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“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:22-27
The temple was the center of Jewish spiritual life. It was the place the Israelites came to draw near to God–and He to them–for them to worship and to offer sacrifice. In the Old Testament, God’s presence indwelled the Most Holy Place of both tabernacle and temple. The mercy seat therein resembled a glorious, ancient throne room. And the Most Holy Place itself was shaped as a perfect cube like the city of New Jerusalem–the heavenly Jerusalem.
All was just a copy and a shadow of that on which we are to truly set our hearts. The eternal throne room of God, His Most Holy dwelling place among His faithful people in the New Jerusalem .
In heaven, we won’t need a temple to draw near to God. We will live in His presence. In heaven, we won’t need a temple to worship God. Like the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders and the angels, we will continually worship God Almighty [John 4:21-23]. In heaven, we won’t need a temple to make sacrifices to God. We will live eternally thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice once and for all for our sins.
So radiant is He that no lights outside His being will be necessary [Isaiah 24:23 & 60:19-20]. How inspired of the Spirit when the Psalmist said, your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path [Psalm 119:105].
No more will darkness reign upon the earth–the new creation [Matthew 4:26; John 1:5]. No more will corruption reign in government. No more will people trespass against one another [Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4].
The gates of the New Jerusalem will ever be open to the inhabitants of the new heaven and the new earth. Night will never fall. Safety and peace never compromised or threatened [Isaiah 52:1; Joel 3:17; Zechariah 14:11]. No more terror. Nothing contrary to the love of God will enter His gates. Only those who have received salvation by grace through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9].
Do you see by the sun or by the Holy One of Israel? Are your feet on the straight and narrow path to the New Jerusalem [Matthew 7:14]?
“It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on the them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:12-14
Recently exiled to Babylon, a prophet arose among the Israelites–Ezekiel. He had the distinct travail of bringing a message of destruction to his fellow expatriates. They would not be returning any time soon to their homeland as they had hoped. Rather they would hear of their sacred temple burning to the ground.
But Ezekiel was also given the message of eternal hope. Israel–and all the nations–would one day stand judgment before God. Their words and actions weighed in the heavenly balance [Daniel 5:27]. The faithful would see Jerusalem restored like never before and the temple refashioned in all its heavenly glory. In this, Ezekiel’s fourth and final vision [Ezekiel 48], we find a description of the New Jerusalem much like the one here in Revelation 21:12, with the primary difference being that of size.
The city of Ezekiel’s vision had walls totaling 18,000 cubits or 6 miles around, while John’s vision of the New Jerusalem has four walls each 12,000 stadia or 1,400 miles long. Which means that each wall will be about as long as the distance from New York City to Oklahoma City. And each wall is just as high as it is long. A giant cube!
Both Temple visions show us that there will be three gates on each of the four city walls. Maps of the original city, show anywhere from 8-12 gates, with the city being a somewhat long, skinny, misshapen oval–not unlike an upside down, mini-Israel. Jerusalem has gone through several different wall building stages in its history. Through the years, gate names included: Dung Gate, Fountain Gate, Water Gate, Horse Gate, East Gate, Master Gate, Sheep Gate, Fish Gate, Old Gate and Valley Gate. Probably so named for the main transport through each.
The New Jerusalem, however, will be a perfect square–perfect being the operative holy standard. Three gates on each wall, like the triune godhead. And the gates will be named for the 12 tribes of Israel, because people have always been the ones whom God intended to enter His gates. The twelve foundations each with an apostles’ name [Acts 1:13 & 26], again showing that heaven is not just for God’s chosen nation, Israel, but for the church as well [Revelation 4:4]. For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13], who believes on Jesus and Him crucified [John 3:16], whose name is found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 13:8, 20:15 & 21:27], the redeemed, the forgiven will be saved and enter these gates with thanksgiving [Psalm 100:4].
The wall will be high, speaking of the wealth and splendor and might of God. The gates attended by angels–those beings who never faltered in their reverence for and worship of the Most High. Just as everything was perfectly prepared in anticipation for our arrival nearly 6,000 years ago on Day 6 of the Creation [Genesis 1], so is heaven perfectly prepared and ready to receive us back into the arms of our loving Father God [Luke 15:20-24 & 32].
Have you been made new? Will you enter the gates of the New Jerusalem with eternal thanksgiving? Or the lake of fire with eternal lament?
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” Revelation 21:9-11
Recall that Revelation chapter 17 began this exact same way, one of the seven angels who held one of the bowls of God’s wrath at the very end and poured it out on all people, invited John to see an outtake from the overall End Times picture. In chapter 17, the Spirit takes John away to see what happened to Babylon–false religion personified as a woman [vs. 1-5]. Here in chapter 21, we see what becomes of those who hold firm to their faith in Jesus to the end–the bride of Christ.
Babylon meets her end in the desert [17:3], a dry and barren land despite her so called riches. But the bride of Christ descends from heaven, higher than the hilltop on which the earthly Jerusalem perched [Isaiah 10:32], higher than the mountaintops over which the floodwaters rose [Genesis 7:18-20], the most elevated position possible for this historical climax.
