14: Revelation 21-22: The City of God
The final visions in Revelation seem to move away from the immediate impact of images that could be applied to the Christians under Rome. Images of the City of God seem much more clearly apocalyptic, just as parts of Jesus' message in Matthew 24 applied to the immediate future and the fall of Jerusalem, while others were purely apocalyptic.
Peter takes up the message of a new creation in 2 Peter 3. 12waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
1. The New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-8)
1 Sea… implies separation, and is also representative of a source of evil (as in the beast from the sea).
2 City includes culture and life as well as bricks and mortar.
2 Jerusalem… represents peace and the presence of God. The word itself is plural in Hebrew, representing both heaven and earth.
2 Bride… suggests the Bride of Christ as opposed to Whore of Babylon.
7 …they will be his peoples ,and God himself will be with them… promises fulfillment of the central promise of the Bible.
8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, … creates a contrast, not between believers and unbelievers, but rather between sinners and forgiven.
2. The Bride of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9-14)
Now John is shown the same City from a different point of view.
9 Then one of the seven angels… The angel is free to act for man’s good now.
10 And in the spirit… suggests that what is seen cannot be understood in the flesh, and so must be interpreted symbolically.
10 holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God… suggests something eternally coming down, rather than a single occurence.
12 great, high wall… promises protection. No evil can get into the Holy City. None will even exist.
12 twelve gates… for God’s chosen people. There’s no separation between Old and New Testaments now.
13 three gates on each side… Three represents God and perfection.
14 twelve foundations… Again, there are twelve for all the chosen. Foundations suggest safety. Besides being unable to enter, no evil can even develop inside the City.
3. Measuring the City (Revelation 21:15-21)
The city is measured again, just as in Ezekiel 40 and Revelation 11. John did the measuring on earth (in Revelation 11), but the angel does it now in heaven.
16 The city lies foursquare… 19 The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel… Traditionally, the Jewish priest wore a square breastplate over his heart, decorated with 12 jewels for the 12 tribes (Exodus 28:15-29). The breastplate symbolized God keeping his people close to His heart.
16 its length and width and height are equal… The inner sanctuary of the Temple, where God lives, was a cube in Solomon’s and Ezekiel’s temples (Exodus 26).
17 one hundred forty-four cubits…The numbers are probably symbolic again – all God’s people.
21 And the twelve gates are twelve pearls… Rabbinical sources promised that God would bring pearls to Jerusalem to be carved and used as gates.
18 pure gold, transparent as glass… Symbolize value and purity
4. The Glory of the City (Revelation 21:22-27)
22 I saw no temple in the city – No barrier is needed between God and his people at the end.
23 the glory of God is its light – Readers would remember the Shekinah glory of the Old Testament.
23 and its lamp is the Lamb – We can’t separate light and lamp; the Lamb is truly God.
Isaiah 60 describes God’s new creation: 19The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for rightness shall the moon give light to you by night;but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory
26 the glory and the honor of the nations. We are God’s treasured possessions – Exodus 19:5 5Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. And we have found the treasure hidden in the field – Matthew 13:44 44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…'
5. The Water of Life (Revelation 22:1-2a)
The Old Testament contains images of a river flowing from Jerusalem: for example…
Psalm 46:4 4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
Ezekiel 47:1 1Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple
Zechariah 14:8 8On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem
6. The Tree of Life (Revelation 22:2b-3a)
Ezekiel 47:7-12 describes the pure cleansing water, and the trees that stand beside the river. 7As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees… 12Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.
And in Genesis, the tree of life grew in the garden of Eden.
Revelation describes in beautiful images how all that was lost in the fall will be restored.
7. The Throne of God (Revelation 22:3-5)
God and the Lamb are now referred to as “him”, and with “his face:” powerful images suggesting that the Lamb is truly God.
These final images provide a contrast between the old world and the new. All that was lost, and more, is given to us.
We can see God and live, whereas before no one has seen the Father.
His name is on us. We were told he would write our names in the Book of Life.
We reign forever. We were promised just 1,000 years.