Revelation 21:1-22:5

Revelation 21:1-22:5

THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH

In this lesson we learn about the New Jerusalem, our eternal home.

OUTLINE                

   If most Christians knew heaven was a city, they might have second thoughts about going, until they found out what kind of city it is. The description John gives of the New Jerusalem portrays a heavenly home so pure, so righteous, and so glorious that "city" hardly does it justice.

I.  The New Heaven and New Earth

II. The New City

     A.   The Dimensions of the City of God

     B.   The Description of the City of God

III. The Denial to the City

 

OVERVIEW

   We come now to the part of the book of Revelation where the heavy cloud of judgment is lifted and the people of God get a glimpse of their inheritance. Revelation 21 is a chapter filled with good news for God's people. Many scholars believe heaven is a continuation and perpetuation of the heavenly city John describes in his vision, so studying that beautiful city will give us our first look at our eternal home with God.

   Heaven is going to be a reality for us beyond all expectation, a place where there is no more pain, no more weeping, and no more death. Dwelling forever in the presence of God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is something God intended from the beginning of His creation, but which His creation has had to wait thousands of years to experience.

   There will be a new heaven, a new earth, and a New Jerusalem. Revelation 21 introduces us to all things "new" which the Father has prepared for those who love Him. The old things have passed away and all things are made new.

THE NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH

   Verses 1 and 5 repeat the theme that after the Great White Throne Judgment God makes all things new. As wonderful as that proposition sounds, there is surprisingly little recorded in Scripture on what happens when God makes the new heaven and new earth. John does tell us that the new earth he saw had no sea, and that is definitely new! Imagine a planet with no oceans or similarly large bodies of water.

   The scientist-theologian Dr. Henry Morris offered an interesting view on the lack of water on the planet:

   There will, in fact be no need for a sea on the new earth. The present sea is needed ... as a basic reservoir for the maintenance of the hydrologic cycle and the water-based ecology and physiology of the animal and human inhabitants of the earth. In the new earth, however, there will be no animals at all, and presumably all men and women who live there will have glorified bodies with no more need of water. Their resurrected bodies will be composed, like that of the Lord Jesus, of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39; Philippians 3:21) but apparently with no need of blood (1 Corinthians 15:50) to serve as a cleanser and restorer of the body's flesh as at present.

   This, in turn, eliminates the major need for water on the earth (blood is about 90 percent water, and present-day human flesh about 65 percent water.

   The apostle Peter offers another insight on the new heaven and new earth, that righteousness will dwell there (2 Peter 3:13). That will definitely be new, a world where righteousness, not unrighteousness, dwells. Isaiah 66:22 says the new heaven and earth will "remain before [God]," meaning they will be eternal. There will be no more upheavals or judgments upon the earth.

   How is God going to bring the new heaven and earth into existence? Some people refer to 2 Peter 3:10-12 and suggest heaven and earth will be renovated by great heat and fire. In the nuclear age, a global conflagration is not out of the realm of possibility.

   But I really do not think God is planning to blow the globe up and start over. Rather, I think God is going to remake, renew, refresh, or refurbish the existing heaven and earth. Somehow, through a cleansing fire, every evil and polluted and carnal thing will be cleansed from the planet. Just like we can clean something old so that it becomes "new" again, so I believe God will cleanse the planet and make a new heaven and earth in which we will dwell for eternity.

   The Bible does not tell us too much more than that about the establishment of the new heaven and earth. It will follow the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of the Millennium and will be a renovation of this present heaven and earth by fire. And with the new earth will come a new city.

THE NEW CITY

   The longing for a city from God goes all the way back to the book of Genesis. We learn in the book of Hebrews that Abraham, during the time of his sojourns, "waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). Every saint of God can give testimony to longing for something beyond this life, but it is not until we get to Revelation 21 and 22 that we see what it is. The question is, "How do we interpret what John has written down about the new city?"

   We have touched on the question of interpretation, the science of hermeneutics, in previous lessons and concluded that when the normal, literal sense of the Bible makes sense, we do not seek any other sense. We may not understand all that we take literally, but that does not mean we should not interpret it that way. Some of

what you are about to discover will be hard to believe, but we will, just read the Bible as it was written, starting with the dimensions of the new city.

The Dimensions of the City of God

   To accommodate all the saved individuals since the beginning of time, the city will have to be large, to say the least. Verses 15 and 16 give the basic dimensions as a cube, about 1,500 miles per side, depending on how one translates the exact measurement of a "furlong." That is, think of a box whose height width, and length are exactly the same, 1,500 miles each. That means the area on which it sits would comprise 2,250,000 square miles. But since it is a cube, the total volume of the city is 3,375,000,000 cubic miles. One writer discovered that the base of the city is roughly ten times the size of countries like France and Germany, and forty times the size of England.

