The final two chapters of Revelation, chapters 21 & 22, reveal to us a time that none of us have ever known at this point. I think of the many wonders of the world as it presently exists, all of the breath-taking beauty existing in many places of the world; and yet you and I live in a world still tainted by the affects of original sin. Because of this fact, despite all of the grandeur, the ugliness and scars of the curse are also present. John describes for us a time when this will no longer be the case. We read last time the Apostle Peter’s description of a renovation of the present atmosphere surrounding this earth, and the very surface of the earth itself by fire. [See 2 Peter 3:4 – 12] Occurring concurrently with this renovation of the earth will be the Great White Throne Judgment. [See Rev. 20:11 -14]
The question is asked, where will those who inhabit the earth during the 1,000 year Millennial Reign go when the earth is renovated by fire? Those who rebel at the end of the 1,000 years and throw their lot in with Satan after he is released for a “little season” will of course face the Great White Throne. The glorified saints and the redeemed natural people who will enter the 1,000 year reign of Christ it is thought by many, and I would lean toward this as well; will be taken to the New Jerusalem which will be hovering just above the earth having come down from God out of Heaven. [See Rev. 21:2] We are not told, so speculation is about the best we can do at this point.
Following the Great White Throne and the renovation of the earth by fire, will follow the time which we have referred to as the Perfect Age. It will last for all eternity. It can also be referred to as the final dispensation, the Dispensation of the fulness of times. [See Eph. 1:10] Irrespective of the terminology used, this is the future of all of the redeemed. It is difficult for us to fathom a time such as is described in these two chapters. This is certainly a case where faith accepts as fact that which the mind cannot really perceive. John continues,
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. [Rev. 21:5 – 7] I don’t know about you, but the thought of all things being “new” thrills my heart beyond description! Everything we do or try to accomplish on the earth as it presently exists and this life has a blot on it, if you will. There is a “do over” coming! “New” is the Greek, kainos, and it speaks of “freshness”. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon also defines this word as not only “fresh”, but, “recently made, unused, unworn, of a new kind, unprecedented, novel, uncommon, and unheard of.” Glory! This particular Greek adjective is found a total of 45 times in the New Testament, and every time it is translated as, “new.” The words being spoken here are, “true and faithful”, in other words they are reliable and will be exactly as described.
We read here in the King James, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The Greek literally is, I am THE Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. This of course identifies the speaker as the Lord Jesus Christ. He is all that we need, and this will be fully realized in the Perfect Age to come. The statement, I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son, really doesn’t pertain directly to the Perfect Age, but is a promise for believer’s from John’s day on up until the Millennial Reign. One final thought here, and that is this glorious promise to the “overcomer.” I used to read passages like this one and think, “If I could just be an overcomer, wouldn’t that be wonderful!” How to overcome is seemingly the tricky part. One can only overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil in Christ, there is no other way. John in his first epistle tells us, For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? [1 John 5:4, 5] Do you see, saint of God, the requirement to be an overcomer? 1) Be born of God, 2) Believe that Jesus is the Son of God. In other words, our faith in Christ and what He accomplished for us at Calvary qualifies us to be an overcomer! It is that which gives us this precious relationship where God is our God, and we are His sons (and daughters).
Verse 8 reads, But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. This group won’t be a part in any way of the New Jerusalem. In reality the thought here is that which causes one to be fearful, unbelieving, abominable, etc. will not be a part of this city or the new earth. There will be no more sin. The Devil and all evil spirits will be eternally locked away in the Lake of Fire.
And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. [21:9] As we work through this section we must be very careful. Why? Because a surface reading of this passage has lead many to assume, and to teach, that the Lamb’s wife is the city New Jerusalem. Someone may ask, “Isn’t that what John says here?” No, it is not. First, the “Bride” is made up of every single believer from all ages. This would take in righteous Abel, all of the faith dignitaries of Hebrews 11, right down to the very last person to be born-again and make Jesus the Lord of their life. All of the redeemed are included in this number. Second, that which constitutes a city is not its buildings, businesses, or assorted other attractions. No, that which makes a city or town truly a city or a town are the people who live there! I live in a small town in Central Iowa. There are approximately 12,000 people who live here. Tomorrow if all of us would suddenly move away, there would be no town. All of the buildings and houses and assorted other structures would still be here, but it would be considered a ghost town.
In this vein I think of the opening scene of the Will Smith movie, I Am Legend. The film opens with New York city devoid of any people. The various billboards announcing upcoming Broadway shows and feature films are still emblazoned on the theaters. All of the large department stores and assorted other businesses are still there. However, as you watch the scene unfold it becomes clear that something isn’t right. The middle of the streets are all grown over with weeds and other vegetation, and wild animals are seen running the streets. The only one left is Will Smith’s character and his dog, and we learn later a mob of virus crazed mutants who are intent on murdering anyone they come into contact with. It is quite a gripping story. The point though is that it is no longer New York City. Why? Because everyone has left town to get away from this virus. New York City is New York City because of the people who dwell there. Remove them from the picture and you have the opening scene from I Am Legend. It is the same with any city or town. In the same manner, New Jerusalem will be the Bride because the true Bride, the redeemed, will dwell there.
