Revelation 21 The New Jerusalem Descending, Part 1

Revelation 21:9-14

Image above is of a 14th Century Tapestry of John the Apostle seeing the New Jerusalem descending from God to Earth (Public Domain image by Octave 444 ). 

The theme of Chapter 21 is—

Christ will fully consummate His kingdom in the end by renewing heaven and earth, and filling them with His resurrected, glorified people.

Structure of Chpater 21_1-22_5

I made the Chart above based on information in Beale’s Commentary, p. 463. “This section further interprets the yet-future-fulfillment of Ezekiel by collapsing temple, city, Garden of Eden, and new creation into one end-time picture portraying the reality of God’s communion with His people.” (see Beale, p. 476, below.) “This opening paragraph [21:1-8] serves the twin purposes of both introducing the final events (21:9 through 22:5) and bringing closure to what has immediately preceded.” (see Fee, G. D.; p. 290; below.) 


Application of Revelation 21:1-22:5

This section of Revelation deals with the eternal destiny of God’s people. It had application for the first century church on earth and it has application for the church in each age until the Second Coming of Christ. The earthly Church ought to aspire to her eternal “blueprint” given by God in Revelation 21:1-22:5. 

(1) We get the privilege of setting our hearts on imitating the “New Jerusalem” as a model for the church now, and not seeking to conform the Church to the current political-religious movements in our society. 

(2) We have ample resources to resist the “Prostitute-of-Babylon” culture of our own age. 

Our current culture seeks to bring in a secular utopia by human means. It seeks to destroy all that is past so a new utopia will appear and take its place. This is not God’s blueprint from His Word. God ushers in the New Jerusalem by His own power.


This section of Revelation from 21:1-22:5 gives a view both of the “hidden Church” during this age and the “revealed Church” in the age to come. (see Beale, p. 476; below). 

This vision emphasizes (1) what we will have in eternity; and then, (2) what we are building now based upon eternal values.

I. Believers are Christ’s Bride, and His covenant people on earth, and thus are headed for the New Heavens and Earth. vs. 9

vs. 9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 

Compare Revelation 17:1—One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.

Roman Madam in a Brothal 3

Isabella Rossellini (daughter of Ingrid Bergman and film director Roberto Rossellini) as Balbina, the Madam of a Roman Brothel in the TV-Epix TV Series “Domina.” 

Jewish-Wedding

A Jewish Wedding under a huppah—symbolizing the home that the couple will build together. (Image from tasc-creationscience.org in the public domain.)

The desire of God is to build His house out of human beings redeemed and headed to the New Heavens and Earth. The question is—(1) what kind of “house” are we building here on earth and (2) which “pattern” are we using? I am not referring to architecture of a meeting place for a local church. I am referring to a spiritual house for God to use in saving people and making disciples of them. 

Compare I Peter 1:4-6—

4 As you come to him [Christ], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone  chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

The contrast of the Bride with the Prostitute is deliberate. The Prostitute is an “prototype” of the Satanic world system set in opposition to God which expresses itself in Antichrist’s aim to rid the earth of Christians. 

II. Christ’s people have a view of this present world from God’s perspective in His Word. vs. 10

vs. 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…

Compare Revelation 17:3—And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.

Note the difference of locations for viewing the Bride and for the Prostitute. 

“Desert” is herēmon—”barren, empty, desolate, wilderness place.” From a barren place, John can best perceive the terrible, sinful character of the Prostitute.

Patmos-Cave-of-the-Apocalypse_2

Aegean Travels image of the Grotto where John slept and received the Revelation visions.
The gate protects the ledge at the bottom of the wall where allegedly John lay his head to sleep.

In order to see Christ’s Bride, the Spirit takes John to “a great (megas) and high (hupsēlos) mountain (oras). From such an exalted height John can best appreciate the exalted Bride of the Lamb.

John in seclusion reading his bible

Each of us needs to have a private space where we go in the morning to have a few vital moments with our Lord before we begin the day. There “on the heights” of detachment with our Bibles, we get a renewed vision both of our world from God’s perspective and our place in it.

Note the picture left with St. John receiving the visions though an Angel. His Bible is open before him. (Image from Wikimedia Commons in the public domain.)

