Encouragement From Jesus (John 14:1–3)
John 14:1–3 contains Jesus’ address to the disciples following the Last Supper. In the face of their concerns, Jesus directs the disciples to reaffirm their trust in God and in Him. He continues with the famous line, “ ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ ” (NRSV). While the text leaves some room for interpretation regarding Jesus’ “Father’s house” and what is meant by “ ‘many rooms’ ” (NIV), the larger point is clear. Jesus is leaving, but He encourages His disciples by reminding them that He is leaving so that He can prepare a place for them. It is noteworthy that the living situation described by Jesus is one of intimacy. The redeemed all live together under the same roof. This statement highlights the importance of unity in the world made new. It is not enough that we must learn to live with God—we must also learn to live with one another.
It is not enough that we must learn to live with God—we must also learn to live with one another.
A Vision of Peace (Isa. 11:1–10)
Isaiah 11, particularly verses 6–10, paints a picture most of us can scarcely fathom—natural enemies, the strong and the weak, living in nonexploitive harmony. Perfect unity in diversity. The animals are each different, which in the past led to exploitation of those differences for the advantage of each, often at the other’s expense. But now, each animal lives in peace with the other. None “hurt or destroy” (verse 9) in this reality. While some might see this peaceful existence as a result of God’s perfect fulfillment of their needs, a closer reading of the passage indicates that the animals’ natures themselves are changed. The carnivores no longer eat meat, as the bear and lion graze next to the cow and ox. It’s not that God feeds them meat and thus removes their need to hunt, establishing peace between hunter and hunted. No—God actually changes their nature to eat grass instead of meat. Perhaps this passage refers to more than just animals. Perhaps it is a promise of the renewal we, too, will experience in full upon Christ’s return. Perhaps we will be as surprised at our own transformation as an onlooker would be watching a tiger graze on grass.
God’s Holy Community (Rev. 21:22–27)
John’s vision described in Revelation 21 is one with which most Adventists are familiar. Of note to this study is the condition that drives the remarkable scene unfolding before the beloved disciple. There is no temple, because of God’s sufficiency (verse 22). There is no sun, because of God’s sufficiency (verse 23). The nations walk by the city’s light, because of God’s sufficiency (verse 24). While it may seem an obvious point, it is worth remembering that God is at the center of the saved city’s unique structure and function. The New Jerusalem is not just a collection of God’s people—it is a community whose existence is enabled by God’s sufficiency. John refers to “nations,” emphasizing the diversity present within God’s saved community. Despite this diversity, unity exists within the city. How is this possible? It’s all made possible through the unifying salvation found in Jesus. While each person is unique, they are all saved by the same God. This passage reminds us that our unity is found in our commitment to Jesus. This is what makes paradise possible.
Work, in Heaven? (Isa. 65:21–25)
Many associate heaven with vacation. They imagine eternity involves the enjoyment of sandy beaches, peaceful meadows, or gorgeous mountains. While this may be true, there’s another dimension to heaven that many overlook— work. While many may not envision a paradise where they continue to work, chapter 65 of Isaiah paints a different story. Activities mentioned include building houses, living in houses, planting vineyards, and eating their fruit (verse 22). However, the most significant portion of this section of scripture comes in the following verses, which give a promise regarding the community in which the building, living, planting, and eating will take place. Gone are the injustices witnessed before. Gone is the vanity and endless striving that permeates human’s work. In its place is found blessing, attentiveness, and peace—all derived from God. This is life as it was originally designed. We may think heaven excludes work, but even work is redeemed by Jesus.
A Final Admonition (2 Cor. 4:16–18)
Many of us struggle to understand why God and His will often seem hidden from our perception, despite our sincere efforts to discover Him and understand His will. Paul reminds his readers that much of the spiritual life deals in unseen things. However, one day in the future, clarity will be granted, we will see God like never before. In the same way, our hope of perfect diversity and perfect unity in Christ must also depend on the coming of something we cannot perceive. There are many reasons to be joyful about Jesus’ second coming—the restoration of the earth, the full renewal of our human nature, and the end of sin and death. But one of the more overlooked reasons for joy is found in the unity that will come from a community singularly committed to Christ and His kingdom. This is the much sought-after condition for peace, which will be completely fulfilled with the restoration of creation.
Why must Jesus be the center of the church’s unity? What can result when the body of believers places other ideals in Christ’s place as the standards of unity?