Revelation Chapter 21
Revelation chapter 21, along with chapter 22, gives the account of the earth after sin is eliminated and the earth is returned to the condition it was like in the first two chapters in the Bible. The millennium has ended, the final judgment of sinners has happened, the earth has been cleansed by fire and it is now recreated as the eternal home of the redeemed.
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea." (Rev 21:1)
How do we know it will be a new earth, a renewed earth, as opposed to a brand new or different planet? At the flood the world was destroyed or perished but Noah stepped out onto the same planet as it was drying up.
"Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:" (2 Pet 3:6)
"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." (Rev 21:2)
John mentions again the descent of the new Jerusalem which had come down to earth at the end of the millennium:
"And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." (Rev 20:9)
Here is a thought - the verse above does not say John saw the "new Jerusalem." In fact, it doesn't even say "Jerusalem" but just "the camp of the saints." However, the original word for camp is most often translated as "castle."
It makes sense that when the holy city descends from heaven the holy people who were in heaven during the millennium will be inside it. The fact that John describes the city coming down after describing all the events of chapter 20 does not mean it couldn't have come down previously. In Rev 21:10 he again describes it coming down. Remember that John often jumps back in time as he presents the message of Revelation - indeed there are seven accounts of the Second Coming (downloadable PDF) in the book of Revelation.
The phrase "prepared as a bride for her husband" refers back to chapter 19:
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready." (Rev 19:7)
The wife here is not the city but the saints inside the city. We can make a distinction between the city and the people that inhabit it. This is similar to, for instance, John saying that all the world wondered after the beast (Rev 13:3). Of course, it was not the world as in the planet that wondered, but the people of the world. The city itself (the new Jerusalem) was built by God:
"For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Heb 11:10)
The wife "made herself ready" could be referring to the choices the people of God had made to avail themselves of salvation.
"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." (Rev 21:3)
John has just seen the holy city coming to the earth and he is told basically that God will now live with His people on this earth. Basically, we could say that heaven has moved to earth. That has been God's purpose for a long time - to dwell with His people. That was what the tabernacle in the camp of the Israelites in the wilderness was all about.
"And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." (Exo 25:8)
Even dwelling in a sanctuary/temple among His people was not God's ultimate goal. That is better expressed as God dwelling within His people:
"And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (2 Cor 6:16, quoting Lev 26:11-12, below)
That has always been the purpose of the covenants, for God to dwell within/among His people:
"For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you. ... And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people." (Lev 26:9,11-12)
"And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." (Gen 17:7)
"But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jer 31:33-34)
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Rev 21:4)
Why is it that only at this point is there an end to death, sorrow, crying and pain? Because judgment is complete. During the millennium, while the saints are going over the records there will, no doubt, be tears shed even by the saved because of those who are not saved.
"And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." (Rev 21:5-6)
This sounds like an invitation to watch ("behold") the recreation ("all things new") of the earth. It doesn't seem like there would be a space of billions of years there (as in the theory of evolution). God can create everything needed on this earth in a week (as in Genesis) or He could do it in an instant. The interesting thing is that the saved will be invited to behold it. They will be able to witness the recreation of the earth. What a privilege! Even Adam did not witness the work of creation 6,000 years earlier - he was created after the earth, the animals etc. Even when Eve was brought forth he was asleep.
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." (Rev 21:7)
The overcomers will inherit all things and these things have just been made new. We are reminded of the promises given in chapters 2 and 3 to the overcomers in each of the seven churches. The overcomers will be given:
We can know that this inheritance is reserved for us:
"To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you," (1 Pet 1:4)
All the overcomers will be God's children; sons and daughters of God.
"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (Rev 21:8)
A quick reference is made here to everyone else who was not saved. They will experience ("have their part in") the second death which is the final separation from the presence of God.
While many among the lost will not actually be murderers, the does seem to include all of the lost. Everyone who is lost will likely be fearful and they will be lost as a result of their unbelief.
