What Will Tomorrow’s Cities Be Like?
What Will Tomorrow’s Cities Be Like?
Some very rich people are working to build tomorrow’s cities from scratch. Billionaire Elon Musk recently founded Snailbrook, a community in Texas. Billionaire Marc Lore wants to build Telosa, a city of 5 million people, operating by a new economic model. He is looking for land, but billionaire Bill Gates has already found his: He spent $80 million on 24,800 acres in Arizona to create Belmont, has since added to it, and has issued thousands of single-family residential permits.
In Saudi Arabia, the government is starting construction on an even more unusual city called The Line. This will be more than 100 miles long, a quarter-mile tall—and about 650 feet wide.
What these would-be city builders are promising begins with a “nearly blank slate of opportunity” as one real-estate lawyer put it. “The vision calls for it to be a sustainable city capitalizing on cutting-edge infrastructure,” he said, a “forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology. … It will rely completely on smart technologies such as high-speed digital networks, data centers, high-speed public Wi-Fi, high-tech manufacturing facilities and autonomous vehicles.”
Planners want to eliminate pollution; respect and enhance nature; provide healthy, sustainable quality of life; conserve energy; and encourage community. They want vibrancy, diversity, efficiency, safety, cleanliness, sustainability and right governance. They abound with ideas for new technology and new ideologies.
Mayors of existing cities and would-be inventors of utterly new ones are surveying our current communities and seeing problems—insoluble problems.
New cities built from scratch are their only hope for something better. The trouble is, they have no real idea of what caused our existing cities to become what they’ve become.
What do you see, hear and smell when you walk the streets of San Francisco, Portland or New York City? A jungle of extremes: impressive architecture and maddening traffic. Vibrant creativity and deplorable dilapidation. Wealth and opulence; poverty and crime. Increasingly you see vagrants staring vacantly into space, sitting amid trash, excrement and drug paraphernalia.
Contrast this with the imagery published by the futurists. Some of their descriptions of tomorrow’s cities—beautiful, clean, welcoming, inclusive, traffic-free—make you want to step right into them and be there, leaving far behind the depressing, harmful, filthy cities of today.
But can these promises become reality? How, for example, will they have enough water in the middle of the deserts where they want to build? “Efficiency, recycling, green energy,” say planners. And how will they pay for extravagant social services? “Community ownership.” And how will a mile-long tower of Babel turned on its side in the desert not become a disaster? “Technology.”
Mark Lore’s proposed city of Telosa will experiment with a new economic model. “We’re taking a stab at what we call equitism here,” he said. “What if you can pay the same taxes that you pay today but get the best social services of any country in the world? That’s equitism.” This ideology seems to be a mashup of democracy, capitalism and socialism. A manifesto on the subject defines it this way: “Equitism is an economic and political system grounded in community ownership, balancing systemic tensions, infinite play, and intersecting worlds.” Such rhetorical legerdemain doesn’t inspire great confidence that it can build a functional economy.
Lore and others know how to make impressive computer-generated animations of cities. But those are pixels on a screen—dreams with no substance.
Human beings have been building cities for a long time. Many have been built, from scratch, by visionaries. The Gateses, Lores and Musks of yesteryear built ideologically based communities from Bourneville in England to Massachusetts to California, almost all of which had start dates in the 1800s and 1900s, and end dates a couple decades later. Our myriads of new technologies that past futurists never dreamed of have failed to make the cities of today any more beautiful or equitable. New technology did not necessarily cause the rot, but it has definitely failed to stop it.
We have been erecting our various versions of utopia for 6,000 years. Have any of them worked yet? Today’s big idea—rejecting the past, trying something bold and new—is tomorrow’s blight. So many of the worst problems in our cities have been, in fact, people’s solutions to other problems. “[T]hey are wise to do evil,” the Bible says (Jeremiah 4:22), “but to do good they have no knowledge.”
What Makes or Breaks a City
The true strength and beauty of the city has far less to do with wood, steel, stone or glass, parkways or Wi-Fi than it has to do with a right understanding of human nature. And the people producing these soaring ideas don’t understand human nature.
Our cities today are depressing, gloomy and dangerous not because of a lack of diversity, efficiency or new technology but because of the human nature of the people building, governing and inhabiting them. Human beings do not know how to live in harmonious communities with each other. Our depressing and worsening cities are one symptom of this fact. Another is the outbreak of human nature that is about to rage across the globe and physically destroy these cities.
The Prophet Jeremiah saw, in prophetic vision, a chilling reality that all cities live under: “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light” (verse 23). No matter how equitable and inclusive a city aims to be, we live in an age where human beings can destroy each other, city by city, with nuclear warfare, chemical warfare, biological warfare.
