Recreated 3D image of ancient Rome above is from YouTube. You can view the (1min:32sec) panoramic view at https://youtu.be/8Wuwa3UllKA
John sees the New Jerusalem as it was descending from God in Revelation 21:1-14. Now in 21:15-21 the New Jerusalem has taken the place of the old order on the earth. We should also remember that John prior to the appearance of the New Jerusalem, had witnessed the destruction of Babylon. As one theologian points out “The brightness of God’s work is best seen against the dark backdrop of evil as it is destroyed” (see pictures below).
(1) Babylon destroyed is the dark backdrop.
(2) the New Jerusalem is established on earth as the pure and glorious bride of the Lamb.
We need to understand that the New Jerusalem is of God’s doing, and not of man’s making! The City/Bride descended from God to the earth.
Let’s see some application out of these verses for the church of all ages.
I. God secures His people forever against contamination and harm. vs. 15
vs. 15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.
A thing can be measured for: (1) preservation or (2) destruction or (3) restoration. The comments on 11:1 give us the best significance of “measuring” here—the worshipers are restored and marked out for preservation. In 11:1, God is pledging to protect his Church while she carries out her testimony in the world. Now in Rev. 21:15, God is pledging to preserve His church from all evil and calamity forever.
“This measuring of the city-temple here figuratively represents the placing of God’s boundaries around the city by which it is protected from harm and from the entrance of any form of evil.” (see Beale, p. 482; below.)
The background for this passage is:
Zechariah 1:16—16 “Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.”
Zechariah 2:1-2—1 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! 2 Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.”
Zechariah 2:10-11—Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.
Survey of Palestine, 1936. Wikimedia Commons
By comparing the description of the New Jerusalem, we can see John does not have in mind the old landscape of Palestine as being restored. “The measuring is thus the same as the sealing of believers pictured in 7:3.” (see Beale, p. 482, below.)
Our Knowledge about Heaven now is Small
We know very little about heaven, but I once heard a theologian describe it as “an unknown region with a well-known inhabitant,” and there is not a better way to think of it than that.
Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines:
My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim,
But tis’ enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with him.
To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting him face to face and being with him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life may throw at us. (see Packer, below.)
3D Picture of Ancient Babylon (https://rezatayebi.cgsociety.org/fr0k/babylon-era-of-cyrus)
II. God Himself dwells in that city with His people. vs. 16
vs. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal.
A stadion is about 220 yards—”a measure of length comprising 600 Greek feet, or 625 Roman feet, or 125 Roman paces 12,000 stadia would be about 1,500 miles.” (from Bible Hub) This means that it is a 1,500 mile cube. This distance is about the Mississippi River to the Pacific ocean in length. But it is a cube so that distance would be the height, the width, and the length all 1,500 miles. It is obvious that John sees a symbol for the City and the Bride combined. It is a view of God’s people in the eternal state.
H. B. Swete notes that the cube appears in the OT in the following places:
1. The altar of burnt offering in Exodus 27:1.
2. The incense altar in Exodus 30:2.
3. The High Priest’s Breastplate in Exodus 28:16ff. (not including the width)
4. Ezekiel’s new city and temple in Ezekiel 40:3ff.
5. The Holy of Hollies in Solomon’s temple.
The entire city and inhabitants are a temple (sanctuary).
Image of an ancient unassailable city with high walls and secure gates. (Pinterest)
Will my pets be in Heaven?
We cannot visualize heaven’s life and the wise man will not try to do so. Instead he will dwell on the doctrine of heaven, where the redeemed will find all their heart’s desire: joy with their Lord, joy with his people, and joy in the ending of all frustration and distress and in the supply of all wants.
What was said to the child—”If you want sweets and hamsters in heaven, they’ll be there”—was not an evasion but a witness to the truth that in heaven no felt needs or longings go unsatisfied. What our wants will actually be, however, we hardly know, except the first and foremost: we shall want to be “always…with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).
III. God ensures that our fellowship and communion with Him will never end. vs. 17
vs. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement.
The wall is approximately 200 feet thick. A cubit is “traditionally the distance from the elbow to the end of the fingers, about eighteen inches.” (from Bible Hub) Again, we are reading symbols for spiritual truths. Nothing sinful or unclean will ever enter into the New Jerusalem.
It does not imply that there are enemies attempting to assail the city. The image would have spoken to the first century audience in Asia Minor who had fears of invasion from Parthia. It ought to speak to us in the 21st century of God as our defense.
C. S. Lewis’ Desire for another World
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Little Girl’s Imagination
A little girl was taking an evening walk with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed; “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!” (see Allen, below.)
Most of us are regular people doing our duty where we are. Christians are considered to be little people not worthy of consideration. Rome’s monuments would have made marginal people feel smaller. Looking away from Rome’s monuments, religion, and buildings to God, ought to set us in proper prospective. The New Jerusalem described here should cause us in the 21st Century to look away from all other enticing things to Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Michael Card sings about the New Jerusalem.
Next week we will look at the materials that make up the vision of the New Jerusalem.
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation)
Allen, C. L. (1987). Home Fires: A Treasury of Wit and Wisdom. Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com
Fee, G. D. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series) Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle version.
Herrick, G. (2005). The Quiet-Time: What, Why, and How. Accessed 16 July 2021 from https://bible.org/article/quiet-time-what-why-and-how#P10_1647
Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).
Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.
Lewis, C. S. (1952). Mere Christianity. New York City: NY: The Macmillan Company.
Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Packer, J. I. (1986). Your Father Loves You. Chicago, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers.
Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Swete, H. B. (1909). Apocalypse of St. John. 3rd Edition. London, UK: MacMillan and Co. Ltd.
Theophany. (2021). Wikipedia. Accessed 17 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophany
WikiMedia Commons for Images
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