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1. The vision of the new heaven and earth 21:1
John now saw a new scene that expounded the passing away of the present earth and heaven to which he had just referred briefly (Revelation 20:11). The new earth and heaven will come into existence after the Millennium and the great white throne judgment. Many interpreters take the new earth and heaven as a picture of the present age of the church, but this is unwarranted.
The reason God will destroy the present heaven and earth is that He originally made them as the habitat for humanity. However sin so thoroughly corrupted not only the human race but the race’s environment that He will destroy it and create a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. This is the final stage in His plan to deliver humanity into the blessing He originally intended people to enjoy.
"Throughout the entire Bible, the ultimate destiny of God’s people is an earthly destiny. In typical dualistic Greek thought, the universe was divided into two realms: the earthly or transitory, and the eternal spiritual world. Salvation consisted of the flight of the soul from the sphere of the transitory and ephemeral to the realm of eternal reality. However, biblical thought always places man on a redeemed earth, not in a heavenly realm removed from earthly existence." [Note: Ladd, p. 275.]
Is this a creation out of nothing (ex nihilo) like the creation of the first heaven and earth (Genesis 1)? [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, pp. 439-40; Beasley-Murray, p. 307; et al.] Or is it a thorough renovation of the present heaven and earth? [Note: Gale Z. Heide, "What Is New about the New Heaven and the New Earth? A Theology of Creation from Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:1 (March 1997):37-56.] I favor an entirely new creation in view of 2 Peter 3:10-12. A renovation of the present earth will take place earlier, namely, at the beginning of the Millennium.
Is the new heaven and earth that John saw the same new heaven and earth that Isaiah predicted (Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; cf. Psalms 102:25-26; Isaiah 51:6)? We would normally assume that the entities are the same since the terms that describe them are almost identical. However the descriptions of these places vary. Isaiah wrote that people will die in the new earth (Isaiah 65:17-20), but John said there will be no more death there (Revelation 21:4). Isaiah predicted that the moon will shine in the new heavens (Isaiah 66:22-23), but John implied that there will be no moon there (Revelation 21:23). Apparently Isaiah spoke of both the Millennium and the eternal state generally as new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17 to Isaiah 66:24), which is accurate since even in the Millennium the world will experience renovation. John, in the progress of revelation, distinguished these two aspects of the eschaton and applied the name "new heaven and earth" only to the eternal state, which is appropriate since God will eventually destroy the present world and create a new world (cf. 2 Peter 3:10). Isaiah’s view of the future was more general while John’s was more specific. Similarly the Old Testament prophets spoke of Messiah’s coming but did not distinguish the first coming from the second coming. Later revelation clarified that there would be two comings. This is in harmony with how God has revealed many things in His Word: first generally, then more specifically (e.g., the biblical covenant promises).
By the first heaven and earth John quite obviously meant this planet and the heavens above it. He did not mean the abode of God that Scripture also calls heaven elsewhere (i.e., the third heaven of 2 Corinthians 12:2; cf. Ephesians 4:10; Hebrews 4:14).
The new earth will have no seas, but oceans will exist in the Millennium (Psalms 72:8; Jeremiah 31:9-10; Ezekiel 47:8-20; Ezekiel 48:28; Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 14:8). This is another indication that what John saw in chapter 21 was not the Millennium but the eternal state that will follow it. The sea is the first of seven evils that John said would not exist in the new creation, the others being death, mourning, weeping, pain, night, and the curse (Revelation 21:4; Revelation 21:25; Revelation 22:3; Revelation 22:5). Since these other evils are literal entities, we should probably understand the sea as literal too. The sea is an evil in the sense that it opposes humankind. For example, it was the sea that kept John on the Island of Patmos separate from the churches of Asia. [Note: Swete, p. 275.] Presently the seas cover over three-quarters of the earth’s surface. Therefore an earth without seas will be a radically different planet. The seas affect the atmosphere, the climate, and other living conditions as well as human transportation. The absence of any sea is the chief characteristic of the new earth, as John described it.
