Cities spend big bucks on marketing. In the 1970’s New York City was in chaos. Crime was running wild. As a means of scaring off tourists, unions across the city actually ran a campaign called “Welcome to Fear City”. Tourists were told that they should “stay away from New York City if you possibly can.”
In a radical move, the New York Department of Commerce took a gamble on branding the city. They upped the state’s annual tourism budget from $400,000 to $4.3 million. They did it all through what has become the iconic slogan, “I Love New York.” This simple slogan, the campaign behind it turned New York City’s crisis into a major success considering in 2008, more than 47 million people visited the city. This generated about $33 billion in visitor spending.
Cities spend big bucks on marketing. Here’s a unique city marketing campaign for you to consider. FREE!!! Free beautiful mansions located in a perfect gold city with 100% clean water, no utility bills, flawless roads, perfect climate, immunity from all diseases, beautiful music, free transportation, no taxes, no extra expenses and no fine print. Now who can make such an offer? Who can make a city like that? Who can make a future like that? Jesus. Jesus can and Jesus does!
Although Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tormented and tortured, even though he was crucified, dead, and buried and even though it was all ugly, vile, and barbaric … it was not the end. Good Friday was not the end! Far from it! Christ is risen, Christ is alive! Death has no more dominion over him! Heaven’s best took on hell’s worst and triumphed! The master of death could not destroy the Lord of life. Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
For the past two months now we have been looking at the Old Testament prophet Zechariah. This morning we come to the last chapter of the book, chapter 14. Here the prophet rolls out his promotional campaign for the New Jerusalem, God’s forever home in heaven for all believers.
Zechariah begins with God’s promise. Hope for heaven tomorrow changes how I live on earth today. Let me say that again. Hope for heaven tomorrow changes how I live on earth today. Hope keeps us from giving into despair now. Hope helps us get out of bed and go to work now. Hope gives meaning to daily life now. Hope liberates us from the selfishness of fear and greed now. Zechariah saturates his promotion of the New Jerusalem with hope. He does so with five points.
“I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem for battle and the city will be captured and the houses plundered and the women ravished. And half of the city will go forth into exile” (Zech. 14:2). Zechariah envisions Jerusalem overrun by raiding armies who capture, imprison, and exile half of the city’s citizens. What kind of marketing strategy is this? It’s really what every good campaign does. The prophet paints a picture of the old so that we will hunger for the new, the New Jerusalem!
The new is sooooo much better than the old. The future is sooooo much better than the past. Our past? If were honest, it isn’t pretty. It’s full of frustration and failures. It’s full of pain and deep disappointment. Our past is marked by selfishness and sin, pride and pretending.
Maybe you’ve heard about the five-year old girl who spent the night with a friend. The little girl did fine during the day, but when it got dark, she got scared. The friend’s mother asked her, “Honey, are you homesick? With childlike innocence the little girl replied, “No ma’am. I’m not homesick. I’m here sick!”
We’re all here sick. We’re sick of feeling isolated. We’re sick of tense relationships, high anxiety. We’re sick of pain and sorrow. We’re sick of diseases and hardships. We’re all sick here. This is Zechariah’s point. There’s a place which is far better than here. It’s there, the New Jerusalem.
“The LORD will go forth and fight” (Zech. 14:3). The LORD fights every enemy which stands in the way of our eternal life in the New Jerusalem. On Easter, on this day, Christ even defeats the last enemy of death! Through Christ’s victorious resurrection, he has put death to death forever!
“The LORD will be King” (Zech. 14:9). What will the LORD do as Ruler over the New Jerusalem? Zechariah 14:6-7 says there will be no more cold or frost. There will be no darkness, only light. Zechariah 14:8 says that living water will flow out from Jerusalem. It will continue in the summer and even in winter. Drought and scarcity will give way to water and life. Zechariah 14:10 says that Jerusalem will rise above everything else, making the city a light on a hill.
The LORD will be King over it all! In fact, the term “all,” appears twelve times in Zechariah 14. Why is that number twelve important? Well, there are twelve tribes of Israel. There are twelve apostles of Jesus. Twelve is the complete number in the Bible. Twelve announces all things, all things will be new! Perfect relationships, perfect bodies, perfect bliss, perfect joy and perfect delight! It’s all because the LORD will be the Ruler over the New Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem shall dwell in security” (Zech. 14:11). Cities are only as secure as their foundation and God, our builder, He lays a solid foundation. We have security, an eternal security.
These days, it’s tempting to place our security in beating the odds. Odds like it’s better to be young than old. It’s better to have no pre-existing conditions than having compromised health. It’s better to live in a rural place than an urban setting.
Security doesn’t come by beating the odds. Security comes from Jesus who says, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Christ builds the New Jerusalem where we will live in absolute security.
Do you know or remember the John Lennon song called Imagine? It starts with these words, “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.”
Well, the New Jerusalem, it isn’t just our imagination. The New Jerusalem isn’t a pipe-dream or a sentimental wish. The New Jerusalem is real. When we die, we will be doing much more than “existing in the memories” of our loved ones. We will be with Christ! And when Christ returns, he will build the New Jerusalem where we will dwell in absolute security with him forevermore!
The phrase, “the LORD” appears 15 times in Zechariah 14. “The LORD” is the English translation of Yahweh, which is God’s personal name. “The LORD” equals Yahweh. Yahweh equals Life. On Easter, we can believe this! God gives entrance to the New Jerusalem to all people. All people, regardless of age, gender, standing, past, position, race or nation. God gives entrance to all who believe in Jesus as their risen Lord and Savior.
A survey once asked Americans, “What words give you the most hope?” Number one … “I love you.” Number two on the list … “I forgive you.” Number three … “Supper’s ready.” As odd as that last one sounds, these three phrases summarize our hope. God says, I love you … I forgive you … Supper’s ready. This supper is the marriage feast of the Lamb in the New Jerusalem where we will sing an endless and deathless Hallelujah! This morning, we get a foretaste of that great supper.
Hope for tomorrow changes today. Hope for heaven tomorrow changes how I live on earth today. Take a look … in the midst of all the issues, chaos, destruction, and death … because of the New Jerusalem … we will blossom and we will flourish because we have hope and faith in a risen Savior, our risen Savior. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.