And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. [Rev. 21:10 – 14] There is no city anywhere on earth equal to this city. This city will be not be built on an earthly foundation out of earthly materials. It will come down from Heaven. It originates in Heaven, and Jesus is the builder. Notice please that even though this city comes down out of Heaven, there is nothing to suggest that it comes to earth. The earthly city never goes to Heaven, and the heavenly city never comes to earth. Exactly how far the city descends is a matter of speculation.
Many strange things have been taught through the years concerning the New Jerusalem. For example, Ebionism, one of the first heresies to invade the Christian Church took this entire passage and made it apply to the earthly Jerusalem. The Gnostics, another early heresy, went to the other extreme and made this all Heaven. Liberal theologians and amillennarians leave this city in Heaven, even though the scripture makes it plain it “comes down” out of Heaven. Two facts are evident from this passage: 1) The city comes down out of Heaven; 2) It is not stated that it comes to earth. The Bible leaves this city hanging someplace in mid-air. That may sound a bit sci-fi to you, but that is what the scripture teaches.
Notice this city has the, “Glory of God.” The Greek for glory is Doxa, and although it has a wide possible application, in this case it seems to speak of the brilliance and the brightness of the glory of God emanating from the city. I believe it is important to note that try as we might to describe that which John saw, we cannot even come close. John says the light is like a precious stone, even a Jasper stone. It is not likely that John had a great deal of knowledge of precious stones, most likely this is information that the angel gave him. That which John describes would imply a prism of light with colors constantly changing, and even though that is the case, it is clear as crystal so nothing will impede the light. This will be a city like no other you or I have ever seen. Verse 17 tells us, And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. If we figure 18 inches to the cubit, which is the standard measurement, then the wall would be 216 feet high!
There are twelve gates to this city. There are three to the north, three to the south, three to the east, and three to the west. The gates on each side, based on the size of the city, will be about 375 miles distance from each other. In biblical numerology, twelve is the number of God’s government, consequently, God will govern this city, therefore it will be a perfect government in every respect. On each of the three gates is the name of one of the tribes of Israel. This speaks of the order in which the tribes camped around the Tabernacle in the wilderness wanderings. The tribe of Levi of course was the priestly tribe and served in the Tabernacle proper. The New Jerusalem, in one sense, is a tabernacle because God is there dwelling with man. The bride constitutes the priesthood who serve Him constantly. Everything in eternity will face this city, for God is there. Look at the wall of the city. It has twelve foundations, each bearing the name of one of the Apostles of the Lamb. As believers the Bible tells us that we are, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. [Eph. 2:20] As a side note, I believe that one of the names on one of those foundations will be that of the Apostle Paul. Someone might say, “But Paul wasn’t one of the Apostles of the Lamb was he?” I think he was. Acts 1:1, 2 tells us, The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: [Acts 1:1, 2]
We know that following the death of Judas a meeting of the remaining Apostles was held, and Mathias was selected to take the place of Judas. This decision was made prior to the arrival of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. That being the case, I believe that Peter was out of the will of God in selecting Mathias. I don’t believe that he was the Lord’s choice. I believe that Paul was. You don’t hear anymore about Mathias, but you hear plenty about the Apostle Paul. In fact, to him was given the meaning of the New Covenant, which is Christ and Him crucified. This would make Paul the twelfth Apostle, and give his name a place on one of the foundations of the wall of New Jerusalem.
And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. [Rev. 21:15, 16] It is very difficult for us in our finite knowledge to comprehend and then in turn articulate the shape of this city. In doing so, we are attempting to translate our concepts from a universe of time to the new creation of eternity. This is not easily done. Before we discuss its shape, lets look at its size. Each side and the height of it is said to be twelve thousand furlongs. In the Greek this is twelve thousand stadia, which comes out to be 1,500 miles. Our God certainly does things in abundance on a grand scale. The city will reflect the grandeur and glory of its maker. Before we discuss the possibilities for its shape, lets put the footprint of this glorious eternal city into perspective. At 1,500 miles to the north, south, east, and west; if we were to place this city down upon the United States, on the western side it would reach from approximately the Canadian border down to the border of Mexico. That is the distance from north to south. Going east, it would reach Dallas, Texas in the south, and its northeastern border would reach to Minneapolis, Minnesota. So we have a space here that is a little over half of the United States. This is mind boggling to say the least! If that weren’t enough, John says the length, width, and height are all equal! This brings us to the shape of the city.
John tells us, the city lieth foursquare. That would seem to imply that the city is a gigantic cube, would it not? The Greek word translated, foursquare is, tetrogonos, and literally is a quadrangle or square. In other words, it has four equal sides. This particular Greek word only appears once in the New Testament, and that is right here. Geometrically speaking, a quadrangle is a polygon with four sides. What is the point? Simply that this word does not demand viewing the New Jerusalem as a cube. It may be. That has been the widely held view by most scholars. However many scholars through the years, like Clarence Larkin, Harry Ironside, and in more recent times, Patrick Heron; see the city as being a pyramid. The language of the text allows for that possibility. You would still have a polygon with four sides and the apex being 1,500 miles high. I don’t know and neither does anyone else, but it makes for an interesting study.