N. The eternal state 21:1-22:5
The next scenes in John’s visions proved to be of conditions that will exist after the Millennium. He recorded this insight to reveal the final home of believers. There are many allusions to Isaiah 60, 65 and Ezekiel 40-48 in this pericope. The final two chapters also tie up strands of revelation from every major previous section of the book. This pericope is a picture of new beginnings, a sharp contrast with the lake of fire, another final end, in the previous one.
Beale believed the purpose of this section is to contrast the church imperfect (chs. 1-3) and the church perfected. He took most of the descriptions figuratively but believed in a literal destruction of the old cosmos. [Note: Beale, pp. 1039-40.]
Note some contrasts between the former creation and the future creation. [Note: Adapted from Wiersbe, 2:621.]
|Heavens and earth created (Genesis 1:1)||New heavens and earth (Revelation 21:1)|
|Sun created (Genesis 1:16)||No need of the sun (Revelation 21:23)|
|The night established (Genesis 1:5)||No night there (Revelation 21:25; Revelation 22:5)|
|The seas created (Genesis 1:10)||No more seas (Revelation 21:1)|
|The curse announced (Genesis 3:14-17)||No more curse (Revelation 22:3)|
|Death enters history (Genesis 3:19)||No more death (Revelation 21:4)|
|Man driven from the tree (Genesis 3:24)||Man restored to paradise (Revelation 22:14)|
|Sorrow and pain begin (Genesis 3:17)||No more mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4)|
In the same vision, John next saw a city descending out of heaven from God (cf. Revelation 21:10; Revelation 3:12; Hebrews 11:13-16). It was holy in contrast to the former Jerusalem (cf. Revelation 11:8; Isaiah 52:1; Matthew 4:5; Matthew 27:53). As the old Jerusalem will be Jesus Christ’s capital during the Millennium, so the New Jerusalem will be His capital from then on. In the bride-husband simile, the city is the bride, and Christ is the husband (Revelation 21:9-10; cf. Revelation 3:12). Obviously some symbolism is present in the descriptions of the New Jerusalem.
"Just as the four actual kingdoms of Daniel 2, 7 do not literally correspond to the imagery that portrays them, so the New Jerusalem does not literally correspond to the imagery of Revelation 21-22. Though it is an actual literal city, its glory will far surpass the language that John uses to portray it. John’s language is an attempt to describe what is in one sense indescribable." [Note: David L. Turner, "The New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:1-22:5," in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, p. 276.]
The use of the bride figure to describe the New Jerusalem should not lead us to conclude that the New Jerusalem is identical with the church. Some interpreters have equated the two. [Note: E.g., Lilje, p. 259.] The bride figure elsewhere describes the church (e.g., Revelation 19:7; 2 Corinthians 11:2), but here the city is the bride. The bride figure describes different entities in intimate relationship to Christ. The Old Testament also used the bride as a figure to describe Israel’s relationship to God (Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 2:2; Jeremiah 3:20; Ezekiel 16:8; Hosea 2:19-20). This does not mean that Israel, the church, and the New Jerusalem are three names of the same entity. However, this bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, now evidently encompasses two previous brides of Christ: Israel and the church. The city is the corporate identity of those who reside in it. Like Babylon, it is a real city, but it also represents the people who live there, which in this case include old covenant and new covenant believers. It is the place that Jesus Christ went to the Cross to prepare for His disciples (John 14:2). Like the name "Babylon," "New Jerusalem" probably represents both a real city and what Jerusalem has represented throughout history.
"Revelation as a whole may be characterized as A Tale of Two Cities, with the sub-title, The Harlot and the Bride." [Note: Beasley-Murray, p. 315.]
There have been several explanations of the relationship of the New Jerusalem to the new earth. It may be that John saw as a city what he had formerly seen as a new heaven and earth. In other words, the New Jerusalem and the new heaven and earth may be two different figures describing the eternal state. Thus the eternal dwelling place of believers will be a completely new creation by God that John saw in his visions first as a new world and then as a new city.
