“Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
and their kings will serve you.
Though in anger I struck you
in favor I will show you compassion.” (Isaiah 60:10)
In Isaiah 60, the Lord shares a vision of the heavenly city with a people covered in darkness. Israel has suffered under oppression, been exiled, and forced to pay tribute to the mighty nations that surround them. Their children have been carted off and the majority of the people have been cast out of the land of Israel.
In this darkness, God gives his people a glimpse of the dawn. He promises to renew Jerusalem and reverse the polarities of power in their relationships. Now the nations stream to Jerusalem to praise the Lord. They come bringing tribute instead of taking it. The children are brought back and the people live in safety.
This earthy, land-bounded vision of God’s redemption is echoed in the vision God gives to John on the island of Patmos (Rev 21-22). In both visions, the redemption God brings is seen as a great reversal. The powers that today seek to kill and destroy will be broken – some like pottery dashed on the ground and others like a wild horse, now tamed and brought into God’s presence. What was once used to rebel against God is taken and used to praise him.
Additionally, both visions show redemption taking place on earth. When Israel was under oppression, God did not tell Isaiah that he would take them away to somewhere else, but shows the nations humbled and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Redemption is about renewal, not escape. It takes place in the very space, the very creation, the very ruins where God had placed the people. They were not taken to a new land or given a new city, but the walls that had been torn down were rebuilt by the people who had destroyed them. For the oppressed church, John does not see a removal of God’s people from the earth, but heaven coming down to earth. “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:2-3).
The story of God’s redemption is about the renewal of all creation, not escape from it. It includes all that we are and all of this world – redirected, redeemed, healed. When Christ comes again, he will not come to take us away, but to set the world to rights and bring the heavenly city with him.