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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 21

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Introduction

Rev_21:1-27

Introduction

We have now seen the final end of Satan and his three generals. We have witnessed the fate of persecuting governments; the fate of false religions and false spiritual teachers; the fate of immoral activity; the fate of Satan himself; AND the fate of all participants in such is eternal, spiritual death. Fire and brimstone is the final end of all the wicked.

Now we turn to the God’s view of the righteous. There are some important points to remember as we begin to study the blissful state of the faithful.

1. The language is still Figurative . The beauty of God’s faithful must be described in feeble language. How can you describe the place of the immortal in terms mortals can understand? “The writer was faced with the task of painting the unpaintable, and expressing the inexpressible.” (2, 20)

2. Two important things are discussed - Heaven and the church. While the two are now separate and distinct they will be merged into one. Those who are now faithful in their service in the church of their Lord, will be rewarded with eternal life in Heaven.

3. We know that heaven will also include the faithful from among the patriarchs (including Noah, Enoch, and Abraham) and the faithful from the dispensation of the Law of Moses (Including Moses, David, Daniel). However, the focus in the book of Revelation is on the last dispensation, the Christian Age .

4. We also see the “holy city”, the “new Jerusalem” coming down OUT OF heaven. This holy city is the church. It is clear that the city is within heaven but separate from it. The church, the faithful and loyal believers, marked with the seal of God. (7:4-8) Some of the descriptions in these last two chapters are about heaven itself. But, some of the pictures painted here are about the whole of heaven.

5. Woodruff applies the remainder of the book as a description of the church here on earth. He argues correctly that the holy city, the New Jerusalem are figurative terms for the church. He writes, “These statements figuratively describe our spiritual situation today under the law of Christ as compared to the situation of those who lived under the law of Moses. Under the law of Moses, the children of Israel experience the pain and sorrow of sin. The law of Moses was a law of spiritual death because it could not provide the forgiveness of sins.” (1, 384)

What will heaven be like? If we remain faithful, if we keep our garments white, if we do not bow down to the beast or receive the mark of the beast, we will be with God and receive the reward He has prepared. “This section of Revelation … describes, in terms which we can understand, how God views his kingdom, the church. It is a spiritual city whose value and beauty is beyond comparison. Those who are residents of that city are the wealthiest people on earth.” (1, 392)

The patriarchs and the faithful of those under the Law of Moses will be in heaven. Jesus is coming back for a pure church to be his bride. Heaven will be the wedding feast. We, the church, are the bride of Christ.

What is the holy city, the New Jerusalem?

Before we can appreciate the beauty described in this chapter, we must understand the symbol of the holy city, the New Jerusalem. (21:2)

I here borrow the outline from Woodruff. (1, 390-392)

21:9 - The symbol is defined here. The bride, the Lamb’s wife, is the church. ( Rom_7:4 )

21:14 - The foundation of this city rests on the 12 apostles. ( Eph_2:20 )

21:24 - Citizens of this city walk in light. ( 1Jn_1:5-7 )

21:25 - The gates are never closed. A person may come into this city at any hour.

21:27 - Occupants of this city are written in the book of life. ( Php_4:3 )

22:1 - Tree of life to heal nations. After the judgment, there will be no nations to heal.

22:14 - To enter this city you must obey the commandments of God. ( 1Jn_5:3 )

22:19 - Our name can be removed from the book of life. We can be removed from the holy city.

God wants us to see the value He sees in the church. “This city, the church, is the spiritual city built by God. It is the place where those people who have their sins forgiven by the blood of Christ dwell.” (1, 392)

Christ did not come to set up a physical kingdom. He came to establish his spiritual kingdom, the church. ( Mat_16:18 ) The tree of life is located in this spiritual kingdom. (22:14) As long as we are in that beautiful city and partake of that tree of life, we shall live spiritually forever.

Verse 1

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

A. John now turns his attention in a new direction. He sees a new heaven and earth. This is not, as some religions teach, a renewed, rebuilt earth. Some believe that the saved will be returned to the earth in a refurbished Garden of Eden. The term “new heaven and new earth” is not to be understood as two separate things.

B. 2Pe_3:13 describes the end of this world and all material things. Then we will “look for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” This cannot be the earth because it has been burned up.

C. The sea was the thing that separated John from the churches he wanted to visit and encourage. He was trapped on the island of Patmos. The sea represented the great separator, the divider. “To John on Patmos the sea was the thing which separated him from the things dearest to him, the churches of Asia.” (2, 212)

Verse 2

2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

A. It is clear that this is not a literal city. It is adorned ready for a wedding. The terms “holy city” and “New Jerusalem” describe the church.

