“Where there is no vision the people perish, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” (Proverbs 29:18)
The above proverb tells us two things about vision. First, its importance and second, where we are to find it.
The church needs to have a vision. We need to know who we are and where we are going. Or better yet, we need to know who God is and where He is taking us. A church without a vision soon degenerates from a community with one heart and mind to an ugly form of individualism in which “everybody paddleth his own canoe”.
In addition it matters a great deal where we get our vision from. We have only one sure foundation; Jesus Christ, who has given us a vision of what lies ahead for His people. We don’t need to create a vision. We need to acknowledge the one which is laid down for the Church by the Lord of the Church, put it down in words we understand and allow it to shape all that we do as His people.
Acknowledging His vision for us is what makes it possible to comprehend our place and purpose in this world.
“… Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” (Revelation 21:9-11)
Here is the Apostle Johns’ vision of what lies ahead for the church. A bride adorned for her husband. Spotless, Blameless and Holy. This is the vision of the church, faithful, obedient and true. This is the direction – the only direction – she is heading in and the implications are enormous.
To take just one implication, John goes on to describe her affect on the world around her,
“By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations.” (Revelation 21:24-26)
Such will be her radiance and her glory that the nations will enter in. By her light (wisdom, law, gospel) the nations will walk. By her increasing influence in the world, the nations will repent and find mercy. Here we have the fulfilment of the promise made so long ago to Abraham, “In you all the Nations of the earth will be Blessed” (Gen 12:3).
There is a very real sense in which we have already entered this city – become part of the brick work. It’s what the author of Hebrews meant when he said,
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,…” (Hebrews 12:22)
Definitively, this city is now with humanity in the form of the church through the exaltation of Jesus as King of Kings. Progressively she is being built up upon the earth and ultimately she will fill the earth with her radiance (Dan 2:35). Can you imagine a more hopeful vision?
Hope is energising. Without hope, we reconcile ourselves either to the status quo and live in grim submission to it, or plunge into despair and are overcome by it. If our only hope is in a resurrection life beyond this world, we will ultimately despair of any triumph of the gospel or of righteousness in the world.
All that we do as church, we do because we believe that the history of the church will be one of increasing strength and glory. We believe that, “the righteous will never be removed” (Prov 10:30). That is why we undertake the great commission. This is why we seek to live godly and upright lives and walk humbly before our God. This city-bride is His workmanship and that is why we worship with joy, hope and thanksgiving. And as we do these things, Christ and His work of transformation will become increasingly visible in the world, drawing all men unto Himself.
We, the city-bride, exist as the people through whom Christ will fill the earth with His glory and righteousness, “far as the curse is found”.