The Study of Last Things
by James T. Bartsch
Learning about the Future to Live Better Today
"And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal clear jasper." (Rev. 21:10-11)
The Glory of New Jerusalem
In Rev. 4:1-2 The Apostle John wrote that he saw a door opened in heaven, and the first voice he had heard said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things. Immediately he was in the Spirit, and he began to record the things which he was hearing and seeing (Rev. 4:3).
Revelation 21:1-8, he continued to describe what he saw (Rev. 21:1, 2) and heard (Rev. 21:3, 5). In Rev. 21:9, one of the angels (messengers) who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues spoke to John, and said, "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." Then he carried John away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed him "the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God ..." (Rev. 21:10, 11).
The Greek word for "glory," dóxa (1391) appears four times in the penultimate chapter of this book, in Rev. 21:11, 23, 24, 26. The first two have to do with the glory of God; the last two have to do with the glory of man. We will examine each of these Scriptures, and also take note of the features that highlight that glory. In the case of God, the most striking feature of glory is light, the ability to illuminate (the verb phōtízō, 5461) (Rev. 21:23, 24) and brilliance (the noun phōstḗr, 5458), an attribute of light (Rev. 21:11). In the case of man, the most striking feature of glory is honor or exaltation (the noun timḗ, 5091) (Rev. 21:26). In this chapter the glory and honor come from what man fashions or produces.
1. The Glory of God. (Rev. 21:11, 23). John stated that he was carried away by this angel (messenger) to an exceedingly large and high mountain. That gave him enough height and distance to have some perspective on the enormous city of New Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:9-11).
a. The function of the city – the Capital City of the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9)
b. The sanctity of the city – it is the holy city of Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:10)
c. The glory of the city – it possessed the glory (dóxa, 1391) of God. Its brilliance was like a very costly stone, like a stone of crystal clear jasper (Rev. 21:11)
d. The architectural features of the city – it had a great and high wall with twelve gates (Rev. 21:12-14)
(1) Twelve angels stood guard at the twelve gates (Rev. 21:12)
(2) The names of the twelve sons of Israel were written on the gates (Rev. 21:12). Thus, this city is not only the Capital City of the Church, but it is also the Capital City of the Nation of Israel. With a name like New Jerusalem, how could it be anything but?
(3) The placement of the gates (Rev. 21:13)
(4) The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were written the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb (Rev. 21:14)
e. The immensity of the city – its specific measurements (Rev. 21:15-17)
(1) The angelic surveyor of the city (Rev. 21:15)
(2) The city proper (Rev. 21:16)
(a) Its shape – a square
(b) Its size – 12,000 stadia on a side. (A stadios = 600 feet = 1363.63 miles or 2,220 kilometers in height, width, and length.) This city was either a cube-like or a pyramidal structure. I like to think of it as an extravagantly large Embassy Suites, with buildings and rooms along the exterior perimeter and a vast open space with trees, parks, lakes, rivers, and perhaps smaller cities in the interior of the city.
(3) The city wall (Rev. 21:17). The wall measured 144 cubits. That amounts to 216 feet or 72 yards. I am uncertain as to whether this refers to the height or the thickness of the wall. (Constable believes it refers to thickness.) The angel's measurements, whether thought of in terms of angelic or human measurements, were identical. This is a literal city with literal, human measurements.
f. The composition of the construction materials of the city (Rev 21:18-21)
(1) The wall – jasper (Rev. 21:18)
(2) The city proper – pure gold – like clear glass (Rev. 21:18)
(3) The foundations – 12 different semi-precious stones (Rev. 21:19-20). Each foundation consisted of a unique precious stone of enormous size. The particular stones include jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, amethyst. If the foundations were this beautiful, one can only imagine the beauty of the interior of the city!
(4) The gates – each gate was a single pearl (Rev. 21:21)
(5) The street of the city – pure gold, like transparent glass (Rev. 21:21)
g. The worship in the city (Rev. 21:22). John saw no Temple. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb constitute its Temple.
