The Surprises of the Holy City: Part 1

By Mark D. Roberts

August 16, 2018

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

Revelation 21:2


There’s something in us that loves a garden. Whether it’s a small herb garden in an apartment window, or a neatly manicured English garden, or the wild “garden” of a natural forest, our hearts gravitate to the beauty and vitality of gardens.

The Supertree Grove at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.I expect our love for gardens has something to do with our creation. In Genesis 2, God planted a marvelous garden in which he put the first man and the first woman. Their primary purpose in life, according to this chapter, was to take good care of the garden. Unfortunately, when they sinned, God sent them away from the garden. So there is something deep within us that longs for the splendor, peace, and fruitfulness of the garden.

But then we come to Revelation 21 and its unexpected surprise. We might have supposed that when God creates a new heaven and a new earth, human beings will dwell once again in God’s garden paradise. But, as it turns out, this is not the case. In Revelation 21:2, John sees “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” In this vision of the future, human beings won’t live in a lush garden but in a shining city.

Our future lies in a city! How do you respond to this vision? If you’re a young, urbanite that loves the bustle and burgeoning creativity of city life, I expect you’re excited by John’s vision. If, like me, you often experience city life as cacophonous and hyperactive, then you may be less enthused. Perhaps you’d prefer that God would send down a heavenly garden, the new Eden rather than the new Jerusalem. (Of course, I remind myself, the best cities include marvelous parks and ample garden spaces. New York wouldn’t be New York without Central Park.)

In future devotions, we’ll reflect in greater detail about the nature of the city in Revelation 21 and its relevance to our lives, both future and present. For now, however, I’d like us to pause as we consider the meaning and relevance of the simple and surprising truth that, in John’s vision, our future lies in a city, a wonderful, glorious city.

Something to Think About:

How do you feel about gardens? What about a garden is appealing to you? What about a garden is not appealing to you?

How do you feel cities? What do you like about cities? What do you dislike about cities?

How do you respond to the vision of Revelation 21, in which our future dwelling on earth is in a city?

If you were to spend all of eternity in a city, what would you like that city to feature?


Gracious God, your Word is full of surprises, from beginning to end. Today, we are surprised by John’s vision of the future, in which a city is central. We might have expected you to send down a perfect garden. But, instead, you sent a city, the new Jerusalem. As we reflect upon this vision, help us to grasp what is important. Help us to understand what it says about our future… and our present… even today. Amen.

This post was originally published on April 7, 2016.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
The Work of the “Creation Mandate” (Genesis 1:28, 2:15)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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