“I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb…
he nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it…
People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.”
Revelation 21:22-26

A few years ago, I was talking with an artist friend, who shared with me the concept of the “500 Year Test.” His comment pertained to the observation that most works of art will not be considered significant within 50 years, let alone 500. For a work of art to pass the 500 Year Test it has to express deep convictions, attain great beauty, or touch deep and timeless human longings.

In Revelation 21, John envisions the New Jerusalem, “coming down from heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” It’s a blissful scene, a place with no more tears, death, mourning, or pain. This entire chapter echoes numerous elements found in the hopeful vision of Isaiah 60:1-22, which itself is dominated by the image of the nations of earth bringing their wealth to Jerusalem, a great reversal of fortunes following the Exile. John picks up this theme of the nations bringing their wealth into the New Jerusalem, noting that “the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it… People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.”

John’s vision takes the 500 Year Test to a whole new level. What is humankind producing that would be deemed worthy of being brought into the New Jerusalem? What are human cultures creating that could be included in the eternal city? Did we even imagine that such a thing could be a possibility? That in the world to come, some of the most outstanding examples of human culture and art, what John calls “the glory and honor of the nations,” will be included in the New Jerusalem?

Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame, observes: “American evangelicals in the last hundred years have found it easy to condemn culture, critique culture, copy culture and consume culture. It has been much harder for them to actively and imaginatively create culture.” Andy Crouch, in his book Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling, asks “Are we creating and cultivating things that have a chance of furnishing the New Jerusalem? Will the cultural goods we devote our lives to… be identified as the glory and honor of our cultural tradition? Or will they be remembered as mediocrities at best, dead-ends at worst?”

Here lies both our opportunity and challenge as we seek to use our imaginations to the glory of God and to bring good into our world. In our daily work and in our life’s endeavors, how are we working in concert with our God-given creative impulses, our mandate to love our neighbor as ourselves, and our calling to be a blessing in the world? Will anything we create pass not only the 500 Year Test, but the New Jerusalem Test?

Andy Wall
Author: Andy Wall