THE ORDER OF HEAVEN based on Rev. 21:9-21
By Glenn Pease
In the sixth century B. C. a boy by the name of Pythagorus grew up with his father, who was a gem-engraver. He noticed that gemstones came in regular geometric shapes. The beryl was a hexagon, the garnet was a 12 sided crystal, and each gem had it's own unique order. This observation was the beginning of what we call science. If gems have a special order to their nature, that makes it possible to classify them. This carries over to the study of all reality. He went on to discover that a pitch of a note on the seven string lyre depends on the length of the string. Music is thus, also, a matter of order. The whole universe was a cosmos--a creation of order.
He saw order everywhere, and modern science has confirmed his view. It has discovered that every atom of the universe has a very specific order with a certain number of electrons. The simplest atom has just one electron, and the next two, and the next three, and without skipping a number, on up to 109 electrons. Each is a different element--one of the building blocks of the universe. The last few are created by man, and are not natural. What is fascinating is, it all began with the order seen in gemstones. Jewels led man to the discovery of order in his world, and we will see that jewels also lead us to the discovery of the order of heaven. The task of science is to discover order in God's creation. The task of theology is to discover order in God's revelation.
The vision God gave John of the New Jerusalem is a vision of precise and exquisite order. Pythagours said, everything can be described in numbers. That was a profound insight, for numbers are the ultimate symbol of order. God is the great mathematician, and everything He has made has a number. 12 is the number of the heavenly city. If we could send mail to those in heaven the address would always be 12 Gold Street. It has 12 gates with 12 angels at them, and the 12 tribes of Israel written on them. It has 12 foundations with the names of the 12 apostles on them. It is 12,000 stadia long, wide, and high. A perfect square of 12ness. It's walls are 144 cubits thick, that is exactly 12 times 12. The foundations are decorated with 12 precious stones, and there are 12 gates which are 12 pearls. In case you haven't guessed, it is no accident that everything about the heavenly city is described by the number 12. This is a significant number all through God's Word.
If we look at the element with 12 electrons in it's atom, we will be looking at magnesium. It just so happens that this element is basic to light and life. When you see an old movie with a photographer under a hood, and an explosive flash, that is magnesium powder. Today we have flash bulbs, with a network of magnesium wires, to give the flash. The flares used to light the battlefield at night are burning magnesium. This number 12 element, not only gives light, it is the key to using light to produce life. Chlorophyl traps the energy of the sun that keeps all green plants alive. Every chlorophyl molecule contains one atom of magnesium. Without it chlorophyl will not work, and all plant and animal life will die. There is only about three fourths of an ounce of magnesium in our bodies. Most of it is in the bones, but without it our bodies would not survive. The number12 is vital to the order of life in both time and eternity.
The point is, God is God of order. The first picture we have of God in the Bible, is that of a Creator, who takes a formless chaotic mass, and turns it into an orderly universe. He does so by a systematic and orderly process. He did not say, let there be animals, and then, when they began to die like flies from starvation, say, I guess I should have started with plant life. God is not haphazard. George Adam Smith, the great scholar, said, "The All-mighty and all-merciful is also the all-methodical too."
Every science is a study of some aspect of God's creation, and in each case it is a study of order. If there was no pattern in the movement of the sun, moon, planets, and stars, there could be no such thing as astronomy. Science depends upon order, and mathematical precision for it's existence. You cannot classify chaos. If there was no pattern--no rhyme or reason why anything worked the way it does--there could be no science. It only exists because God is a God of order. We see it in His creation, and also in the laws He gave to Israel.
God's laws gave order to society. They enabled people to live with proper patterns of behavior, and with responsibility. Take law out of society, and you lose harmony and beauty. There is no happiness without order, but only anarchy. The perfect picture of order in the New Jerusalem is a symbolic way of telling us heaven is the ultimate in harmony and happiness. Heaven is perfect order, and thus, the ultimate in beauty.
