REVELATION 21 - 22:5
OF THE SAINTS
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We come now to the final section of the book of Revelation. This is...
VISION OF JESUS CHRIST IN ETERNITY.
Chapter 20, ended with the dissolving of the old earth and its universe … followed immediately by the Great White Throne judgment. The God who spoke the universe into existence (Hebrews 11:3; Genesis 1), will do away with it one day … just as easily and just as completely. As you have it in Hebrews 1:10-12 (quoting Psalm 102),
And: 'you, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak you will fold them up, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will not fail’
From this point on in Revelation, our Lord will give us a bit of a tour … a little glimpse beyond our present world and universe to a city he has been preparing for us (John 14:13) and the new creation in which it will reside. Here in chapters 21 and 22, we find that city described. It is the same city that Abraham and the people of God have been looking forward to for centuries. As you have it in Hebrews11:10, speaking of Abraham’s hope,
… for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
He will also show us a bit of the new earth upon which it will set. So, what we are about to read is very special. Our Lord has given this to us to whet our appetites a bit until we actually arrive there. The city of which we are about to read is a real place. It exists today. However, its final location will be on the new Earth that has yet to be created.
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I [NU omits John] 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 heaven saying,. 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.' Then he who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' And he said, [NU omits to me] ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’
In this new vision, John says he saw a new heaven and a new earth. In many ways, this new creation will be quite different from the present one in which we are now living. In other ways, we will find it quite similar. The first difference that caught John's eye caused him to exclaim ... there was no more sea. That would certainly be striking, would it not? Now if you are wondering … Why is there no sea? I believe the explanation probably lies in two areas. First, about seventy-five percent of our present Earth is covered by water which renders it unusable. But, that will not be the case with the new Earth. All of its vast landmass will be very much available for our use. Second, the vast oceans of this present Earth are, for the most part, left over from the great judgment of the Flood that occurred in Noah's day. As such, they are very grim and visible reminders of judgment. As Peter puts it,
For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. Second Peter 3:5-7
Undoubtedly, Earth's original seas were far less extensive than those that exist today. The oceans, then, stand as vivid reminders that God once judged our world by water. Every wave that roles upon a sandy shore mutters that there is a righteous and holy God who rules over men and who does not allow evil and wickedness to go on and on … unchallenged and unchecked. I believe this is why God's new Earth will have no sea. It would not fit with the history of that new world. As he says here, the former things have passed away.
In August, 2009, my wife and I went on an Alaskan cruise and were privileged to see the famous Glacier Bay. It was wonderful to take in the grandeur and vastness of that part of the world. And, as Carol and I sat eating our breakfast one morning, while gazing out upon the amazing mountains, glaciers and forests around us, the new earth vastness. Judging from some of the descriptions here, it will be a great deal larger than this present earth. In fact, I suspect it will be immensely larger … that we are reading about here in Revelation 21, came to mind. And, it occurred to me that one of the hallmarks of that new creation will doubtless be its perhaps as much as a billion or more times larger than our present world. If that is the case, exploring it will be an eternal fascination for all of God’s saints. Our God is a very big God and his works are great and amazing.
Now, if you are a water lover, as I am, you will shortly find here that there will be abundant water on the new earth as well. Doubtless, its rivers, streams and lakes will cause its beauty to far surpass that of this old earth … rendering it a verdant and wonderfully appealing place. Its unsurpassed beauty will, no doubt, be a source of enjoyment for the people of God for all eternity. Can you picture its vast canyons, dells, glades, forests, prairies, hills, streams, rivers and lakes? If you like the outdoors, as I do, you’re going to love the new earth. This will be the final resting place of our eternal home, the New Jerusalem. At that time, our Lord's words from Matthew5:5, will be abundantly fulfilled.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. Lo, suddenly, John saw a city. It was descending … descending … downward to rest upon the new earth. The greatest thing about the new heavens and the new earth will most certainly be this city. Jesus told his disciples he was going away to prepare a place for them (John 14:12). This is that place. Its name is the New Jerusalem. It will be the centerpiece, main attraction and greatest treasure of the new heavens and the new earth. What a sight it will present to the eyes of any sojourner in that day when they come into sight of this immense, luminous and magnificent city. As John watched, it continued its descent down to the earth. He says it was like a bride adorned for her husband. That certainly is an apt comparison, don't you think? On her wedding day, a bride is one of the most beautiful things that we humans observe down here. This is the simile that the Spirit uses here to describe the wondrous beauty of the eternal home our Lord has prepared and waiting for us.
