The New Jerusalem
The New Jerusalem
Brad Mills / General
When God called Abraham out of Ur, away from his family, he departed with nothing but faith in God’s covenant promise. He did not know where he was going. He did not know the challenges that awaited him on his journey.
What Abraham did know was that the promises God gave to him were not going to be fulfilled in his lifetime. He had a perspective that serves as a model for all believers.
Hebrews 11:9–10 ESV
By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Abraham was looking forward to living in the promised land, but he knew all along that his final destination was much better.
He lived this life primarily with a view to enjoy the blessings and benefits of a life to come.
This is the final cycle of Revelation. The seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments occurred in a parallel fashion. Revelation was not written to be read in chronological order.
Rather, readers are supposed to see the repeated themes of evil and persecution that span this entire church age between Christ’s first and second coming.Ultimately, we see that God remains in complete control. Jesus has already won the victory, and he will bring about the consummation of that victory upon his return at the end of this present age.
In this final cycle, John portrays a symbolic picture that consummation. Revelation 21-22 reveal the reward of perseverance. The promise of this vision is meant to fill all of us with the hope that Abraham possessed, that we too might live with a view to enjoy the blessings and benefits of a life to come.
Read Revelation 21:9-21.
› An angel, one of John’s familiar guides, takes him to see…
I. The Appearance of the City (9-14)
9-11 An angel took John to a high mountain from which he would be able to see “the holy city Jerusalem” descending from heaven. The New Jerusalem is described as appearing “like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” The city represents the radiance of the glory of God.
But, notice the combination of images: “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (9). He takes him to see the Bride, and shows him the holy city.The angel is not employing a bait and switch tactic. Both the image of a bride and a city convey something about God’s presence with his people.
1. The Lamb’s Bride reveals the intimacy that God enjoys with his covenant people! That has begun in this life by faith, but reaches its full enjoyment at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-10). The true beauty of the Bride is contrasted with the fleeting fashion of the harlot (Rev. 17:4). The harlot used her attractiveness to seduce, but the Bride of the Lamb uses her beauty to display the radiance of the glory of God. The Lamb’s bride must be adorned and prepared for the day of the wedding.
2. But this Bride is also a “holy city”. Cities are inhabited by citizens. This holy city is contrasted with the wicked city, Babylon (Rev. 18:12, 16). Babylon used her wealth in order to expand her corrupting influence across the globe, but the New Jerusalem displays its wealth for all to enjoy. The holy city can only be inhabited by holy citizens.
Just as the Bride clothed herself with the garments that God provided (Rev. 19:7-8), so the city is “coming down out of heaven from God” (10). John did not see men building the New Jerusalem. It is the work of God, not man. Both intimacy and holiness are gifts from God, they are not earned by man.
The combined image of a Bride and a City show us how God is perfecting a people for himself. He is completing the work that he began. Those who werejustified are also being sanctified and will eventually be glorified. The Bride doesn’t walk down the aisle until she is fully adorned. The New Jerusalem is only populated by holy citizens.
That is why we strive for holiness without which “no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Holiness is far more important than happiness. If your happiness were God’s primary aim, then he would never ordain suffering. He would always want you to be healthy and wealthy and prosperous.
If happiness is your priority, then holiness will be compromised. We witnessed this my last year in seminary. The executive minister of the church where I interned had an affair with another married staff member. Two families were devastated by their pursuit of the fleeting pleasures of sin. His reasoning was that God wanted him to be happy, and he wasn’t happy in his marriage.
But God’s purposes are much greater than your experience in this life. He is preparing you for endless happiness within the context of perfect holiness.You cannot truly have one without the other.
12-14 The identity of the New Jerusalem combines the members of the universal church across time and space. The OT is represented by the inscription of the twelve tribes of Israel upon the gates of the city. And the NT is represented by the names of the twelve apostles written on the foundations of the wall.
The only reason the church is able to reflect God’s glory is because of what Christ has done. He is the radiance of God’s glory (Heb. 1:3), who “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (Jn. 1:14). Our hearts are enlightened by Christ whose face displays the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:6). “Christ in you” is the “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Christ brought God’s glory to us so that we might reflect it forevermore.
Beeke: In this passage we are not so much looking through a window into the world to come but into a kind of mirror. As members of Christ’s body, the church, we see ourselves as we are now in principle and as we shall be hereafter in perfection.
The glory of God will be reflected by the wife of the Lamb throughout eternity.
God not only enlightens our understanding of his glory through Christ, but he also transforms us by the Spirit “from one degree of glory to another” as we behold his glory (2 Cor. 3:18). This reality is in progress even now!
