This week we come to Question 52 of the New City Catechism, the final question, found in part 3 (questions 36-52), which focuses on the Spirit, restoration, and growing in grace.
Question 52: What hope does everlasting life hold for us?
Answer: It reminds us that this present fallen world is not all there is; soon we will live with and enjoy God forever in the new city, in the new heaven and earth, where we will be fully and forever free from all sin and will inhabit renewed, resurrection bodies in a renewed, restored creation.
The New City Catechism takes its name from the future hope of the "new city" we will inhabit, called the New Jerusalem (or the Jerusalem above) in Scripture (Rev. 21:1, 10; Gal. 4:26). In John's vision of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-22:5), one thing that is conspicuously absent from the city is a temple: "And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb" (Rev. 21:22). In a fallen world, cities and temples are two separate things. The world of human society, defiled by sin, must be kept separate from the holy domain of the deity. This is why the tabernacle, and later the temple in Jerusalem, were off limits to the common people. In a fallen world, God's place and humanity's place must be kept separate, for God is holy (always true to himself), and his holiness will not be defiled by contact with human sin.
But it wasn't so in the beginning. When God created Adam and Eve, he placed them in his garden-temple in Eden with a mandate to expand his holy dwelling place throughout the earth (Gen. 1:28). The First Adam failed in that task, but the Last Adam will complete it. The New Jerusalem will have no temple because it will itself be a temple. In John's vision, the city is shaped like a perfect cube (Rev. 21:16), which is identical in shape to the Holy of Holies in Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:20). The difference in the New Jerusalem, however, is that the cubic Holy of Holies is not just one room; it is an entire city, large enough for the whole of a new human race to dwell in with God forever.
The hope of eternal life is the hope of being with God in his temple-city forever. God designed us for his presence. One day, because of Christ, we will finally be home.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Psalm 48. How does the earthly city of Jerusalem (Zion) point us to the heavenly city that is to come? What is the connection between Zion, God's reign, and his presence? How should the hope of the New Jerusalem affect our lives now?