Alternatively the New Jerusalem could be a satellite above the new earth. Some hold that the New Jerusalem will be a satellite of the present earth during the Millennium, and when God creates the new earth it will descend out of heaven and rest on the surface of the new earth. [Note: Pentecost, Things to . . ., p. 580.] Some believe that the New Jerusalem will be within the new earth. [Note: McGee, 5:1068-72.] The text does not say the New Jerusalem will come down to the new earth, only that John saw it coming down out of heaven from God (cf. Revelation 21:10).
2. John’s first vision of the New Jerusalem 21:2-8
For the last of 20 times in his vision John heard a loud voice signifying the importance of the proclamation that followed. "Behold" further stressed its importance. This probably angelic voice (cf. Revelation 19:5) announced that God’s tabernacle, evidently the entire New Jerusalem, was now among men. Finally the relationship between God and humankind that God has always desired people to enjoy will be a reality (cf. Revelation 7:15; Genesis 3:8; Genesis 17:7; Exodus 6:7; Exodus 29:45; Leviticus 26:11-12; Numbers 15:41; Deuteronomy 29:13; 2 Samuel 7:24; Jeremiah 7:23; Jeremiah 11:4; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 30:22; Jeremiah 31:1; Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 11:20; Ezekiel 34:24; Ezekiel 36:28; Ezekiel 37:23; Ezekiel 37:27; Zechariah 2:10; Zechariah 8:8; 2 Corinthians 6:16). God will dwell among his cleansed people, and they will experience intimate fellowship with Him. This is the supreme blessing of the New Jerusalem (cf. Ezekiel 37:27; Ezekiel 48:35). This fellowship existed to some extent when God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and when He dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle and then in the temple, hence the reference to the tabernacle (cf. Revelation 13:6; Revelation 15:5). It also existed partially when Jesus Christ "tabernacled" among people (John 1:14). It exists today as God inhabits the bodies of Christians individually (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and the church corporately (Ephesians 2:21-22).
"The essence of Revelation 21:3 is the focal point of John’s whole description of the new Jerusalem: God’s immediate presence with men. The prominence of the theme is evident in Revelation 21:3 itself by virtue of a fivefold repetition of the same essential truth in that one verse. It is the principal focus again in Revelation 21:7 where the promise to the overcomer is that God would be his God and He would be God’s son. The glory of God in the city in Revelation 21:11 is another indication of God’s immediate presence, a presence that is also the direct emphasis of Revelation 22:3-4 which speaks of the presence of the throne of God and the Lamb in the city and immediate access to Him for His slaves, enabling them to see His face." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 443. Cf. Erdman, p. 167.]
The plural "peoples" hints at other groups beside Israel in the New Jerusalem. A usual designation for Israel is the "people" (singular, Gr. laos) of God. God promised Abraham that He would bless many peoples through the patriarch (Genesis 12:3; cf. Galatians 3:8; Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:26-29). This is the ultimate fulfillment of that promise.
Revelation 21:3 describes the benefits of the New Jerusalem positively, and Revelation 21:4 does so negatively. Probably God will wipe away all tears at the inception of the eternal state rather than at some time after that. These are tears caused by life in the old creation, not tears of repentance. This reference to wiping away tears highlights God’s compassion for His people. Sorrow, death, and pain will all end along with the tears, mourning, and crying that result from them. This is a final reversal of the curse (Genesis 3). All these former experiences will be gone forever then. However note that the removal of tears will take place after the judgments, including the judgment seat of Christ when some Christians will suffer the loss of reward (1 Corinthians 3:15; cf. 1 John 2:28). The "first" things are the former things, the things associated with the old creation.
"How different is this concept of heaven from that of Hinduism, for example? Here heaven is depicted as a city, with life, activity, interest, and people, as opposed to the Hindu ideal of heaven as a sea into which human life returns like a raindrop to the ocean." [Note: Johnson, p. 593.]
