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A New Heaven and a New Earth
Revelation 21:1. When all evil and all evil doers have got their everlasting unchangeable, horrible destination, the attention of John is drawn to a completely new heaven and a completely new earth. “The first heaven and the first earth” have had their time, they have fled away (Revelation 20:11) and have dissolved by fire (2 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 3:12). In that way room has been made for “a new heaven and a new earth”.
The great difference with the first earth is that the sea which is still in the millennial kingdom of peace (Ezekiel 47:20; Zephaniah 2:6; Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 14:8) is in eternity no more there. Also the turbulent, rebellious nations which the sea represents and the ungodly that are like the sea (Isaiah 57:20) are no more there. There is an atmosphere of a constant, complete rest. The true theocracy has started. God reigns or better said: directs, for here it is more about God Who dwells in rest, while there is nothing more to be restrained, there is nothing more that may possibly become rebellious. Then righteousness will be dwelling on earth (2 Peter 3:13) and will not only be ruling like in the millennial kingdom of peace. Everything will inwardly and outwardly be in accordance with God’s Being.
The old creation was perishable (Psalms 102:26; Matthew 24:35; 1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17) and therefore temporary. The new creation is completely new and of permanent, everlasting nature. The new is not a replacement by the renewing and the improving of the old, but the new heaven and the new earth have never been there earlier. The second one is not only different than the first, it is also better than the first. Just as what God has worked in the redemption is different and better than what man has lost because of sin. God has not only solved the problem of sin, but given something far more wonderful instead.
With God the second always has preference over the first. You find often in the Scripture that the second or later born is given preference over the firstborn. Just look at for example to Abel whom is given preference over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Ephraim over Manasseh, David over his older brothers (cf. also Job 42:12; 1 Corinthians 15:47; Hebrews 8:6).
Revelation 21:2. After the wonderful total picture of the new heaven and the new earth, John sees a city. This city is the center of the whole new scene. Also in the new order of matters where there is no sin anymore, there is room for holiness. The city is “the holy city”. Holy has the meaning of being separated. Separation has not always to do with separation from evil. When God for example sanctifies the seventh day, it means that He has given this day a separate place compared to the other days (Genesis 2:3). In that way this city takes a separate place in the whole new order.
This city is “the new Jerusalem” which indicates the contrast with the old Jerusalem. It is a movable city. It comes down “out of heaven”, for heaven is the land where it belongs. It comes “from God”, for the beginning of the city lies in God, in His counsel. The new Jerusalem comes down without coming on earth, in order to, as it were, make a connection between heaven and earth, to connect them together.
The city looks like “a bride adorned for her husband”. This description makes clear that this new Jerusalem is the church. After a thousand years she still has the same radiant beauty that she has had during her wedding (Revelation 19:7). The test of time absolutely did not have any influence on her. To all eternity she will keep that beauty.
The city is ‘holy’ and is compared with ‘a bride’. That means that God, Who is light – holiness has to do with God as light – and love, is seen in that city. Here the church is perfectly suited to be related with Him, because she perfectly meets with His Being. Therefore she also fully satisfies His desires, she belongs to Him, she is like Him (Ephesians 5:31-Jonah :; 1 John 3:3).
Actually, this new Jerusalem must be distinguished from the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22). With the heavenly Jerusalem is meant the dwelling place of all heavenly saints. The heavenly Jerusalem is the heavenly capital from where the kingdom of peace will be governed. It is the center of government in which believers from the Old Testament and from the New Testament have their place and task. The new Jerusalem consists of only those who are the church of the living God, the dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Also when there is mention of ‘the Jerusalem above’ (Galatians 4:26), it is something different than what is called here the ‘new Jerusalem’. The Jerusalem ‘above’ is not that much of a city with government characteristics, but it indicates more a sphere wherein the believers live. That sphere is a sphere of freedom that stands opposite to the law. Therefore the Jerusalem above is put in contrast to the earthly Jerusalem, which represents the sphere of the law.
Revelation 21:3. After John has seen these beautiful and substantial new things, he hears a loud voice. That voice comes with a declaration from the throne, the seat of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has reached its final destination; it has achieved its purpose. The explanation says that God dwells with men. He does that in “the tabernacle”, which refers to the church, for that is the dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).