   How would it work, living in a city that is a cube? Our minds go immediately to the concept of different levels as in a tall office building. But we do not have any idea of exactly how the city will work or be arranged. We just have to take by faith that the "mansion" Jesus has been preparing for us is going to be like nothing we have ever seen (John 14:2-3).

The Description of the City of God

   What does that size look like? John gives more detail on the description of the city

     1. A Holy City

   The city of God is a holy city by definition. No city currently on planet earth could be the city of God because all cities are unholy. Our cities have sin and filth and pollution and crime and poverty and disease and anger and turmoil; they are not cities of God. But the new city will have none of those things; it will be a holy city. There will not be even one small white lie told in that city, no word of boasting, not the slightest sound of arguing. Why? Because every resident will have been made holy by the redeeming grace of God and will stay that way for eternity. Because God and everyone in the city is holy, the city itself will be a holy city.

     2.    The Pearly Gates

   "The pearly gates" has become so much a part of colloquial language that most people do not know that description is right out of Scripture: "The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl" (21:21). Now you can see why some commentators do not think we should read these chapters literally. Where would a pearl the size of a city gate come from? The answer is, from God, not from an oyster. If that is what God wants the gates to be of, He will make pearls the right size.

   The pearl gates have the names of the twelve tribes inscribed on them and are part of the wall around the city, made of jasper. The purpose of the walls is not to keep people in or out. They simply define the dimensions of the city. Remember that all enemies have been done away with and there is no need for protection. The gates are open for access at any time.

     3.    The Foundations of Precious Stones

   Verses 19 and 20 describe the foundation of the city wall which consists of twelve precious stones common to the time John wrote. We are not familiar with many of these stones today and so have a hard time pictur'ng exactly what the twelve foundations look like. But

from the studies I have read where researchers have tried to identify the appearance of these ancient stones, it sounds more beautiful than anything we could imagine. I think these twelve foundations are not individual, one here and one there, but are laid on top of one another. Can you imagine the blending and assimilating of twelve strata of beautiful and precious stones with the light penetrating them and reflecting off of them?

   It is so appropriate that the city of God reflects the beauty of the Son of God and the infinite blessings of the redemption He provided. The enormity and creativity the city of God reflects is a picture doing justice to the majesty and creativity of our God.

     4.    The Streets of Gold

   In addition to the pearl gates, the most frequently debated part of the new city is the streets, since John says they are made of pure gold (21:21). The pure gold we see in our world is not "like transparent glass," as John describes the gold in the new city, it is opaque. Somehow, it is so pure light does not reflect off it. Rather it seems to go right through it, like golden glass. We speculate in this area about things we have never seen or experienced before and can only conclude that the brilliance and beauty of this kind of gold is simply a reflection of the beauty of God Himself, indescribable. As for the light that streams through this translucent gold of which the city and streets are made, it is not the light of the sun or the moon. Verse 23 says the city is illuminated solely by the glory of God. There is often light associated with the appearance of God in the Bible, but it is not light as we think of it light produced by some combustible fuel always in need of replenishment. It is more like the light that came from the burning bush which Moses encountered, which did not consume the bush. It is the light of glory, not of heat or fire.

     5.    A Tree of Life

   The last descriptive element we will note is actually in the first two verses of chapter 22: the Tree of Life. Crystal clear water flows from the throne of God on either side of which was the Tree of Life. That which was taken away in the Garden of Eden is here restored.

   A tree bearing fruit obviously raises the question about eating in heaven. Will we be able to? When the angels visited with Abraham, they ate a meal (Genesis 18:8). When Jesus appeared after His resurrection, He ate fish (Luke 24:42-43). It appears that even in heavenly bodies, we will be able to consume food and drink (Matthew 26:29). The fact that the fruit on the Tree of Life renews itself once a month would indicate that it is to be consumed. Fortunately, we will not be bothered by gluttony since we will be eating to the glory of God.

THE DENIAL TO THE CITY

   If there is a sad conclusion to John's description of the city, it is to note that it will be denied to some. Chapter 21 lists the kinds of people who will not enter the city, and verse 27 summarizes by saying "only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life" will enter the city of God. And it will be too late to try to enter when the gates open for the first time. You must have a reservation long before that day.

   Will you dwell in the city of God forever and revel in the beauty, purity, and glory of a place illuminated by the very presence of God? Do not put off making your reservation. Just because the gates of the city are always open does not mean just anyone can walk in.