"Brimstone" is a reference to the presence of God. Brimstone is from the Greek word "theion" (Strong's G2303) from the Greek word "theios" (Strong's G2304) which has the meaning of divine or Godhead.
The phrase "shall have their part in" uses "part" translated from the Greek "meros" which is also used in Col 2 as "in respect of":
"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:" (Col 2:16)
From the way it is used in scripture, we can see that it often means "to take part in" or "to experience" something. Other uses of "meros" with that meaning include John 13:8 and Rev 20:6.
"And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God," (Rev 21:9-10)
Verse 9 starts a new scene and is really a flashback as the city coming down was already mentioned in verse 2. Next comes a more-detailed description of the city.
It is interesting to compare the descriptions of two significant women in Revelation:
Comparison of the Two Symbolic Women
These two women could be seen as representing, essentially, God friends and His enemies. But, remember, God's enemy is not the lost themselves but the system that caused them to be lost.
"And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:" (Rev 17:1)
"Which had" implies that the angel no longer has the vial. Of course, by this point, it is empty. The angel said he would show John the bride in verse 9, then, in verse 10, he actually showed him the holy city. This seems to imply that the city is the bride. However, it is more probable that the bride is actually the people in the city. Other verses make it plain that it is redeemed people who constitute the bride.
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (Rev 19:7-8)
The city itself does not make itself ready. It is prepared for the people of God:
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."(John 14:2)
"But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city." (Heb 11:16)
"Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:" (Rev 21:11-12)
What does the city "having the glory of God" mean? Could this perhaps include (or even mean) character? "Her light was like unto a stone most precious" is a reference to the light of God. The word "light" is the same original word used in:
"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;" (Phil 2:15)
This is the only other verse that uses it and it refers not to the light itself as much as to that which gives off or is the source of the light. In the case of Philippians, it is a reference to spiritual light.
The city had the glory of God because of His presence.
"On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." (Rev 21:13-14)
"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;" (Eph 2:20)
The description includes considerable emphasis on the base of the city being square and with there being 12 gates.
"And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." (Rev 21:15-16)
A furlong is 606.5 feet. 12,000 furlongs would be about 2218 km (1386 miles) or, if that is the total circumference, 555 km (347 miles) to a side. So thinking of the whole volume of the city and not just the base, what geometrical shape could it be? Most would answer "a square" but it could also be a four-sided pyramid with a square base. I kind of like this idea with the throne of God being at the summit "... the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up ..." (Isa 6:1).
Some think "equal" means in proportion, so the height is not reaching well beyond the atmosphere.
Ezekiel's temple was described as "eighteen thousand measures" (cubits) which is calculated to be about 9.3 km (5.8 miles) in circumference. (Ezek 48:35)
"And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel." (Rev 21:17)
This must be referring to the thickness of the wall as its length has already been mentioned. The measurement given is about 64 meters (210 feet).
Next we are given a description of the appearance of the city.
"And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." (Rev 21:18-21)
If this were on earth today it would be the wonder of the world.
"And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." (Rev 21:22)What is the significance of there being "no temple?" It must be referring to a physical structure as a temple and such is not needed because while the temple pointed in so many ways to the Lamb, He will actually be there. And, of course, there will be no need of sacrifices because the Lamb of God has already done that.
"And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." (Rev 21:23)
Notice it is not saying that there is no sun or moon just that there is no need of them. The following verse point to this time:
"Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously." (Isa 24:23)
"And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it." (Rev 21:24)
Will there be nations and kings in the new earth or is this a reference to people who were once kings or members of nations?
"And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Rev 21:25-27)There will be no need to shut the gates as there will not be anything or anyone that could enter to defile or cause harm in any way. This is also mentioned in Isaiah:
"Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean." (Isa 52:1)Revelation chapter 22 will continue adding more detail about the New Jerusalem which is to be the home of the redeemed for all eternity.
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