The Holy City by Alec Sutherland

“I John saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21: 2)

John saw a vision of a City without a Church building as his ideal of heavenly life. The one place in the world from which heaven seems most far away. The City where the life of man is at most, intense. The focal point of countries unrest, where pressures are the greatest, a great mass of human need spilling out from the broken homes, broken relationships. Without the relationships of man, one with another, with master and servant, husband and wife, buyer and seller, creditor and debtor, there is no Christianity. Without reality in our lives, we are not living the life of Christ in us. He came down from His throne to share the heavenly life with fallen man in the home. The School, the market place, with all the corruption, intensity of life, work wages, pressures, poverty, addiction, the traffic, the noise, sin and an abundance of all things bad.
A NEW CITY, A HOLY CITY

Wherever real life is there Christ is. Not only of the great need, but because there is the raw material there with which Christianity works. The life of man to do something with this, to save scrutiny, the actual working life in the City. “I have come that you might have life, life in all it’s abundance”. Christ’s gift to man is abundant life and life is to be lived. The abundant life doesn’t show itself in abundant dreaming, but in abundant living for him amongst real and tangible things. To actual and practicable purposes. “His servants shall serve Him; as citizens of the new City”. A City where light overcomes the darkness, a City that is good for it’s citizens to live in. A new City. “Behold I make all things new” (Revelation 21: 5). Surely we must take on full responsibility for the burdens and cares of our City. Surely the Lords prayer would be answered in this way? Justification for the world, the founding of a City which shall be in visual reality, A City of God.

One City anywhere on earth whose citizens from the loftiest to the least lived in the spirit of Christ. Where religion overflowed from the Churches onto the streets. Inundating the home, the school, the workshops, putting the salt into the very centre of the social and commercial life of that City. Such acts would seal for that City it’s redemption. Surely such a City was what John saw in his vision? Whatever reference we see and make of a world to come in heavenly realm, are we not justified to seek the scene on our present world? John had been burdened for long years, he agonised and prayed for his City which had been ravaged by greed and corruption. Raped by invasions and wars for centuries. When he saw his City descending out of heaven, it was not something he had not seen before. But a City he knew; JERUSALEM. A New Jerusalem, A Holy City. We see this as heavenly or a ideal of heaven yet why not take it simply as it stands and put the natural force back into the expression? Just supposing John had lived today in maybe Paris, Rome, Berlin, London or Manchester, New York or Melbourne. I saw a Holy City, a New…..

I would that all Gods people were Prophets. John’s vision was to see a City he knew and to see it as God saw it, as God would have it. A Holy City, Renewed, Reformed, Redeemed, risen from the ruins of the old City. Building for God never ceases, the sun never sets on some city anywhere in the land without some stone of the invisible City laid. God’s word has been spoken by some Christians to the lost, some seed will have been sown, hearts touched and reached by Jesus. Salt and light permeating through the busy streets. To believe this is Faith. To live for this is Christianity in practical action. John knew Christ was the light and he saw the vision, a City that would give up its darkness, where light overcomes the darkness.