There are more names used for God’s dwelling place, like a temple and a house. That particularly here it is spoken of “the tabernacle” as a dwelling place, refers to the mobility of the dwelling place, like the tabernacle during the journey in the wilderness of the people of Israel. It is also nice to consider that the word ‘tabernacle’ is also seen in what you read about the dwelling of the Lord Jesus among us. When you read “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), it literally says ‘the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us’, meaning ‘dwelt in a tent’.
The tabernacle speaks about the way in which God dwells with His people. The tabernacle in the Old Testament is an image of God’s dwelling place. The real dwelling place of God is to be seen in the Lord Jesus and in the church.
A remarkable thing is that it says that God will dwell “among men”. That it is a special joy for God to dwell with men, is to be derived from the fact that it is mentioned three times in this very verse. All these people together are His people. There is no more mention of separate nations. Nations came into being because of sin, but all consequences of sin have been taken away. Therefore there is no more difference between Israel and the nations. Israel will not have a privileged place anymore.
Israel had to do with counsels from the foundation of the world (Matthew 13:35; Matthew 25:34) and had an earthly and temporary existence. All earthly and temporary things will then be no more. There will only be people, believers from all ages, without exception. The only distinction that will remain concerns the new Jerusalem, the church. She has originated from before the foundation of the world.
The verse ends with an expression of special intimacy between God and His people. “God Himself”, without any intermediary, like for example Moses or Elijah or a high priest, “will be among them”. There will not be anyone anymore through whom God relate with His people. He is the God of that very great people. And that very great people has and knows no one else than Him alone as their God.
Revelation 21:4. When that wonderful situation has come, every memory of sorrow, which was inseparably related to the first things, will be taken away. The best description that we can make of the glory of eternity is by mentioning what we absolutely will not find there. We cannot yet grasp the glory of what surely will be there (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:4). Nevertheless we can certainly understand that what often makes our life difficult and troublesome on earth today and what makes us eagerly long for heaven, will not be there anymore. Therefore this description is in itself a great encouragement already. The very five words that tell us what will not be there anymore, now define the whole world events and the whole world history since the fall of man.
In chapter 7:17 it was already announced that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, like a mother wipes away the tears from the face of her child. He wipes away “every tear”, where after never a tear will arise again ever. Everything that now still causes tears will then be disappeared. Then every man will live in perfect harmony with God, perfectly in agreement with God and perfectly unanimous with every other man. When there is no more sin there is no more death and therefore nothing that is related to death, like pain and sorrow, of which tears are the expression. It will never come back, for “the first things” definitely “have passed away”.
Now read Revelation 21:1-4 again.
Reflection: What causes you most to be longing for the new heaven and the new earth?
All Things New
Revelation 21:5. Now speaks “He who sat on the throne”. To sit on the throne means that He has all power and guides all things according to His will and in that way achieves His aim. We cannot imagine how what is new will look like. You can compare that with a grain of wheat. If you look at it you cannot imagine that an ear of wheat will grow out of it. Or when you look at a caterpillar, neither can you imagine that a butterfly will come out of it. Paul uses a number of images to clarify the difference between earthly and heavenly things (1 Corinthians 15:35-Ephesians :), but our comprehension is too small to imagine all of it. However, we do know that all sad things are gone and “all things” will be new.
It is not new in contrast to old, but new in the sense of something that has never existed, for nothing and nobody will ever grow old in the new creation. Everything for which man has ever made efforts will then be established by God. Man is not able to make an end to death and things that are related to it, because sin dwells in him. To man that situation remains an idle dream, but for the faith it is the great reality.
After this wonderful promise that He will make all things new, John is ordered for the third time to write down (Revelation 14:13; Revelation 19:9). By writing it down, it becomes fixed (Isaiah 30:8). When we sometimes forget these things, we can read it again. In order to avoid any insecurity, it is added as a confirmation that these words are “faithful and true”.
Revelation 21:6. Then as a mighty closure the cry sounds: “It is done!” At that moment all things have become new. Then the full result is seen of the work of Him Who once cried: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The rest, the peace and the harmony that are grounded in that work, will ceaselessly be enjoyed forever by God and the ones with whom He dwells.
