The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
In the account of the first creation in Genesis 1, immediately after forming the heavens and the earth God said “Let there be light” and light appeared (Gen 1:3). The text does not explain the physical source of this light. God did not create the sun and the moon until the fourth day (Gen 1:14-19). Nevertheless, we understand that light was an essential part of God’s initial good creation and something physically distinct from God himself.
Someday, God’s glory will enlighten us in a way we can only imagine today. But all of us have the opportunity now to live in light of God’s glory now, in every setting of life.
In light of Genesis 1, we are surprised by what we find in Revelation 23:22. The New Jerusalem “does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” The physical light for the holy city comes from God’s own glory, shining from the lamp, which is the Lamb of God. This reiterates what we saw in verse 11, where the city “shone with the glory of God,” yet adding that God is the unique and solitary source of light in the New Jerusalem.
Revelation 21 envisions a time when we live fully and literally in the light of God’s glory. This sounds amazing. I look forward to that day. Yet, I’m reminded by this imagery that you and I can and should live in light of God’s glory today, not in a literal sense, but in a way that is still profoundly true.
What does this mean for us, especially in our daily work? Perhaps most obviously, it means that the ultimate purpose of my work is not my own glory, my own reputation or fame or fortune. Nor is the ultimate purpose the glory of my company. Rather, I work so that God might be glorified. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16). God should get the ultimate glory for the work of my life.
But, as I reflect on what it means to live in the light of God’s glory, I’m also struck by how this might change the way I see, evaluate, and desire things. For example, I can admire things that are glorious and be impressed by them. I might want them or even worship them, in a sense. (Think of some amazing new piece of technology or an architecturally stunning building or a stunning garden.) It’s not wrong to delight in the good things of this world. When I see them in light of God’s glory, I am inclined to enjoy them without worshiping them, to appreciate them without being enchanted by them, to see their true value rather than their culturally-assigned worth.
The fact that God’s glory illumines the true value of things is crucial for those of us who work in contexts with messed up values (and this, by the way, is all of us to one extent or another). Some of us, for example, work in companies that prize, not just hard work, but relentless overwork. We hold in high esteem those who put in the longest hours. We’re impressed when we get emails in the wee hours of the morning or on the weekends. We have a hard time stepping back and asking what is healthy and holy when it comes to time and work. Yet, when we see our companies in light of God’s glory, our perspective changes. We see overwork as less wonderful. We remember that God created us for rest, modeling rest by stopping work on the seventh day.
Someday, God’s glory will enlighten us in a way we can only imagine today. But all of us have the opportunity now to live in light of God’s glory, in every setting of life. We can even shine with God’s light so that God is glorified. What a wonder!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you read about the New Jerusalem shining with God’s glory so that the sun and moon are unnecessary, what strikes you? What thoughts or feelings? What hopes or questions?
What would it mean for you to live today in the light of God’s glory? How would this be possible in your work? At home? In the community?
Gracious God, thank you for the vision of Revelation 21, for the mind-stretching picture of the world with your glory that the sun and moon are redundant. As we reflect on this future vision, show us the difference it makes now. Help us, Lord, to live truly in light of your glory today. May everything we do and everything we see today be transformed because of your radiant glory. Amen.