And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. [Rev. 21:17, 18] The wall of the city is for protection. A walled city is a safe city. As we noted earlier, at 144 cubits, this wall would be 216 feet high. As we study the description of the wall as given here, it becomes clear that beauty rather than protection is behind the design. It is a wall with Jasper built into it and it is generally designated as a Jasper wall. The hardest of substances and the most beautiful gem constitute the exterior of the city.
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. [Rev. 21:19, 20] John continues with his description of the city, New Jerusalem. In this case of course he is still describing the foundations of the city, twelve in number. Not only do these foundations bear the names of each of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb, but they are also made of twelve precious stones. It is difficult if not impossible to fully grasp this which John describes here as it unfolds before him. Lets look at each of these stones: 1) Jasper – Greek, Iaspis. This is probably a diamond in all actuality. It is crystal clear, a reflector of light and color. 2) Sapphire – Greek, sappheiros. Its color is blue. This stone is mentioned in Exodus 24:10 as the, “foundation of God”. Moffatt describes it as a blue stone. Pliny describes it as an opaque with gold specks. 3) Chalcedony – Greek, chalkedon. Its color is greenish. It is an agate. 4) Emerald – Greek, amaragdos. It is green in color. 5) Sardonyx – Greek, sardonux. Its color is red. 6) Sardius – Greek, sardios. It is fiery red in appearance. 7) Chrylsolyte – Greek, chrusolithos. It is a golden yellow. 8) Beryl – Greek, berullos. Its color is green. 9) Topaz – Greek, topazion. It is golden yellow in appearance. 10) Chrysoprasus – Greek, chrusoprasos. Its color is gold-green. 11) Jacinth – Greek, huakinthos. It is violet colored. 12) Amethyst – Greek, amethustos.
The foundations of New Jerusalem are constructed of the flashing brilliance of rich and costly gems. On the inside is Jesus who, when He was here, was the Light of the World. There He will be the Light of the Universe. Astronauts tell us that in space the colors almost entirely are gray and black—but wait until you see the New Jerusalem. It is going to light up God’s new heavens and new earth as they have never been lighted before. I think it is going to be the most breathtaking sight that you have ever seen. This New Jerusalem is a planet which comes down right out of heaven. Everything is going to revolve around it, and the light will come from there. It truly will be the Jesus Christ Light and Power Company then. The light will shine out in all these brilliant and beautiful colors.
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. [Rev. 21:21] The language here is admittedly a bit difficult to grasp. It seems John is saying that each of the gates are constructed of pearl, perhaps thousands of pearls. Then, every other gate is made of one massive pearl. There is no pearl this large on earth, but we are talking about heaven here. We dare not limit God. He can and will do whatever He desires to do. He is absolutely Sovereign over His creation. If He says this is the what will be done, it will be. It is significant, I believe, that the gates are pearl. Pearls are formed by oysters who are basically wounded. Without the wound, no pearl is formed. We will enter the Heavenly city through gates of pearl. This is a golden city! Not only are the buildings constructed of gold, [Vs. 18], but now we are told the streets are of pure gold. The gold that was applied to the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later of course to the Temple, whether the furnishings or whatever, always spoke of the deity of Christ. This city being gold, pure gold at that, and pure gold streets; we know readily the focus of this city. We know He who will be the focus of eternity. It is all about Jesus!
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. [Rev. 21:22, 23] There will be no Temple as in Old Testament times. There will be a literal Temple in the New Jerusalem [See Rev. 3:12, 7:15, 11:19, 14:15, 17; 15:1 – 8; 16:1, 17]. This Temple will not serve the same function as the one in Old Testament times. Why? Because the Lord God and the Lamb will be personally there. Some have assumed from that which John wrote here that there will no longer be a Sun or Moon in the sky in the New Jerusalem. That is not the case, it is just that with glory that emanates from the Father and the Son, no additional light will be needed in the New Jerusalem.
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. [Rev. 21:24] Not all nations will live here, but they will commute to and from to it.
And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. [Rev. 21:25] The gates are not shut because there will be no danger here. There is no night because the glory never diminishes.
And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. [21:26, 27] As we come to the end of this wonderful chapter, the glorious description of the New Jerusalem; I feel my treatment of it is found wanting. I believe the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee summed it up best when he closed his notes on this chapter, What a picture and how inadequately I have dealt with it. Oh, if only you and I both could be lifted up so that we might get a glimpse of the glory of that city and of the glory of the One who is its chief adornment, even the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the glorious prospect and privilege of being with Him throughout eternity. There is nothing to compare to it! [Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary on Revelation 21:27] I couldn’t agree more Dr. McGee!
Next time we will delve into the final chapter of the book of Revelation, chapter 22.