The New Jerusalem—the Bride of Christ
In God are all perfections, and one of those perfections is beauty. I have written somewhere that beauty is the coalescence of truth and goodness, but we could just as easily add justice, wisdom, love, grace, mercy, peace, and others. When the perfection of all of God’s attributes come together, we have what is truly beautiful, indeed what is truly glorious, the splendor of which could never be surpassed on earth. That is who God is—Beauty itself, and the glory of it as well.
But God wants to share that beauty, that glory, with His people. And the place where He intends to share that beauty with us is heaven. In this passage, we are afforded a visual in words which no artist could ever paint. Scholars argue over whether the vision is what heaven is to actually be or whether the words here are symbolic depicting in human language what no men could ever dream. I will not enter the debate for I am happy either way, for the beauty and glory and wonder of heaven is God, Himself, and not the place where we shall be. In other words, heaven is where God is—nothing more, nor less.
But I do wish to make two points. First, God, who is the quintessence of beauty, cares about beauty. I have written of this elsewhere. We have become so practical in our architecture and in our settings, so simplistic in our language, and downright vulgar in our artistic and musical tastes. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so loses any objective sense. I disagree with this. Some things are beautiful and others are ugly. Notice that the shape of the “bride” is symmetrical, that her dimensions are twelves and multiples thereof. There are multiples of ten, and three, all of which are numbers representing perfection and completion. Of course the city is radiant with jewels—not gaudy like the harlot of chapter seventeen—but in an ordered way aligning with the foundations. The twelve jewels themselves correspond to those on the breastplate the high priest wore, speaking of the priesthood of the residents of that beautiful city. I cannot say enough but only that beauty matters to God and should as well to His people.
And second, the beauty of heaven is ultimately the splendor of holiness with which the place shall be filled. It is how we shall worship Him when we are so free that we will be unable to sin (Psalm 29:2). So prepare now with this prayer: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord…to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord (27:4).