Then, a great voice spoke out of Heaven. I believe this was the majestic voice of our Lord Jesus Christ. You will remember that when John heard him back in chapter one, he said his voice sounded like the sound of many waters. The loud voice declared Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them and be their God. That certainly went right to the heart of it, didn't it? Wow. You see, the very best thing about our new home, the New Jerusalem, will be the fact that we will live there for all eternity in unbroken, intimate fellowship with our God. Isaiah spoke of it this way,
And in this mountain The LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees. And he will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken. And it will be said in that day: ’Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isaiah 25:6-9
The Lord’s powerful voice continued, reiterating once again his words through Isaiah the prophet … And God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. One day, God's own hand will lovingly wipe away every tear from every stained face of every single one of his dear people. Amazing statement, is it not? See how he loves you, beloved. Have you been able to believe and accept his great love for you? You certainly will at this time and in this city. The great voice of the Lord further assures us here that there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain there. The ravages of sin will be no more in that happy place. Our deliverance from the very presence of it will be complete there. It is the yet to be experienced installment of the great salvation that is ours in and through our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
Following those extraordinary words, the Throne Sitter spoke adding, Behold, I make all things new! The significance of these words will be extensive and, no doubt, beyond our present abilities to completely comprehend. I believe they extend far beyond our wildest and fondest imaginations. For example, you will remember at the second Bowl judgment, all of the remaining creatures of the sea were destroyed in the old creation. Today, many species which God originally created have already become extinct through man’s thoughtless neglect and destructive practices. Now, think about our Father’s words here. What did he say he would make new? All things, did he not? On the basis of that statement, I believe we can fully expect that every single thing our Lord made in the old creation will be totally restored in the new. I don’t believe a single thing will be missing … plant, mineral or animal … from the minutest sea creatures to the largest dinosaurs … to your old family pet! What a place that will be, aye? More importantly, you and I are going to share in that newness as well. Dr. McGee says that he believes this will be a time and place where each individual child of God will blossom to their fullest potential. Truly, none of us have been all that we would like to have been as a man or woman, father or mother, husband or wife, friend or child … and certainly not as a Christian and servant of Christ. Am I right? But in that day, and in that place, our God is going to make you and me new as well. I'm up for that, how about you?
The Father's voice continued, Write, for these things are faithful and true. Again, we not only have his spoken word but we have God's written Word on these things. May we step aside once more? The Father’s statement here reminds us of what a wonderful thing it is that he has seen to it that his words were written down and preserved for us. As we have it in First John 5:13,
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
The written Word of God is the source of all truth, faith, fellowship and sanctification for the people of God. Have you been reading it? Is it a habit? It is the source of all blessing, beloved. Don't forget to read your Bible.
And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.’
Here, in verse six … just one sentence away from the Lord’s command for John to write … the Father proclaims, It is done. This is extremely important because, when he said that, I believe he was referring to the complete revelation of himself as contained in the written Word of God, the Bible. With this book of Revelation, God is saying to us that his Word to man is finished and complete. In the Greek, he uses the same word here that Jesus exclaimed on the cross, and the same word that he used when he pronounced that his judgments were finished back in 16:19 … Γέγοναν (tegonan). In my opinion, this is solid evidence that the canon of scripture is closed. God has said all that he has to say and all that he needs for us to hear. History bears this out as well. Revelation was the last book of Scripture to be written. It was given and written down around AD 96.
He continues, I am the Alpha and the Omega. This is the same title he used when we first began to read back in chapter 1. It reminds us afresh that our great God is everything. He is the A and the Z, the Beginning and the End and everything in between. Apart from him, there is nothing. He is our all in all and our every sufficiency. Every breath we take comes from him.
