City of the Lord
Never underestimate the significance of Jerusalem. What Washington D.C is to the United States, and Paris is to France is what Jerusalem is to Israel, but much, much more.
Jerusalem is a city with a claim which no other city may boast; God establishes her. The God of the Universe tells the world, if you want to worship me, you must worship at the altar in Jerusalem with the religion of My design. God choose Jerusalem as the place that He dwells with men. His Shekinah Glory was in the Ark of the Covenant at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
If we were a tourist in Solomon’s day, we would run to the Temple gates and peek in to see if we could see God’s glory. We’d be hoping for a pillar of cloud or smoke.
Jerusalem is the city of the Lord. But, Jerusalem has a problem. She is continually despised by other nations. People are always trying to steal her wealth. She is at war with her neighbors. Her citizens are unrighteous. There is corruption and truth stumbles in the streets. There is darkness, violence, and destruction within her walls. There no peace. Jerusalem needs transformation.
The work of the Messiah is transforming. Isaiah prophecies that God will transform deserts into lush gardens. Animals have a new nature so that the lion lays down with the lamb. And, God will transform people so that they are no longer rebellious, but righteous and holy. Isaiah 60, and Revelation 21 are passages prophesying that God will transform Jerusalem into a glorious city. She will be a sparkling gem upon the earth.
Approach Scripture Correctly
I suggest there are three important principles of interpretation we need to apply to this text.
First: as we interpret this passage, we need to recognize the genre of writing. It is prose and prose is figurative language. We cannot always interpret it literally.
For example, in verse 21, God says that we will be a branch that He plants in New Jerusalem. None of us believe we will become plant life in heaven. What it means is that God nurtures us and makes us fruitful. We should not press the details of prose too far.
Will there be a New Jerusalem? Yes. Will it be splendorous? Yes. The principles conveyed in the prose will be true. But the New Jerusalem will not likely fit the literal description of Isaiah 60.
Another interpretive approach we need to employ is that we are to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. In other words, we need to allow a clearer text to illuminate and define a less clear text.
As Isaiah prophecies the New Jerusalem, we can’t help but ask when this will take place. The Jews of the First Century were hoping Jesus was going to make it happen. But, John’s Revelation reveals that Isaiah’s prophecy takes place at the end of the age.
John’s Revelation (Revelation 21:9-27), paints a similar picture to Isaiah’s New Jerusalem. They both say the New Jerusalem will have no need of the sun or the moon, but God will be its light. The nations are drawn to the light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory into the city. Both reveal the city gates are never closed as the nation’s bring their abundance. Most importantly, both reveal that in the New Jerusalem, God dwells with His people. John’s Scripture reveals that Isaiah’s vision is at the end of the age.
The third principle we need to apply is that of the, “already, and “not yet” element of spiritual truth. For example, Paul tells us that we are, presently, alive, risen, and seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6). It is already true in the spiritual realm, but not yet true in the physical realm. As we read through this prophecy, we will see that there are both, “already” and “not yet” elements.
It is as Paul tells the Corinthians, we behold in a mirror the glory of the Lord, and we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory. There is an already, but not yet transformational quality to life as God changes us into the image of Christ.
The main idea of the text is that we are to faithfully walk as children of the light, drawing all people to Christ for the glory of God. When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we become children of the light. The light is from Jesus setting His glory upon us. We are objects of God’s glory. Therefore, we are to live as objects of God’s glory. We are to be set apart in holiness as well as to be a light which draws people out of the darkness.
The Lord’s City: Glorified by God (Isaiah 60:1-3)
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)
The first three verses are the introduction.
Isaiah gives the call to arise. Wake up. God’s glory is upon us. While the rest of the world is covered in darkness, God’s people are covered in the light of God’s glory.
Let’s ask ourselves if we realize the significance of what this says. The God of the universe places upon us His glory. Without His glory, we are dark specks in creation. With His glory, we are bright lights.
This is a call to action. God is calling us to arise, get-up, and shine. We have a light which is good for all people from every nation.
Jesus tells us about God’s glory being set upon us.
