The New Jerusalem, Humanity Perfected: Discipleship in View of the End

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.


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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.

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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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