If you study architecture, art, music, language, landscaping, or just about any subject, the key to beauty is order. All beauty is based on some kind of order. Look at anything you consider beautiful, and you will see order. If all the books in a library were thrown together in piles, with no order whatsoever, they would be of little value. If the dictionary or encyclopedia were printed with no order, they would be worthless. It is the alphabetical order that makes them, and the phone book, and many other tools, so valuable. An orderly arrangement of things make them beautiful and useful. When something does not work we say it is out of order. Therefore, when something does work, it is in order.
Music is simply sound in the proper order. Out of order those same sounds are called noise or racket. Get them in proper order, and you can be moved to sing, rather than be annoyed. Order is the characteristic of all that is good, true, and beautiful. The reason we love all the values that order brings in life is because we are made in the image of God, and the very essence of God's nature is order.
The essence of sin, on the other hand, is disorder. It is to be out of harmony with God, man, and nature. I have a misprinted concordance to the Bible, and some pages are missing, and others are in the wrong place. The N does not follow the M, and the P does not follow the O. Any book that does not follow the proper sequence is a nuisance, and a source of irritation. This is what man is to God when he sins. He is out of order. He is not fulfilling his purpose, and therefore, no longer a useful tool.
The goal of God is to restore order where it has been lost. To be saved, is to be restored to harmony with God and man. It is to become a useful tool again to achieve God's purpose. The cross has become a symbol of beauty, because on it, Jesus gained the victory over death, decay, and chaos, and restored fallen man to fellowship with God. Jesus destroyed the work of the devil and restored order. The perfected order of the New Jerusalem is the final result of all that the cross accomplished.
Everything in the New Jerusalem is arranged for beauty and symmetry. There are not two gates on one side and four on the other, but each of the four sides have perfect symmetry with three gates on each side. There are no loose strings or rough edges. All is a work of art pleasing to the eye of both God and man. They will share together in perfect harmony all the aesthetic pleasures God has imparted from His nature to man. God is the architect, artist, and jeweler, who put together this holy city for an eternal environment of order.
Keep in mind, the city represents the Bride of Christ--the people of God--and so, this perfect order has implications for what the redeemed will be in their resurrected bodies. Spurgeon, the great and eloquent preacher, sums it up in this paragraph-
"The body is to be changed. What alteration will it
undergo? It will be rendered perfect. The body of a
child will be fully developed, and the dwarf will attain to
full stature. The blind shall not be sightless in Heaven,
neither shall the lame be halt, nor shall the palsied trem-
ble. The deaf shall hear, and the dumb shall sing God's
praises. We shall carry none of our deficiencies or in-
firrnities to Heaven. As good Mr. Ready-to-Halt did not
carry his crutches there, neither shall any of us need a
staff to lean upon there we shall not know an aching
brow, a weak knee or a failing eye. " The inhabitant shall no
more say: ' I am sick.' " And it shall be an
impassive body-a body that will be incapable of any
kind of suffering. No palpitating heart, no sinking spirit,
no aching limbs, no lethargic soul shall worry us there.
No, we shall be perfectly delivered from every evil of that
kind. Moreover, it shall be an immortal body. Our
risen bodies shall not be capable of decay, much less of
death. There are no graves in Glory. Blessed are the
dead that die in the Lord, for their bodies shall rise never
to know death and corruption a second time."
Now let me throw in some theological speculation. The question has been asked millions of times. Why did God let man fall, and let the world become so full of disharmony? Why did God allow evil to ever exist? It is a question often asked, but seldom answered to anybody's satisfaction. The best answer is that God could not have free willed beings, like man, and not allow sin as a possibility. Let me add some detail to this that makes it even more likely.
The only way I can ever create anything of beauty and order is to first make a mess. To create a sermon I have to get books, file folders, and papers all over my desk. I create a chaos first in order to assemble the resources for an orderly sermon. Out of chaos comes order. If there was already order there would be nothing to create. You need to start with non order, just as God did. This is part of all creativity. The scene of a beautiful building is first a mess of dirt, ugly holes, and piles of material in disarray. But out of this chaos the beauty of order takes shape, and all the disorder is removed. Artists often make a mess in creating beauty, and so it is with authors, poets, and every other form of creation.
