“And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
Engage with me, if you would, in an imaginative journey.
Picture the heavenly city. That is the image Scripture uses of the end of the story – a great city, a New Jerusalem, descending to the earth. It is a city whose dimensions are as big as the whole world, a city where God is finally present with humanity and where the nations are gathered into God's new humanity. It is of course not a literal planet-sized city, but it does communicate the image of the new creation which Scripture imagines as our destiny.
What does the architecture of that city look like? Our instincts, I think, are to grasp for some single earthly example. Washington D.C. perhaps, or the Vatican. But remember, this is a city where all the nations have been gathered. It cannot look like any earthly city because every earthly city is but one thread, one sliver of human beauty. So imagine it as a city with all the grandest and best of all the earth's cities combined. Here is a dome; there, a minaret. Pillared porticos. Glass towers. Tight alleys full of signs where people laugh and dine and share together. Here is a building resembling an earth-hewn Ethiopian church; over there is a gothic archway. Every expression of structural design in all its diversity combining and colliding and joined as one.
What do the people look like? It would be quite the diversity crowd, a diversity we struggle to imagine. If we use just the world's demographics today, over half of the people in that heavenly city are Asian, but in all the diverse appearances found on that huge continent. 15% are white, another 15% are black, 10% are Latino and 10% are middle-eastern. But even that, of course, is misleading because those appearances have grown and changed over the centuries. (If those figures aren't how you picture the heavenly population, it is worth noting that they are far closer to the current makeup of the church than some of us realize, as I noted at the end of this video.)