The Holy City is peopled by a royal priesthood, the chosen of God who themselves chose God, a holy nation [1 Peter 2:9] and carries the name the New Jerusalem.
First mentioned in Genesis 14:18, it was originally known as Salem where the priest Melchizedek collected the tithe from Abraham. Jerusalem was a Canaanite city conquered by the Israelites as they took the Promised Land [Joshua 10:1]. Jeru meant foundation or city and Salem comes from Shalem which was the name of a Canaanite god. The second part of the name, however, easily converted in Hebrew to Shalom meaning peace.
So then Jerusalem was the city/foundation of peace a double entendre for the city/foundation of the one true God [Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:14-18]. An allusion not lost on the writer of Hebrews who spoke of a glorious city that the ancients looked forward to receiving by faith [Hebrews 11:10].
This heavenly Jerusalem will shine with the glory of God Himself. In fact, the Day 4 Creation–sun, moon and stars–will no longer be necessary for governing light and marking time. All of these earthly restraints will pass away [Revelation 22:5]. Imagine 24-7 not having any meaning! Because the earth will not exist to rotate a 24-hour day in its orbit around an equally non-existent sun. Mind blowing, right?
Equally thought stretching is the image of crystal clear jasper. Most types of jasper stone are variegated and opaque. This scripture mention invokes, in my mind, the sunniest kind of day where everything seems to be surrounded with halos of clearish rainbows. What do you imagine when you read this description? That’s the beauty of heaven. Our earthly minds can only begin to imagine a rough sketch of what it might be like. But the real thing will be beyond compare.
Is Jesus your foundation of peace with God? Will you see heaven one day?
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
Because the Word is double-edged [Hebrews 4:12], scriptures often list those who will not inherit the kingdom of God in contrast to those who will [i.e. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-25]. Just as light would not be understood without the contrast of darkness, the life that God desires for us is not always clear to the human mind without looking at that which is in opposition to God’s will.
Since God is holy–meaning no impurity or sin is in Him–and since He is the sovereign of heaven–the authority before whom we will stand judgment–it is imperative that we understand what God expects of us, both to do and not to do.
So why does cowardliness make the list? Remember that this letter of Revelation is being circulated among the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor. Jesus, through John’s writing, tells the churches that they were going to face persecution, hardship, imprisonment and even death for His name’s sake [Revelation 2:3 & 8, 9-11 & 13; 3:8-9]. In each instance, if they held boldly to their faith, if they did not cower from the physical, social and cultural threats of the world [Matthew 10:28], they would be called victorious and receive the inheritance of eternal life. We are not of those who shrink back from the world in fear, renouncing our faith to save our skin [Hebrews 10:39]. Rather we are to stand firm in our faith [1 Corinthians 6:13; Ephesians 6:11-14], boldly proclaiming salvation through Jesus Christ. The cowardly turn their back on God when times get tough. They do not acknowledge Jesus before others; in turn, they will not be acknowledged before God [Matthew 10:32-33].
Obviously, those who do not believe in God will not be saved. For it is, by grace we are saved through faith [Romans 1:5 & 5:2; Ephesians 2:8]. And even if we continue to struggle against sin we can experience God’s grace and, by faith, salvation in our lives. But if we do not have faith, then we will never see heaven.
Vile means morally corrupt. Since morals–standards of belief and behavior–are established by God who is holy, corrupted morals are anything that deviate from His norm. It makes sense then that those who buy into Satan’s lie that we can be our own God and make our own morals [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14], will never inherit the kingdom of God.
This corrupted moral system includes murdering, any sexual behavior that deviates from God’s plan of one man and one woman within the confines of marriage for life, trying to summon magical powers rather than rightly seeking the power of God, creating images of false gods and praying to/worshiping them, and telling lies. Many of these were addressed in the well-known 10-commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. All of these are natural desires of sinful people, but can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, and are completely forgiven us through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Who is God in your life? You or God? Not sure? Well, whose standard of right and wrong are you living by? Yours, the world’s or God’s?
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” Revelation 19:6-8
Again, heaven resounds with the call to praise. From the living throne of God. From the twenty-four elders. From the angels. And from the great multitude of the redeemed. All praise God for being Lord–that is Sovereign ruler–and for being Almighty–that is all-powerful, none can stand against. He reigns. He alone is the authority and government over everything and everyone that is. Always has been. Always will be. And there is nothing false or corrupt in Him.
The idea of living in a perfect world is one of many evidences of eternity in the hearts of humankind [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. It is something that many desire, though not at the expense of their freewill.
The thing about heaven is that our freewill will not be forfeit, it will be restored to its originally created intention. It will be predicated on a reverence for God that fills our heart to overflowing. That reverent love will extend to our fellow humanity and the rest of the new creation exactly as it was always meant to be on this earth.