He Who has said it, is the eternal God, “the Alpha and the Omega”. He fulfills from A (“Alpha” is the first letter of the Greek alphabet) to Z (“Omega” is the last letter of the Greek alphabet) what He has said, which means that He will fulfill His Word to the jot. He is also “the beginning and the end”, which means that He stands at the beginning of all things and at the end of all things He will be still standing. There is nothing before Him and nothing after Him. All things are kept in relation with Him from eternity to eternity. There is an eternity, because He is the eternal One.
At this breathtaking moment, where time and everything attached to it, has disappeared, actually an invitation spontaneously goes out to everyone who has no part in it yet. When there are readers who have not got a part in it yet, then it cannot be otherwise than that a desire arises to get a part in it. It is most assuredly possible! When there is a thirst for the living God (Psalms 42:2), He will quench the thirst, just like the thirst of the Samaritan woman was quenched by the Lord Jesus (John 4:14).
Revelation 21:7. Besides thirst there is also a fight needed to gain part of that glory. There is actually resistance in the form of persons or doctrines that stand in the way and want to prevent a person to gain part of that glory. But there are powerful weapons available that secure the victory. Therefore the inheritance of these things is given to those who have overcome the world through the faith (1 John 5:4). They have overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11). They are more than conquerors through Him Who has loved them (Romans 8:37).
The conquerors will be faithful to the end, until the wonderful inheritance can be taken into possession. Then the new creation will be experienced in the closest relation with God and to the joy of God. This is the only place in the writings of John where there is mention of our position as sons. It is also a personal relation. Each person will have his own relation with God and God with him. He will not disappear in the crowd of people with whom God dwells (Revelation 21:3).
Revelation 21:8. After the extensive, but at the same time very limited description of the glory which is the part of the believers, the part of the unbelievers follows. The contrast is enormous and will never be negated. It will remain forever and ever. This is the part of those who are no conquerors and who haven’t thirsted for God.
The first category of people of whom is said what their part is, are “the cowardly”. The cowardly have never dared to confess the Lord Jesus. They stand on the side of the enemies and will perish with them. Also the other categories will not inherit God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:10).
There is mention of “their part”. That excludes the destruction of the soul. It also excludes the possibility for them to obtain the blessing after a course of time. The doctrine of the universal atonement is a serious attack on the authority of God’s Word and damages the gravity and perfection of the work of Christ. The substitutional suffering of Christ would not be necessary if all people will ultimately receive part of the eternal glory. But all who have no part of the work of Christ because of their refusal, will come into the second death, with the result that they will be definitely cut off of all life, on which they will never have their share.
Revelation 21:9. With Revelation 21:8 a chronological portion has been completed which has ended in eternity. What comes after that cannot possibly be a follow-up, for nothing else can follow after the eternal situation. Therefore from Revelation 21:9 we are taken back to the time that directly precedes the eternal situation, namely the kingdom of peace. A description follows of the glory of the church as the heavenly city, which is the place where from Christ’ government over the earth takes place.
Revelation 21:9 starts with nearly the same words that you also have read in chapter 17:1. Here it also starts, as in chapter 17:1, with “one of the angels who had the seven bowls”, though it is added here that they were “full of the seven last plagues”. The full bowls are shown, in order to make clear that the city could only come after the judgments of God have been executed over the earth. Furthermore you see that in both portions the description follows of a woman and a city. If you compare both portions to one another, you see a relationship with both a great difference between what you now already have learnt about Babylon and what you will be seeing of the new Jerusalem.
The church is presented here as “bride” and as “wife”. Probably ‘bride’ refers to her glory towards the world and ‘wife’ refers to the intimate relationship towards the Lamb, the Bridegroom. ‘Bride’ can also possibly refer to the first love for that one particular Man Whom she loves above all things and ‘wife’ may refer to the fulfilled desire of the love and its continuance. Both aspects remain applicable forever.
Revelation 21:10. In chapter 17:3 John was led into the desert. Here he finds himself in an exalted position. He is allowed to see the bride, the wife of the Lamb from the mountain. Now what does he see? He actually sees a city. That means that the woman who is the church, also has the characteristic of a city. The city is shown to John just like God has always seen her from eternity. In that way Moses was also allowed to see the promised land from a mountain (Deuteronomy 34:1) and Ezekiel saw the future earthly Jerusalem and the new temple from a high mountain (Ezekiel 40:2).
