Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. (Revelation 21:9-11)
How are we to respond to this? An angel, armed to the hilt, has invited John to see the Bride but then shows him a 1500 cubic mile structure. Its scale is overwhelming! The construction is jaw dropping! The universe must have been mined to acquire the building materials! But how is this the Bride? Weren’t we hoping to see a composite of persons (perhaps with a glimpse of ourselves included)? How is Revelation 21 supposed to motivate us? What should be our take away?
Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.
The phrase “was like” tells us John is using his limited and fragile vocabulary to depict something for which he has no words. Clearly, he has been swept up into the mystery. Symbolism is the best he can do. Unfortunately, mystery often leaves the western mind underwhelmed and perhaps even offended.
In the west, we love a concrete principle that fits neatly into our belief structure! Oh how desirable we believe another post-tensioning truth will be to our foundation! Yet John does not offer us a single stick of moralistic rebar. The logical religious mind may ask, “Then what is the point here?” Our pining for principles reveals our discomfort with mystery and I suspect, with God.
We think about God as if he lives up two or three flights of stairs from us when in reality the particulars of his realm are light years beyond our comprehension in every conceivable direction. Our minds, as it turns out, at least for now, are merciful buffers between us and God. We could not endure his glory for a moment. John’s words have been spoken that we may grapple with them. They are to have an instructive impact upon us. As we wrestle with God’s glory in this passage we find we are graciously pinned in the first round. Our loss then becomes our gain – and our glory.
Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
God saying, “My ways are higher than your ways” will no doubt be the understatement of all eternity. So much about God is a glorious mystery held in trust for his Bride. By merciful design we do not have exhaustive knowledge. Knowing all mysteries would undermine the need for faith – the only way we may please him while in these earthly bodies. Until that day (when we will know as we have been known) we have sufficient truth to live in. Even now, we have Jesus, the Light of the world – the exact representation of the Father, to illumine our path. We also have the Holy Spirit in us to teach and to guide.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
Sometimes God’s word is spoken to simply drive us to our knees that, from there, we may discover we live and move and have our being in Christ. We can then rest our exhausted heads upon his lap and hear him say …
Peace my child. Be still and know that I am God.
Father, even if we were to understand all mysteries, Jesus, not our knowledge, would be our foundation. Oh Lord, that you might convey to us your sufficiency and your presence independent of our substantial data base about you. Amen.