The final two chapters of Revelation are the fulfillment of Isaiah 65:17 “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.” This final vision comprises the last major component of the Apocalypse. This chapter stresses on the renewed fellowship between God and his people and the vision encourages the reader to see in this final section a reconstitution of the garden of Eden.
Vs 1 – 2: In this vision the heaven and earth are renewed by a new heaven and a new earth. The renovation of the old order is a teaching of apocalyptic tradition (2 Peter 3:10 – 13). This vision also includes a New Jerusalem as well. The concept of a New Jerusalem that comes down from God, this, also is a common teaching in Jewish apocalyptic tradition. Some hold that the New Jerusalem is an actual city, but many suggest it is a symbol of the church in its perfected and eternal state. However, the point is that Jerusalem is the site of the temple, the place where the presence of God dwells. The New Jerusalem is adorned as a bride for her husband. In Chapter 19 the people of God are presented as a bride; but here the same figure is used of the place of their dwelling place, the heavenly Jerusalem. The difference between the earthly city who is described as a prostitute and the heavenly city as a bride is obvious.
Vs 3 – 4: The voice from heaven declares that the dwelling place or the home of God is with the people, and that he will live with them. When the John writes that God’s home or the tabernacle of God is with us, he is saying that God in his glory has come to dwell with us. This does not suggest a temporary dwelling, but from here on out God dwells with his people for all eternity. It is the presence of God, and the fellowship with him of ALL believers, that comprises the fundamental trait of the coming age.
Death, sadness, and pain are all part of the “old way” that has now passed away.
Vs 5 – 7: God’s silence is broken when he declares, “I am making everything new!” The throne upon which God sits represents his sovereignty and splendor. It is from this position of tremendous power that he announces his intention of creating the new order.
God proclaims, “It is finished!” He then declared that He is the Beginning which refers not only to the fact that he was first in point of time but also, he is the source and origin of all things. He is the end in the sense that he constitutes their goal or aim. He also allows those who are thirsty to drink from the spring of the water of life. Scripture often employs the figure of thirst to depict the desire of the soul for God.
It is the overcomers/victors who will receive these blessings. In the letters to the seven churches, we learned that the overcomers will eat from the tree of life, not be hurt by the second death, be given hidden manna and a white stone, receive authority over the nations, their names will not be blotted from the book of life, be a pillar in the temple of God, and sit with Christ on his throne. All this is the inheritance of those who remain faithful during the period of final testing.
God also declares that the victor will be his child and he will be God. Those who deny Christ and are seduced by the solicitations of the prostitute have no inheritance in the family of God.
Vs 8: On the contrary those who live contrary to the ways of God… cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars will receive their destiny… the second death… burning sulfur and hellfire. The same fate as the Beast, False Prophet, and Satan.
Vs 9: One of the angels who held one of the seven bowls of plagues tells John to come and see the bride of the lamb. As a bride the church is pure and lovely, and as wife she enjoys the intimacy of the Lamb.
Vs 10 – 14: John is taken in the Spirit to a great mountain to see the Holy City descending from heaven. As the holy city descends from heaven, it shines with a brightness that shows the presence and glory of God. It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel that in the restoration the glory or presence of the Lord will rise upon them and he will be their everlasting light.
The city is surrounded by a great wall with twelve gates, which are guarded by twelve angels. On the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The wall is not needed for security reasons in the eternal state. The wall is simply part of the description of an ideal city as conceived by ancient peoples accustomed to the security of strong outer walls. There are twelve gates and they are named after the twelve tribes of Israel. It is believed that the twelve gates symbolize abundant entrance.
Vs 14: The mention of the “Twelve apostles” is a reference to the disciples without specific mention of Judas. In Ephesians 2:20 Paul teaches that the house of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Historically, the church rests upon the apostles and prophets, this means it is built upon the faith and efforts of those who first proclaimed the gospel message. The combination of the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles shows the unity of ancient Israel and the NT church.
Vs 15 – 17: These verses describe the measuring of the heavenly city. If you recall in chapter 11 John who was told to measure the temple of God and the altar, and then count those that worship there. However, the holy city is to be measured by the angel who appropriately uses a reed or staff of gold. Traditionally it is believed the reed measures slightly more than ten feet in length. The measuring in chapter 11 was to ensure protection; in chapter 21 it serves to portray the colossal size and perfect symmetry of the eternal holy city.
The city that appears to John as a square, but more likely it refers to a three-dimensional form—a cube whose length, breadth, and height are all equal.
Vs 18: The jasper wall indicates that even the walls of the city declares the glory of God. The gold of the heavenly city is as pure as glass. This is normally taken to mean that it had a transparent quality, which meant that it had no impurity.
Vs 19 – 20: The twelve stones parallel the twelve gems that are in the breastplate of the high priest, this suggests that the privileges once reserved for the high priest alone under the old covenant are now available to all the people of God. These precious stones were/are desirable for their beauty and scarcity. The stones mentioned in the Bible are hard to identify with any precision because of the many different types and colors as well as the lack of a standard terminology. But the idea behind the description of this city is that the city is magnificent beyond description.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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