For this reason, we will rejoice. Everything about the truth of God and creation and life and death and sin and forgiveness will be perfectly understood [1 Corinthians 13:12]. We will see God and know Him for who He truly is, just as everything that we have hidden away about ourselves will also be seen in the light of truth [Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10].
But as the bride of Christ, He has been preparing a home for us in His heavenly inheritance [John 14:2]. Like Hosea’s wife, Gomer, we were estranged to our betrothed, breaking our commitment to honor and cherish God alone above all else, but He will forgive our wayward hearts if we ask [Isaiah 54:5-7; Ephesians 5:31-32] and He does so joyfully. For He has never stopped loving us, despite our wandering, unfaithful ways [John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9]. He has never stopped seeking our hearts and calling us back to Himself. He has never chosen another to replace us.
And even though we wallow in the filth of this world, by faith the good things we have done in this life–though they are filthy rags against His holiness [Isaiah 64:6]–will be counted to us as righteousness, and He will clothe us in the finest white garments that ever were [Revelation 3:5 & 18, 7:9]. He will throw a reception feast unparalleled on this earth with the faithful as His honored bride [Matthew 22:2 & 25:10; Revelation 2:17].
Extremely joyful–aka blessed–are all those who have received His forgiveness in this life, for they will be the honored, faithful wife that Christ brings with Himself to this banquet before the Heavenly Father.
Will you be counted among the faithful? Have you received the forgiveness of Christ for your sins? Is He the Lord of your life?
“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah!’ Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” Revelation 19:1-5
As in a refrain from a song, the praise we heard when we first entered the heavenly throne room repeats itself here. This time, the multitude [Revelation 5:12-13, 7:9-17 & 11:15] shouts the psalmist’s invitation for all to join in the praise–hallelujah!–most often translated, Praise the Lord.
And why is the multitude praising God?
For salvation, which is found by grace alone through faith alone in the person of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross [Ephesians 2:8; John 3:16].
For who He is, God. In Him alone is true glory–magnificence, true beauty, high renown and honor. In Him alone is true power–omniscience, omnipotence, all-seeing, wisdom and sovereignty–which he exercises in grace, mercy and love for us. He alone is truth. He alone is the just judge who will weigh the hearts of people [1 Samuel 16:7; Daniel 5:25-27; Hebrews 4:12]. He alone is able to stand against the false religion and systems of this world and bring them to naught, upholding the faith of those He has redeemed, those who have laid down their earthly lives for Him [Revelation 6:9-10].
We come full circle back to the throne room introduction [Revelation 4] where we were first introduced to the twenty-four elders–representative of Old and New Testament believers–and the four living creatures–the living and active throne of God Himself. At the praise of the multitudes, these who continually worship the Lord fall onto their faces more deeply humbled and thankful for all that God is and all that He has done.
And just as they exclaimed, Amen, when Jesus was found worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll, so here the exclaim, Amen, once again, confirming the right-hearted praise from God’s people. Amen. So be it. The English is bankrupt here, because so be it only renders a sense of future completion, where in actuality, the subject of this praise has already been accomplished from the very beginning. Amen should be better translated as three parts in our language to convey the fullest understanding–So has it been, So it is and So it will continually be–reflecting the true nature of God.
Then God’s throne itself echoes the call to praise to the multitude of God’s servants who are now in the new heaven and the new earth for all eternity.
When this day comes, will you be counted among the faithful servants around God’s throne?
“Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: ‘With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” Revelation 18:21-24
Perhaps this is the same mighty angel who asked to know who was worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll [Revelation 5:2]. Picking up the donkey millstone [Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42] to represent the sinking of Babylon is significant. It is better to meet this end by our own choosing, than to lead the faith of others–and children in particular–astray.
Jeremiah prophesied this millstone sinking [Jeremiah 51:63]. And Revelation assures us that once Babylon, and all that she represents, have been destroyed, the sinful systems of the world will never rise again. No music, career, daily chore or light will come from those who made their homes in false religion and sinfulness, though once earthly fame abounded therein.
By Babylon’s deceptive promise to influence fortune and fate–for that is what the rebellion of sorcery and witchcraft is–many, many, many lose their way on the straight and narrow [Matthew 7:13-14]. Our flesh is weak and easily tempted to behave according to our sinful nature [Galatians 5:19-21]. But by His spirit in us, God calls us to overcome the fleshly temptation and sin in our lives, just as He overcame this world [Genesis 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:13; John 16:33].
All those who live by the world’s ways, bear the bloodguilt of the prophets, saints and martyrs. That is, if we live like the world, sinning against God, then we are guilty of the world’s bloodshed because we are a part of those who oppose God’s people.
But those who–by faith–live by God’s word, will be forgiven the guilt and penalty of their sin, and will be counted among the just and the righteous by God [Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38]. They will be like a city on a hill whose light shines for all to see the truth of their way in the darkness [Matthew 5:14].
Are you bearing your own sin and guilt and that of a complicit world? Or have you been saved through faith by grace?