All of us know the emotions of change. There is always a double-sided feeling of a divided soul. Even when the change is good, flowing from our good decisions, some elements of the old haunt us and might even come to bite our heels. Soul changes are the hardest, getting rid of bad habits, old wounds, roots of bitterness fed by the hurt and offence we suffer because of other people’s sin. With all life’s challenges and strife our heart might look like an overgrown, untamed garden with some beautiful flowers and shrubs (caring and loving nature) struggling to grow beneath the thorn bushes and briers of resentment and anger.
I truly rejoice in the promise of the new in the Word of God. Not now and then – daily! God does new things, forgives continually and bring us up to the new heaven and the new earth whenever we ask and set our life focus on His realm. The invitation stands for all eternity.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the best of the land; (Isaiah 1:18,19)
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentation 3:22,23)
Chapter 21 of Revelation leads us into the ultimate “new” that God has for us as much as we could grasp with the description in earthly words and concepts.
Doom of the wicked is described in contrast to the “bliss of the blessed.” It is the dream of true new beginnings, so beautifully sung by Isaiah (65:17). When God creates new, the former things are not even remembered.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
Let us rejoice in the caption of this chapter – All Things Made New.
Looking around us in our world today, we need some serious new.
Just think of the wonderful elements of the new. Sorrow is to be forgotten; sin is to be vanquished; darkness is to be at an end; the temporariness of time is to turn into the everlastingness of eternity.
The promise of no more sea was a welcome relief to the ancient world. Their attitude towards the sea was well established from mythological roots. The sea was the enemy, the dwelling place of chaos. Sea faring was dangerous and clothed in mystery. In the earliest times of sea travel they hugged the coast with no compass. Sea storms were fierce and scary, especially when darkness blotted out the stars and made navigation impossible. (Acts 28)
The New Jerusalem (21:2) has its roots in Greek philosophy.
One of the great contributions to the world’s philosophical thought was Plato’s doctrine of ideas or forms. He taught that in the invisible world there existed the perfect form or idea of everything upon earth, and that all things on earth were imperfect copies of the heavenly realities. If that were so, there is a heavenly Jerusalem of which the earthly Jerusalem is an imperfect copy. That is what Paul is thinking of when he speaks of the Jerusalem that is above (Galatians 4:26), and also what is in the mind of the writer to the Hebrews when he speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22).
This conception of preexisting forms may seem strange, but at the back of it is the great truth that the ideal actually exists. It further means that God is the source of all ideals. The ideal is a challenge, which, even if it is not worked out in this world, can still be worked out in the world to come.
The New Jerusalem in the era after Christ is the church. Jewish thought provided full restoration, supremacy and rule for the Jewish people. This was echoed in the prophets and always held as the physical restoration of Jerusalem.
For us, the church is the only possible interpretation. The true church is the perfect “city” providing for its inhabitants. The bride is prepared for Jesus. (21:2). The souls of men are the precious stones (Malachi 3). The streets of gold are the gifts of the Holy Spirit guiding our walk on earth in Jesus. We walk upon the royal paths when we are saved. Everything precious in our lifetime is to be found in Jesus. God provides the light; there is no need of the sun. Everything we know to be natural is replaced by the perfection of God’s realm.
We enjoy unbroken fellowship with God as He wipes away the tears (21:3,4). His presence resolves the sorrow. (Ezekiel 40:1-48:35)
John used all the visions of the perfect city to invoke the picture of the realization of all dreams ever. In the light of the recent destruction of the earthly Jerusalem (70AD) he speaks in faith to revive and encourage.
The New Jerusalem, the church, is eternal and precious. It can never be destroyed. Destruction is of the earthly. We lift up your eyes and see the perfect. Our eyes should be anointed to “see” clearly and truly into the unseen, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is our challenge today and every day. To truly see Him in faith on His throne within the pain and strife of this life, is kingdom living.
