The Perfection of Beauty
Beauty is something that has lost even a general definition in our day. We often say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” There is some truth in this. Someone can see beauty in someone or something that others do not. But then we hear of monstrous exhibits of “art” in which a cross is immersed in urine. Or perhaps it’s something inoffensive like beer cans strung in row, or paint smeared on a canvas. We have come a long way from Michelangelo and Raphael, or even Bach and Shakespeare, for that matter. We must have some standard of beauty. After all, sane people will agree that a flower is pretty and a pile of manure is ugly. But how do we know?
Revelation gives us a clue in this chapter when describing the Bride of the Lamb. We first note that the Church is the Bride of Christ from Ephesians 5:25-33. But here the Bride appears to be more a place than anything else as we see New Jerusalem descending out of heaven. But there is no contradiction in seeing the Church as both personal Bride and faithful city (contrast Isaiah 1:21). We note again how the saints of both Old and New Testaments come together as the gates are named after the twelve tribes of Israel while the foundations are named after the twelve apostles. The Church of God is complete. As for description of the city, we note the precious gems used to describe the gates and foundations, and how the gates are divided into four groups of three facing the four different directions. The city itself is a perfect cube, the numbers twelve and one thousand further expressing perfection. We learn from this that at least part of the definition of beauty is order and symmetry, something long forgotten today.
Light is a characteristic of beauty. Note that there is no sun or moon in the city, the reason being that the glory of God gives the city all the light it needs. And because no evil thing can enter in, the gates are never shut, reminding us that another characteristic of beauty is goodness. Finally, nothing false is allowed to enter, reminding us that beauty also includes truth as a necessary ingredient.
Someone has said that beauty is the coalescence of truth and goodness. This makes sense to me. And when I think of our Lord, I see the perfection of goodness and truth come together in one life. Let us strive for goodness and truth in our own lives and in the church, and we shall see beauty as we have never experienced it before.