“In order to worship God properly we need strength and consolation in the Christian life. [We especially need both] strength to faithfully obey and consolation when we fail. In particular, we need strength to pray, to meditate on Scripture in Christ’s presence, and to obey what God makes known to us.” (See Herrick, below.)

I believe personally that John saw visions which he expressed through Old Testament passages. John is updating OT prophecy in light of Christ’s appearing and work on the cross. 

III. When Christ’s glory is manifested, the Church is now, and later will be fully, transformed. vs. 11. 

vs. 11 …having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 

“The jasper is an opaque, impure variety of quartz. It comes in red, yellow, and some duller colors” (Biblical Almanac). The light is crystal clear. This brilliant display is caused by the presence of God within the city. His glory lights it. 


God’s Glory

glorious-light-rays-green“It is hard for us to understand exactly what God’s glory may look like, but the various descriptions of it in Scripture seem to indicate that it will be the most beautiful sight we will ever experience. All of the goodness and beauty we see in the present will be nothing in comparison to the refulgent glory of God. As we think on the Lord’s glory, let us be concerned to reflect His beauty and goodness in all that we do and say.” (see Sproul, R. C., below). 

Moses and the Burning BushThe theologians call a believer’s first sight of God in heaven the beatific vision (the blessed sight). “That blessedness in view in 1 John [4:1-3] is the beatific vision. It is so wonderful that the vision itself brings with it the fullness of the blessing.” (see Sproul, R. C. below) A glorious light display usually accompanied a theophany—”an event where the manifestation of a deity occurs in an observable way. Specifically, it refers to the temporal and spatial manifestation of God in some tangible form.” An example is the burning bush Moses saw while tending sheep (see Theophany, below.) (image right from Pinterest.)

I Timothy 6:15-16 gives an accurate depiction of God’s presence in heaven now— 15 He…is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

We will see Jesus in His human body, but heaven is a created place and the Angels dwell with this theophany of unapproachable light. 


Earthly Rulers’ False Glory

Caesar AugustusCaesar Augustus is remembered as the first and greatest of the Roman emperors. By political skill and military power he eliminated his enemies, expanded the empire, and lifted Rome from the clutter of rundown neighborhoods into a city of marble statues and temples. Adoring Roman citizens referred to Augustus as “the divine father and savior” of the human race.

The Bible presents Caesar Augustus as only an actor on God’s stage of history. Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Without the decree of earthly Caesar, Joseph and Mary would not have traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy about Jesus being born there. 

Image above left is Caesar Augustus dressed as Pontifex Maximus (Chief Priest of Rome). From Wikipedia. 

As his forty-year reign came to an end, his official last words were, “I found Rome a city of clay but left it a city of marble.”

According to Livia Drusilla, his wife, he assumed he was only an actor and his last words actually were—

“Have I played the part well? Then applaud as I exit.” (quoted in Our Daily Bread Canada). 

We must remember no matter how glorious a world leader appears to the outside world, he is merely an actor on God’s stage. In the end, the actors (all anti-Christian world leaders) depart this world’s stage to stand before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to give account of their actions. 


IV. Christ provides ultimate security for all His people who are citizens of the New Jerusalem. vss. 12-14. 

vs. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 

The walls, etc. symbolize the security of the saints. They are not necessary for protection from anything evil since all evil people were consigned to Gehenna in Chapter 20.

vs. 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 

The numerous gates symbolize the accessibility to the city.

vs. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The names on the gates and foundations symbolize inclusion—all believers both Jew and Gentile merged into the Bride of Christ. 

Note that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are on the gates, and the names of the twelve apostles are on the foundations. This fact symbolizes that the ancient people of Israel and the “new Israel” are united in eternity. God does not have two peoples for all eternity. In Christ, the barriers are broken down. Compare Ephesians 2:11-22

Revelation 21:9-14 is an expansion of the theme in Rev. 21:2—the Bride of Christ.

Next time we will look at 21:15-21 which gives us an expansion on Rev. 21:6 the Tabernacle of God.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

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.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Theophany. (2021). Wikipedia. Accessed 17 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophany

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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