The Bride has been enabled to perform “righteous deeds” with which she will clothe herself in eternity (Rev. 19:7-8). Being adorned with holiness now—is purifying the Bride and establishing the character of the eternal city.
If this is what God emphasizes in our eternal state, then shouldn’t it take precedence in our lives now? God is transforming you to reflect the holiness of his glory in your salvation. God prioritizes your personal holiness. Do you?
› After the angel showed John the appearance of the city, he goes on to take…
II. The Measurement of the City (15-17)
The measurements of the New Jerusalem symbolize the universal scope of God’s glory. The human measurements are also an angel’s measurements. There is no need to wrestle with the challenges of trying to make sense of the dimensions as a literal city.
We can determine that 12,000 stadia covers roughly 1,500 miles. The city is equal in length and width and height. A distance that would cover half of the United States, would also reach upwards that same distance, which is well beyond the earth’s atmosphere. In fact, 80% of this holy city would be in outer space.
When you take into account that the wall is 144 cubits, a mere 216 ft, you realize how inadequate its height would be. The point is not to get so technical, but to recognize that the New Jerusalem spans the region of known Hellenistic world at the time of John’s writing.
As with God’s sealing of the saints (Rev. 7:3f), measuring them implies God’s preserving them. This city incorporates all saints from every age, and the wall protects them.
The dimensions of the Most Holy Place also form a perfect cube (1 Kgs 6:20). The presence of God which filled the Most Holy Place now expands to the borders of the holy city.
All this talk of measurements got me thinking about ratios. Our family appreciates a particular amusement park a bit too much. In terms of the ratio between suffering and joy, amusement parks provide a fairly poor return on your investment. Think about it.
The ratio of time spent waiting in line compared to actually enjoying the ride is something like 60:3. For every sixty minutes of waiting, you get three minutes of fun. The newer the ride, the lengthier the wait. But the older the ride, the lower the amount of fun. There is a trade off to the ratio that never works in your favor!
And that does not even take into account the ratio of time spent walking and standing compared to resting. The longer you rest, the fewer the amount of rides you will be able to wait forever to enjoy… Or, even better, is the ratio of time spent listening to children whine about what they don’t have compared to hearing them laugh and enjoy where they are. Even in “the happiest place on earth” there remains plenty of pain and suffering.
Am I just being cynical?
Seriously. How often is your joy mixed with fear and doubt? We never fully appreciate God’s blessings in this life, because we know from experience how quickly things can shift from hope to despair. Eternity will be nothing like that!
Jesus left the protection of heaven in order to purchase our protection on the cross! He entered into the midst of fallen humanity without ever being tainted by the sin of fallen humanity. He submitted himself to corruption without ever becoming corrupt. He willingly laid down his life, in order that he might bear the full weight of God’s wrath in place of all who put their faith in him. Because of the cross, we can enjoy God’’s protection.
We will be fully protected by God’s presence in order to fully enjoy God’s presence. His glory extends to the redeemed from all nations and it protects saints in every way. These measurements represent the guarantee of your spiritual, physical, and psychological protection for all eternity.
Shouldn’t that knowledge change how you live today? You have been sealed and measured for a perfect eternity, but you can imperfectly begin to live for that purpose even now.
› Although the vision continues on until 22:5, we will conclude with a brief look at…
III. The Material of the City (18-21)
The variegated display of God’s glory will be enjoyed at all times. God’s view of Church should be our goal. These jewels correspond with Aaron’s breastplate (Ex. 28:15-21) and they point to the value of those who possess them.
Christ represents God’s infinite worth! The gospel is worth trading all our possessions to secure. Jesus is the pearl of great price (Matt 13:45-46). Nothing in this life could ever be valued higher. In the New Jerusalem, that value is magnified and in our possession wherever we go. As priests we will forever reflect the beauty and glory of God—always appreciating the aroma of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (1 Pt. 2:5).
R.C. Sproul: Our lives say much more about how we think than our books do. The theories we preach are not always the ones we actually believe. The theories we live are the ones we really believe.
If Christ is of infinite worth, and the Church is the body of Christ, then our commitment to the peace and prosperity of the Church ought to supersede anyworldly commitment.
The glory of God will be reflected by the wife of the Lamb throughout eternity.
The Church has been gathered in order to participate in the New Jerusalem project. There is a focus upon our corporate holiness. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. If we believe this is our final destiny, should we not make it a priority to participate even now?
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 8:47 AM March 9, 2020.