John turned from describing the New Jerusalem briefly to describe some of God’s utterances (cf. Revelation 1:8; Revelation 20:11). "Behold" introduces a special pronouncement, namely, that God will bring a new creation into existence. The description of the new creation in the preceding verses was proleptic. Evidently an angel then instructed John to write down what God had said because His words were faithful and true, not incredible (cf. Revelation 22:6). [Note: Alford, 4:737; Lee, 4:818.] Possibly it was God Himself who uttered this second statement. [Note: Swete, p. 279.] If so, this is probably the first time in the book that God the Father spoke. Perhaps the vision so enthralled John that he stopped recording it.
The one sitting on the throne resumed speaking. The judgments of the Tribulation (cf. Revelation 16:17) and of the whole old creation stood accomplished (cf. Revelation 21:5). He again referred to Himself as the eternal, sovereign God (Revelation 1:8; cf. Revelation 22:13), the originator and terminator of all things (cf. Isaiah 44:6). His promise of abundant satisfaction for the thirsty is metaphorical, symbolizing His ability to meet the deepest needs of His people (Revelation 7:17; cf. Isaiah 55:1; John 4:13-14; John 7:37-39). Contrast the cup from which the harlot drank (Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:3). This is an invitation to anyone, including believers, to come to God to receive what is truly satisfying from Him freely. It is a beautiful gospel invitation (cf. Revelation 3:20; Revelation 22:17).
The overcomer (i.e., every believer) will inherit these things (i.e., the blessings of the new creation mentioned). This promise completes and summarizes the other seven promises to overcomers in chapters 2 and 3. Inheriting emphasizes the privilege of obtaining something because of the work of another in contrast to one’s own work.
"The phrase ’I will be his God and he will be My son’ is defined elsewhere as a statement of special honor, not of regeneration. The Davidic Covenant promised to David’s son, Solomon, ’I will be a Father to him and he will be a son to Me’ (2 Samuel 7:14). The intent of the phrase was to signify a special, intimate relationship. [Note: Dillow, p. 472.]
Paul used the two Greek words huioi, "sons," and tekna, "children," synonymously, but John distinguished their two meanings whenever he used them: mature sons and simply children.
The sins mentioned here are some that typically characterize unbelievers, the other group in contrast to overcomers. While these sins do mark some believers who follow the dictates of their flesh (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21), they more generally identify the lost. That the unsaved are in view seems clear since their part (i.e., their destiny) will be in the lake of fire.
Since the lake of fire still exists after the passing of the present heaven and earth, hell is probably not in the center of the present earth nor is it connected to this earth spacially. It will exist separate from the new heaven and earth and the New Jerusalem. [Note: See Peterson, "Does the . . .," pp. 25-26.] Even though this passage does not say that sin will be absent in the eternal state, is seems quite clear that there will be none since the consequences of sin will be absent.
3. John’s second vision of the New Jerusalem 21:9-22:5
God now provided John with more information about the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2). Similarly Revelation 17:1 to Revelation 19:10 expanded the announcement of Babylon’s fall in Revelation 16:19. The chronological progression of the revelation in Revelation 19:11 to Revelation 22:5 locates the New Jerusalem in the new creation, not in the Millennium.
One of the angels with the seven bowls of judgment served as John’s guide in this part of his vision (cf. Revelation 17:1). The fact that one of these particular angels helped John understand both the mystery of Babylon and that of the New Jerusalem sets these two cities in stark contrast.
"It is impossible to dwell both in Babylon and in the new Jerusalem." [Note: Morris, p. 248.]
It is quite clear that the "bride," the wife of the Lamb, is the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10; cf. Revelation 21:2). Contrast the harlot of Revelation 17:1 (cf. Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2). From the description that follows it also seems clear that the New Jerusalem is a city. It is not just a person or a group of people, such as Christians. Some have identified it as the church. [Note: E.g., Robert Gundry, "The New Jerusalem: People as Place, not Place for People," Novum Testamentum 29:3 (July 1987):256.] This is the first of seven references to the Lamb in this section (Revelation 21:9; Revelation 21:14; Revelation 21:22-23; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:1; Revelation 22:3). He becomes increasingly prominent as the book draws to a close. "The Lamb is all the glory in Immanuel’s land." [Note: "Immanuel’s Land" by Anne Ross Cousin.]