“Without form and void” is the exact expression used to describe the surface of the Earth in the past (Genesis 1:2). One of God’s subjects, Lucifer, decided to “think for himself,” to reject the Creator’s authority and involvement, to assert his “solution.” Consequently, the whole Earth and the universe were devastated!
Through His power and supported by His laws, God created beauty on Earth again. Then human beings chose the same type of thinking that Lucifer had chosen. We are 6,000 years deep into that choice. Our cities are cesspits, we are suffering, and we are about to self-destruct on a global scale.
We are about to turn our cities, utopian and otherwise, into ruins. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Washington, Toronto, London and Sydney will look like Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It is interesting that the city-building billionaires are interested in deserted areas. They want to start with a clean slate. Biblical prophecy makes clear that the massive destruction that is nearly upon us will leave behind a clean slate, globally.
A New Foundation
“They shall rebuild old ruins, The wrecks of the past, They shall raise and renew ruined towns, Wrecks from ages of ages.” This is how Ferrar Fenton renders Isaiah 61:4. They shall rebuild the old ruins. Against the sobering backdrop of worldwide destruction stands this message of hope.
Human beings will survive. They will rebuild. But not with the old blueprint, nor on the old foundation.
All cities through all of human history have been founded on wrong character. They have been built up—and up—on Lucifer’s distorted thinking. That is why they have all failed. And the visionaries who want to build anew have no solutions for greed, envy, corruption, rebellion, hatred, crime, vandalism, drugs, prostitution and the other human thought and behaviors that have made all human cities, and the quality of life in them, terminally sick. The equitist, communalist, utopianist dreams of the visionaries will remain pipe dreams.
Yet the dream of a new city will become reality. And it will be built on the right understanding of human nature!
The Bible even prophesies of specific rebuilding that will take place in a specific city: Jerusalem.
As Isaiah 62 describes, Jerusalem will be rebuilt as a model city. Masses of people from all nations will travel to it. The world will revolve around this new capital city. People will marvel and be inspired, and not just because of its buildings or parks. It will be a model city because it will be built on a new, different, strong foundation: the right character of its inhabitants.
At the center of Jerusalem will be a great physical building, a house for the Creator to dwell in. Human beings will have been extremely humbled by the massive destruction we brought on ourselves, and eager to build God’s way. God will measure and build, providing Jerusalem as a pattern for other cities—“my cities” (Zechariah 1:16-17)—around the globe.
Built on the right foundation, God says His cities will “overflow with prosperity” (verse 17; Revised Standard Version). No ghettos. No slums. No abandoned lots and dilapidated homes. And why? Because people will be keeping the statutes, judgments and laws of the God who made them!
Think, like those billionaires, of building entirely new cities. But unlike them, think of what it will be like to lay the right foundation from the start. Think of human beings accepting and submitting to their Creator and finally living as they were created to live. The quality and the beauty of these cities will dazzle!
The Bible prophesies that God will bring people back to the land they once inhabited, and the ground will produce for them (e.g. Ezekiel 36:8—“[T]hey will soon come home,” the rsv reads). No longer will it lie desolate. People will possess the land, use the land, love the land! They will build beautiful cities. Individuals will come together to reach their fullest potential.
These goals and ideals will in fact be realized. Tomorrow’s cities will be safe, clean, sustainable, equitable, efficient and vibrant. People will soon come home, and they will love to come home.
The foundation of the city can only be strong, and the inhabitants can only be free, if they keep right laws, good laws—God’s laws. But those laws can only be taught and enforced by God’s government.
In the parable of the pounds (Luke 19), Jesus Christ spoke of personally choosing the leaders of tomorrow’s cities. These will be governed, finally, by a government of the people and for the people—but not by the people. It will be the government of God. And that will make all the difference.
In recent years, many people have come to believe that “diversity is our strength” and ignore all evidence that the opposite is true. God set the bounds of man’s habitation (Acts 17:26), and God is going to do that again in the Millennium. He will build thriving communities and wonderful cities where everyone will feel included and at home, able to reach their fullest potential. They will be built around families and extended families.
The only way to build anything that will last, that will be worthwhile, is to build with God (Psalm 127:1).
God has an economic model that works. Tithing, a 10 percent flat tax, for everybody. Land ownership for everybody. Free markets. Laws against greed. The jubilee (in which debts are forgiven and land—except for land in cities—is returned to its original family owners once every 50 years). Why isn’t land in cities returned? It is a beautiful detail in God’s economic model. Land purchased in cities stays with the purchaser, providing motivation to continue developing and improving densely populated areas. This is how people will build beautiful auditoriums, educational museums, amazing zoos, inspiring galleries and other enriching structures and institutions.
