The Jewish people heard God and God promised them a King, not just any king, but a king in David’s royal line. Jerusalem was David’s city and for hundreds of years as Judean power rose and fell, Jerusalem remained safe. God had promised, right?
Yet the prophets began to suggest something deeper. Jerusalem better beware. Having become wicked, something wicked was coming. God’s city was going to fall, but God’s City would be restored. A remnant would return and Jerusalem would live again.
There were two Jerusalems. Visible Jerusalem was soiled by injustice to the poor, unfaithfulness to God, child sacrifice, and tyranny. David’s Jerusalem endured splendidly in the promises of God: just, faithful, pure, and free.
Eventually, Jerusalem was rebuilt without any illusions. Old men wept who had seen what had been and knew that the visible city was a remnant city for the remnant of the people of God. There was, eventually, a brief moment of independence under the brave Maccabees, and a glorious temple under Herod, but every wise man knew the greater Jerusalem was yet to come.
Jerusalem endures as the ideal: the heavenly city that was, is, and is to come.
Jesus came and bled in Roman Jerusalem, the subjugated city. His blood hallowed the stones as icons of the streets of gold to come. Roman Jerusalem killed Jesus, the Heavenly Jerusalem saw Him crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
So it goes with all the meaningful cities of our world: Rome herself was sanctified by the blood of the martyrs and claimed to be eternal, yet Rome fell. Rome was only an icon of the true City whose builder and maker is God.
As Constantinople faded, a seed was sown in a third Rome: Moscow and a Kremlin raised onion domes to the sky. Blue and gold contrasted with snow and there was a toughness, endurance, glory that must endure. Yet when hearts of men grew colder than the snow, they murdered millions and defiled Third Rome.
Our American founding fathers looked to republican and not imperial Rome to build a city. They made from the start, room for the heirs of Jerusalem. Remnants of the Eastern Empire came from Greece, Syria, Palestine to strengthen the new republic with the wisdom of the east. Now our alabaster city gleams, yet it is not undimmed by human tears…except ideally.
The ideal must come.
The message is simple. We love the images, but they fail. Someday, hopefully many centuries from now, Washington will be sacked or drift into the backwater of history. Yet the dream of a republic, born in Rome, nurtured by the Founders, will not die. The City will live.
Nothing good, true, and beautiful will ever be lost. All will be healed and when the New Jerusalem comes lowering down, as my Nana saw in a vision, then there will be all the glory that was Rome, the Holy Wisdom of Constantinople, the glittering splendor of Moscow, and the Reality of the dream spoken in Washington D.C.
These are just a few of the cities that will be real forever in the one City that will come and never fall.
Even so come, Lord Jesus, come!