The Book of REVELATION
James J. Barker
THE NEW JERUSALEM PART 1
- Last week we moved into chapter 21, which deals with the new heaven and the new earth (21:1).
- We saw that the glorified saints are referred to as "overcomers" in Revelation 21:7 and "shall inherit all things" (cf. Revelation 2 & 3).
- First Peter 1:4 says this inheritance is "incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away," and is reserved in heaven for us.
- In contrast to this wonderful inheritance reserved for the child of God is the sad inheritance of the unsaved, described in verse 8 as “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars.”
- These "shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (21:8; cf. 21:27; 22:15).
- These warnings are here to remind sinners that unless they repent they will be cast off into the lake of fire where they will suffer for all eternity (cf. Rev. 14:10, 11).
- It also serves as a reminder to believers that now is the time to win sinners to Christ. Soon it will be too late.
- The unsaved are here pictured in their principal characteristics. Not all lost sinners are murderers and whoremongers, etc. but all are "liars."
- Not all sinners are sorcerers, but the occult is growing rapidly in these last days. Furthermore, the Greek word translated "sorcerers" is pharmakos. It is where we get our English word "pharmacy."
- Some of the saved were guilty of some of these terrible sins, but they repented and were saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ.
- No true believer could be categorized by this list of sins. That some church members fit this description is an indication of the deplorable condition of many churches today.
- If you study history you can trace the Baptists back to a group of early Christians called "Donatists." The Donatists were bitterly persecuted by both pagan Rome under Constantine and the other emperors, and papal Rome, especially Augustine, their prominent leader.
- The reason Augustine so strongly opposed them was because the Donatists desired church purity, and objected to the mixture of good and bad members for the sake of church unity.
- The rest of Revelation 21 deals with the new Jerusalem (21:2, 9, 10). That is what we will focus on tonight.
THE NEW JERUSALEM PICTURED AS A BRIDE (21:9-11)
- John was invited by one of the seven angels who had poured out the seven vials of the wrath of God to behold the bride, the Lamb’s wife (21:9, 10; cf. 21:2).
- The holy city, the new Jerusalem, is here characterized as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” Just as the false church is symbolized as a whore, this prophecy is also symbolic.
- John Walvoord says, "Since a city is not a bride nor a wife, the truth here represented is that the city, the residence of the saints of eternity future, is to be compared to a bride for beauty and is intimately related to Jesus Christ the Lamb" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
- I mentioned last week that there are some expositors who believe that during the millennial reign of Christ the new Jerusalem will be suspended above the earth and will be the habitation of the resurrected dead.
- However, the events described in Revelation 20, 21, and 22 outline the close of the millennium and the introduction of the new heaven and the new earth, so that theory seems unlikely.
- Revelation 21:9 through 22:7 is in chronological order and describes the new Jerusalem as it will be established in the new earth in eternity to come, not during the millennial kingdom.
- Furthermore, the description of the new Jerusalem in 21:2 is identical to the description in 21:9. Since 21:1 and 2 clearly refer to the eternal state, it would follow that 21:9 is also a description of the new Jerusalem in the eternal state, following the millennial kingdom, and following the great white throne judgment.
- Revelation 21:2 and 21:10 and 11 seem to indicate that the new Jerusalem will descend and land upon the new earth.
- The city is pictured as descending from heaven to the new earth, and the fact that it has foundations and comes from heaven to the earth seems to imply that it rests on the new earth itself (21:14, 19, 20).
- Furthermore, if there are twelve gates it stands to reason that people will go in and out of the gates (21:12, 13). Otherwise, why have gates?
- It is difficult to visualize people going in and out of gates unless the gates themselves rest upon the earth.
- To summarize: the new Jerusalem is seen here as it will appear in the eternal state (Rev. 21 & 22).
- The new Jerusalem is pictured here in Revelation 21 as it will be after the millennium has been completed. It will be the link between the new heaven and the new earth.
- Revelation 21:9 is similar in many ways to Revelation 17:1-3. In both instances John is approached by one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and in both instances the angel says, "Come hither..."
- And in both instances John says the angel carried him away in the spirit to a great and high mountain (17:3; 21:10).
- And just as the false bride, "Mystery Babylon the Great" (Rev. 17 & 18), was both a city (Rome) and a woman, the new Jerusalem, called "the Lamb's wife" in 21:9, is also both a city and a woman (21:2, 10).
- The new Jerusalem is characterized as having “the glory of God,” and to have a brilliant light (21:11).
- Later on in verse 23, it is revealed that the city does not originate its light or radiance, but all illumination will come from the Lamb.
- "And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof" (21:23).
- John Walvoord says, "As the glory of God is the sum of His infinite perfections in their manifestations, so the new Jerusalem reflects all that God is" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
- The city is ablaze with light compared to the brightness of a precious stone such as jasper, and clear as crystal. The jasper stone is a beautiful stone of various colors, usually red, yellow, brown, or green (cf. 21:19).
THE WALL AND THE GATES OF THE CITY (21:12-14)
- The wall of the city is described in verse 12 as “great and high.”
- The great and high wall is over 200 feet according to verse 17. This reminds us that it will be inaccessible to the unsaved (cf. 22:14, 15).
- In the wall are twelve gates guarded by twelve angels and inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12). The twelve gates are located on each of the four sides of the city (21:13).