B. Heb_12:22-23 says that the church of the firstborn is the “city of the living God.”

C. Rom_7:4 states that the church is the bride of Christ.

D. It is important to note that heaven and the church are two separate things. The church is seen as “coming down out of heaven.” Heaven is larger than the church. Heaven includes the saved from all ages. Abraham and David will be in heaven, but were never in the church of our Lord.

Verse 3

3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

A. The tabernacle is another reference to the church that is, to faithful Christians.

B. As the tabernacle under the old law represented the presence of God, so the church is the dwelling place of God in the Christian Age. ( 2Co_6:16 )

Verse 4

4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

A. Heaven is often described by what is NOT in heaven. God will remove the “former things”. The list includes:

 Tears are wiped away

 No more death

 No sorrow

 No crying

 No more pain

B. We often use the term “passed away” to describe death. It is not the person who has died. All the former things have died.

C. We are reminded that heaven will be heaven because of the things that are NOT there. For persecuted Christians, just to be in a place with no pain, suffering, persecution or the threat of death would be heaven.

Verses 5-7

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

A. Some believe this is the Father. I believe the speaker here is the Jesus.

B. Jesus is described in similar language in chapter 1. He is true and faithful. He is the alpha and omega. He is the giver of the water of life. He is God. We will be joint-heirs with Christ. ( Rom_8:17 ) Christians will “overcome.” We have overcome the world, sin, temptation and persecution.

C. The things that are made new will replace the former things. Instead of pain, sorrow, and crying, there will be joy. Instead of death, there will be eternal life. Instead of tears of grief there will be tears of great joy.

Verse 8

8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

A. Those who have not overcome are listed here. Like other lists of sins ( Gal_5:1-26 and Rom_1:1-32 ) this list is not an exhaustive one. The list is suggestive of the sins for which eternal punishment will be meted out.

B. This list is a “Who’s Who in Hell”.

 Cowardly - Those afraid to act

 Unbelieving - Atheists and others who rejected the gospel

 Abominable - Sins which are abhorrent to God

 Murderers - This group includes killers, haters, abortionists and all who take human life on purpose

 Sexually immoral - All kinds of immoral sexual behavior

 Sorcerers - Those who had their faith in potions, spells, drugs, psychic readers, taro cards, and superstitions invented by men

 Idolaters - All who worship and serve things, people, positions, and powers more than they seek to serve Jehovah

 All liars - All who love or make a lie (22:15)

C. All of these will suffer the same fate as Satan. They will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.

D. For these unbelievers, this will be the second death. They died physically. Now they will die spiritually.

Verse 9

9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

A. We now meet one of the angels that poured out the bowls of the wrath of God. He now invites John to see the bride, the wife of the Lamb of God.

B. The Lamb of God is Jesus. ( Joh_1:36 )

C. The bride is the church. John is invited to see the church now. Not the church on earth with it hypocrites and pretenders. Not the church with flaws and imperfections. But the church with no spots, no wrinkles, no blemishes. This is the church pure, all dressed and prepared for the wedding feast.

Verse 10

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

A. John was taken to a great and high mountain. The church is so widespread that you need a high vantage point to take it in.

B. The phrase “in the Spirit” is inserted to show that this is still part of the vision. He is not literally taken off Patmos to some high mountain. He is given a spiritual view of the grand and glorious church.

C. Repeated from verse 2, John sees the church coming down out of heaven. Heaven is bigger than the church. The church is a part of heaven.

Verse 11

11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

A. The church, the true and faithful church, has the glory of God. The church was planned and built by God.

B. The church was designed to spread the light of the gospel. ( Eph_2:10 )

C. We are not sure about the jasper stone, some believe it might be the diamond. It is bright, precious and clear as crystal.

Verses 12-13

12Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:

13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west

A. The church is further described as having a high wall with 12 gates. There is a angel at each gate.

B. The 12 gates have the names of the 12 tribes of Israel written on them. There are three gates on each side of the holy city. You can approach the city (church) from any direction and find access.

C. The wall of a literal city was it primary defense against attack from the outside. If one is inside the wall, there is safety and protection. God has promised to protect those who are His. He offers security and safety to the church.

D. NOTE: This is not heaven. This city came down out of heaven. John is describing the church, the bride of Christ.

Verse 14

14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

A. The city has 12 foundations. The church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. ( Eph_2:19-20 )

B. The gates were labeled with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. The 12 foundations are also labeled with the names of the 12 apostles.

Verse 15

15 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.

A. The angel who was serving as John’s guide asked him to measure the city, the gates and the wall.

B. The measurements are made with a golden reed. The measurements are figurative and not to be taken as literal.

Verse 16

16 The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.

A. The city is a cube. The three dimensions are equal. The length, width and depth are the same.

B. The measurement is 12,000 furlongs. In modern measurements a furlong is about 220 yards. 12,000 furlongs would be about 1,500 miles.

C. This would make the city 1,500 mile long and wide. It would also make the city have walls that are 1,500 miles high.

D. I believe that the number, like most numbers in Revelation, should be taken in its figurative sense. The number 12 is the number that represents organized religion. The 12 tribes of Israel represent Judaism. The 12 apostles represent the New Testament church.

E. If you take this number and multiply by 1,000, the number of completeness, you have the sum completeness, the grand total of all who have ever lived lives of faithful obedience to God. Thus, 12,000 represent the total of all who have been obedient to God. Remember this is the spiritual city, the New Jerusalem.

Verse 17

17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.

A. Since the height of the wall is described in the previous verse, it is clear that this verse is measuring the thickness of the wall.

B. The wall is 144 cubits thick. This would be about 72 yards in thickness.

C. Again, I do not believe we should take this a literal. The number 144 is the total of 12 multiplied by 12 (12 X 12 = 144).

D. Since 12 is the number for organized religion, we are looking at a multiple of Judaism times Christianity. This is the similar to the number 144,000 in Rev_14:1 .

E. The measure of a man means that this was a measurement which man could understand.

Verse 18

18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.

A. The wall is of jasper (perhaps diamond) and the city is pure gold.

B. The gold is so pure that it is clear like glass. In our understanding of the terms clear as glass and pure gold are not synonyms. How can it be both?

C. I would remind you that John is attempting to describe that which is beyond our ability to describe. He is trying to paint a picture of what we can not even imagine.

Verses 19-20

19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.

A. The walls are decorated with all kinds of precious stones.

B. The 12 foundations (labeled with the names of the 12 apostles) are made of precious stones.

C. We are not sure of the meaning of some of these terms. Here is what we do know. These are precious stones. They are used to decorate, thus, are brilliant and beautiful.

Verse 21

21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

A. The gates on which are the names of the 12 tribes of Israel are now described.

B. The 12 gates are made of 12 pearls. Each gate was one pearl.

C. The street (singular) of the city is of such pure gold that it is clear like glass.

Verse 22

22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

A. Under the Law of Moses the tabernacle, and later the temple, represented the presence of God.

B. Now, the presence of God is in the hearts of his people. ( 2Co_6:16-17 ) God has promised to dwell with us, walk with us, and be our God.

C. There is no need for a temple. We ARE the temple of God. ( Eze_37:27 ; 1Co_3:17 ) God is present in His people.

Verse 23

23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.

A. The church in not dependant on external light sources. God is the light. The sun is not needed to shine. We do not need stars or the moon.

B. God’s glory lights up or lives. Jesus is the light of our life. ( Joh_8:12 )

C. The primary task of the church is to take this light into a world dark with sin.

Verse 24

24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.

A. People from all nations shall flow into the church. ( Isa_2:2 )

B. The church is the body of the saved. Kings cannot bring their glory and power into heaven for eternity. They can, when converted, bring their glory into the church.

Verse 25

25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).

A. The church is a pure place. It is safe from sin. There is no darkness of sin allowed in the church. Those in the church have been forgiven and died to a life of sin.

B. Walled cities always closed their gates at night. If you were outside the city when the gates were closed, you could not enter. However, in the church it is never night. There is never a time when the opportunity to obey the gospel and be immersed is closed.

C. I have baptized people at all hours of the day and night. The invitation to obey the commands of God is never closed. You can enter the church at anytime.

Verse 26

26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

A. This opportunity to become a citizen in the holy city is open to people of all nations. It is not limited to one race, nation or language.

B. Peter said that in every nation if one believes and obeys God is accepted into the city.

Verse 27

27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

A. The church must remain pure. We must not allow sin or anything that defiles us to enter our lives.

B. We must purge out the old leaven. We must separate from sin. “Come out from among them and be separate.”

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Revelation 21". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/revelation-21.html. 2021.
 
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