The Cross and the City of God

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - A Consideration of Ultimate Things

Rev. 21:9-11 "He carried me away in Spirit to a mountain great and high and showed me the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone clear as crystal."

Rev. 21:15 "The building of the wall thereof was jasper and the city was pure gold as it were transparent glass."

Rev. 21:21 "The street (way) was pure gold as it were transparent glass."

Rev 22:1 "And He showed me a river of water of life clear as crystal proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb."

Rev. 3:12 "I will write on him the Name of my God, the name of the City of my God... that cometh down out of heaven from my God, and my own new Name."

Heb. 11:10 "The City which hath the foundations, whose builder and architect is God."

Heb. 11:16 "God is not ashamed to be called their God; He hath prepared for them a City."

Heb. 12:22 "The City of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem."

Heb. 13:14 "We seek the city which is to come."

Gal. 4:25-26 "Jerusalem which is above is free which is our Mother."

Phil. 3:20 "Our citizenship in Heaven."

Our main difficulty in contemplating the City of God will be to get the literal and material out of mind, we are dealing pre-eminently with what is spiritual.

The City of God is not merely a place to which we are going, but is the Church of God of which we are part.

We are going to Heaven, a place; we are not going to spaceless clouds for all eternity; but in considering the City of God, the Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem, we are considering the Church, the Body of Christ; and are only dealing with the nature and characteristics of that City as related to the ultimate things. We are not now touching questions related to times and dispensations. The last thing in the Word of God is a City and everything heads up to that. He is related to the City and the City to Him.

It is a concrete and all inclusive presentation in finality of all the spiritual elements and features of divine life in the individual and in the Church; the full and final expression of conformity to the image of God's Son; "chosen and fore-ordained to be conformed to the image of His Son." Rom. 8:29.

Here in Rev. 21 we see the City of God, a realisation of that fore-ordination told of in Rom. 8:29, and it is only another way of contemplating the glorified Son of Man, in His corporate expression and all that is in Christ for the believer being realised.

We must ever remember, the one central and dominating factor is the Lamb in the midst of the Throne, because everything here is the expression of Calvary's work and is the realisation of all that the Lord Jesus came to do by His death and resurrection. The elements of divine life are spirituality, heavenliness, transparency, elevation, stability, fulness, love, fellowship, sovereignty, government, openness and exclusiveness, light, inwardness, glory, and many more.

We are dealing with spiritual factors that go to make up the Church of God, the New Jerusalem, and when you see the Church of God presented here in Rev. 21 you have it presented in its final fulness in Christ, to which we are now moving. Compare Eph. 1:21-22, as things are now it is the building of the Church, the growing up into Him.

Let us stay awhile with the features and the characteristics of the City of God.

The First Feature is Heavenliness and Spirituality

It "came out from heaven" therefore it must have been first in heaven before it could come down out from heaven.

"They looked for a heavenly city" Heb. 11:10. "He looked for the City which hath the foundation whose builder and maker was God."

"Our citizenship is in heaven" Phil. 3:20.

We find much in the Word of God about material for the heavenly City, and the suggestion runs clearly through the Word that since the fall, everything God has brought in is heavenly and not earthly. God's people are of heaven, a heavenly people, and not of the earth; a heavenly seed, and the heavenly seed began in type with Abel, and there can be traced out the heavenly line all through the Word.

Cain is a man of the earth and as such is rejected. Later Israel becomes the type of the heavenly people - they are a people taken out of the earth, extricated from the earth and its ways, taken out from Egypt, through the blood of the Lamb Who is now their true life and its source; cut off by the Red Sea and out in the Wilderness under government of the "Pillar of cloud" - the Holy Spirit; a people as out from the earth and unto God. This in type constituted a heavenly people, a people from above and not of the earth.

The predominating colour in Israel's camp was heavenly blue. Each had to have a piece of blue like unto the High Priest's ephod; typical of heavenliness.

John's Gospel is pre-eminently the Gospel for the Church and its main emphasis is heavenliness and spirituality - "born anew" "born from above" "born of God."

The word 'LIFE' in John is always related to the heavenlies, it is heavenly life "I am the life" "I am come that ye might have life." He came to give in His own person this life: "In Him was life" "I am came down out of heaven."

In John 2 He takes up the relationship of the Lord's people. John 2:4 literally is "woman what have you and I in common?" As in Matt. 12:48-50 "...but He answered Who is my mother and who are my brethren? For whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother." Yes, the heavenly relationships of this born-out-from-God people transcend earthly relationships all the time; it is a bond in the spirit, deeper and more abiding than any earthly bond; the interests of the heavenlies and the Lord's things far transcends interests of worldly relationships and concerns. The more you have in common with the Lord, the less you have in common with the world, and the greater the strain when you have to be in it though not of it. You violate the laws of your spiritual life and nature if you ignore this spiritual relationship, and cripple your own spiritual effectiveness; it will be impossible finally for the heavenly people to have any fellowship in spirit with the old creation.