h. The illumination of the city and its citizens (Rev. 21:23; 22:5)
(1) There is no need for any external illumination from nature – not from sun or from moon (Rev. 21:23)
(2) The reason – the source of light: "for the glory (dóxa, 1391) of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (Rev. 21:23)
(3) There is no need for any artificial illumination in the city: there is no need for the light (phōs, 5457) of a lamp (Rev. 22:5)
(4) The reason: "the Lord God will illumine (phōtízō, 5461) them" (Rev. 22:5)
i. The safety of the city: no night; the gates of the city open perpetually (Rev. 21:25)
j. The holiness of the city (Rev. 21:27)
(1) Those excluded: everything defiled; those who practice abomination and lying
(2) Those included: only those whose names are written in the Book of Life
k. Nourishment in the city (Rev. 22:1-2)
l. The state of nature in the city and upon New Earth: The absence of any curse (Rev. 22:3)
m. Fellowship in the city (Rev. 22:3-4)
(1) God and the Lamb sitting on their mutual throne (Rev. 22:3)
(2) The slaves (doûlos, 1401) of God will serve Him with His name on their foreheads (Rev. 22:3-4)
o. The absence of any night (Rev. 22:5)
p. The perpetual reign of the slaves of God (Rev. 22:5)
2. The Glory of Man. As we shall see, upon New Earth and in New Jerusalem, the glory of man is connected with that which he makes or produces or grows. This glory carries with it the idea of honor. In Rev. 21:24, 26 this glory / honor will not be self-directed, but directed at sharing with the citizenry of New Jerusalem, including, of course, its most prestigious occupants, God and the Lamb. This is a reflected glory, reflected from the glory of God which brings His aura of light not only to the city itself, but to New Earth down below. So whatever glory man has to offer the city of New Jerusalem is a subsidiary glory gained from taking part in the benefits of the light of God's glory and putting it to use.
a. Rev. 21:24. The nations of New Earth will walk by the light of the city of New Jerusalem, and the kings of New Earth will bring their glory into it.
(1) We are told, "And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine (phaínō, 5316) on it, for the glory (dóxa, 1391) of God has illumined (phōtízō, 5461) it, and its lamp (lýchnos, 3088) is the Lamb" (Rev. 21:23). So, as we have suggested, the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, the Lamb, here is visible light. This light from God and Christ, visibly manifesting their glory, is powerful enough to illuminate an entire city 1400 miles by 1400 miles by 1400 miles (Rev. 21:16). That is powerful light, indeed! If my view is correct, and the City of New Jerusalem is actually a satellite City orbiting New Earth, it makes a great deal of sense to say that the nations of New Earth down below will walk (Future Indicative of the verb peripatéō, 4043), i.e. live, or conduct their lives, by the glorious light of the City of New Jerusalem!
(2) We are told, moreover, that, "The nations will walk by its light (phōs, 5457), and the kings of the earth will bring their glory (dóxa, 1391) into it" (Rev. 21:24). Accordingly, the Nations of New Earth will conduct their lives not from the light of the sun, but rather from the visible light of the glory of both God and Jesus Christ! What does it mean when John predicts that the kings of the earth will bring their glory into the city? Here, glory cannot mean "light," for that City needs no additional light. In the case of man, the most striking feature of his glory is honor or exaltation (the noun timḗ, 5091) (Rev. 21:26). In this chapter the glory and honor of man comes from what man fashions or produces. I think we find a good idea of what kind of glory the kings of the earth will bring into New Jerusalem by examining the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon. We are told that "she came to Jerusalem with a very large retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones" (1 Kings 10:1-2). Moreover,"She gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a very great amount of spices and precious stones. Never again did such abundance of spices come in as that which the queen of Sheba gave King Solomon" (1 Kings 10:10). So I presume the meaning here in Rev. 21:24 is that various kings from all over New Earth will bring to New Jerusalem items of great value that are representative of and indigenous to their particular nation and region. Whatever glory means here, it cannot mean substantially different than what Isaiah predicted in Isa. 60:10, 11 (see also Rev. 21:25-26).
b. Rev. 21:25-26. 25 "In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it ...." Much of what John wrote in Rev. 21:23-26 comes directly from certain of Isaiah's predictions in Isa. 60-66. Much of the glory that Isaiah predicts will occur during Christ's Millennial Kingdom as King of Israel in Jerusalem. But, in my opinion, much of that glory also does "double duty." By that I mean it also refers to the glory of Christ's Eternal Kingdom in New Jerusalem. So it is not a matter of "either / or"; but rather, a matter of "both / and." Let me give you some examples.
(1) The wealth of nations, including gold and frankincense will come to Israel and Jerusalem (Isa. 60:5; Rev. 21:24-26).
(2) Camels will bring gold and frankincense to Israel and Jerusalem (Isa. 60:6; Rev. 21:24-26).
(3) Men will bring the wealth of nations into Jerusalem, with kings led in procession. Her gates will be open around the clock to allow this to happen (Isa. 60:11; Rev. 21:24-26).
(4) Israel and Jerusalem will "suck the milk of nations" (Isa. 60:16; Rev. 21:24-26).
(5) Strangers will pasture Israeli flocks, and foreigners will be Israel's farmers and vinedressers (Isa. 61:5; Rev. 21:24-26).
(6) Israel and Jerusalem will "eat the wealth of nations" and boast in their riches (Isa. 61:6; Rev. 21:24-26).
For a more complete comparison of the similarities of Millennial Jerusalem and Israel with New Jerusalem and New Earth, see A Comparison of Isaiah and Revelation.
My closing prayer for you, the reader is that you will respond positively to the invitation in Rev. 22:17:
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.