How would Chiang Mai City of Thailand be described if it were the city that could-have-been, the city that-is and the city that-will-be?
In Dr. Roger Greenway’s book, Cities: Missions’ New Frontier, and in his audio-taped lecture for the course on Urban Mission and Ministry, he fascinatingly described three city scenarios. The three contrasting scenarios include the cities that-could-have-been without the Fall of Man, the city that-will-be in Revelation 21 and the cities-that-are with all their fallen characteristics, quirks and beauty and all their expressions of God’s common graces despite all of the ill-effects and deathly damages caused by Adam’s sin. The beautiful cities and their holy inhabitants of the could-have-been past and the New Jerusalem of the future are indeed magnificent descriptions of the things that God wants done through His people for this sinful world and all of its dwellers.
Seeing a vision of Chiangmai city that could have been and what it will be can fire up a Christian’s heart. It will, as well, ignite the passion and the compassion of many believers and Christian workers for Chiangmai and the whole of Thailand and all of their populace of today. Chiangmai (which means New City in English) and, of course, all of the cities and provinces of Thailand and all of their native and foreign residents and guests can be viewed more differently and with great hope and compassion.
What would Chiangmai be like if the Fall of Man did not happen at all? How will Chiangmai be described if it is ‘incorporated’ in the New Jerusalem of the Lord God’s new heaven and new earth?
With God’s common graces still filling this fallen planet, Chiangmai, like all of the other modern cities, is still a livable and habitable place. Mountain ranges surround the ‘New City’ with Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain, stands tall and proud like the city’s populace. It is nested quite comfortably within the tropics with 70% of the province covered by mountains and vegetation. (See here).
Imagine Chiangmai that-could-have-been without the ill effects of the Fall. How wonderful would it be to see that its 1.5 million people could have been worshippers of the only true God and the Lord Christ. The more or less than 300 Buddhist temples in Chiangmai with all of their intricate architecture and creative designs would have been splendid temples of the Lord Jesus filled with God’s “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own possession who proclaim the excellencies of the Almighty” (1 Peter 2:9). The 1.5 million souls would have lived and moved and had their beings – loving the Triune God and one another; seeking each other’s interests and well-being and serving one another with pure intentions and joyful motivations. The Chiangmai that could have been without the damning effects of the Fall and the Chiangmai that will be with the new earth should be a city without the impoverished, the exploited and the exploiters. Chiangmai would have been filled with holy men, highly respected women and honorable noble children. There wouldn’t have been 70,000 to 2.8 million sex workers nationwide – most of whom are young girls from the North and the Northeast recruited to prostitution and sex slavery. In the Chiangmai that could have been and will be, there would be no HIV/AIDS victims and victimizers. There would have been no inefficient social services of the local government. There would have been no corruption in the police force which help facilitate the rapid growth of sex tourism in the city. In God’s holy city of Chiangmai, there would have been no “visiting of prostitutes which is seen as a male bonding experience, and many Thai men think it natural to entertain business clients and friends by taking them to brothels.” There would have been no heart-rending data such as “A study at Chiang Mai University found that, in Thai society, boys begin to buy women when they are around 13 years old; 50 percent of 16-year-old boys and 90 percent of university students go to brothels” (see here). These sex-crazed fornicators, adulterers and idolaters would have been non-existent in a Chiangmai that could have been without the Fall. Nothing unclean would have been in the city nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)
In the Chiangmai that could-have-been, the genius and creative powers of its residents would have been all displayed in great splendor to the honor and praise of God and to the joy and Shalom of every man, woman and child. “Craftsmanship, technology, arts and all potentials of human genius without the devastating effects of sin would be awesome creations of the image bearers of God – interacting, complementing, producing everything good in the city” (Greenway, Audio-Lecture #2).
Chiangmai could have been God’s dwelling place – a magnificent God-honoring cultural center and a temple city – with all of its 1.5 million inhabitants acting, reacting and interacting for the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1:3-14). Only pure love and no lust at all; only holy joy and no sorrow at all; only true peace and no conflict and sin at all and only life and perfect health and no death and pain and mourning at all should have ruled and filled the people and their city. (Revelation 21:3-4) Oh, that Chiangmai and all of its inhabitants are of the new heaven and the new earth! Oh, that they may know Him, love Him and serve Him – the only true God and the Lord Jesus Christ whom He has sent! Oh, that God will dwell with them and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God! (Revelation 21:3) Blessed, indeed, are the people who dwell in the holy city of God and live with the Triune