GETTING THE MESSAGE/Enduring hardship
Hebrews chapter eleven gives a list of faithful people who endured hardship and deprivation because they were waiting on the fulfillment of God’s promise. It is written of Abraham that he was willing to live in tents in a foreign land, “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”
The city Abraham was looking for is described in Revelation 21:9-27. We will look at verses 9-14. The words of the angel in verse 9 marks a contrast between the bride of the Lamb (the church) and the harlot (the world of unfaithful men) in chapter 17. The harlot is full of abominations and immorality, whereas the bride has been faithful to Christ.
The book of Revelation depicts Babylon as this present world and its systems. It is the world in which we live. God gives to men good things in this world, but we also know there is much evil and suffering in it. The things of the world cannot advance your soul; rather, they tend to degrade it. There are many warnings about the world in Revelation.
The world is shown in such depraved images because it is under the wrath of God for its abominations. Those who choose this world for their portion choose a condemned, transitory portion. Examples of this are throughout Scripture. Esau chose his stomach over the eternal promise of God. Paul uses him as an example of those who are worldly-minded and whose destiny is destruction.
On the other hand, Moses weighed the riches and pleasures of Egypt and chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. The gospels record the story of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet of which Jesus said, “She has chosen the better portion, and it will not be taken from her.” So she is our example.
In Revelation 21:10, the angel takes John to a high mountain where he can see “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” This is a vision of the church, made up of all the redeemed from all ages, both Jew and Gentile. We see in this passage three things that make this city so blessed, things which encourage us to become a citizen of it or rejoice that we already are.
The first thing is that the city, and therefore each of its residents, is beloved by God. The city is called “the bride of Christ.” In John 17, Jesus prays to His Father about His people, “Yours they were and you gave them to me.” Therefore Christ called them to Himself, justified them by His atoning death on the cross, clothed them in righteousness, and made a place for them with God. That there is such a thing as the church, the people of God, is because of love. Christ has a great heart of love for His people.
The second blessedness of the city is its glory. Verse 11 says the city has “the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” Ezekiel compared this city to the brilliance of a star. Paul speaks of Christians shining like stars in the world.
God calls His redeemed people His precious possession because He sees His glory in them. He made stars and beautiful jewels to convey to us how glorious He views those for whom Christ died. God makes His people perfect and holy in this city. He gives us such assurances to show us His love and faithfulness. In affliction we pray, knowing the value God places upon His people.
The third blessedness of the city is how it is built (verses 12-14). The foundations of the city have the names of the 12 apostles. The gates of the city have the name of the 12 tribes of Israel. So we have in the city all the redeemed from the Old Testament saints such as Abraham and Moses to all Christians today. The city was built upon God’s promise, His word. All who believed are there.
We have a command in the gospel to believe in Christ. That command is now, while we are in this world. If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. Here we find refuge for our poor souls. All the benefits of Christ are received things; given to those who call on Him.
Samuel Rutherford wrote, “Your errand in this life is to make sure an eternity of glory for your soul, and match your soul with Christ. Let those who love the present world have it, but Christ is a more worthy and noble portion; blessed are those who have him.”
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.