God's goal is the beautiful heavenly city of ultimate order. To achieve this end, He to needed to go through the process of overcoming chaos and disorder. It is the paradox of the universe that the good, the true, the beautiful are established by overcoming the bad, the false and the ugly. That is the battle of all human creativity, and it is God's battle as well. The more disorder is overcome and order established, the greater is the beauty. The reason we comb our hair is to restore order out of chaos. We are always seeking order in all aspects of life. Flowers are beautiful in themselves, but man has found a way to make them even more beautiful, by putting them in order. Flower arranging is an art and some people are gifted in putting them in such order that they achieve their highest level of beauty. The greater the order the greater the beauty, and the New Jerusalem is a place of perfected order.
What are the practical implications of the perfect order of heaven? The obvious one is, that if order is our final destiny, then that is to be our goal for this life as well. The great commandments are to love God with all your being, and your neighbor as yourself. What is this, but another way of saying, God's will for us is that we live with order in our lives. Love is the highest order in the spiritual realm. God is love. God has the most beautiful and harmonious emotions with perfect balance. His choices are always loving, and His responses are always just and fair. A loving person is one who has all their emotions in proper order, and balance so that they are beautiful in attitude and action. When we embody God's love, we are appealing, for others can see the balance and harmony in how we relate to people. We are examples of order, and thus of beauty.
When we reveal prejudices, bitterness, and lack of forgiveness, and any other lack of love, people can see the disorder in our lives. None of us are yet part of the perfected beautiful Bride of the Lamb. Christians display every sin, defect, and disharmony in the book. But, our destiny is to be constantly before us to motivate us toward a greater life of order and beauty.
Stanley Shipp travels alot, and one day on plane they were told there was a delay, and they had to get off and wait in the terminal. It was a long wait, and when they got back on they had to wait another half hour. When they were ready to go a man came on and said, "I ask for an aisle seat, and this is a center seat." Stanley jumped up and said, "Here, you can have this one." "No! "he said angrily, " I don't want your seat! " Then he took off his coat in disgust, wadded it up, and threw it in the baggage compartment overhead, slammed the door shut, and sat down. Stanley got up, opened the compartment door, took out his coat, shook it, folded it neatly, put it back smooth and straight, and sat back down. The man said to him, "What do you do for a living?" Stanley said, "I teach people how to live." The man nodded his head and said, "Start teaching." Here was a Christian man seeking to restore order in a chaotic life. That is what Christian living is all about.
Love is the desire to create order, and make things beautiful. Because we love order, we arrange our furniture so as to make it as pleasing as possible. We strive to match our clothes so we are appealing to the eye. We strive to organize our desk, and any other area which tends to get messy. The good life is the ordered life. Plato said the order of the universe makes it clear that God is a creator of order, and that man should be able to order his life and government so as to please God. The heavens are to be a model for life on earth.
If He could see this in creation, how much more are Christians to see it in the revelation of the order of the heaven? This picture of the holy city is to be our model for life. This city is the final work of art of the master artist. It is His own perfection imparted to those He has redeemed. His Bride is just like Him-perfect.
Jesus had to face a fallen world of imperfection and disorder. That is why His ministry began with the temptation in the wilderness. The goal of Satan was to throw Jesus into a state of disorder. Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, that prince of expositors, describes this great confrontation. "The king must not only be in perfect harmony with the order and beauty of the heavens, he must fact all the disorder and ugliness of the abyss. Goodness at it's highest He knows, and is; evil at it's lowest he must face and overcome. And so in the wilderness he stands as humanity's representative between the two, responding to the one and refusing the other."
Jesus won that battle for order, and the result is this picture of perfection for His Bride. But until that ultimate order of heaven is a reality, we must fact this challenge daily to choose order over disorder. Dr. Paul Faulkner in, Making Things Right, says the world is a place of "ubiquitous ambivalence," which means, it is messed up everywhere. Life is full of disorder, and it is our job to straighten it out wherever we can. Phil. 2:14 says, "Do all things without grumbling or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure--in a crooked generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life." Order is the name of the game, and we will not be finished until we enjoy with our Lord forever, the order of heaven.