interesting to some. But what is the real, practical purpose of going into this difference? The real, practical purpose is that our goal is not to go somewhere but to attain to a new personality, a personality that does not sin and rebel against God. If our goal is to overcome sin and to learn stern obedience to Christ, instead of waiting to die to go to Heaven, then we are going to approach our daily lives in a different manner.
The problem in God’s creation is not where we live; it is what kind of people we are.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived on a perfect earth. It was all we would want Heaven to be. Actually, I think when we picture Heaven in our mind, we think of the Garden in Eden. The problem was not that Adam and Eve were in the wrong place and hoped to go to Heaven when they died. They already were in Heaven, one might say. The problem was, they were not able to resist sin and rebellion. There were not part of a kingdom, a rule of God.
I have no doubt Adam and Eve exist somewhere in the universe. I don’t think they are in Hell or the Lake of Fire. They are living somewhere in some kind of spiritual condition, having friends and perhaps a family around them.
But I imagine they would prefer being in physical bodies and living on the earth in the Garden of Eden. What do you think about that? Maybe it is not as pleasant living in a spirit form in the spirit world as we have imagined.
Adam and Eve did not have any sort of spiritual foundation when they were in the Garden. They did not have the inner personality that would say, “Get behind me, Satan.” If they had, and then had eaten of the Tree of Life, they still would be alive on the earth, and perhaps the whole earth would have been Paradise to the present hour.
So the problem is not where we are that is so important; it is what kind of foundation we are standing on.
Let’s see what the Bible has to say about foundations. This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. (Isaiah 28:16)
We who are part of the Christian Church have already come to the heavenly Mount Zion. A tested Stone, the Lord Jesus Christ, has been laid by the God of Heaven in Mount Zion. He is our Rock on which we can stand, in whom we can trust. If Adam and Eve had been standing on Christ and trusting in Christ, Satan would not have been able to deceive them.
Here is the sure foundation Abraham and the patriarchs were seeking. It was not the spirit world as such; it was the heavenly Zion, the new Jerusalem, that one day shall descend upon the new earth.
There is an important concept we can gain from this discussion. Our hope is not to go to another place. What good would that do? Our hope is to overcome sin through Jesus Christ. Our hope is to become a new moral creation. Then we will be standing on the Rock wherever we are, in the present world or at home in the heavenly Zion.
But if we are not through Christ overcoming sin and self-will, then we will not be admitted to the city that has foundations now or when we die. We simply shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. There is no use having a heavenly city, or even a heavenly city with foundations, until the inhabitants are completely delivered from sin and self-seeking.
So the main question is, how are people delivered from sin and self-will? Until that takes place, there is no city that will bring us everlasting righteousness, love, peace, and joy. A goal that will not bring us everlasting righteousness, love, peace, and joy, is not worth having!
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)
Have come. Have come. Have come. If we are living in the Lord Jesus Christ, we already have come to Mount Zion; we already have come to the Church of the Firstborn; we already have come to the city of God; we already have come to the city that has foundations.
Our struggle now is to overcome the world, Satan, and our self-will, through Christ. The battle is raged night and day. Fortunately we have Christ to stand on. This Adam and Eve did not have. But we do, and the enemy cannot overcome Christ.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 3:11)
If we build our lives on Jesus Christ, it will survive every fire, every shaking. We build our house on the rock by doing what Christ commanded, not by merely believing. This is the massive error that is prevailing today in Christian preaching. We call Jesus “Lord, Lord” and then not do what He says because we have been taught that belief saves us rather than obedience. The truth is, there can be no genuine belief in Christ when there is not obedience to Christ’s commands and those of His Apostles.
The gifts and ministries of the Body of Christ help us build our life on the sure foundation.
Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22)
The city that is to come, the city that has foundations, is the new Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem is in Heaven, in the spirit world, at the present time. But it is destined to come down from Heaven and be installed for eternity upon the new earth. Then Paradise will have been restored fully to the earth.
But before this can be true, the question of sin and rebellion against God must be solved. No sinful person can enter through the gates of the new Jerusalem and eat of the Tree of Life, of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Day of Atonement of the Jews portrays the program of reconciling man to God. First, there is the slain Lamb whose blood is sprinkled upon and before the Lid of Reconciliation of the Holy of Holies in Heaven. Then our sins are confessed and laid upon the living Lamb who is led away from us out of the camp, bearing our sins upon Himself.
The spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, the Day of Reconciliation, is operating today and shall continue to operate until the final judgment of mankind, and perhaps beyond into the time of the new earth.
There can be no sin whatever in God’s new world of righteousness. Beginning today, all sin must be confessed and turned away from. The Holy Spirit will help you do this if you will look continually to the Lord Jesus.
We never thought we would see the day when there is no more sin. But the Prophet Isaiah has declared that God shall put an end to sin and bring in everlasting righteousness. There is no power that can prevent God from putting a final and absolute end to sin. We cooperate with God’s plan by confessing our sins as they are pointed out to us, and then violently and emphatically rejecting them. Christ will help you do that. Christ will help you lead a victorious life if this is what you are determined to do.
Christ is the foundation. The city is the heavenly Zion, the new Jerusalem. This is the city that is coming. Abraham and the patriarchs saw it. Every true Christian is laboring in Christ to purify himself or herself so he or she can live forever among the spirits of righteous people made perfect.
It is up to you and me to make certain that we are among those who live in the city that has foundations.
(“The City to Come”, 3288-1, proofed 20211018)