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. (Exodus 14:13)
Moses challenges the people to see the opposite of their fear. Just like them we face “our” Egyptians every day. We have to live in the evil plans of God’s adversary, Satan and face all the problems, crisis, and panic that come with his territory. The only solution is our fellowship with God (21:3-4).
A loud voice, as we have seen, a voice with the authority of the presence of God, announces the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God amongst men. The word used is skene, which means tent. The
Tabernacle in the desert was a movable structure, tent-like. It is a temporary dwelling and a foretaste of the glory to come. God made his dwelling with people.
Here on earth, we experience heaven in the constant awareness of the Presence.
The Greek word skene and the Hebrew word schecinah became closely related in early Christian thought because of the connection in sound. Skene came to mean dwell with God and schecinah came to mean God dwelling with men. Shechinah was associated with a luminous cloud, which came and went. In Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 8:10-11) the shechinah glory filled the house.
[This concept resonated through the Old Testament: Leviticus 26:11-12, Jeremiah 31:33 and 32:39 – 41, Ezekiel 37:27, Song of Songs 6:3]
All the benefits of heaven reverberate through Isaiah (25:8, 35:10, 65:19). There will be no weeping, no sorrow, and all the tears wiped away. The promise is repeated and confirmed in Matthew 5:4 and Philippians 3:10.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
In Christ all things are new (21:5-6). A child of God is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). New things are promised in Isaiah 43:18-19.
“Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.
John is commanded to write it down. It reminds us of a contract, true and trustworthy. We can go back to check and hold the parties responsible to fulfill the articles of the agreement. These are faithful words, so scarce these days.
All is complete within Christ. There is no other God. (Isaiah 44:6)
He is the Beginning, arche meaning the source of all things and the
end, telos meaning more than the end, the goal of all things.
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36)
…one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:6)
Is there anything more to say about God? His promise stands: I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. (21:6) We have free access to all the splendour and glory. Is there better to be desired in this life?
Glory and shame (21:7-8)
The greatest promise of all (21:7): I will be his God and he will be my son. He said it to:
- Abraham – Genesis 17:7
- David about Solomon – 2 Samuel 7:14
- Psalms 89:27 – “I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth“.
- Us the same as to Abraham, to David and to Jesus.
There is no higher reward possible.
The condemned is named: fearful, cowards, unbelieving, sorcery (drugs), idolaters, fornicators (immorality), liars. We can never be arrogant and look down on these sins and sinners. They all have spiritual application as well. Immorality rules in worldly lifestyles, lying prevails for our own comfort, drugs are widely used to ease emotional and physical pain. It can easily get out of control and become idolatry.
These condemn us all except that we find our righteousness in Christ.
Our inheritance is the city of God (21:9-27). This is our dwelling place. We dwell with God, in Christ.
The bride is shown by a surprise messenger – the bringer of the bowls of the plagues. The same angel, who acts as the bringer of the judgment of Babylon, now shows the Bride. The angel speaks what God commands and the messages vary.
John is carried to a high mountain, just like in Ezekiel’s vision (40:2). The outlook from higher ground changes the perspective. We have to elevate ourselves above the circumstances. We are still earth-bound. We do not fly into the universe. We have to be removed from the ordinary in order to hear and see deeper and fuller. There is an actual mountain outside Jerusalem.
Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. (Psalm 48:1,2)
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains,
and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. (Isaiah 2:2)
The light of God is like the radiance of jasper. God’s glory reflects in the precious stones. The precious stones are the saints – Philippians 2:15.
The city is walled, strong enough to protect against all evil.
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
God will appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. (Isaiah 26:1).
He promises an insurmountable bulwark, built by faith to guard the church. Zechariah 2:5 talks about the wall of fire and His glory inside.
The twelve gates represent the tribes, through which all gained entrance. The Messiah was born from the tribe of Judah as promised to give access for all. The word for gate is pulon (normally it would be pule.) Pulon could indicate two things. It could either be a large house built around a courtyard with big gate in the outer wall or the gate-tower of a walled city.
There is more than one entrance through the revelation of Jesus within the tribes. There are three gates in each direction. (Ezekiel 48:30-35)
East, where the sun rises depicts the morning of life when we find Christ young.