Cities in the Millennium will be large enough to include industry and opportunity, yet small enough to promote healthy, happy family life.
Developers today try to pack as many people into as little space with as little cost as possible to get the most profit possible. “Woe to those who join house to house; They add field to field, Till there is no place Where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land!” (Isaiah 5:8; New King James Version).
God wants people to have space, to have some property, to spread out a bit. He wants people to have their little Garden of Eden to dress and to keep. He wants them to be able to build a family, to earn their bread, and to take responsibility for their little corner of the world.
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them” (Amos 9:13-14). Imagine crops with yields so great that farmers cannot keep up: They are still harvesting when it comes time to plow the fields for the new crops. Imagine eating fresh produce year-round, straight off the vine, straight from the soil.
And notice: They do not “build the waste cities” with acres of asphalt and clouds of pollution but with vineyards and gardens. This is one thing the visionaries of today all yearn for, cities with gardens. And they will see them become reality.
Jeremiah 33 depicts food production taking place within cities: vegetable gardens, orchards, vineyards and pastures. Farm-to-table restaurants will not be just a trend. You will not eat foods that were picked unripened, shipped across the world and ripened on the way using chemical or other unnatural means. Fruits, vegetables and even livestock (verses 12-13) will be a normal part of city life.
“Thus saith the Lord; Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast, The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the Lord” (verses 10-11). The model city, and cities around the world—places that were cesspools of suffering before World War iii, and were indescribable horror zones during World War iii—will be cleansed from the fundamental cause of ruined cities: sin (verse 8).
In city streets around the world will be heard the voice of joy!
Note: In these joyful future cities will be heard “the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.” That is no random detail. These cities will be full of happy marriages and happy families worshiping the Creator of marriage and family. That is how they will be full of joy and gladness.
When you think of the cities of today—even the cities that futurists are planning—you don’t really think about family. City planners and builders talk a lot about culture, wealth, opportunity, diversity, inclusivity, vibrancy, fairness, equity, efficiency, safety, cleanliness, social services, sustainability and being “people-centric.” They want to build future cities “around people.” But they don’t talk about building an environment where people can build strong families.
The family is the building block of the city and the nation. People do not know how to have strong families or even how to define it, so they have stopped trying and just ignore the idea. City life has gone from being agnostic to antagonistic to belligerent against the needs of marriage, children and family. But the Bible reveals the truth about building strong families and focuses right in on it. Like everything else regarding human life, cities of tomorrow will be for advancing the very purpose for which we were created—which is inseparable from family.
“Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (Zechariah 8:3-5).
How marvelous! Instead of rumbling, roaring, dangerous, speeding vehicles, the streets of Jerusalem, and of other cities, will be filled with children. And because these cities are founded on truth and on obeying God’s law on family, these young people will not be traveling in packs, intimidating themselves and others, drinking, taking drugs, raiding stores or committing violence. They will be playing, talking, laughing, learning—and not just among their cousins and friends and parents, but also among their grandparents and other elderly men and women. The joy will literally fill the streets!
Even the best-case-scenario, computer-generated visions of today’s futurists utterly fail to capture this warmth, this gladness, this joyful atmosphere. Unity of spirit, harmony, happiness, contentment. No strangers: Every inhabitant is just a friend you haven’t met yet.
This can only happen through families knowing why family exists and obeying the laws of the Creator of family. Just like the laws of physics, those laws are what cause strength, growth, happiness and joy. That knowledge has been provided in the Bible, but human beings have continued to reject it and will continue to do so until we find ourselves bombing and otherwise destroying each other’s wretched cities right off the map.
But the Bible gives hope! The waste cities will be rebuilt—in a totally new way, on a totally new foundation. It even gives us interesting details on the technology, food, environment, weather, animal life, transportation, commerce, recreation, language, culture, religion, government and other aspects of future city life.
Why does the Bible record all this? One reason is to give you hope. Another is to show you that there is a right way to live today. And that way is the way of God’s law. His law is not just a set of arbitrary commands, like human laws so often are. He created us: His law is the guide to what causes human happiness—in marriages, in families, in cities, in the country, now and forever.
“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
Accept the obvious lesson of our cities and the lives inside them: We keep trying to solve our own problems—going to great and often crazy extremes—but the only true solution is to turn to our Creator. Whether we are billionaires trying to control the future of millions of people, or we are just living our own lives with our own families, to take it into our own hands, and out of our Creator’s hands, is to make a wreck of things.
Let God build your life today. Live in the way consistent with, and in hopeful anticipation of, the cities of the future.