The glory is given to us by Jesus
In His prayer to the Father in John 17, Jesus says,
“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (John 17:22-23)”
God gives Jesus glory and Jesus gives us the same glory. He places His glory upon us so that the world may know Him. Jesus wants the world to know that the Father is loving. Even though we are sinners, God demonstrates His love toward us.
When Jesus sets upon us His glory, it is a testament to the love of God in Christ. We are given a tremendous gift. We have the glory of God upon us.
We did not always have God’s glory. We were like blind men, stumbling around in the darkness. We were dead in sin. The glory of God makes us so that we are no longer blind or in darkness. We are no longer dead, but we are made alive in Christ.
Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Are we arisen? Are we awake? Do we live as objects of God’s glory? Let’s ask ourselves, “Am I a light of the world? Is my light under a basket or set upon a hill? Can others look at my life and know that God sent Jesus? Am I a light to those who are in darkness? Am I living as a testimony that God loves the world?”
The Lord’s City: International loving community (Isaiah 60:4-9)
Verses 4-9 of chapter 60 tells us the city of God is an international loving community. People come to the light from all over the earth.
God is not drawing only Israel to Himself, but people from all nations come to the light.
Lift up your eyes round about and see;
They all gather together, they come to you.
Your sons will come from afar,
And your daughters will be carried in the arms. (Isaiah 60:4)
The spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham come. They come from places like Sheba, Midian, and Tarshish. As they come, they carry goods from those lands. We see them coming, and we are radiant, and our heart rejoices. People come to the light, and they bring of their abundance. People who live in the Lord’s city share with one another. They don’t come to receive, but the come to give. They commit to loving one another and providing for the needs of others.
The Lord’s city is an international community of people loving one another and giving to one another. The reason people live this way is given in verse 9; it is done in the name of the Lord. We do it for the glory of God, out of thankful hearts.
In God’s kingdom, there are no racial divisions. There will not be a China town or Little Italy in the New Jerusalem. There are no people excluded. It is as Paul tells the Colossians, there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or freeman, but Christ is all and in all (Colossians 3:11). We are to share and meet each other’s needs for the name of the Lord.
The Lord’s City: Life in abundance (Isaiah 60:10-13)
The next truth about the Lord’s city is that there is life in abundance. Christ transforms the New Jerusalem so that there is never hunger or thirst. Nobody is cold or lacking. There is continual importing of abundance making it so that the gates of Jerusalem cannot shut.
Your gates will be open continually;
They will not be closed day or night,
So that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations,
With their kings led in procession. (Isaiah 60:11)
People come from every nation bringing their best. The way Isaiah describes the New Jerusalem is that kings will lead the processions of people bringing the nation's goods. Usually, kings follow behind, but these walk in front leading the way. They bring wealth willingly. There are no tariffs. No trade wars.
Uncooperative nations are destroyed, only friendly nations will come.
If we are to put it in today’s vernacular, we might say that the President of South Africa will enter the city gates leading a procession of people carrying diamonds. The President of China leads a procession carrying reams of silk cloth. We will drink coffee from Columbia while eating Swiss chocolate and taking our pet kangaroo from Australia out for a hop.
Jesus work on the cross transforms the marketplace of Jerusalem. In heaven, there is an abundance of the best of everything, freely given and shared by all.
The Lord’s City: Exalted With Joy (Isaiah 60:14-16)
Jesus work on the cross also sets the wrongs of religious persecution right. The city of the Lord is full of people who love those that share the gospel.
The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, and all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet … (Isaiah 60:14)
Throughout history, beginning with the Jews, those who claim to know God are despised and afflicted. Jesus work on the cross transforms Jerusalem into a place where those who once ridiculed God’s people, bow themselves before the feet of evangelists.
Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great (Matthew 5:11-12).”
The reward is that God exalts those who humble themselves on earth. God makes those who shine His light a joy from generation to generation. People will call us the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 60:14).
The city of the Lord is more than buildings, gates, and walls; the true city of the Lord consists of people. The New Jerusalem is the bride of Christ! Without people, there is no city. Just like without the people, there is no church.
