Revelation Chapters 21 & 22 - Paradise Restored, A City for All Nations
When I started out on this series on The Revelation and was mapping out the territory, I named this last part "The Garden". Now that I have got closer I see that a better name is "The City". This symbol (for that is what it is) is used 14 times in these last two chapters - it is the dominant symbol there.
A Look in the rear-view mirror
- We have met our Guide, Jesus Christ Himself (ch.1)
- We have read His Tough Love Letters to His people (ch. 2 & 3)
- We have roamed through a Brief History of the World (from His first coming to His return) and seen the the main thing is "Jesus Will Win!", and sin, death and Satan will lose spectacularly at the last
What John Saw
V1, "then I saw..." - these words of John are usually a signal that we have come to a scene-change, and that we can expect the symbols to change too.
"A New Heaven & A New Earth" - is this also a symbol, say of God restoring all things? Or is it more? Is this one in some measure real, literal? We cannot be sure, but I think it might be, based on the apostle Peter's word's in 2 Peter 3:12-13 "..the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." Nothing else in Peter's letter is of a symbolic nature, so it would be odd it he just stuck one in here.
Paul tells us those who have trusted in Christ will have very real bodies in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). It makes sense that there shall be a real, material, world for them to inhabit. Jesus has a body! God has put on real flesh and bone.
The Holy City
There are many ways to approach these last 2 chapters. A verse-by-verse commentary is beyond by time and energy, and probably beyond your patience, so I think it probably best to focus on the City symbol, following the line of "what does this symbol mean?" which has been my method all along. This City is the dominant symbol in this last passage of the Bible
We began way back with a tour over the tree-tops of the forest of Revelation, and we will end with a tour of the City.
Whose City is it?
verse 2 tells us. The city comes down from God, dressed as a bride adorned for her husband
- "from God" - He is the architect, the builder, He provides all the services (light, food, water,...) and all the money needed to build it.
"... the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" Hebrews 11:10
- He lives in the City, as its resident manager. v.3 "Now the dwelling of God is with men.."
- what a contrast with the city of chapter 18, which is descended from the Tower of Babel, and wants to be an eternal fist shaken in God's face. All the works of men, in their attempts to build up to heaven, end up that way.
What is the City - what does this Symbol mean?
- church, bride (in 19:7, & Ephesians 5:25 "husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.."; not only "like a bride" 21:2, but "the Bride, the wife of the Lamb" 21:9 & 10 are absolutely clear - angel tells John "I will show you the bride" then immediately shows him the City, coming down out of heaven".
- Note: it comes down. The religion of the Bible is a "come down" religion, not a "build up" one. "He came down to Earth from Heaven, who is God, and Lord of all". ".. when we were still powerless .. Christ died" Romans 5:6. Our own good efforts cannot bring us to heaven.
- therefore NOT a literal city - not rebuilt Jerusalem but rather the "Dwelling of Peace" for that is what Jerusalem means.
- Jesus had said "I will build my church ..." and here we see the result.
We Tour the City & See What is IN it.
- Ablaze with Light - NO ONE GETS LOST HERE - shining with God's glory - church reflects the light of Jesus (a borrowed light). Clear and pure and precious like diamonds, she has nothing to hide, for Jesus has washed away her sin. Warm and alive and exquisite like rubies, sapphires, emeralds. No words of men are adequate to describe the glory of Jesus' church. Even the roads are paved with pure, bright gold.
Jesus said, "I am the Light of the World" John 8:12
- The Great City - BIG ENOUGH FOR ALL - no earthly metropolis was ever this size. A perfect cube of 12,000 stadia (roughly the size of Sydney Stadium). That's 1728 billion stadiums, or 288 stadiums per person alive today on Earth. Remember though, its a symbol, of the capacity of God and His church to receive all sinners that will come to Him for forgiveness and life.
Jesus said "Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" Matthew 11:28
- A Mighty Wall, for SAFETY - 20 years ago I designed an explosion-resistant control room at work with walls of concrete heavily reinforced with steel, about a cubit thick (a man's forearm length). This city's walls are 144 cubits thick! No enemy can ever penetrate these walls, made of diamond. If you are part of Jesus' true church you are forever safe.
Jesus said "I give them eternal life and they shall never perish" John 10:27
- 12 Foundations, for STRENGTH & BEAUTY, with the apostles' names. Jesus' church is built safe and sure on the truth of the Gospel, which He gave to the apostles to spread through-out the whole world. Even the foundations are studded with precious jewels, so lovely is the Gospel of Jesus.
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians. 3:11.
