Every year the Jewish diaspora end their Passover Seder with this wistful prayer: “Next year in Jerusalem.” It expresses the deep longing for the promised Messiah’s long-awaited arrival, which will finally bring lasting peace and restored worship to Jerusalem. It is a profound yearning that perhaps next year those who have been strangers and exiles on the earth for so long will finally see an end to their sojourning and return to their promised forever home.
It seems to me that “Next year in Jerusalem!” is what we Christians ought to wish each other as we mark the closing of another year. It voices far more clearly the sort of happiness we long for than the generic and rather hollow “Happy New Year.”
A Nation Without a Country
Distinctly Christian happiness is meant to be fueled by a profound belief in the return of Jesus and the full inheritance we will receive. This kind of happiness declares our love for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8) and our hope in the grace we will receive when he is finally revealed (1 Peter 1:13).
“Christians are always out of place in the world. We are a nation of hope without a country.”
This means that Christians, no matter what circumstances God has placed us in this year, whether we are experiencing abundance or need (Philippians 4:12), now live as strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11:13). We know we are out of place. We are the diaspora, the one “holy nation” made up of the “children of God who are scattered abroad” (1 Peter 2:9; John 11:52). We are a nation without a country.
“Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14):
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” . . . And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:2–3, 5)
In this city, we will at long last know the peace each of us longs for deep, deep in our souls:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. . . . No longer will there be anything accursed.” (Revelation 21:4; 22:3)
The Joy of Every Longing Heart
And in this city, we will finally realize the fullness of the joy we seek incessantly here and yet find so elusive: the end of the longing that makes us so restless now, the healing of the homesickness for that place we’ve not yet seen, and the coming true of the dreams we’ve never quite been able to fully describe. We will finally experience adoration of the triune God with our entire being, in unfiltered glory and in dimensions of spirit and truth that are unimaginable to us now. And we will wonder that we ever used the phrase “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8) during our years of dimmed, muted, sin-impoverishing, defective worship when at last our faith gives way to the sight of this:
When Jesus returns, he will make dreams come true we were never bold enough to dream.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in [the city], and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:3–5)
In this city, New Jerusalem, God will dwell with us, we will see his face, we will live in his light, he will banish all that is accursed, and he will make all things new. This is what God wants us to set our hope fully upon. This is the inheritance Jesus is bringing to all who believe in him. This is what he longs for with all his heart (John 17:24). This is what Christians — real Christians — love, and what fuels their living: the appearing of Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8).
Hope That Makes No Earthly Sense
And this is what makes real Christianity fake-resistant. New Testament Christianity is something people can talk a lot about; they can study it, critique it, and write about it for a lifetime. But no one can live it very long if we don’t really believe it. Citizens of heaven live like refugees and sojourners on earth (Philippians 3:20); they live odd earthly lives — lives that make no sense unless Christianity is true (1 Corinthians 15:19).
As this year draws to a close, we find ourselves still peering into the dark glass (1 Corinthians 13:12), still experiencing tribulation (John 16:33), still hearing of “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6), still walking “by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Still we find that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
As Christians, we still suffer, still fear, still doubt, and still sin. But it will not always be so.
But it will not always be so. Just as the Messiah’s long-awaited first coming occurred, his long-awaited second coming will also occur. It will happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). And that moment may occur next year. This is the happiness all Christians desire.
Next Year in Jerusalem!
May it be, Lord! Finish the work and return! You promised, “Surely I am coming soon.” We all say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
And to you, my friend and fellow earth-weary exile: “Next year in Jerusalem!”