North is symbolic of cold for those who find Christ through intellect and cold rationalization.
South is symbolic of warmth. There is the gentle and soft way to find Christ through love and kindness.
West is symbolic of the setting sun and the dying. Even in the evening of their days, they will find Christ. We hear of so many deathbed conversions.
The twelve foundations depict the apostles who built the church. The tribes and the apostles incorporate the old and the new.
The measurements (21:15-17) remind us of the measuring rod of Ezekiel (40:3).
The shape of the city is a square. It is the perfect cube, a symbol of perfection in the Greek philosophy. The Jews were familiar with the shape of the altar of burnt offering, the altar of incense and the High Priest’s breastplate. (Exodus 27:1,30:2,28:16) In Ezekiel’s temple and Solomon’s Temple the Holy of Holies was a perfect cube. (1 Kings 6:20) which indicates sufficiency, enough space for everyone. The dwelling place of God has no exclusion. So must the church be also.
The height of the wall is very low. It was not for defense purposes. It was only to show the city limits and not meant for exclusion. A wall is not important, but only to show the differentiation between the city and the rest.
The gold of the city looks white in the sun, as if it is clear glass. The foundations were adorned with precious stones. Jasper is a translucent green, sapphire is mentioned in Exodus 24:10 on which God stood, sky-blue flecked with gold more like lapis lazuli, chalcedony looked like silicate of copper, sort of green as a dove’s neck or a peacock’s tail. Emerald is well known, the greenest of all green stones. Sardonyx looked like onyx with layers of red and brown and used for cameos. Sardius originated from Sardis and was blood-red. Chrysolite is of uncertain origin and was shiny like gold according to Pliny. Beryl was sea-blue or sea-green in colour and topaz was a transparent greenish-gold (Job 28:19). Jacinth was a deep violet-colour, bluish-purple and the amethyst was purple. Eight of theses stoned mentioned were in the breastplate of the High Priest (Exodus 28:17).
The splendour of the city was much more than the known stones. Originally, the city of the Greek gods was built according to the signs of the Zodiac and every sign had its stone. They were exactly these twelve stones. No other city with precious stones existed. John replaced the city of the gods to wipe out all confusion. With this description he included all the beliefs about all precious stones to show one God over all.
John gives the signs of the Zodiac in reverse order, to submit them all under the authority of God. It is staggering to imaging each gate is one big pearl. Pearls were especially valuable. They were taken from the sea at great peril. The parable confirmed this when Jesus talked about the pearl of great price, worth everything you possessed in Matthew 13:46. Gates of pearl depict unimaginable and inaccessible wealth.
God is present in this great city. (21:22-23). It is a city with no temple. It is surprising. To the Jews, the Temple was everything. Now there is no need for the temple. God everywhere. The city is in its entirety the Holy of Holies.
God will be your everlasting light says Isaiah 60:19-20. In Your light we see light (Psalm 36:9) In the light of God we truly see.
But… in this city there is no night. In the light of God there is no darkness possible. The ancient people were afraid of the dark. God’s light drives out fear.
Space for all nations is a theme throughout the writings of the prophets. [Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:12, 45:22, 49:6, 51:5, 55:5, 56:6-8, 66:19. Jeremiah 3:17, 16:19-21. Daniel 7:14. Zephaniah 2:11, 3:9. Zechariah 2:13, 8:20-23, 14:9. Also in Joel 2.]
In the Jewish writings between our two Testaments, the theme of the Messiah gathering all nations was prominent. John paints the picture of divine hope for the Jews as well as the Gentiles.
The nations will bring gifts. The Greeks will bring their philosophy in which they were constantly seeking God. The Romans bring administration, law and organization and the Hebrews brought the true God and the Messiah. We bring our gifts and talents to the church.
Only those who are given access by the Lamb’s Book of Life can enter. Abominations and lies are caused by the rejection of Jesus. God is insulted when Jesus is rejected.
Jesus is His gift, His best to us.