Since my CD player has been busted in my car for awhile, I’m reliant on the radio or my own voice for listening pleasure. Every so often Where the Streets Have No Name by U2 will come on. Without fail, it sends me to another place…the future, the new heaven and earth where God will dwell with his people and the Son has returned and set everything right (Revelation 21:1-5).
Interestingly, I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe doesn’t quite have the same impact. I’ve been contemplating why this is the case. One reason is that it sets a sedate tone. Now when I read Revelation 21, I get the picture of a celebration. Think about it, no more death or mourning or pain. God dwelling among his people. I’m sorry but I don’t here a soft piano and violins.
Music is a powerful medium. The composition of the arrangement of notes and instruments can set a tone without using words. It is a reflection of our creator God in whom his creatures and their creations reflect. The music of Where the Streets Have No Name creates a celebratory tone of enthusiasm with just the music alone. The words only emphasize what the music is conveying, a song about the celebration in eternity.
Another problem I have with I Can Only Imagine is that it feeds into our individualism – just me and Jesus. Well, not exactly. God’s people are born again into a body and that has an eschatological picture. Even though Streets has the line “and when I go there I go there with you” I don’t get the same individualistic picture. When I read Revelation 21 it is the picture of a corporate community engaged in the purest form of life with Christ dwelling amongst us.
It is a city filled with people, who are engaged in the life of the city. That means we would experience the purest form of fellowship with each other with God in our midst. It makes sense that if God is relational and he created us to be relational, we would actually be relating to each other.
Christians, think about what we were created for when God established the garden and gave humans stewardship over it. Then said “be fruitful and multiply”. Will not this activity be present in the New Jerusalem? I really like what Andy Crouch says about it.
But the end of humanity as depicted in Revelation is more than a temple – an everlasting worship service. In fact, as we’ve seen, a temple is the one notable thing that the New Jerusalem does not have (Revelation 21:22). The new Jerusalem needs no temple because every aspect of life in that city is permeated with the light and love of God. In that sense, worship as we know it – a sacred time set apart to realign our hearts with the knowledge and love of God – will be obsolete. What will take it’s place?
The most plausible answer, it seems to me, is that our eternal life in God’s recreated world will be the fulfillment of what God originally asked us to do: cultivating and creating in full and lasting relationship with our Creator. This time, of course, we will not just be tending a garden; we will be sustaining the life of a city, a harmonious human society that has developed all the potentialities hidden in the original creation to their fullest. Culture – redeemed, transformed and permeated by the presence of God – will be the activity of eternity. (Crouch, Culture Making, pg 173)
No offense to MercyMe but I Can Only Imagine doesn’t really make me imagine this.