“The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” Revelation 21:23
Nothing is seen by its own light – not even something that is readily visible. A beautiful landscape is not seen in its own light; it is seen – perceived – through the light of yesterday. Very little of what we see is only that which is right now before us. Every thing we see in nature is seen through the lens of memory. The painter or poet peers from a bridge in the middle of the night at a rushing river, and he is overcome with emotion. But it is not the sight of the stream, but rather the memories that flash through his mind that bring the tears to his eyes. You sit beside a rippling brook, but what what you hear is not the sounds from the stream, it is the familiar sounds of a forgotten day. If you visit Rome or Greece or Jerusalem you won’t see that city in its own, current light, but rather by the light of yesterday. That’s where its glory is to be found. That’s why the Psalmist says that if you want to see this world you can’t look at it simply through its current light, but through the light of a coming world.
Now, despite what the New Agers would teach, this does not mean that when we leave this world we shall simply be enveloped in some sort of bright light in some mystical afterlife. It is far more, much more, than that. It’s because of the scenes of earth that we want the light of Heaven. The Psalmist says that we cannot interpret our own skies without it.
Many times we hear people say that in the light of eternity our earthly scenes will fade from our sight, but here we read that in reality it will not be until we get into the light of eternity that these earthly scenes will be able to be fully and correctly seen. It is only by the light of the New Jerusalem – the celestial city that needs no sun – that we will be able to finally tell those things here which are large and those things which are small.
Jesus is the light of the world – and the world to come. He is the only light by which I can possibly understand the current struggles of this world. I can’t see them, or comprehend them, through nature’s normal light. The sun has shone on my pain and I saw it as a cruel thing. I can’t see them, or comprehend them, through philosophy’s light. The greatest thinker has been destroyed by a error in his thinking. It’s an unseemly thing. I can’t see them, or comprehend them, through beauty’s light. An amazing artist loses his eyesight. It’s an unrighteous thing. But if this present world is being woven for Jesus, that I can understand. If His type of sacrifice is the plan of the Almighty Architect, I can understand that. If His cross is creation’s crown, I can understand that. If the Heavenly City is a home for hospital training, I can comprehend that. If His angels are all ministering spirits, I can see that. If the purest robe is not the white robe, but the washed robe; if man’s goal is not Eden but Gethsemane; if the glory of the Father is the blood of sacrificial love, then I have finally had my eyes open – in His light I have seen the light!