He continues, I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. Isn’t he gracious!? A lawyer once asked Jesus, Master, what must I do to inherit life everlasting? We read Jesus’ answer as follows,
Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me.’ Mark 10:17
Do you want to know how to have eternal life, dear friend? Come to Christ. He will freely give it to you. His invitation is so open, wonderful and warm here. He says, I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. Are you thirsty? One time, Jesus stood up in the temple and cried out,
If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. John 7:37
Don't you know he got some looks as the echo of that cry died out! What a claim! What an invitation! I am sure the Jews in the temple that day said, Say, what!? They could not have escaped who Jesus was claiming to be that day … for he was crying out Jehovah's words from Isaiah 55:1-3,
Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you; the sure mercies of David.
I ask you again, Are you thirsty? Jesus has living water for you. Won't you go to him and get it? Come, he says. It’s not complicated. He is the Savior. We are lost, needy, thirsty sinners. He is the source of fountains of living waters. As he said in John 4:14,
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (KJV)
In John's gospel, it is written,
But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13
In John 10:27-28, Jesus said,
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.
The Spirit of Christ cries out in Isaiah 45:22,
Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
One day, this present age of grace will come to a close and every human being will have made their choice. Tragically, multitudes will not have come to Christ. A while back, when I was in the ministry in Oregon, the brother of a lady in my church traveled up from California to visit her. She was deeply concerned about his salvation and shared the good news of Jesus Christ with him while he was there. She asked him if he would like to receive Christ and be saved but he said … Not right now. He put it off. Tragically, on his way back home to California, he was killed in a terrible automobile wreck. I don’t know if he ever came to Christ. If he did, he is now with the Savior in his Father's house (John 14:13). If not … the thought is unspeakable. Don't delay. The Bible says today is the day of salvation (Hebrews 3:7-8). If you have not yet come to Christ and you can hear the Spirit of God inviting you to come to Christ, do it right now. Just talk to him. He will know why you have come. Tell him you believe in him. He is the Savior. He will hear. Jesus said,
…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. John 6:36b (KJV)
The Throne Sitter continued … He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. Then he added, But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars will be consigned to the Lake of Fire which is the second death. This unvarnished description of the unbeliever's lifestyle is right on. Unbelief is always confirmed by an ungodly lifestyle. The opposite is also true. Real faith always produces righteousness in a life. It also is imparted to God’s children through the process of sanctification which begins the hour they first believe. The Lord makes it crystal clear here that there are only two eternal possibilities for men and women … those who will come and partake of the water of life (Christ) and be transformed (Second Corinthians 5:17) or … those who continue in their stubborn unbelief, while clinging to their ungodly lifestyles until they find themselves, one terrible day, in the Lake of Fire.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the [NU omits “great”] city, the holy [NU adds “city Jerusalem”], descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the [NU adds “twelve”] names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Following the Lord’s invitation to life, one of the angels of the Bowl judgments approached John and said, Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife. Then, John says, he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. John was taken to a high mountain and to a vantage point where he could observe the Lamb's wife as she majestically descended down to the earth below. What a panorama it must have afforded. I like mountains, by the way. They are one of my all-time favorite places. I like their smells and the sound of the wind through their trees. I'm glad they will be a part of the new earth. I suspect that we will be able to climb this very mountain that John stood upon and look down upon our home as he did. Won’t that be a kick!? It will take a very high mountain indeed, however, to enable someone to view such a spacious and magnificent place as that of our New Jerusalem. From his mountain vantage point, John was able to view the extensive nature of the eternal home of the saints. Beautiful and dazzling she was. Keep in mind, at that point in time all of the Church was in her as she descended to her new and eternal resting place on the new earth. That's why the angel could say that he would show John, the Lamb's wife. Inside this great city, every member of the Church of Jesus Christ was present and accounted for, except John of course, when he witnessed it descending down to its beautiful and permanent home. I suspect that when this actually occurs, we who are in the New Jerusalem will be lining the walls, as it were, to get the first look of the amazing new earth upon which we will dwell, aye?
The first thing that impressed John about the New Jerusalem was the fact that it was lighted by the glory of God. You and I haven't experienced this yet, but we shall. We know from the scriptures that mere light and the glory of God are two very different things. The glory of God is a lighting thing, but light is not the glory of God. John likened it here to a jasper stone, which is crystal clear. I guess we are just going to have to wait to see it for ourselves. By the way, did you know that Jesus greatly desires for you and me to see his glory? When he was praying for us in John 17, he said,
And now, O Father, glorify me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was. … Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world. John 17:5, 24
What a wonderful prayer request. Can you hear how Jesus’ great heart longs to have you and me with him to enjoy his fellowship and see his glory? Our home will be illumined by his glory for all of eternity.
