While we live in the city of man, Revelation stirs in us a longing for the city of God. It exerts the gravitation pull of hope while we live in this world. But that longing is for more than relief from sin and suffering, more than delight in heavenly habitation; it is a longing for God Himself.
We tend to focus on the seven churches of the book of Revelation and rightfully so. The book is addressed to those cities (Rev. 1:4) and the messages to those churches provide a multi-paragraphed communication of our Lord Jesus to His church throughout the world and throughout the age.
Those seven churches could be visited at the time of John’s writing. Though spread across Asia Minor they all shared a single address. They were located in this fallen world and were part of the church militant, the church on mission.
The letters to these churches describe the challenges of earthly pilgrimage for the people of God and the responsibilities for leaders of the local church in helping those in their charge in those challenges. The letters speak to both individual Christians and to congregations. They highlight those essentials necessary to persevere in their walk and witness for Jesus Christ, such as faith, repentance, love, sound doctrine, and right living.
The tone of the book of Revelation reflected in the letters emphasizes the suffering that is part of the Christian life for those in the world but not of the world. Overcoming calls for abiding in Christ against adversity and opposition orchestrated by the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). Battle lines are drawn in the knowledge that “we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19; see 1 John 3:7-8; 4:1-6).
But Revelation reminds us that our suffering and struggle now in the city of man are temporary. Looming before us is the eighth city that stands in stark contrast to the seven. While the seven are situated in the fallen world, the eighth city belongs to the new creation.