John’s position is far higher than that of both of them, for he is allowed to see the new heavenly Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from God. Just like the city in eternity comes down from God (Revelation 21:2), just like that it also comes down into the kingdom of peace.
The church is the dwelling place of God, where from blessing goes to the earth, in both the kingdom of peace and in eternity. Here it is also “the holy city”, the city that God has set apart for Himself to be His city, His dwelling place. It is the city with the name “Jerusalem”, which means ‘foundation of peace’. In and through the church the name of the city will fulfill its meaning. The city is both the dwelling place of God and the place where His throne is. Therefore the city is also the center from where He reigns and directs for the benefit of people.
The last time that a city is mentioned in relation with the earth, is Babylon. The first city that was mentioned in relation with the earth, is the city that was built by Cain (Genesis 4:17). Cities on earth are not built to the honor of God. The city that is built by God is originally heavenly and spreads the honor of God and Christ.
Now read Revelation 21:5-10 again.
Reflection: What does it do to you when you think of the future of the unbelievers?
The Holy City, the New Jerusalem
Revelation 21:11. The city has “the glory of God”. That goes beyond the robe of the bride, which was woven by herself, although the robe was given to her by God. In Christ we see the light of the glory of the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 4:6) and here the church has that glory. The church is just as in full harmony with God as Christ is. Just like the glory of God is visible in Christ, the glory of God is visible in her (cf. John 17:22). What has been revealed in the Lord Jesus will also be seen in this city.
When you consider this to be applied to people whom by nature had no part of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), isn’t it an indescribable grace? It is indeed no more than grace by which you have got part of it (2 Corinthians 4:6). Therefore you are now able to boast in the hope on the glory of God (Romans 5:11) that has become a reality in this portion.
The glory of God, as it is expressed in chapter 4:3, is in all kinds of ways also the part of the church. The jasper stone which is mentioned there, is also to be found here (and also in the Revelation 21:18-Psalms :). This stone is to be compared to the diamond that is familiar to us, which can be cut in such a way that the light is being reflected in a variety of magnificent colors. That light, which soon will be visible in a fully uninterrupted glory, should now already be radiated by the church (cf. Philippians 2:15). That is only possible by the Spirit (Acts 7:55; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
Revelation 21:12. The church is built in a way that it can reflect or radiate the glory of God, which glory in no way can be darkened or disturbed. This is because she has a wall and gates and foundations. A wall ensures the safety (Zechariah 2:5) and holiness and makes a division between the holy and the unholy (Ezekiel 42:20). In this city all the saints have gathered whom have glorified God in their lives on earth. The wall makes sure that nothing can enter the city that does not belong there (Psalms 122:3), which now is still possible in the church (Galatians 2:4; Jude 1:4).
But it is a wall with gates. Gates are related to government. In former days court cases were held in the gates of cities (Ruth 4:1). The great emphasis on the gates underlines the meaning of the city as a governing body. The gates allow the good to enter and keep the evil outside. A gate also means a secure and controlled access to the temple. They form a connection between the city and the earth during the kingdom of peace. The angels are the servants at the gates, they are the guards. Their duty as channels of God’s blessing, like in the Old Testament, is over. That duty is for the church (Hebrews 2:5). The wall with its gates is all the more to the glory of God (Isaiah 60:18).
Names are written on the gates. That has to do with the custom that gates were named after the cities which they were leading to. The Damascus gate is for example the gate through which you are led on the way to Damascus. Therefore the gates with the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel point out that the blessings of the church will go to Israel in the first place.
Revelation 21:13. With the holy city Jerusalem, the tabernacle of God (Revelation 21:3), it is the same as with the tabernacle in the wilderness. In each wind direction there were three tribes and the tabernacles was in the center (Numbers 2:17). All blessing goes out from the center and all worship goes to this center:
1. It begins with the “east”, the side where the sun rises. The light of the new day of the kingdom of peace is present.
2. The “north” reminds us of the time that God had to judge His people through the means of the nations from the north, because of their unfaithfulness, a time that is over.
