City of Light
Written by Richard Bauckham
When I moved from England to live in Scotland, one thing I found difficult was the shorter periods of daylight in the winter. On dull days, it could seem like it never got light at all. I found this mildly depressing, but some people are seriously affected by it and have to sit with lamps that imitate sunlight. We are all dependent on sunlight for our physical health and our mental well-being.
It is not surprising that in many cul- tures people have worshiped the sun, and sometimes the moon, too. Why does a sunny day lift our spirits? Why do many people love to bask in the sun? Science confirms that our planet’s distance from the sun, with the light and heat that it pro- vides, is essential to life on earth.
In this creation, God’s blessings are mediated to us through creaturely means, sunlight among them. In the new creation, we shall live in God’s immediate presence, immersed in it as we now are in daylight— and there will be no night.
Imagine it: a city filled with light. Imagine it like a brilliant crystalline jewel (Rev. 21:11), the light reflected in all the precious stones of many colors listed in verses 19–20. Imagine, if you can, the way the light shines through the transparent gold of which the city is made (vv. 18, 21). Get a view of the city from a distance. It stands atop a mountain (v. 10) and shines out over all the surrounding country. It is the sunlight of that world. It is the light by which people live (v. 24).
Think, now, of a stained-glass window in a church with vivid depictions of bibli- cal or other figures. The window itself is beautiful enough at all times, but when the sun shines through it, it glows. Its intense colors light up! In the New Jerusalem, the loveliness of all God’s creatures will be a delight for all. We shall see them in their true colors. The light of God’s immediate presence will not cancel out their shapes and colors, their created reality, but it will light them up, transfiguring them. All through the Bible, light is a symbol of God and of Jesus (who said, “I am the light of the world” in John 8:12). Think about the ways God’s light shines already into our lives in this world—how it lights up our lives, how we can walk in that light. If we see the light now, it will light up the path we can walk to the city of light. What can we take with us to present to God and to contribute to the life of that eternal city (Rev. 21:24, 26)?