- You will notice the number twelve is very prominent in the new Jerusalem: twelve gates and twelve angels (21:12), the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12), twelve foundations (21:14), twelve apostles (21:14), twelve pearls (21:21), and twelve kinds of fruit (22:2).
- The height, length, and width of the city are described as 12,000 furlongs each, which is 1,342 miles (21:16), and the wall’s height is said to measure 144 cubits, which is twelve times twelve cubits, which is over 200 feet high (21:17).
- The city is foursquare (21:16), i.e. an exact square, there is nothing irregular about it; nothing crooked or out of square.
- The number twelve represents governmental perfection.
- Referring to the twelve angels in verse 12, John Walvoord says, "The twelve angels mentioned are apparently apportioned one angel to each gate and serve in this capacity as an honor guard....The implication from the fact of gates on each side of the city, however, is that those properly qualified have freedom to go in and out. The new Jerusalem will have the distinction of being the residence of the saints, but it is implied that they will be able to travel elsewhere on the new earth and possibly also in the new heaven" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
- Verse 14 refers to the twelve foundations, which are inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
- The new Jerusalem will be the eternal home of all the saved people who ever lived. That is why the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are inscribed on the gates to the city, and the names of the twelve apostles are inscribed on the twelve foundation walls (21:12, 14).
- Hebrews 12:22 says there will be an innumerable company of angels in the new Jerusalem. The Bible teaches that there will be only one eternal resting place for all the saints and angels, and that is the new Jerusalem.
THE DIMENSIONS OF THE CITY (21:15-17)
- After introducing John (and us) to the wall, gates, and foundations of the new Jerusalem, the angel next measures the city (21:15).
- Using a reed (about ten feet long) to measure the city, its gates, and its walls, the angel finds that the city is square, its length and breadth being the same, twelve thousand furlongs.
- Since a furlong is equal to 582 feet, the measured distance is equivalent to 1,342 miles. That would be about the distance from here to Miami Florida!
- And from Miami going west to Austin Texas.
- And from Texas up north to the Canadian border!
- According to verse 16, "The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal."
- Therefore, the tremendous dimension of the city’s length and breadth is equal to its height, which means the new Jerusalem towers an equal distance into the heavens -- that is 1,342 miles.
- Verse 16 says, "the city lieth foursquare," but nothing is said regarding the shape of the city. Some have assumed it to be a cube, but the Bible does not say.
- Some believe it could be in the form of a pyramid with sides sloping to a peak at the height indicated. Some who hold this view believe that the throne of God will be located at the top, and the river of life will flow down from there (cf. 22:1).
- J. Vernon McGee had an interesting theory. He taught that that the new Jerusalem will hover out in space, and that the city is a cube within a crystal sphere. His theory only makes sense if the new Jerusalem does not rest upon the earth. But since there are foundations and gates, it probably will rest upon the earth.
- Dr. McGee said, "Now consider with me the shape of the city. 'The city lieth foursquare' is the simple declaration of Scripture. That would seem to indicate that the city is a cube with 1500 miles on a side – that is, 1500 miles long, 1500 miles wide, and 1500 miles high. Students of Scripture interpret these measurements in various geometric figures, for example a cube or pyramid, etc. However it is difficult to conceive of either a cube or a pyramid projected out in space. We are accustomed to think of a sphere hanging in space because that is the general shape of heavenly bodies. Yet it is definitely stated that the city is foursquare. The difficulty resolves when we think of the city as a cube within a crystal-clear sphere. Several times attention is called to the fact that the city is like a crystal-clear stone or crystal-clear gold. This emphasis leads us to believe that the city is seen through the crystal. We live on the outside of the planet called earth, but the bride will dwell within the planet called the New Jerusalem. The glory of light streaming through this crystal-clear prism will break up into a polychromed rainbow of breathtaking beauty. The sphere will have the circumference of 8168 miles. The diameter of the moon is about 2160 miles, and that of the New Jerusalem sphere is about 2600 miles; thus the New Jerusalem will be about the size of the moon. And it will be a sphere, as are the other heavenly bodies" (Homesick for Heaven).
- Dr. McGee's theory only makes sense if the new Jerusalem hovers out in space. Whether the new Jerusalem is a cube or a pyramid, there will be plenty of room. John Walvoord says, "It is not necessary, however, to hold that everyone will live continually within its walls throughout eternity. The implications are that there is plenty of room for everyone and that this city provides a residence for the saints of all ages" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
- Revelation 21:25 says, "And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there."
- The gates of the new Jerusalem will never shut, because in the city there will be continuous day, therefore there will be no darkness and no night.
- Believers in their glorified bodies will not need rest, and their lives will be full of continuous activity even like the holy angels.
- The new Jerusalem will be a perfect environment in contrast to this wicked world with all of its sin. The inhabitants of the new Jerusalem will enjoy this perfect environment throughout all eternity.
- But though the gates of the new Jerusalem will never shut, it does not mean just anyone can walk right in. Verse 27 states plainly that "there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
- There will be no need to lock the doors because nothing will ever enter the new Jerusalem which is in any sense evil. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be eligible for entrance (cf. 20:15; 21:8).
- When we talk about spending eternity in heaven, we are actually referring to the new Jerusalem.
- And when we talk about sinners spending eternity in hell, we are actually referring to the lake of fire (21:8).
- All those who will enter the new Jerusalem will be there as the objects of God’s grace. It is only by the grace of God that we here tonight will not be cast into the lake of fire.