EPHESUS

Let us travel back in our minds to Ephesus, the famous City at Asia Minor (Turkey) in the time of John (The apostle). The same John who rested his head on Jesus’ shoulder at the last supper. A young John living in the love of Christ. He was known as the disciple of love. 3 years earlier Jesus called him and his brother James, “follow me”. Two pretty wild boisterous lads who were known as the sons of thunder, changed by the love of Jesus. He even loves the unlovable. We find it very hard to love some people, don’t we? Some people we try to steer clear of don’t we? And anyway we are just men and women with all our failings, all our weaknesses, just the same as Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Elisha, King David, John, Peter, Paul, William Booth, Wesley, Moody, you, me. What do we say today? “Be strong and of good courage” we will take the City of Jericho, God is with us. We can enter the promise land that God promised us. Caged wild beasts, God can shut their mouths. Create in me a new clean heart, and a right spirit. Testify we unto you God is light. And in Him dwells no darkness. Grass dies, but the word of the Lord endures forever. We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. God shall have all there is of William Booth 70 years later, old, frail, nearly blind, pleading, “repent, come into the Kingdom of heaven” Lo, the kingdom of heaven is not here or there, it is within you. Jesus of Nazareth said that (Luke 17: 21). But John under his ministry at Ephesus was under troubled times, when the leaders of the early Church in Jerusalem sought to keep their links with Judaism. They desired to keep Christianity Jewish, but many began to reach out at Antioch to the Gentiles, amalgamated and consolidated to Christianity as it should be today at Ephesus. During John’s ministry there a certain other Apostle visited a few times to I’m sure he also had something to do with it. It was a wealthy City, a centre for commerce, sea- port, multinational, people from all over the world traded there. It was essentially great with a strong Hellenistic culture. A busting busy City, with many attractions and as is usual for such a good place, not all the attractions were good. Corruption was rife, villains made a good profit there, they even had a sanctuary, “the right of asylum”. A temple, place of worship built to the glory of a grotesque goddess, Artemis. The scene of the most sordid tales. The theatre of the most glaring sins. It was a beautiful building, in a beautiful City. A roof of cedar wood, columns of jasper, marble pillars, doors of Cypress wood. A magnificently crafted Alter, with a Velvet curtain behind “sound familiar?” But behind the curtain was a darkened room. In it the Horrendous most sacred idol of the heathen’s “Artemis” who was said to be an angel fallen from heaven. Love goddess of Asia Minor. Behind the dark monument to sin, was the securest and wealthiest bank in the western world. Claimed to be under divine protection. The religious gathering held there were frenzied orgies of self-indulgence and self gratification. In spite of it’s great beauty and almost perfect setting, Ephesus was a place of great darkness, abundance of evil, corruption, sin set high on a hill. At night it seemed to be lit up. “A City that could not be hid” Evil cannot be hidden, corruption cannot be covered. Sin cannot be glossed over, it has to be cleaned. John had a vision of a new City, A New Jerusalem. He proclaimed Christ and the same can be said of any City of any country on this planet. What is said of the New Jerusalem. That the Lamb is the light thereof. John saw in his vision a City giving up its darkness room by room, home by home, street by street, district by district. It would be changed from within. Abominations, lies, deceit would disappear. Sin, pain, anguish and sorrow would silently pass away. One day the walls would be jasper, the streets paved with gold, in the middle of the City there would stand a tree of life and its leaves would go forth for the healing of the City.

Survey your home, your street, your district, your town, your City, work hard for the Kingdom. When a Prophet tells of things to come, the coming event is not just brought about by some unrelated cause or sudden shock, but rather by a natural course of the planets unfolding drama. The supreme players in this drama are God’s people and be sure of this, that down to the least and pettiest detail of all that concerns a better world, concerns Christ. God’s judgement fell on Cain and the place where he lived because of lies, murder, Cain went out from the presence of the Lord to the land of Nod, East of Eden (Genesis 4: 16-17). And he built a City there and he called it after the name of his son. But God’s judgements had fallen and he appointed another seed to replace Abel who was slain. Right from the beginning, men knew the terror of the wrath of God and they did something about it. They began to call on the name of the Lord.

God’s judgement can and will come. We are living in a time of grace and for some reason He is holding back His judgement and granting us His favour. His love is as great as His judgements are terrible. “Room and time now give to Jesus, soon will pass God’s day of grace” because of grace His nature poured into man, we have this time. I have a plea to make, and I make it as a serious and practical proposal. Outside of these walls is our City, what can we do for it? What did Jesus do? For He prayed over it the He wept over it, then He died for it. John had a vision, a New City, a New Manchester and the Lamb was the light thereof. “Behold I make all things new” (Revelation 21: 5). One of the Churches main functions is to help man come in, to receive meat, to worship Him together as we and then to go out strengthened to bring about change. If I were to build a new City, the 1st foundation stone I would lay would be that of a Church. And for the 1st sermon preached there I would choose the text “I saw no temple therein” (Revelation 21: 22). So often it happens that when Christians break with Church, they break with Christianity. The reverse should be the truth, the essential Christian life should be lived to the full in Christ. Abundant life is given for abundant living. We can change our City for Him, because He changes us to change things for Him for His glory. Make your home a lovely place to be in, bright, comfortable and homely. For Christians are citizens of Heaven.

Alec Sutherland

1938-1999

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