Rev. 21:22 "I saw no temple there" Why? The people are a worshipping people - they are worship; it is spiritual worship not localised.

John 4:20 "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, but ye (Jews) say that in Jerusalem must men worship." The Lord answered, "the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth for such doth the Father seek to be His worshippers." The Father is the seeker of the eternal City as well as its builder and architect.

The entire sustenance of the Lord's people is spiritual and heavenly (see John 6). Life, sustenance, development, maturity, the whole basis of life and growth of the City of God is spiritual. Spiritual growth by heavenly food and spiritual sustenance by feeding on the living Bread from heaven - "I am the Bread of Life."

And all service is out from above - heavenly, words and works from above; that which the Father doeth and speaketh, John 5:19,36. How does He see what the Father doeth? Only by the Spirit - Matt, 10:20. "For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you." All this is not of the earth, it is heavenly, and is all gathered up and related to the heavenly Person, the Person from above, the Lord Jesus "I came forth from the Father." John 6:28. "I came down from heaven." John 5:38, and yet having all abiding residence in heaven even while on earth. "No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." John 1:18.

Pass to the Ephesian letter, written especially for the Church. How much it has to say about "in the heavenlies"; compare Eph. 1:3; 2:6; 4:10.

The Lord's people are so slow to accept the implications and cost of this. We do so want something on the earth, something of the nature of a quick return for our labour. Some gratification to our senses, something to see. We do groan so constantly under the labours of the Lord to get us cut off from the earth and to get us a heavenly people. We so often fail to see what the Lord is doing. We must be extricated from earthliness if we are to be made heavenly in character, and this is going to cost if we yield to the Lord's hand. The power that raised Christ from the dead, the exceeding greatness of that might is called into operation to get the Church into its right place in the heavenlies, cut off from the earth, in order that it might come down out from heaven (Eph. 1:19-20) God's great might called forth to extricate us from earthliness. Ps. 87 - "His foundation is in the mountain, the Lord loveth the gates of Zion."

Rev. 21:10 "He carried me... to a mountain... and showed me the Holy City, New Jerusalem... the bride and wife of the Lamb."

It is interesting to note, the same angel took him into the wilderness to see Babylon, Rev. 17:1-5. No need for a high mountain from which to see that wicked city, it is of the earth; but the Holy City is most high.

In Psalm 87 God's City is set over against all other cities mentioned in the Psalm.

Egypt and Zion

Rahab - Egypt: symbol of natural resource. Abraham comes into the land - God's land of promise by faith and found a supreme test of faith waiting him there; found the heathen in occupation, their idolatrous altars everywhere and a great famine in the land. So he turned to Egypt as an alternative to apparent contradiction and denial; to Egypt, the place of natural resource, Abraham turned under testing.

Whenever Israel's spirituality was low they turned to Egypt for help; when, because their faith was out of order, they found the Lord no longer sufficient.

A little natural resource will mar the City of God and bring a cloud. In the City of God all natural resource is cut off, not permitted by God, and by God cut off, brought to an end.

Egypt doesn't come into the New Jerusalem, they are two different worlds, one earthly the other heavenly.

"Glorious things are spoken of thee, O City of God." Ps. 87.3. Have you dealt with Egypt by knowing the cutting off from natural resources? Do we accept this law of the City of God? Natural resource in spiritual things is not admitted in the City of God, and all natural resource must come to an end. Once you know the Lord as your resource you are not depressed to hear natural resources are cut off, you don't want Egypt. Egypt has got to be smitten, and the Lord is smiting Egypt for us and taking away our natural resources in spiritual things.

The "natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, and he cannot know them." 1 Cor. 8:14. This cutting off from natural resource is foolishness to the natural man; is it foolishness to you?

"Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man... but unto us God revealed them through the Spirit"; "the things of God none knoweth save the Spirit of God"; "we received not the Spirit of bondage, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things which were freely given to us by God." 1 Cor. 2:9-12.

To see the City of God needs spiritual capacity. The Blood of the Lamb comes in between you and Egypt, the sea rolls between and after that the earth is but a wilderness, resourceless for them, they now live by a heavenly life in a whole and utter dependence upon God. Egypt has been smitten and is lying behind on the other side of the Red Sea; oh blessed position! "I will make mention of Egypt, but God loveth the gates of Zion."

Babylon and Zion

Babylon: the product of human effort and the glory of fallen man. "Let us build a city... let us make us a name"; Gen. 11:4; and in Dan. 4:29-30 "Is not this the great Babylon which I have built... by the might of my power and the glory of my majesty?"

