December 26, 2007

The New Jerusalem

2007 1536 page14 capN 1894 A CELIBATE COMMUNITY WAS started by the followers of Dr. Cyrus Teed on 300 acres in present-day Estero, a small community between Naples and Fort Myers [in Florida]. The land was donated to their society by a German follower by the name of Gustave Damkoehler. In 1904 the Koreshans incorporated Estero . . . [with] plans to build a New Jerusalem—a 10 million [strong] residential metropolis. In 1908 the Koreshan charismatic leader Cyrus Teed, a country doctor turned prophet, died, sending the group into a tailspin. The settlement remained but its membership dwindled from a high of about 250 to 55 in 1933 and to 10 members in 1948.”
After reading this piece of news in the Fort Myers News Press of March 13, 2005, I decided to pay a visit to the Koreshan State Park in Estero, where I reside. I was interested in learning a little more about the plans of this doctor-prophet to build the New Jerusalem. I learned that he had had a “divine illumination” and that all spiritual life had been unfolded to him. His plans to build the New Jerusalem were magnificent! “The city would embrace a system of formal gardens laid out in patterns of applied geometry, based on three elements: the arc, the chord, and the radius; and the principle of centrality which corresponded to the Koreshan vision of the layered and centralized properties of the universe” (taken from the Koreshan State Historic Site booklet).
The nature of the universe had been revealed to him, it was alleged. He saw an enclosed earth with its people living on the inside—a kind of cellular cosmology. According to the revelation supposedly given to him, he would be reincarnated and reemerge immortal. When he died in 1908, his followers eagerly waited for his resurrection, but in vain. Finally, the county health officer ordered that the body be interred; and the movement began to disintegrate. People left the community, and the idea of a 10-million strong New Jerusalem faded away.
Dr. Teed was mistaken. Estero is not the location of the New Jerusalem. It certainly would have been wonderful for me to move into the “New Jerusalem” upon retirement, but God has a better plan for us—all of us.
2007 1536 page14Here it is:
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev. 21:1-3, KJV).
What a marvelous promise to the inhabitants of this planet! The New Jerusalem will land here!
But let us look at some of the things that will happen and the features of this great metropolis.
Earth Restored to Its Original Beauty
Wherever we look today, we see that our small world is rapidly going down, and scientists are concerned about life conditions on the planet. Among the indicators of this terrible malady are these:
• Many animal species and plants are becoming extinct. 
(I remember seeing a cartoon of a grandfather explaining to his grandson—both with helmets—watching a tree encased in glass: “These used to be called woods, a long time ago!”)
• New diseases, such as AIDS, are taking the lives of 
millions of people, in spite of the many advances in medical technology.
• Millions of people are starving to death for lack of food and because of drought conditions. (Imagine what will happen as the population further explodes around the world!)
• Some of our garbage (nuclear waste, old technology equipment—such as computers) is proving a huge challenge to dispose of safely.
• The atmosphere is contaminated by all kinds of pollution (smog, smoke from factories and cars, etc.). In Japan and other highly industrialized countries it’s a common sight to see people in the streets wearing masks!
• The whole marine system is in crisis, according to a report on the BBC, November 2, 2006. Oceans could be depleted of fish and marine life by 2048!
We hear of natural disasters and unusual things around the world. Nature is suffering the pains of progress and global warming, and the revelator speaks of a judgment time when God will “destroy them which destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18, KJV).
The Bible promise indicates that some day the Lord is going to purify the earth and make it new. Words such as “smog,” “pollution,” and “contamination” will disappear from our vocabulary. This old world will be completely restored to its original condition.
The greatest news is the fact that this earth will become the capital of God’s kingdom. It will become God’s dwelling place. After the Holy City’s descent to earth, God makes this planet His home, so to speak. He comes to dwell among the redeemed.
Our finite minds cannot comprehend the beauty of this new city. It is as radiant as the rarest jewel—like jasper, clear as crystal. The city is square, we’re told—a huge metropolis, if the numbers given in Revelation 21:15-17 are taken at face value.
A New Lifestyle
According to Revelation 22:3, the principal activity of the redeemed is the worship of the Lamb. They prostrate themselves in joyous adoration of the One who has made heaven possible. Isaiah had predicted this already when he said that “from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord” (Isa. 66:23, KJV).
What fantastic worship experiences these will be—nothing like we have seen in the most beautiful churches or cathedrals of earth! Singing will be a part of this heavenly worship. The 144,000 sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders, the song of Moses and the Lamb. In it they praise God for His justice and holiness (see Rev. 15:2-4).