3. The “south” speaks of the summer warmth, the summer that has come.
4. The “west” is the side where the sun goes down, which shows that there also comes an end to the kingdom of peace.
There is an application to be made for the proclamation of the gospel in our time and also for the church now. We must try to reach all nations with the gospel and also all age groups and social layers of the population, meaning everyone, without distinction. A church needs to have both a high wall and well-functioning gates. Some churches have too many open gates that there is no more mention of a wall. The other way around can also be the case. In that case a church has only a high wall and not a single gate. In both cases there is no separation for the Lord.
Revelation 21:14. After the gates the wall is described in more details. The foundations are not the twelve sons of Israel, but “the twelve apostles of the Lamb”. The twelve sons of Israel have never been related to the Lamb on earth. The twelve apostles have become the founders of the church (Ephesians 2:20) after the Holy Spirit came and the church came into existence. The foundation is Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). This is the city with foundations to which Abraham looked forward to (Hebrews 11:10).
Revelation 21:15. Then John remarks that the angel has “a gold measuring rod” in his hand. The rod is of gold and therefore meets the glory of God. The city and its gates and walls are to be measured with a Divine measure. Earlier John was ordered to measure the earthly Jerusalem (Revelation 11:1). Only, there was no mention of a rod of gold and John also is not to measure a certain part.
When God measures something or gives the order to measure, He tells us that it belongs to Him and that it is recognized by Him (cf. Zechariah 2:1-Exodus :; Zechariah 2:12; Ezekiel 40:3; Ezekiel 40:5). ‘To measure’ also means to determine the position and the calling of the city, with the boundaries attached to it. Of all that belongs to the city, of everyone who finds himself there, of everything that is decided – as it is said, the gate in former days was the place of jurisdiction and therefore it refers to decisions – and of the holiness of the city – indicated by the wall – is to be decided whether it is in agreement with the glory of God.
Revelation 21:16. The city is not only square – which is indicated by the mention of “its length is as great as its breadth” –, it is also cubical, for its height has the same measure. That reminds us of the Holy of Holies, that according to its measures was also a cube (cf. 1 Kings 6:20; Ezekiel 41:4). By her length and breadth it stands in connection with the earth and by her height in connection with heaven.
The “fifteen hundred miles” which the angel measures, is to be compared with about two thousand two hundred twenty kilometers. That the city has perfect even sides says something about the full balance in everything that God establishes. He gives the right weight to every truth of His Word. We see that in the way He carries them out. He never emphasizes one truth to the expense of another truth.
That the city can be measured indicates that it is limited. That goes for everything that has to do with man. Only God is endless and man is by definition limited. At the same time the church is perfect in accordance with the eternal counsels of God and the size of it is immeasurable (cf. Ephesians 3:18-Psalms :).
Revelation 21:17. With the “seventy-two yards” or “one hundred [and] forty-four cubits” (NKJV) the thickness of the wall is probably meant, which therefore counts between sixty-five and seventy meters. Anyway, it is a perfect measure (one hundred and forty-four is twelve times twelve). At the same time it also implies that each man can have only a limited imagination of the ‘measures’ of the church. In this measurement “a man” and “an angel” are placed on the same level. Both of them are creatures and therefore limited in understanding all the glory of God.
Revelation 21:18. In Revelation 21:11 you saw that jasper is an image of the radiance of the glory of God. The wall of the city is of this same material. The glory of God therefore has the same function as a protecting and dividing wall. The glory of God prohibits and prevents anything unclean entering the city. Therefore, if the glory of God would be revealed more amongst us, then many things would be prevented that do not fit in the light of that glory (Acts 5:13; Genesis 28:17).
This is the fourth time that the wall of the city is being dealt with. In Revelation 21:12 the mark of the wall is mentioned: great and high. In Revelation 21:14 the foundations of the wall are mentioned. In Revelation 21:17 the wall is talked about in connection with its size. Finally this verse speaks about the building material, the material the wall is made of.
