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The Heavenly City of God's Presence - Revelation 21:9 - 22:5

 Tuesday, December 29 –

We are very near the end of our reading thru the New Testament in a Year.  Today’s reading is from Revelation 21:9 – 22:5. Please read the passage first and then we’ll walk through it together, and thank you.

The book of Revelation is full of symbols and imagery that create difficulty for our ability to grasp some of its pictures.  I have a friend of mine in England who is a professional photographer and he uses aerial drones to do part of his work.  I’m always amazed at the pictures because they give us a vision from high above the landscape and everything in the picture is both expansive and framed perfectly. That is a helpful metaphor for reading Revelation.  Keep the big picture in mind – God is redeeming mankind through His Son, and eternity is when we get to live in the presence of God the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit.

“Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 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 on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (21:9-14).

I hope you noticed John’s vision of the New Jerusalem is “in the Spirit…, from God…, of the Lamb. As we read what John’s vision of God’s celestial city – the New Jerusalem – looked like, we find a city made by God for all of the redeemed of all of the ages.  This fulfills what Jesus meant when he said to his disciples “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2-3).   The place is called “the Bride” because the church is the bride of Christ.  It is a place of God’s glory (21:11), with a radiance like rare jewels.  Instead of having God’s glory veiled behind a curtain, it is in full view that all the saints might know they are dwelling with God’s presence.  It is a city of walls, gates, foundations.  It speaks of the permanence of the city.  It will never need remodeling.  It also speaks of the security of all that dwell inside with angels at each gate.  The gates of the city include the Old Covenant names of the tribes, and the foundations of the city have the names of the New Covenant apostles of Jesus.  The description of the city is beyond comprehension in terms of its size and beauty –

“And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.  The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal.  He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement.  The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.  The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.  And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass” (21:15-21).

The city is measured in ways that are different from ours today.  Without going into all the details of these measurements, scholars note the size of the walls is over 200 feet tall, and the size of the length of the walls around the city are about 1400 miles.  It is massive in size.  Above all the things John sees is the list of precious stones that the walls, foundations, the gates, and the streets of gold, like transparent glass.  God is a master of beauty and magnificence.  It is hard to grasp the beauty of the city, but the jewelry listed is treated as if it were common concrete and wood. 

Because of God’s glory – that is, his presence being in the city – there is no need of a separate building like a Temple, for the Lord God and the Lamb, are its Temple.  Also, God’s glory makes the city have its own light – there is no need for sun or moon.

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.  They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.  But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:22-27).

The fact that there are nations, even kings, doesn’t mean that the new earth will be populated by nations, but rather, all of the ethnic distinctions will still be there, but now the King of kings will rule the earth, as well as the city. There will be no more curse and there will perfection in terms of truth and purity.  In many ways, the city is the Garden of Eden remade.  The eternal light of the city emphasizes the purity where the darkness of sin does not dwell.  The corruption of sin that leads to death is gone.  The wickedness and evil of humankind are gone, and the people of God live in the light of God’s glory and grace.

Finally, the chapter division is ignored as John gives us a picture of the interior of the city –

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (22:1-5).

The city of the Bride, the New Jerusalem will be a place of blessing in all areas of life.  It will be life quite apart from the life we live today.  There will be no more planting, weeding, insect infestations to ward off, and worry of drought or too much rain. The tree of life now is a tree of healing “of the nations”.  John sees that humanity is changed and now the differences between gender, race, language, and patterns are changed also because we see them in God’s redeemed view.  These are nations like we have never seen them.  Everything flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and nothing will be accursed ever again.

While we don’t see people on floating clouds, or tiny cherubim with wings, or harps, we see the eternity of life…real life…come to pass.  It is the hope of eternal life God has promised his people who “believe”, “trust” in Jesus Christ, his Son, to redeem them from their sins.  Think about this…yes, think about what this life will be and how different it is from our world where we strive, struggle, and work hard to make things work at all.  This is where we are going when our faith, love, hope is in Jesus Christ alone. 

As I wrote these words today, my mind drifted back some 50 years when as a young believer I gave my life to Christ, asking him to save me from my sins.  I started reading my bible and studying it too. I started to worship again after years of giving up on worship.   I started to pray and ask God for both direction and protection.  It was all new, and I was living with a sense of a hope I had never experienced before.  As I thought about it again, I found myself listening to the words of an old Gospel song that I’m sure I haven’t sung in 35 to 40 years.

“What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There'll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no more pain,
No more parting over there;
But forever I will be,
With the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.” [1]

Jim Hill wrote the song and Bill and Gloria Gaither made it a hit.  Jim Hill was a fairly new Christian and he had just visited his dying mother-in-law, and as he drove away, he started to pray, asking God, “Why does this good woman have to die?”  He wrote that suddenly the words of the song began to flood his mind with the hope of her going home to Christ. 

We have all lost loved ones.  I have two very good friends in the last eighteen months.  It is this song that reminds me that if we grieve it’s ok, but they are not!  The presence of God, the Lamb, and the glory of Heaven await those who have placed their faith in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord.


[1] Jim Hill, Bill and Gloria Gaither, “What a day it will be”, copyright 1955


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