We need to live with the city of the Lord in view. Persecution, ridicule, rejection, and being despised for the sake of the gospel is only for a moment. God exalts those who are humbled on earth. There is great reward for those willing to suffer loss for the sake of shining the glory of God as a light in the darkness.
The Lord’s City: Protected with salvation’s peace (Isaiah 60:17-18)
Verses 17 and 18 speak about fortifying the city with valuable and strong materials. God replaces bronze with gold and iron with silver. Wood and stones become bronze and iron. The New Jerusalem is a haven for her occupants.
God gives Jerusalem an upgrade. The renovations include grand and strongly fortified materials. The old Jerusalem is continually destroyed, burnt, and bombed. There is continual conflict and war. The old Jerusalem is filled with ruins. The New Jerusalem stands as an eternal testament to the work of Christ.
Jesus transforms Jerusalem to be a place where peace and righteousness reign. Violence is never seen. Devastation and destruction are in the past. People turn their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and never again learn of war (Isaiah 2:4). We will look at the walls, and call them salvation, and we will call the gates praise. We will be continually reminded of the goodness of God as we live in a peaceful existence.
The Lord’s City: Illuminated by Glory (Isaiah 60:19-20)
In chapter 59, God tells us that our sin separates us from Him. Now, in chapter 60, we learn that in the Lord’s city, we enjoy the everlasting presence of God. His glory shines and is our light so we have no need for the sun or the moon.
For you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be over. (Isaiah 60:20)
Our days of sorrow and mourning come to an end. God wipes the tears from our eyes. There is no pain or suffering. We enjoy the presence of God. He satisfies all our needs. It will be as the psalmist says, at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The Lord’s City: Bearing the fruit of righteousness (Isaiah 60:21-22)
When we are in union with Christ, He is the vine, and we are the branches. We abide in Him, and He makes us righteous. We are a work of God.
The chapter closes by expressing how the inhabitants in the Lord’s city will a people bearing the fruit of righteousness.
Then all your people will be righteous;
They will possess the land forever,
The branch of My planting,
The work of My hands,
That I may be glorified. (Isaiah 60:21)
Living in the Lord’s city is paradise because there is no sin. We are made righteous. We live there forever without any threat of being removed.
God is glorified because we are a work of His hands. He cleanses us. He keeps us safe. It is all His work. We do nothing except believe it to be true. And, because of our faith, we receive everything.
Can we see the picture of Heaven which God expresses to us in His word?
The Lord’s city is glorified by God. It is an international loving community where God’s people are exalted. We will live in abundance and with great joy. The city is in perfect peace, and there is never war or destruction of any kind. All the inhabitants dwell righteously in the presence of God never doing wrong, always doing what is right. Sorrow, death, pain, and mourning are eternally cast away.
Jesus says that He is going to prepare a place for us. This is the place He is preparing. It is the Lord’s city.
Do you believe that it exists?
Does your belief in the Lord’s city impact your life?
God paints this picture so that we persevere in our faith. Listen to the words of the writer of Hebrews.
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10)
Abraham is counted righteous because He believes God. He believes God rewards His people with eternal life in the Lord’s city.
But, the writer of Hebrews tells us that it is not just Abraham, but Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Sarah have the same faith.
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:13-16)
Pause for a moment to think about verse 16.
Where do we belong? Do we consider ourselves as strangers and exiles to this world? Or is this world our home? Are we living as though we are seeking the Lord’s city? Or, are we living to make ourselves comfortable in this world?
Our belief in life after death, believing God that there is a city He has prepared for us, is essential to our faith. The writer of Hebrews says that we can look at the lives of these people and know that they are seeking heaven and not this earth. We need to examine our lives and ask ourselves, “What are we seeking? Heaven or this world?”
For those who are seeking heaven, God is not ashamed to be called their God because there is evidence in their lives that they believe His word.
Arise! Christ has laid upon us His glory. We are to let our light shine before others so that people will know that God sent His beloved Son because God so loved the world. Let’s excel at glorifying our Savior. Let’s set our eyes upon the Lord’s city, and let’s walk as children of the light, drawing all people to Christ for the glory of God.