Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a 2018 message shared at a gathering of house church pastors in China. This is the second part of a multi-part series, all of which focus on discipleship through an eschatological lens. When God made humans, he made us to live in perfect relationship with him, following him and reflecting his likeness. This will finally happen in the New Jerusalem, when God’s people dwell before him as his completed bride.
Can God’s Intention Still Be Fulfilled?
In the fall, mankind forsook God’s presence. It seemed as though humans thwarted God’s plan. What will happen to humanity? Can God’s intention still be fulfilled? After Genesis 3, all of redemptive history focuses on this question.
“How can we be saved?” is a good question, but only a partial question. A better question is, “Can God’s perfect intention be fulfilled?” Salvation history shows God redeeming us from our fall and bring us to his home. Not only this, but he fulfills his ultimate intention, something no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and the heart of man has not imagined.
‘How can we be saved?’ is a good question, but only a partial question. A better question is, ‘Can God’s perfect intention be fulfilled?’
From the first two chapters in Genesis, we skip to the Bible’s last two chapters. In Revelation 21 and 22, God shows us the perfect ending. When John says, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more,” this corresponds to the first creation. Our view of the gospel might be too narrow, only concerning justification – even justification itself is part of the transformation. Through redemption in Christ, God is creating a new heaven and a new earth. His intention will be fulfilled.
In the new creation, the focal point shifts to the new Jerusalem, to God’s people, the form they take, and their relationship with God. What has God accomplished for us in this new Jerusalem come down from heaven, this new heaven and new earth?
In the final scene, humans once again live before God with no barriers. The final fulfillment of the covenant of grace has come to pass: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” The core of the biblical covenants is that God will be their God and they will be his people. When humans were expelled from Eden, God was no longer their God; they were no longer his people. Yet God is continuously gracious, like a persistent parent who never lets us go. He continues to pursue us, so he may be our God.
Redeemed Jerusalem Is the Perfect Church
In Revelation 21, the entire covenant is fulfilled. God’s intimate dwelling place is with man. The city has become the Most Holy Place. Through Jesus, God’s people have intimate communion with him, far more than in Eden.
God is the light of the city. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the city’s temple. All of us will live before the glory of the Lord, reflecting his glory. The Holy Spirit provides abundant life, and the tree of life bears 12 kinds of fruit. The river of the water of life flows from the throne. There is far more abundance in the city than in Eden. No longer is anything accursed. God’s servants worship him. They see his face, and his name is on their foreheads. God’s dwelling place is with humans, and people dwell with God and with one another. We are resurrected and restored to relationship – but this relationship far surpasses that in the beginning. The church is complete. The New Jerusalem is the church God had been preparing for generations, and the bride of the Lamb. The city includes all the saints of both the Old and New testaments. The abundant materials and minerals of Eden become the materials God uses to build and adorn his city. Humanity no longer needs to go forth and multiply, because everything has been accomplished.
Through Jesus, God’s people have intimate communion with him, far more than in Eden.
The redeemed, complete Jerusalem is the perfect church, Christ’s bride. She is the perfect humanity, whom God intended to create. His image and likeness has been made and expressed as a city, the church. God’s creation is fulfilled through the church’s completion. We who believed, were baptized, and have been justified by faith are the city God is continually creating. This city is a glorious, beautiful city of one-and-many humanity, made in God’s image.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Do We Believe God Is Building This City?
At the end of God’s creation, at the fulfillment of redemption, the city is complete. “Night will be no more. They will need no light or lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.” God’s people live before his light, and God’s reign in Genesis is finally fulfilled as humanity reigns alongside him for all eternity. This city is more beautiful than Eden. It is the Most Holy Place, a temple-city, the completion and perfection of humanity and of the church.
The Lamb has prepared his Bride, and she has at last come down out of heaven from God. He says: “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” From the beginning of creation to the end of redemption, God and the Lamb have been ever-preparing. The final word, when the city, came down, is “It is done!” This is the same phrase Christ said on the cross. Together, God and the Lamb have continually built his city and perfected his people. This is happening even now.
Do we hope for that city? Do we believe God is building it? All the saints of every generation await that city.
Do we hope for that city? Do we believe God is building it? All the saints of every generation await that city. The book of Hebrews says, “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God,” and then, “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
Today, our work in building a church and our work in discipleship are a partnership with God in building this city. He is the builder; we are called to be disciples and carry out discipleship. Because the city is heavenly, we are also heavenly.
God completes the city through the Lamb. The first Adam lived before God, was his disciple, and followed God in image and likeness. When that Adam utterly failed, God sent his holy Son. For our sake, the Son came to earth and took up humanity. He came to be a disciple who obeys God fully, and lived according to God’s intentions. The Son obeyed God continuously – even to the point of death.
Muxi Zhang is a pseudonym for a China ministry veteran who has in-depth and extensive ministry experience.
Pray for Chinese Christians to live in light of their future as a people who will enjoy perfect fellowship with God.