John’s guide to the city 21:9-10
John entered a fresh state of prophetic ecstasy and saw a new vision (cf. Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 17:3). The angel took him to a high vantage point from which he could see the New Jerusalem (lit. city of peace) descending out of heaven from God (cf. Revelation 21:2; Ezekiel 40:2). John received a fresh revelation that expanded something he had already witnessed in an earlier scene (Revelation 21:2-8; cf. Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:1).
"The holy city descending from God out of heaven should be understood as a ’real event’ within the visionary experience. . . . The descent is an announcement in visionary terms of a future event which will usher in the eternal state. That the city comes down from God means that the eternal blessedness is not an achievement of man but a gift from God." [Note: Mounce, p. 378.]
This city obviously appeared extremely impressive to John. The first and most important characteristic that John noted was its radiant glow. It shone with the splendor of God Himself because He was in it (cf. Exodus 40:34; Numbers 9:15-23; 1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 5:14; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 60:1; Ezekiel 43:5; John 12:41; Acts 26:13).
John compared the glory of the city to that of a beautiful gem. Jasper stones were very beautiful but not always clear. As mentioned earlier (cf. Revelation 4:3), this is probably a crystal clear gem with many facets of brilliance, probably what we call a diamond. This stone described God Himself earlier (Revelation 4:3), so its brilliance is a further reflection of God’s presence in the city.
The physical features of the city 21:11-22
The city’s wall with 12 gate-towers was what caught John’s attention next. The city evidently looked square (Revelation 21:16). Its high walls suggest its security and inviolability. Certainly its inhabitants will need no defense from attacking enemies there. The 12 gate-towers (Gr. pylon, cf. Luke 16:20) stood three on each side (Revelation 21:13). The gate-towers provided access into the city. In the case of this city, the many gate-towers also suggest great freedom of access.
The angelic guards also present a picture of great security (cf. Genesis 3:24; Isaiah 62:6). The names were apparently on the gates, not on the angels stationed beside them (cf. Ezekiel 48:31-34). Ezekiel 48:31-34 describes Jerusalem in the Millennium, not in the new earth. The fact that each gate-tower bears a name of one of Israel’s tribes probably indicates that Israel will have a distinctive identity and role in this city, as it had through history (cf. Revelation 7:1-8). [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 463.] God will perpetuate the memory of Israel throughout eternity.
Evidently geographical directions will exist in the new creation as they do in the old, suggesting that space will exist throughout eternity as well as time (cf. Revelation 20:10). Which names will be on which gate-towers remains to be seen. The placement of the tribes around the tabernacle in the wilderness and the gates in the millennial temple do not necessarily provide this information.
Since there are foundations to the city (cf. Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:13-16), it will be a permanent abode for the righteous in contrast to temporary dwellings that lacked foundations. The foundations may be one on top of each other in layers, but probably each section of the wall, between the gate-towers, has its own foundation. [Note: Wilcock, p. 208.] As the walls and gates represent protection, so the foundations speak of permanence.
Evidently the church, represented by the apostles (cf. Ephesians 2:20), will be in the New Jerusalem, as will Israel (Revelation 21:12). However assigning the name of each apostle to a particular foundation stone is as impossible as matching the names of Israel’s tribes with the gates. Even identifying exactly which of the apostles and tribes will receive this honor is impossible now. Note the distinction between Israel and the church even in the eternal state (cf. Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). God had a role for each group and an identity separate from the other in the past and as He does in the present. [Note: Scott, pp. 433-34; Walvoord, The Revelation . . ., pp. 322-23; Johnson, p. 596.] This distinction between the foundations and the walls harmonizes with belief that the church did not replace Israel in the plans of God.