Next, notice that there are a lot of familiar things in that future creation and place as well ... things that are already familiar and warm to us human beings down here. Our Lord could have made it otherwise, but he chose to make our eternal home both warm and not too unfamiliar. Therefore, he has incorporated many things in it that we are acquainted with now. Let's look at them.
…It had a great high wall. Heaven's wall is gigantic and magnificent. Its wall speaks of the fact that it is an exclusive place. Also, it is a reminder of God's safekeeping of his people and the security that they have in him. All will truly be utterly safe and secure in our Father's house. As you have it in First Peter 1:5,
…who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
…It had twelve gates. John counted them … three gates on each side. The fact that Heaven has gates, by the way, speaks of the fact that its occupants are free to roam and that there will be coming and going there. This means that the personal freedom that we enjoy as God’s creatures down here, will continue there as well. When God created you and me, he created us as creatures of freewill and choice. That will not change in his new heavens and new Earth and in the New Jerusalem.
…There was an angel posted at each gate. Fascinating. I believe they will be stationed there to wish us good journey as well as to greet and welcome us home as we come and go upon the new earth.
…There was a name inscribed on each gate … each one named after of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Amongst other things, this will ever remind us that our salvation came through
the Jews (John 4:22). It also indicates that Israel has access to the city and,
no doubt, it is their home as well. And, since these gates are individually
named, I suspect they will be useful for orientation purposes … departures and
meeting places and so forth. By the way, these names of the twelve tribes of
Israel will also be inscribed on the gates of Jerusalem during Christ's
millennial reign on Earth. Did you know that? Ezekiel 48:31-34, lays them out
for us. The order given there will very likely carry over to the New Jerusalem
as well. Ezekiel tells us they will be labeled as follows. The:
North gates … Reuben, Judah, and Levi
East gates … Joseph, Benjamin and Dan
South gates … Simeon, Issachar and Zebulon
West gates … Gad, Asher and Naphtali
One time or another, you may have heard a brother or sister say, I'll meet you at the Eastern Gate! (..referring to meeting them in Heaven one day). Next time someone says that to you, you might answer, Which one, Joseph, Benjamin or Dan?
…Finally, John says it had twelve foundations and on them were the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. In Ephesians 2:19-20, we read,
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone…
All who come to this great city will marvel at the foundations of its wall and will see the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb inscribed upon them. Their names will forever be there. I believe they are there to remind us that our faith is built upon the sacrifices and teachings of these twelve great and dear men of God and the huge role they played in the laying of the foundations of the Church. We owe a great deal to them. They gave their lives for Christ, his gospel and for you and me, his Church. So, when we enter or leave our city, we will ever be reminded of these men who were so instrumental in bringing you and me the Word of God and in building us up in our most holy faith.
By the way, there is something here I believe solves an old argument from Acts 1, where, at Peter's suggestion, the Apostles elected a replacement for Judas. You will remember they elected a man named Matthias and it says, he was numbered with the eleven apostles (Acts 1:15-26). Many think that, although this was logical and they thought they were acting on scriptural grounds, it was not a Spirit led decision. Therefore, they conclude that Mathias was not a real Apostle. I agree. The wall of the New Jerusalem only has twelve foundations … each one inscribed with a name of one Apostle. There are only twelve. And, since the New Testament is full of evidence confirming Paul as an Apostle, I take this to be evidence that Mathias, though doubtless a wonderful and great brother in the Lord … was not technically an Apostle.
And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
Psalm 18:19, comes to mind here.
He also brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me because he delighted in me.