- 12 Gates, each made from a single pearl (if you are not yet convinced this City is symbolic, just imagine the size of the oyster that made these pearls!". The gates are named for the 12 tribes of Israel (themselves a symbol of the church, see chapter 7 - see also Philippians 3:3). The gates face in all directions, for people of every race and tongue and tribe come into it, from the four corners of the earth. These gates are never shut. 21:25
Jesus said "I am the door" John 10:9
- The Lamb, Jesus, is Himself there (21:3, 22:3,4) - John said of Him "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" John 1:29. Promised in Leviticus 26:11,12.."I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people" - fulfilled in Rev. 7:15-17. "They shall see his face", to see which is worth a million worlds. The High Priest was forbidden even to look on the symbol of God's presence, but we are invited to look on His face. What a wonder!
"For God ... has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6.
- The River of Life - cities are usually built on rivers. Water gives life. This water gives eternal life, for it comes "from the throne of God and of the Lamb" 22:1.
Jesus said "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said,
'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water'"
- The Tree of Life. Lost to mankind when Paradise was lost because of Adam's rebellion. That is why sickness and death are all around us. Here the tree still grows, strong, beautiful, lavish and healing as ever. Its roots are in the water of life, and its fruit feeds those in the city, and its leaves heal all the nations.
Jesus said "I am the Bread of Life"
All of which adds up to JOY
But we also see what is NOT in the City
- no Tears
- no Death - "Death is swallowed up in victory!" 1Corinthians. 15:54
Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life" John 11:25
- no Sadness
- no Pain
- no Pollution - the city is pure
- no Sin - the people are pure
- no Sinners - those who persist in sin are kept outside
- no Temple - for God is always with them
Jesus said "Destroy this temple and in 3 days I will build it up" John 2:19
- no need of artificial Lights - for the city glows with the light of God
- no need of Sun or Moon or Stars to give light (though I expect there will be sun, moon & stars, for beauty - "The heavens declare the glory of God" Psalm 19.
- No Curse - it came in with Adam, but went out with Jesus, the 2nd Adam. "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law" Galatians 3:13
- No Night - no darkness, no fear anymore
The Lord of the City
An Aside - Have you noticed the tenses in these last chapters? If this all came after the last judgment, then it should be all past or present. Yet there are so many future words, eg, 29 "will"s. We see promises, invitations and warnings being given. This only makes sense if we accept that, once again, Revelation is not giving us a continuous story, a chronology. Chapter 21 doesn't have to be taken as immediately following chapter 20. Visions and symbols, and it is fitting that at the end of the book the focus is Christ and His Bride, upon the King and His Queen
The Lord of the City is King Jesus, mighty yet gentle, faithful always, filled with love and compassion, yet just and truthful.
- His Name. He calls Himself "Alpha & Omega", the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. That is, He claims to be the beginning and ending of everything. We have seen this name before, in chapter 1:8,
'"I am the Alpha and the Omega", says the Lord God,
"who is, and who was, and who is the come, the Almighty"'
Jesus is none less than God the Almighty, as Isaiah told us nearly 3000 years ago (Isaiah ch. 9:6 "his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace".
See how John , overwhelmed, falls to worship at the angel's feet. "Don't do it! I'm just a servant - worship God!" 22:8,9. Why then is John not corrected when, in chapter 1:17, he falls at Jesus' feet? Simply because Jesus is so much greater than even the mightiest angel - "Fear not" He says, "I am the first and the last..." - worship God!
- The Now and Then aspects.
- Now we do not see Him crowned with glory, but then we shall.
- Now we do not see His church pure and spotless, but then we shall.
- Now we have some tears, but then He shall wipe them away
- Invitation, Warning and Separation -
- NOW, He invites everyone who will hear to come to Him. What a blessed invitation in the last few verses of the Bible! 22:17
"The Spirit and the Bride say 'Come!'
And let him who hears say 'Come!'
Whoever is thirsty, let him come;
and whoever wishes, let him take
the free gift of the water of life."
It does not matter what wrong actions, words and thoughts you are guilty of, if you cast yourself in faith on His dying, forgiving mercy, He will take you in. Nothing can keep you out.
What about you?
- NOW, He warns. If you insist on hugging your sins to yourself, you must be shut out of real life, joy, and all pleasure, forever. Without faith in His dying work you cannot be forgiven your real guilt, and cannot enter the Blessed Country - 22:15
"Outside are the dogs, those who practice the magic arts,
the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters
and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."
If you refuse to let go, like the rich man who jumped from the sinking ship with his gold in his pockets (and alas, he did not know it was but painted lead), you cannot be rescued.
What about you?
- THEN, there must be separation. His invitation has an end-date, but the separation of good and evil has none - it is absolutely final. There will be now good thing in Hell - no friendship, no love, no peace, no rest, no creativity, no song, but only tears, pain, bitterness, remorse, hatred, darkness, noise and groaning.
"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 sulphur.
This is the second death." 22:8
What about you?
Thank God we are still in the Age of Invitation! He calls you. There is yet strong hope for you. But do not delay - every day His Bride says "Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.", and He replies "Yes, I am coming SOON." 22:20
May there be trumpets sounding for you on the great day!
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published: 27 Nov 2009
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