Here we see the glory of natural religious man, for we note that Babylon is always religious. Turn to the book of the Revelation and we find Babylon dressed in religious garb. Babylon is always religious, the religion of fallen man, Satan inspired. Gen. 10:8-10, the beginning of this kingdom was Babel. What you can make or reach by your own effort, that is man's product by his own resources. Note, that Babel was the first city built on the new earth, the earth that had come through the flood of divine judgment on that ground, typifying the ground of regeneration, this religious construction of man's ambitions in the realm of religious activity. And this thing, this religion of natural man is with us today; yes, it will patronise God, even bringing His Name into it, as of old - Babel - "Gate of God," but touch it with the eternal fact and purpose of the Cross, bring Calvary's work and claim upon it and man will rise up in enmity against the preaching of the Cross by the Holy Spirit, and defend his natural religious work and worship, and in the background will be discerned the Satanic hate and rebellion against God; and we see also in it Lucifer's bid for universal worship. Isaiah 14:14. It is our own glory in the realm where things are exclusively of God; yet how often there is found even here a personal interest in the things and work of God. Is not this so with the spirit of jealousy, disclosing a secret reservation of some personal interest? Or it may be pride, and assertion of "my right," wanting to be something, wanting to see our efforts produce something for God. All this will result in confusion and loss of effectiveness.

See the difference between the Corinthian and Ephesian believers. At Corinth they wanted something with man's name on it (1 Cor. 1:12-15). In Ephesus it is in the heavenlies with God's Name on it (Eph. 1:3,22, 2:20).

Philistia and Zion

Philistia: type of man's natural mind intruding into divine things; the people of Philistia are always in the Word called uncircumcised. Man's natural mind taking hold of divine things apart from the Cross. In Babylon we see natural man's effort. In Philistia we find natural man's reason taking hold of the things of God and intruding into them.

There is a preaching a of the Cross in the wisdom of words that makes it of none effect (1 Cor 1:17). The Devil does not altogether put out the Cross; the Cross can be preached without the preacher having been to the Cross; this is a subtle work of the devil.

Tyre. Business world; expansion the order of the day, but expansion and activities under the authority of the Prince of this World, the commercial spirit brought into the things of God, using the World's way, advertisement, much machinery, organisation, etc., this is not the way that the City of God is built.

Ethiopia, turn to Acts 8:26-30. The Ethiopian reading from Isa. 53:7 - Philip meets him with the question "Understandest thou?" and he replies "How can I except one teach me." Here is the type of the darkened mind concerning the Person of the Lord Jesus. It takes the light of God to shine into our hearts, to reveal the Lord Jesus. It takes divine shining to show Who Jesus is. 2 Cor. 4:6.

Over against these cities, Zion is placed, and is different. It is not that which we see in the other cities, it is different, and those born there find also their well springs there. Zion is heavenly, and the Lord loveth the gates of Zion; and those born in Zion say "All my wellsprings are in thee; nothing now in Egypt, Babylon, Tyre, etc".

Zion and Jerusalem though inseparable are not the same, Zion is only a part of Jerusalem, the citadel where the King dwells. Zion typifies the Lord Jesus. He as Zion is altogether different from all these other things represented here. He is God's Ultimate, and that to which God is moving; the result of the spiritual process which is going on now.

The Lord is seeking a people cut off from the earth and its ways, and brought into relationship with Himself, and it must be true of them that their affection is set on things above, not on the earth. Col. 3:1,2 - "If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God."

Remember resurrection and ascension is one act, see John 20:17. "Touch me not for I am not yet ascended unto the Father... but I ascend unto my Father and your Father." "Touch me not," "don't make of Me something earthly on the part of natural affections." He is now a heavenly Lord and that fact has got to be recognised.

We have got to be a people whose life is wholly on the things of God, living out from heavenly resources and fulfilling a heavenly vocation; partaking of a heavenly nature. This is made possible by the Holy Ghost come down from heaven, for the Bride, and to take her back to the Resurrection Man, that she may come forth as Bride out from heaven. Are we walking, living, in the Spirit, being cut off from the earth?

We are "in Christ," in the second Man, the Lord from heaven, are we living our life in Him? Is this true of us in life, nature, sustenance, service, are we looking for the Lord from heaven?

The City of God is most vividly distinctive from all that marks other cities of the earth; compare Rev. 21 with Matt. 11. "Woe unto you"; and it is not without significance that Matt. 11 closes with "Come unto Me." Come out from those cities upon which judgment is announced - come unto the city of Rest - that in which God finds His satisfaction. "Come unto Me and I will give you rest"; His City; in these Spiritual elements - where He is pleased to dwell.

"The throne of God and the Lamb shall be therein." Rev. 22:3.

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