The city is “pure gold, like clear glass”, which means that the city is of transparent gold. In the old creation that is not possible, but it surely is in the new one. It makes clear that the city is made of a material that is fully transparent, without any dark spot, without any blemish or anything unclean. The city is in this characteristic similar to God. How could the city of God have something that is dark or blemished? Everything is transparent and meets the glory of God.
Now read Revelation 21:11-18 again.
Reflection: Which aspects of the city are mentioned and what do they represent?
God Almighty and the Lamb Are Its Temple
Revelation 21:19-Proverbs :. Then the foundations are further examined. The foundations are adorned with all kinds of precious stones, yes, they consist of precious stones. They all together appear to be a foundation of twelve layers. Each layer is a foundation, which makes the city to lie on twelve foundations. Those foundations are not hidden in the ground, but are visible. The city is to be seen in its whole size, because it is considered to have come down from heaven from God, without coming on the earth.
The rank order of the foundations is given as follows:
1. The “first foundation”, the lowest one, on which all other foundations are laid, is again “jasper”, the image of the glory of God. The color is that of a transparent crystal.
2. The “second” foundation is “sapphire”. The color of sapphire is beautifully blue.
3. “Chalcedony”, the precious stone of which the “third” foundation consists, appears only here in the Bible. Its color is green-blue.
4. The color of “emerald”, the “fourth” foundation, is radiant green.
5. The color of “sardonyx”, the “fifth” foundation, may be lightly flamed black, brown, red and white striped.
6. “Sardius”, the “sixth” foundation, must have a beautiful red color.
7. “Chrysolite”, the “seventh” foundation, is of golden yellow color.
8. The color of “beryl”, the “eighth” foundation, can be different. This precious stone has amongst others a red, blue, green, yellow, purple and even a colorless variant.
9. “Topaz”, the “ninth” foundation, is deep splendid yellow.
10. “Chrysoprase” the ”tenth” foundation, is according to the meaning of its name, golden green.
11. The color of “jacinth”, the “eleventh” foundation, is not known (to me).
12. “Amethyst”, the “twelfth” foundation, has a violet color.
Although the exact color of each precious stone is not known, you nevertheless still have an impression of the overwhelming brilliance and splendor which the colors radiate from the foundations that are lying on each other. They merge together and each color reinforces the other colors. It must be a pleasure for the eye. It is about building materials that never perish and about colors that never fade away. The whole reveals the power and wisdom of the Creator.
You also come across twelve precious stones in Ezekiel 28. Those precious stones reflect the glory of the creation. You also find twelve precious stones in Exodus 28. There they are related to the breastplate of the high priest and reflect the glory of his service which he does for the sake of the twelve tribes of Israel.
All of the precious stones are different. We will all together be clothed with the glory of God, but it will never be forgotten how the glory of God on earth has been expressed in a unique way in every redeemed person. They altogether form a unique display of the glory of God. Each child of God can show something of God’s glory in his life. In the precious stones gold represent the common glory – the whole city is of gold, Revelation 21:18. The precious stones themselves represent the glory that each individual believer has and which distinguishes him from every other believer, while on the other hand he complements the other believer in that way and reinforces that believer’s glory.
Revelation 21:21. Each of “the twelve gates” consists of a pearl. That reminds us of the value that the church has for the Lord Jesus. The church is a pearl of great value to Him (Matthew 13:46). The twelve gates will eternally remind to all sides in creation that He has given Himself for her. If the church is as precious as a pearl to Him, can it then be the case for us that the fellowship of saints is unimportant or insignificant (cf. Hebrews 10:25) or would we despise her least member (Matthew 18:10)?
Another special characteristic of the city is that there is only one street. Therefore it is impossible to get lost or to walk off the road. All believers there go one way. It is impossible to have divisions there. Just as the city is of pure gold, which is gold that is like clear glass (Revelation 21:18), the street is also of “pure gold, like transparent glass”. The street refers to your walk in this city. There will be no danger for pollution, for in that city you are in accordance with the golden transparency of the street. At the same time it is an appeal to walk now already like you will be doing there too.
Revelation 21:22. John does not see a temple in the city. Therefore it is not about the earthly Jerusalem that the prophets are speaking about, for there will certainly be a temple there (Eze 40-44). A temple reminds us of sin, for the temple is a separate place in the city. That means also that there is a certain distance between God and His people. The veil in the temple emphasizes the separation between God and His people.