The righteous will share God’s rule both during the millennium in heaven and later on the earth made new. They will reign with Christ forever and ever (Rev. 22:4, 5). They do not assert their own authority but share in Christ’s royal rule.
2007 1536 page14The new earth will be a place of ultimate fellowship among the redeemed and with heavenly beings. God will dwell among His people. “They shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads” (Rev. 22:4, KJV).
Ellen White offers some beautiful descriptions of the new earth—and especially the reception of Adam and Eve, after so many years of sadness, sin, and misery. She wrote: “Transported with joy, he [Adam] beholds the trees that were once his delight—the very trees whose fruit he himself had gathered in the days of his innocence and joy. He sees the vines that his own hands have trained, the very flowers that he once loved to care for. His mind grasps the reality of the scene; he comprehends that this is indeed Eden restored, more lovely now than when he was banished from it. The Savior leads him to the tree of life and plucks the glorious fruit and bids him eat. He looks about him and beholds a multitude of his family redeemed, standing in the Paradise of God” (The Adventist Home, p. 541).
Inspiration tells us that Adam and Eve will take their crowns and place them at Jesus’ feet. It will be a glorious time of gratitude for what Christ has done for us. We will never cease to thank Him for His life and for His love for each one of us.
Real Life
Our heavenly home will also offer us opportunities for creativity, design, and physical labor. Building a home is the dream of many families, and the celestial “real estate agents” will help us make this a reality. We will build homes and live in them.
When my wife and I moved to Florida and built our retirement home, we had to be careful with the choice of materials. As we looked at model homes we saw that we could not afford many things. But in heaven everything will be first class—and free.
More than backyard gardens awaits us. We will be part of a divine fruit culture project. Isaiah says: “And they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.” I am a fruit lover and am looking forward to this. I have eaten the most delicious and exotic fruits all over the world, but none of those can compare to what we will enjoy in the new earth.
Vineyards in the Napa Valley in California, France, Italy, and South Africa are famous worldwide, with miles and miles of grapes. But they grow them to make fermented wine. Not in heaven.
I wonder if we will have durian in heaven! Considered the king of fruits in Asia, its obnoxious smell does not faze the people there! In heaven, perhaps even durian will smell as sweet as honey!
Manual work will be enjoyable. In Isaiah 65:22 we read that we will enjoy working with our hands. Those born with “green thumbs” will enjoy deep satisfaction. Those not so blessed just now will have the satisfaction God intended for our first parents.
Beyond Fantastic
During my years working in youth ministry for the world church, I sometimes heard young people say that if they are going to play the harp the whole day in heaven, they would not be interested in heaven. I have good news for them—and for all who like playing of any kind.
Besides all the things we have mentioned, we will also be playing with animals. The attraction we all felt as children for animals will be renewed in us: Isaiah says we’ll have a great time playing with animals. We won’t need to go to the Nairobi Park in Kenya or Kruger Park in South Africa to see animals. Serengeti—the feline reserve in Tanzania—will be forgotten as we frolic with lions, cheetahs, tigers, cats, dogs, lambs!
Our mobility in heaven will be unhindered by the constraints we know during earthbound lives. Listen to Ellen White’s exciting description of what she experienced in vision: “Wings were given me, and an angel attended me from the city to a place that was bright and glorious. The grass of the place was living green, and the birds there warbled a sweet song. The inhabitants of the place were of all sizes; they were noble, majestic, and lovely. They bore the express image of Jesus, and their countenances beamed with holy joy, expressive of the freedom and happiness of the place” (The Adventist Home, p. 543). What a thrill this will be for everyone—all we called “young,” and all we called “old”!
My travels for the world church during 33 years took me to all the continents of the world, but needless to say, I’m looking forward to interplanetary travel. I can’t imagine the joy (and speed) of such travel, and the great time we all are going to have! Ellen White recorded that she was very sad to go back to earth after her vision experience. But, said the heavenly messenger, “‘You must go back, and if you are faithful, you, with the 144,000, shall have the privilege of visiting all the worlds and viewing the handiwork of God’” (The Adventist Home, p. 543).
I want to be there! I want to see 
my Savior and all of His creation. I want to experience what lies beyond my imagination, for the God I worship delights in surprises. In that glorious New Jerusalem, we will always be made glad by the new things God is doing.
Leo S. Ranzolin at the time of his retirement was a vice president of the General Conference in Silver Spring, Maryland. He served for many years as director of the General Conference’s Youth Department.