The New Jerusalem is big … really big! That is what the Lord wants to convey to us here by getting John to measure it. John found it to be 12,000, furlongs on a side and 12,000, furlongs high. In shape then, it is a cube. The word translated furlongs in the Greek here is the word σταδίων (stadion). It is the word from which we get our word stadium. A stadia was approximately 606, feet long. So, the outside dimensions of the New Jerusalem are approximately 1377.27 miles on a side and 1377.27, miles high. That means that its inside dimensions are over two billion, six hundred twelve million, five hundred twenty one thousand, three hundred eighteen cubic miles (2,612,521,318). That's a lot of room to roam, brother and sister. Our future home contains over two and a half billion cubic miles! And, since its exact height is given, I believe we are to picture it in layers. C. S. Lewis envisioned it that way in his Narnia Tales when his fictional inhabitants called delightfully to one another, higher up and farther in.
I once took a course in college titled, Population Problems. It was designed to demonstrate how overpopulated the world was and what might be done about it. However, to the professor's credit, he pointed out that if you dug a hole, one mile square and one mile deep, you would be able to put every human being on the face of the Earth at that time into it with room to spare! I bring this up to reinforce how large our New Jerusalem truly is. I repeat, the city contains 2,612,521,318, cubic miles!
The city's wall measures around 216 feet high. The NIV, says thick but its footnotes say that it could also mean high. I don't think the Lord would describe a wall to us by merely telling us how thick it was.
Now, the city and its wall are breathtakingly beautiful. John says it was constructed of jasper and the city itself of pure gold, clear like glass. Apparently, in the new creation, jasper will have more of a diamond like quality with a golden clarity. Further, he says that the foundations of the wall were encrusted with all kinds of precious stones. Were you or I to decide, one day, to walk completely around Heaven's perimeter, we would walk for over 5,500 miles before we returned to the point where we started. And, all along the wall … mile after mile … the jewels in its foundations would be refracting the light of the glory of God outward and all around us! Can you imagine what kind of beauty that might be? The twelve stones in its foundations are given to us as follows:
jasper … green
chrysolyte … blue-green
sapphire … blue
beryl … yellow-green
chalcedony … green
topaz … apple-green
emerald … green
chrysoprasus … blue
sardonyx … red and white
jacinth … violet
sardius … golden yellow
amethyst … purple
John says that the city’s gates were twelve pearls. Each of Heaven’s gates are constructed of a single pearl. That's a mighty big pearl, you say. I know. But, it is what it is. There are no pearls that big, you say? Oh? And, God couldn’t make a pearl that big? Come on.
Then, he says, the street of the city was pure gold. First, notice there is only one street in the New Jerusalem. The Greek word here is singular. One broad and magnificent “golden walkway” has been prepared for your feet and mine in the New Jerusalem. I can see it in my mind's eye as it winds its way upward, mile after mile, level after level, through the city. I picture it … ever inviting the inhabitants of the city onward and upward to the high throne of the Father and the Lamb. John says it is made of pure gold, like transparent glass. So, to walk upon that street, I suspect will be to experience sites and shadows of things below as well as things above, adding greatly to the delightful sights within the city.
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple . The city had no need of the sun or the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.
The best thing about the New Jerusalem is that it is a place of unbridled fellowship with God and his Son. It has no temple. There is no designated place of worship because there is no need for it. The Greek word used here for temple is ναὸς (naos). This is the word that designated the Holy of Holies (that most sacred inner room of the temple) where God dwelt and which contained the Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat. The New Jerusalem has no such place. From gate to gate, wall to wall, top to bottom and side to side … the whole city is the naos … because God and his Lamb are there, you see. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple, our text says.
The City had no need for the sun or of the moon to shine in it. Also, there is no need for external sources of light in the New Jerusalem. The glory of God illumines it and the Lamb is its light. That does not necessarily mean that luminaries will not exist in God's new creation, however. They will just not be needed within our great glory-lit city. You will remember, back in the chapter one, when John first saw the glorified Christ, he said, his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
The nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light. The New Jerusalem is a place for saved people. Are you saved, my friend? This word saved is out of favor today. It’s considered old fashioned. It’s archaic. It’s Christianese. It’s not PC. Some are ashamed of it. However, it has not gone out of favor in the Scripture. In Acts 4:12, the Apostle Peter said to a crowd of Jews,
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Romans 10:13, says,
For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.
Saved, is a good Biblical term and it accurately defines what a person is … or needs to become. It sums it up nicely. It tells it like it is. There is a great deal of truth and spiritual significance packed into that little word. I’ll leave it to your judgment as to the appropriate time and place to use it.
The kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Verse twenty-six also states, they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. Who do you think these kings and their nations will be? And, who do you think they are in verse twenty-six? These statements, coupled with 22:5, where it says that the saints shall reign forever and ever, make it clear that the new earth will be a populated place. We are not told who they will be, however. Will they be a brand new race of beings? Perhaps. It hasn't been revealed yet. But they will be there. That's exciting, don't you think? Living for eternity in the new heavens and the new earth and reigning with Christ there is certainly not going to be dull, brother.
The gates of Heaven will never be shut and that there will be no night there. No one will ever have to wait for the New Jerusalem to open. It's open for business at all hours. The significance of not having any night there indicates that, in our glorified bodies, we will not need rest and recuperation like we do now. That will certainly be different, aye? Down here, a third or more of our lives is spent sleeping. But, that will not be the case there.
It also says, there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles. Only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life can enter the New Jerusalem. These scriptures, and also 22:15, are not speaking about sin or evil existing in the new heavens and the new earth. They are referring to the fact that the New Jerusalem exists right now today. No one who has not been washed in the blood of the Lamb will ever have access there. As you have it back in verse ten, it is the holy Jerusalem, a holy place for holy people. Ephesians 5:25-27, says,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her, that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Every child of God has been washed by the Word of God and the blood of the Lamb and is fit for the New Jerusalem. They heard the Word. They obeyed it, trusting in Christ. They were then made holy. This is each and every believer's standing before God. These are facts. Facts are to be believed. Our citizenship is in Heaven, where our Lord is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High. When we arrive there, this present foreign land in which we live will vanish away from our memories like a wisp of steam in the wind. Isaiah 65:17-19a, says,
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, not come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people…
Is your focus there … more than down here, beloved? We believers need to be a heavenly minded people. The description here of our eternal home is given to encourage and help us to be so.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3
And he showed me a [NU omits pure] river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him. They shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
Chapter 22, continues with the description of the New Jerusalem. However, it now gives us something of the warmth and softness of our great jeweled city. We read:
And he showed me a river of water of life... The New Jerusalem has water and trees and fruit. John says that he saw a magnificent river of water of life there. Can you see it? Smell it? Flowing from its source at the high throne of God … this amazingly beautiful river cascades down through thousands and thousands of miles of the city. Along the way, it doubtless takes on all of the interesting and lovely forms that such rivers manifest here and now on Earth. I can picture its rapids, waterfalls, deep emerald pools, and meandering streams … can you? Psalm 46:4, speaks specifically of it saying,
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
I like that word, streams, don't you? I am hoping that one will run right through my back yard! A similar river will flow from the throne of Christ on Earth during his thousand year reign. It is described to us in Ezekiel 47. The reality of it was brought home to Ezekiel when he was told to wade in it. Beginning at its source at the Lord’s temple, Ezekiel began wading and the further he went, the deeper it got. We read there,
And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles . Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters: the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, 'Son of man, have you seen this?' Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river. When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: "This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. Ezekiel 47:3-10
That certainly will be an amazing and wonderful river that flows from our Lord's throne during the Millennium. It will be so enticing, so life giving! Wherever its waters go … it will produce abundant life. What then, do you suppose its final and permanent version in the New Jerusalem will be like? I guess you can tell that I'm a sucker for rivers. As a boy, I waded, fished and floated just about every inch of the Rio Grande river from Elephant Butte Lake to Caballo Lake. Every river and stream I have ever been around fascinated me. From the little stream up at Wall Lake in the Gila wilderness of New Mexico to the mighty Columbia River where I used to live in Oregon, I loved them all. Where rivers and streams are, there is life. The New Jerusalem’s river will be a source of life like we won't believe. Its source is from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. Can we even begin to imagine what that water might be like … or produce … wherever it goes?
...And on either side of the river, was the tree of life. Lining the banks of the river of life, the tree of life grows. Apparently, it expands along the banks of the river and in the midst of the street like a giant Banyon tree out of Africa. It is just one tree, not trees. If I understand the Banyon tree correctly, it just keeps putting down roots from its branches above and those roots eventually becomes a trunk and thus the tree continuously expands and spreads itself. Wikipedia says one famous banyan tree was planted in 1873, in Lahaina's Courthouse Square in Hawai'i and has now grown to cover two-thirds of an acre. All along the banks of the river, and in the midst of the street of the New Jerusalem, the tree of life grows. And, month by month, it produces twelve kinds of fruit. These fruits were promised to, and reserved exclusively for, Christ's overcomers back in 2:7,
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.
This tree was also in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). So, it is found in the first book of Bible and we don't run into it again until we get here in the last book of the Bible. Adam and Eve were barred from it after they had sinned so that they could not eat from it and live forever (Genesis 3:22). You will remember that God stationed a Cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the way to it after the fall (Gen. 3:24). The Tree of Life, in the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, is no myth. It was a real tree and I, for one, am looking forward to eating its fruit one day, how about you?
Also, notice it says that its leaves are for the healing of the nations. This refers to the people who will live on the new Earth in that future day. The word healing is a poor rendering. There will be no sickness in God's new creation. The Greek word here is θεραπείαν (therepian), from which we get our word therapeutic. The idea here is that the leaves of the Tree of Life will be gathered for their invigorating qualities by the Earth-dwellers of that yet future creation. Perhaps they will eat them, rub them on the skin or possibly use them in beverages. In any case, they will be delightfully invigorating and people travel great distances to come to the city to pick them.
…There will be no more curse. You will remember that the curse referred to here, was imposed upon our parents (Adam and Eve) because of the fall. It turned the earth into a non-productive, difficult and dangerous place to live. We read in Genesis 3:17-19,
Then to Adam he [God] said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ’You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.
It is because of the curse that dogs bite, bees sting and weeds grow. God cursed the earth so that man's environment would be a constant reminder to him that things were not right … that he was out of sync with God and all that God had made. It is because we are sinners that we are continuously out of harmony with the creation, you see. That will no longer be the case in the new heavens and the new earth. There, all will be right; all will be in harmony. There will be no more curse. What will that be like? I believe that Mark's account of the temptation of Jesus gives us a bit of a hint,
And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. Mark 1:13
Notice that the wild animals were in perfect harmony with Jesus. He was not a sinner, you see. He was a perfect man. As such, as far as the animals were concerned, the curse did not apply to him. Can you picture the wild animals crowding about him? Can you see him scratching the lion behind its ear? You and I will enjoy such a relationship with the God’s creation one day.
…He continues, and his servants shall serve him. I like that. The New Jerusalem is a place of wonderful service and activity. Have you ever wondered where the idea came from that pictures Heaven as a place where people listlessly float about on little clouds while they clutch their little harps … which, by the way, only have four strings? That sounds more like Hell than Heaven, does it not? One of the most unbiblical and misinformed concepts of Heaven is that it is a place of idleness. NOT! Glory to God, his servants shall serve him there. Reminds me of that old song, There is joy in serving Jesus. Heaven is a place of real, significant and fulfilling service for the Savior.
...and they shall see his face. Now, that is a mountaintop experience worth waiting for! Amen? We will see his face. I don't think we will ever tire of looking upon him, do you? When this becomes a reality, over and over again Jesus' words from Matthew 5:8, will be fulfilled in us…
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
...and his name shall be on their foreheads. This identifying mark will proclaim to all intelligences for all time … just who we belong to. May I ask you a question? How do you think of yourself? Do you say, I'm a child of God, I belong to Christ!? If so, good for you. Those who see themselves that way are right where they ought to be.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. First Corinthians 6:19-20
…John concludes by restating that there is no night there, no need for a candle or sun , for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. Again, we are reminded that the New Jerusalem and the new heavens and the new earth will be a place of dominion with Christ. There are many scriptures that back this up. Here is one of them,
This is a faithful saying: for if we died with him, we shall also live with him. If we endure, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us. Second Timothy 2:11-12
Just before Jesus left our world, he said he was going away to prepare a place for us (John 14:1-3). Here in Revelation 21 and 22, he has given us the thrill of a bit of a tour of it. It has been a wonderful glimpse, has it not? We found it to be a very large, warm, and familiar place, as well as a place of incredible beauty. But the best part of all is, it is a place where we saints will experience wonderful intimacy with our Lord Jesus Christ and his Father. Blessed indeed are they who have the right to enter the gates of this city.