That distance and that separation are not found between the church and God and the Lamb. God dwells in the church and He Himself is the temple of her, just like the Lamb is (cf. Isaiah 8:14). The church is in the direct, immediate presence of God and the Lamb, without any distance or separation.
Revelation 21:23. The city as a whole is the temple of God. God dwells in the city and in that way the city is the temple. There is no separate temple. Therefore there is no separate light, the sun or the moon, that lightens the city from outside. If God dwell in the city, He is its light. His glory could never be illuminated by something different that would have a greater glory. The brilliance of His glory lies all over the whole city.
And wherein is the brilliance of His glory to be seen? In the Lamb. The glory of God will always reach the city through the Lamb alone (2 Corinthians 4:6). We know and see the Father only through the Son (John 14:6; John 14:9). The sun and moon are means to pass on the light in the creation. In Genesis 1 you see that there is first light on the first day and that afterwards on the fourth day the sun and the moon are called by God to show up. But the city of God is not illuminated by natural, created means. There is a direct illumination that comes from God Himself. That the Lamb is the lamp actually indicates that the Lamb is the means, but that doesn’t change anything about the fact that God’s light is directly present, for the Lamb in Whom this light is visible, is also God.
Revelation 21:24. The church passes on the light of the glory of God, which lies over it by the Lamb, to the earth. The church is like the sun for the nations. Through the light of the Lamb the church gives light in which the nations may walk. The church, which we are, will be the channel through which the blessing is passed on out of heaven to the earth. We ourselves will enjoy in our glorified bodies the blessings that surpass far beyond the earthly blessings.
The kings of the earth will bring their earthly glory to it (cf. Psalms 72:10-1 Kings :; Isaiah 60:3; Isaiah 60:5-Judges :Isaiah 60:9). It is not clear to me how we should imagine that. We may probably think of the appearance of heavenly saints to these nations on earth. After all, the church will reign together with Christ as the wife of the Lamb. These heavenly saints represent Christ. By acknowledging them as channels of heavenly blessings, the nations will honor Christ.
Revelation 21:25. Where the light of God rules, there is no darkness. The day will not be followed anymore by the night. The morning without clouds (2 Samuel 23:4), the day without anything that causes shadow or darkness, has come for the heavenly church. All things are fully transparent. There will be no fear for thieves that would want to enter in, for all darkness has disappeared and is gone forever (1 John 2:8). The city will be all light and glory.
Revelation 21:26. It is said one more time that the glory and the honor of the nations will be brought into it. It clarifies how much the church is the center of blessings in the kingdom of peace. She is in herself not the source of it, for all blessings come from God. But she certainly is the means through which God leads His blessings to the earth.
The nations will respond to that with appropriate gifts. It will not be so much about material gifts, but surely about the recognition that they in no way have any glory and honor that serve to magnify themselves as if they owe that to themselves. The nations have actually behaved themselves like that in the time of the rejection of Christ. Then the church was not counted, but was rejected and persecuted. Now it is exactly the other way around. God makes sure that His church is honored according to the extent that she was dishonored (cf. Revelation 3:9).
Revelation 21:27. Into the city can enter only that which contributes to the glory of the city. It is impossible for anything to enter into it that could possibly damage the glory of the city. Everything that is related to sin and of which the elements are still on earth, gets no chance to penetrate into the heavenly city. Should there be anything unholy that tries to enter into it, or anyone who does wrong things, the light will directly expose it. Nothing that belongs to the darkness will manage to unremarkably enter into the city. The light is at the same time its safety.
But there are certainly some who enter into the city. That concerns believers, people “whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life”. It is not the nations of the earth, for flesh and blood cannot enter into it. Neither are they the believers of the church, for they are the city. Which believers are we actually talking about then? Those are all the dead believers from the Old Testament and the martyrs who were killed after the rapture of the church. They do not partake in the church, but they surely have a part in all the blessings that God has promised to all who have put their trust in Him. They will enjoy those blessings in the heavenly part of the kingdom of peace.
Now read Revelation 21:19-27 again.
Reflection: What is different in the new Jerusalem compared to the old Jerusalem?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 21". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany