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Revelation 21:9-22:5: The Blessing in the New Jerusalem Print E-mail
Sunday, 15 July 2012

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If you have ever visited a famous historic site, then you were probably led around the place by a tour guide.  Depending on where you went and who your guide was, the experience could have been good or not so good.  They are there to give us information that we would not know by just walking around the place.  When I was in Rome, me fellow traveler and I listened in to a tour guide talking about a particular place in the city.  Since we did not actually pay for the tour, we did not listen long, but he was explaining certain events that had taken place there and why certain structures looked like they did.  Still not sure I would have paid for that information, but to each his own when it comes to visiting historic cities and places.

In our passage this morning, John acts as a tour guide for the New Jerusalem.  As is normal in the book, what he is about to see is announced to him beforehand.  Look at verses 9-11.  He is told that he is going to see the Bride, the wife of the Lamb, but then he is shown the holy city Jerusalem.  That might seem odd at first, but we must remember that Johnís writing is often figurative and symbolic.  And as we noted last week, the New Jerusalem represents a place and a people.  Whether or not the place is a literal city is hard to determine, but the point is that it is the place where God dwells with His people.  In fact, this is the whole point of Johnís vision of heaven.  The details and descriptions all point to the glory of Godís people dwelling in His presence.  This is why John notes in verse 11 that the city has the glory of God, which he then describes: its radiance like a most rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.  The city that John sees and describes for us is the city where Godís glory dwells with His people.  It is where He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and he himself will be with them as their God.  This is what John is describing in our passage this morning.  So then, what does he see?

The wall, the gates, and the foundations (v. 12-21)

John begins by describing the wall around the city.  Look at verse 12a.  The wall is not there for security reasons because there are no enemies remaining (we are told later that the gates are always open).  Rather, it simply symbolizes Godís eternal protection of His people.  They are secure on every side.  He gives us the measurements of the city and its wall in verses 15-17.  Look at those with me.  The city is massive.  Its shape is that of a cube.  John gives its length, width, and height.  This is probably a reference to the shape of the holy of holies.  Yet, this was far greater than any human structure.  And the walls were large as well.  Some see them as out of proportion to the rest of the city, but again, the description is figurative and not meant to be taken literally. 

What do these vast measurements teach us?  They teach us that Godís people will dwell secure in His presence.  Can you imagine?  Absolutely no more reasons to fear.  None.  Godís people will enjoy the sovereign protection of being in Godís presence.  One of my commentatorís writes: ďThe measuring may be viewed from Godís perspective as representing a decree to guarantee his future presence with his people and the absence of sin and threats to the security of the redeemed.Ē 1

John also tells us about the gates that were built into the wall.  Look at verse 12b-13.  Twelve gates were built into the wall, three in each direction.  Upon the gates is inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.  John further describes the gates in verse 21.  Look at that with me.  Each of the gates is a single pearl.  Can you imaging the extravagance?  Jesus told a parable about a man selling all that he had to get a pearl of great price.  So just think about the value of a pearl big enough to walk through.  And not just one but twelve of them.  Amazing.

John also describes the foundations of the wall.  Look at verse 14.  The gates have the names of the sons of Israel on them and the foundations have the names of the apostles on them.  Together they symbolize all of redemptive history.  All that God has done has led us to this point: the dwelling of God with His people.  All of Godís people under both covenants will enjoy His presence forever.  The foundations are further described in verses 19-20.  Look at those with me.  John tells us in verse 18 that the wall was built of jasper and in these verses describes the foundations being made of various different precious stones.  Much has been written about why John chose these particular stones, but the best solution is that these stones represent those that were inlaid into the high priestís breastplate.  However they are explained, they symbolize the splendor and glory of the city.  The description of the various parts of the city taken together is staggering.  Yet, what would we expect for the place where God dwells with His people?

The Temple, the Light, and the nations (v. 22-27)

John begins to describe what is in the city in verse 22.  Look at that verse with me.  There is no temple in the New Jerusalem.  Why is that significant?  The temple was the place where Godís presence dwelt with His people.  As such, it was a shadow of what was to come.  Under the new covenant, Godís people are the temple since they are indwelt by the Spirit.  Yet, in the New Jerusalem, Godís presence will be fully with His people.  God, the Father, and the Lamb will actually be the temple.  What was once shadow will now be substance.  What had been inaugurated with the first coming of Christ will now be consummated with His return.  Not only is God the temple, He is also the Light.  Look at verse 23.  The city will no longer need the sun and moon to give light.  Godís glory will be its light.  His glory will give all the light that is needed.  Once again we see the emphasis of God being the true blessing of Heaven.  He is the Temple and He is the Light.  All the other blessings proceed from Him.

Then John tells us that the nations will bring their glory into the city.  Look at verses 24-26.  This is the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 60 (the passage we read as our call to worship).  What does it mean for the nations to bring their glory and honor into the city?  It could possibly be a reference to their riches and wealth and fame, which all belong to God.  But it is probably better to view it as the nations coming to bring praise and worship to God.  John has emphasized throughout the book that all the nations will be represented around the throne (see 5:9ff and 7:9ff).  They will be there to offer praise.  They will sing: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb (7:10).  For they are the ones who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (7:14).  And if you have turned from your sins and trusted in Jesusí death for you, then you will be there with them.  We will bring our praise and our worship into the city to honor the One who has redeemed us by His blood. 

But if you will not repent or if you do not remain steadfast, then you will not be welcome in the city.  Look at what John writes in verse 27.  There were those that John was writing to who were considering abandoning the faith.  They wanted safety and protection in this life.  They wanted assurance here and now.  Thus, they were willing to worship the emperor and idols.  Yet, John warns them throughout that such falsehood will be exposed.  If you claim to worship God, but give yourself to the treasures of this world, then you will not be welcome in the city where God is the greatest blessing.  If you love your sin so much that you are unwilling to turn from it and follow Christ, then you will not be welcome in the city of the Lamb.  This is the warning that John repeatedly gives us the book.  Do not ignore it.  Do not make the eternal mistake.

The river, the tree, and the throne (22:1-5)

John continues his description into chapter 22.  He mentions the river and the tree of life in verses 1-2.  Look at those with me.  The river imagery takes us all the way back to the garden (see Genesis 2:10).  At times it was prophesied that a river would flow in the new city (Ezekiel 47:1-12 and Zechariah 14:8).  John calls it the river of the water of life, symbolizing the eternal life that is enjoyed by all who drink from this river.  And from where does it flow?  John answers: flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 

Again, we see the emphasis that all the blessings of Heaven proceed from God.  The blessing of eternal life comes from Godís throne.  It was His sovereign plan to send us a Savior.  It was the Lambís work at the cross that purchased our redemption and defeated death.  Our life comes from Him.  He is the source of the river and He is the source of our eternal life.  John also mentions the tree of life that is planted beside the river.  It provides the healing of the nations.  There will be no more pain in the New Jerusalem (21:4) because the nations will be healed.  They will be filled and sustained by the tree of life.  Again, this tree points back to the garden, where Adam and Eve were cut off from its blessings.  But the curse will be removed in this place.  Look at verse 3a.  No curse to cut us off from enjoying eternal life with God. 

John finished his description of the New Jerusalem in verses 3b-5.  Look at those with me.  Godís throne will be in the new city.  The Lamb will be there.  And Godís people will worship him.  We will spend our days delighting ourselves in God.  We will worship and serve Him without the restrictions of the curse.  And we will see His face!  To see His face while living under the curse would only bring death.  But in the new city where there is no curse and there is no sin we will be able to see His face and enjoy His presence.  We will belong to Him and He will be our God.  Once again John tells us that God will be the Light of the new city, which brings His main emphasis once again into focus.  The blessing of His presence will be the source for all blessing in the New Jerusalem.  His glory will radiate and be reflected in the walls and gates and foundations.  He will be the Temple and all worship will be brought to Him.  From His throne will flow the river of eternal life.  He is the blessing from which all other blessings flow.

We noted last week that Johnís vision of Heaven teaches us to treasure God above all.  His vision of the New Jerusalem calls us to value Him as our greatest treasure.  But it also gives us reasons why we should treasure Him.  As we have said, from Him all blessings flow.  And lest we miss it, we must note that the main reason we treasure God is because of the Lamb.  Seven times in this passage John mentions the Lamb.  Why?  To keep before us the fact that His death has bought us this.  We will be citizens of this city only because our name has been written in the Lambís book of life (v. 27).  We are His Bride, bought by His blood, so that we might spend eternity enjoying Him!  May we continually learn to treasure Him even now.  Amen.

1 G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1999), p. 1072.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 27 July 2012 )

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