"The combination of the twelve tribes in Revelation 21:12 and the twelve apostles is a way of saying that Israel of old and the Christian church are united in God’s final scheme of things." [Note: Morris, p. 250.]
Being a covenant theologian, Morris did not mean that Israel and the church will be distinct throughout eternity as different segments of the people of God. He meant that this passage presents Israel and the church as all the people of God united in God’s final scheme of things. However, as a dispensationalist I can accept his statement at face value.
That these are apostles "of the Lamb" again focuses glory on the Lamb in this city.
The fact that the angel’s measuring rod was gold reflects the dignity of the task of measuring this city’s gate-towers and walls (cf. Ezekiel 40:3). Again, the temple that Ezekiel described being measured in Ezekiel 40-43 is the millennial temple, which seems clear from the contexts and the differing measurements. Only the utensils used in the holy of holies were gold in the tabernacle and temple, but even this measuring rod is gold, suggesting the high value of the city.
John described the shape and then the size of the city. Its base was square, the same shape as ancient Babylon and Nineveh. [Note: Robertson, 6:473.] The dimensions of this city were 12,000 stadia (approximately 1,500 miles) on each of its four sides and 1,500 miles high. The distance from Dallas, Texas, to Philadelphia or Los Angeles is about 1,500 miles.
Beasley-Murray wrote that the reader should not translate this measurement into miles because "it represents the ordinary unit of distance (the furlong) multiplied by the number of God’s people (twelve) and extended indefinitely." [Note: Beasley-Murray, p. 322.] Beale observed that the size of the city is the approximate size of the Hellenistic world in John’s day and so suggests the inclusion of all the redeemed. He held that the city’s measurements are not literal but symbolic of the inclusion of Gentiles in the true temple and city (the church). [Note: Beale, p. 1074.] Swete said, "Such dimensions defy imagination, and are permissible only in the language of symbolism." [Note: Swete, p. 289.] Such interpretations are very subjective and amount to guessing.
This description, understood literally, could allow for either a cube [Note: Mounce, p. 380; Beasley-Murray, p. 322; Seiss, p. 498; McGee, 5:1070-71; Ladd, p. 282; Swete, p. 288.] or a pyramid shape, the shape of a Babylonian ziggurat. [Note: Lilje, p. 267; William Hoste, The Visions of John the Divine, p. 178; Ironside, p. 357.] The fact that the holy of holies was a cube tempts one to conclude that the New Jerusalem will also be a cube in shape, but this is speculation.
Probably we should interpret these dimensions literally. Some interpreters believe they only symbolize what the holy of holies in Israel anticipated, namely, a perfect environment in which God dwells. Others hold that they symbolize the fulfillment of all God’s promises. [Note: E.g., Johnson, p. 596.]
The city wall was evidently 144 cubits (about 216 feet or 72 yards) thick (cf. Ezekiel 40:5; Ezekiel 42:20). An American football field is 100 yards long. John explained that even though an angel was doing the measuring he was using human units of measurement. Thus these measurements meant the same to John as they would have meant if something else in his day were being measured.
The walls appeared to be glistening (cf. Revelation 21:11; Revelation 4:3). The word "material" (Gr. endomesis) means "building in" and suggests that the material on the wall was jasper, not that the wall was solid jasper. Perhaps John meant that the walls were overlaid with this brilliant material, suggesting further the radiance of God’s holy presence. The whole city appeared to shine as a mass of pure gold. The many limestone buildings of old Jerusalem today take on a beautiful golden color in the light of the rising or setting sun, but this is a pale shadow of what the New Jerusalem will look like. Clear glass was the best quality glass in John’s day, so when he compared the gold to clear glass he probably meant that there was no impurity in the city. [Note: Mounce, p. 381.] John apparently described the New Jerusalem by using similes and metaphors to communicate its ineffable glory.
The apostle further explained the foundation stones of the city (Revelation 21:14). The foundation of a building is usually completely functional and not decorative, but these stones, which were at least partially visible above grade, were adorned with gems. [Note: Alford, 4:742.] Another view is that jewels did not cover the foundation stones, but the foundation stones were themselves jewels. [Note: Moffatt, 5:484.] These stones were of many different colors suggesting the extreme beauty of the city. We cannot identify all of them exactly today, but they were undoubtedly precious gems in John’s day.
"Our God is a God of beauty, and He will lavish His beauty on the city He is preparing for His people." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:623.]
The Israelite high priest carried 12 gems representing each of the twelve tribes on his breast-piece (Exodus 28:17-20). Perhaps there is some symbolic connection between these 12 jewels and those, though only eight of them appear in both lists. In the new order everyone will have the privilege of access to God that was the unique privilege of the high priest in Israel.
Evidently each gate-tower that John saw (Revelation 21:12-13) had been carved out of one huge pearl (cf. Isaiah 54:11-12). [Note: Swete, p. 294.]
"Among the ancients, pearls were ranked highest among precious stones, because their beauty derives entirely from nature, improvement by human workmanship being an impossibility . . ." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 473.]
John further described the street or pavement of the city probably referring to all the streets since all would be connected. These were pure gold (Revelation 21:18), as pure as transparent glass. Old Testament priests who ministered in Solomon’s temple walked on a gold floor originally (1 Kings 6:30).
Unlike old Jerusalem, there was no temple in the new city because God Himself was there. The whole city will, therefore, be a virtual temple. [Note: Cf. Overstreet, pp. 460-62.] This is another respect in which the millennial temple contrasts with the New Jerusalem. The Lamb will play the central role in this temple along with Almighty God. The presence of God with man was the symbol of the earthly tabernacle and temple, but in the New Jerusalem that presence is a reality.
This verse and Revelation 21:23-27 stress that God will bring people into intimate relationship with Himself in the New Jerusalem. [Note: Wilcock, p. 210.]
Evidently there will be no sun and moon (and stars) in the new heaven because God’s glory will illuminate the whole earth (cf. Isaiah 60:19). The need for created light sources will end when the Creator Himself lives among His people. God illuminated the camp of Israel with His presence in the pillar of fire, and He lit the holy of holies with His presence between the cherubim. He will similarly dispel all darkness of all kinds in the new city. The Lamb is the radiance of the Father’s glory (Hebrews 1:3), but the Father is also the light (Revelation 22:5).
"It truly will be the Jesus Christ Light and Power Company then." [Note: McGee, 5:1072.]
The illumination of the city 21:23-27
The city will be so bright that it provides light for the whole new creation. The identity of the nations and kings mentioned is difficult to determine. The most probable explanation seems to be that the nations are groups of believers viewed according to their old creation nationalities, which they will retain in the new creation. The kings (rulers) probably are believing kings who ruled over nations during the old creation. [Note: See Thomas, Revelation 8-22, pp. 476-78, for 10 suggested identifications.] These kings will bring their glory into the city, thus increasing its glory, by simply entering it, since they are glorious individuals by God’s grace.
In John’s day cities closed their gates to keep enemies out, but there will be no enemies in the eternal state so the gates will remain open (cf. Isaiah 60:11). John said the city gates will never ever close (Gr. ou me kleisthosin). These kings, therefore, may enter whenever they wish. There will be no night in the New Jerusalem because God’s glory illuminates all.
The gates will admit these leaders who will bring glory and honor to God from their respective groups of followers. This is a picture of worship in the new creation.
". . . these verses reflect the ancient practice of kings and nations bringing their wealth and glory to the city of the greatest king. In the heavenly city, everyone will honor the ’King of kings’ (see Psalms 68:29; Psalms 72:10-11; Isaiah 60)." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:624.]
Only believers will enter the city. The unsaved will in no way be able to do so (Gr. ou me eiselthe; cf. Revelation 22:15). Evidently any believer will be able to enter the city since the contrast is with those whose names are not in the Lamb’s book of life (i.e., the lost). This verse warns the reader that the only way to gain entrance into this city is to have one’s name recorded in the Lamb’s book of life (cf. Revelation 20:15).
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 21". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany