The Study of Last Things
by James T. Bartsch
Learning about the Future to Live Better Today
"And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." Revelation 21:2
About the Picture
A. What is Heaven Like?
1. Where is Heaven? Answer. We do not know where heaven is. One thing we can say for certain is that heaven is up, not down. For us earth-dwellers, down is the place of death (the grave) and Sheol and Hades (the place of the dead) (Gen. 37:35; Psalm 139:8; Eph. 4:9). And for us earth-dwellers, up could be anywhere out there. After all, we live on a spinning globe, and depending on where you are on that globe at a given point in time, up could be anywhere. To demonstrate that heaven is up, let us briefly look at some examples.
a. When Jesus returned to heaven to be with his Father, he went up. He ascended. He “was carried up into heaven (Luke 24:50-51).”
b. “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts 1:9).”
c. Two angels referred to Jesus “who has been taken up from you into heaven (Acts 1:11).”
d. Quoting Psalm 68:18, the Apostle Paul says of Jesus that “He ascended on high (Eph. 4:8).”
e. Paul repeats that Jesus “ascended” (Eph. 4:9).
f. Paul added that Jesus “ascended far above all the heavens” (Eph. 4:10).
2. What is Heaven? Heaven is the present abode of God. It is the place where God presently dwells.
a. When John the Baptist and Jesus were announcing that “the kingdom of the heavens” had drawn near, they meant, in the first place, that Jesus’ kingdom originated from God. They also meant that it had drawn near both in the spatial and temporal sense. It was near in time, and it was near spatially in the person of the King.
b. But I believe there is another meaning. As we shall see, New Jerusalem will apparently exist in eternity future as a satellite city orbiting New Earth. New Jerusalem, the capital city of New Earth, will be the elevated headquarters of the eternal government of New Earth, whose co-regents are God and the Lamb. It will be, indeed, a kingdom of the heavens, having come down out of Heaven, the abode of God, and existing in New Heaven, the atmosphere surrounding New Earth.
3. Are Heaven and New Jerusalem one and the same? The answer would appear to be, No. New Jerusalem descends out of heaven (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10), so it cannot be heaven.
4. What is Heaven like? There are many references to heaven in the Book of Revelation. Following are descriptions that the Apostle John observed as he was transported in the Spirit up into heaven (Rev. 4:2).
a. John looked up and saw a door standing open in heaven (Rev. 4:1).
b. There was a throne in heaven (Rev. 4:2) and Someone was sitting on it who looked like “a jasper stone and a sardius (Rev. 4:3).”
1) An emerald-like rainbow encircled the throne (Rev. 4:3).
2) Lightning and thunder were emitted from the throne (Rev. 4:5).
c. There were twenty-four elders seated on twenty-four thrones surrounding the main throne (Rev. 4:4).
1) They were dressed in white and wore golden crowns (Rev. 4:4), which they subsequently cast before the main throne as they worshiped Him (Rev. 4:10-11).
2) These elders also worshiped the Lamb and sang a song of praise to Him. They each held a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8-10).
d. There were seven lamps burning before the main throne. These are the seven spirits of God (Rev. 4:5).
e. Before the throne was what appeared to be a sea of glass, clear as crystal (Rev. 4:6).
f. In the center, surrounding the throne, were four living creatures, each having six wings, and each covered all over with eyes (Rev. 4:6).
1) These intelligent creatures repeatedly praise and honor God. One creature resembled a lion, another an ox, a third had a human-like face, and the fourth resembled a flying eagle (Rev. 4:7-9).
2) These four living creatures also worshiped the Lamb and sang a song of praise to Him. They each held a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8-10).
g. The One sitting on the throne held in His right hand a seven-sealed book or scroll of judgment (Rev. 5:1; cf. Rev. 6:1-17; 8:1).
h. There was only one person in all of heaven found worthy to open the seven-sealed book (Rev. 5:2-7). That person is variously described as
1) The Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5)
2) The root of David (Rev. 5:5)
3) A Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent out into all the earth (Rev. 5:6).
i. There were well in excess of 400 million angels surrounding the main throne praising Him who sat on the throne and the Lamb (Rev. 5:11-14). (A myriad is 10,000. Myriads (plural) is, at a minimum, 20,000. “Myriads of myriads,” 20,000 times 20,000, is 400 million. That figure does not take into account that myriads may be well more than merely 10,000 times 2. Nor does it take into account of the quantity of “thousands of thousands.” In the perception of John, the number of angels was so great it was incalculable.)
j. Not only does God sit on the throne in heaven, but so also does Jesus. It is a co-regency, a sharing of power.
1) Jesus conquered Satan, sin, the world, and death through His own sacrificial death and resurrection as well as His ascension back to heaven. He states that His Father has permitted Him to sit on His throne and share power (Rev. 3:21). We believers who conquer will be granted permission to sit on Jesus’ throne with Him and share His rule, both in the Millennium, and also throughout eternity (Rev. 5:9-10; 20:4, 6; 22:5).
2) John sees Jesus as God’s sacrificial Lamb standing in the center of the throne (Rev. 5:6 - NIV). He is qualified to take the seven-sealed book of judgment from the hand of the Father, who is sitting on the throne (Rev. 5:7). The four living creatures, the twenty-four elders and the millions of angels surrounding the throne and every created being in the universe will worship God and the Lamb (Rev. 5:11-13).
3) It is no surprise that a number of Scriptures include both Jesus (the Lamb) and God with reference to the throne in heaven (Rev. 6:16; 7:9, 10).
4) The Lamb (Jesus) is expressly described as being in the center of the throne (Rev. 7:17).
5. What happens to believers when they die?
a. While we believers are alive today, we are at home in our body, but we are absent from the Lord, that is, not physically with Jesus. But when these physical bodies die, our spirits go immediately to be with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-8).
b. Since Jesus is presently at the right hand of the Father up in heaven, we conclude that when a believer dies, he immediately goes to heaven.
6. Is Heaven the final destination of the righteous?
a. The answer appears to be No. John states explicitly what he saw in his vision of the future: 1) He “saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). 2) He “saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:2). 3) John “heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them’” (Rev. 21:3). So the New Jerusalem will leave heaven to come to the New Earth.
b. Not only that, God Himself and Jesus will leave heaven and come down to dwell with man in the New Jerusalem upon New Earth. The final destination of the righteous is, in some instances New Jerusalem. In other instances New Earth. But all dwellers upon New Earth will have ready access to New Jerusalem, and, presumably, all dwellers in New Jerusalem will have ready access to New Earth. We will seek to demonstrate these assertions by looking at the Scripture texts.
c. Will Heaven, the present abode of God continue to exist after God comes to take up residence in New Jerusalem? We do not know for certain. But since there is no record of Heaven being destroyed, nor any reason why it should be destroyed, I see no reason to argue for its destruction. My best guess is that it will continue to exist, perhaps as a repository for angels, or a staging point for interstellar missions throughout the New Heaven (the New Universe). That is a question that cannot be fully answered until we reach the edge of eternity.
B. What is New Jerusalem Like? General Descriptions.
1. New Jerusalem appears at a time when New Heaven and New Earth have come into existence (Rev. 21:1-3).
2. New Jerusalem appears at a time when Old Earth and Old Heavens have been destroyed (Rev. 21:1-3).
3. New Jerusalem is a city (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10, 14-16, 18-19, 21, 23-24; 22:19). Though God’s first home for man was a garden, the garden was not large enough to accommodate a huge population. God’s final home for man in which he comes to live with man, will be a city. As we will observe, the city is opulent and enormous, and it will not be devoid of water and fruit.
4. New Jerusalem is a holy city (Rev. 21:2, 10; 22:19).
5. New Jerusalem is fundamentally Jewish. Why else would it be named “Jerusalem?” It has to do with the nation of Israel. It is first and foremost the eternal capital of the State of Israel, and it will continue to be so throughout eternity. God chose the Nation of Israel as His favorite nation and it will continue to be so throughout eternity (Exod. 19:3-6; Deut. 7:6; Jer. 31:31-37). “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). This fact is reinforced in that the city has twelve gates, each one named after one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Rev. 21:12).
6. In Revelation 21, when John sees New Jerusalem, he describes it as in the process of descending to New Earth. This means, most likely, that it is a satellite city perpetually orbiting New Earth (Rev. 21:2, 10).
7. New Jerusalem is seen as descending out of Heaven, the present abode of God (Rev. 21:2, 10). That means that it is presently contained in Heaven, but is smaller than Heaven, and is distinct from Heaven. New Jerusalem is not Heaven.
8. New Jerusalem will become the permanent home of God. He will eternally tent with mankind. The word “dwell” (Rev. 21:4) means, literally, to “tent.” The tenting does not mean God’s dwelling with man is temporary, but only that the place of residence is not God’s normal place of residence, which is Heaven. God will leave His normal place of residence to come and live with man eternally in New Jerusalem.
9. God will make all things new in New Jerusalem. The old things will pass away with the old order of Old Earth. In New Jerusalem God will eliminate tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain (Isa. 25:6-8; Rev. 21:4-5). Also not to be found in New Jerusalem are the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, immoral people, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars (Rev. 21:8). “… Nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying shall ever come into” the city, “but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21:27).”
10. New Jerusalem is identified as “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9-10; cf. Rev. 21:2; 19:7-9). This is so because, in addition to being the capital city of the Nation of Israel, New Jerusalem is also the eternal home of the Bride of Christ, the Church. It is the place to which Jesus referred when He told His followers, using “bridegroom” language, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places…. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2).”
C. What Will New Jerusalem Be Like? Specific Descriptions of the City.
1. New Jerusalem has great glory, which is derived from God (Rev. 21:11, 23; 22:5).
a. This glory gives New Jerusalem a brilliant, glowing appearance (Rev. 21:11).
b. This glory makes New Jerusalem appear, externally, as a costly stone of “crystal clear jasper” (Rev. 21:11). Since the wall of the city is made of jasper (Rev. 21:18), the great bulk of what someone outside the city would view would be the city wall. That means the wall must be as high as, or nearly as high as the city itself. This is a wall of prodigious size and remarkable beauty.
c. The city has no need of “natural lighting” such as sun or moon to shine on it, nor of artificial lighting, such as a lamp, because the glory from God and Jesus illumine it (Rev. 21:23; 22:5).
d. Because the reflected glory of the city is so great, the nations on the earth below will be able to live and conduct their affairs by means of the light (Rev. 21:24).
e. Because the reflected glory of the city comes from God and the Lamb (Jesus), it will always be “daytime” in the city. There will be no night there (Rev. 21:25; 22:5)!
2. New Jerusalem is surrounded by an enormous wall (Rev. 21:12, 14-15, 17-19).
a. A great deal of attention, relatively speaking, is given to the wall of this city. In Rev. 21:12-19, there are no fewer than six references to the word “wall.” The first thing that impressed John about the wall of New Jerusalem was its immensity. He called it a great and high wall. It was great because of its thickness, 144 cubits or 216 feet, discussed below. It was great because of its length – 48,000 stadia (5,518 miles, discussed below) around the city’s perimeter. It was high because of the city’s height – 12,000 stadia, or 1,380 miles, discussed below. No indication is given as to whether the wall was the same height as the city or only a fraction of the height. A mile high wall next to a 1,380 mile high city would be dwarfed by the city proper. If the wall were only a third as high as the city, it would still be nearly 460 miles high! But since the over-all appearance of the city is jasper (Rev. 21:10-11), and since jasper is the gemstone of the city wall (Rev. 21:18), the wall must be as high as, or nearly as high as the city itself.
b. A notable feature of this wall is that there are twelve gates which provide access to this city (Rev. 21:12). (The number 12 figures prominently in the geometry of New Jerusalem.)
1) Twelve angels stand at the gates of the city, one angel at each gate (Rev. 21:12). Since no evil is to be found anywhere in New Heavens and New Earth (2 Pet. 3:13), it does not appear that these angels serve either as sentinels to warn the inhabitants of impending danger, or as guards to protect them. What purpose, then, do they serve? I casually asked my wife that question, and with little hesitation she replied, “We know that angels are messengers. Perhaps it is their job to greet those who enter the city.” A good, theologically-based response. I concur.
2) Each gate has a name written thereon. These names are the names of the Twelve Tribes of the Sons of Israel (Rev. 21:12). This means that New Jerusalem is the future permanent home of the redeemed of the nation of Israel. Since the twelve gates have the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel written on them, and since there are twelve foundation stones with the names of the twelve apostles on them, New Jerusalem is to be the home of both the redeemed of Israel and of the Church.
a) There is a correlation, I believe, between the 24 names and the fact that in heaven there are 24 elders (Rev. 4:4, 10; 5:8; 11:16; 19:4). I believe these 24 elders include twelve elders of Israel and twelve elders of the Church. They are presently in heaven, but they will inhabit New Jerusalem throughout eternity. It is impossible to state with certainty the identities of any of these elders. It is altogether possible that the twelve elders representing the Church are the twelve apostles, Paul being Christ’s likely replacement for Judas.
b) Left unanswered in all this discussion is the question as to whether there will be a land of Israel upon New Earth as distinct from New Jerusalem. The geometrical configuration of New Jerusalem makes it more than big enough to encompass the boundaries promised to the nation of Israel. So it is mathematically possible that the land promised perpetually to Israel will be contained within the walls of New Jerusalem.
c) Logically, however, the idea of a capital of a nation without any additional land is an unsatisfying concept. A Washington, D. C. without any United States of America outside the city? That does not seem right. My best guess is that there will be a physical land of Israel upon earth, but that most Israelis will spend their time in their capital city. Isaiah 61:5-6 fits in well with the notion that Israelis will hire redeemed people from among the nations to perform their manual labor [on New Earth] while they themselves are occupied with a priestly ministry – likely, but perhaps not exclusively, in New Jerusalem.
3) The twelve gates of the city are symmetrically placed. Three gates are situated on the east side of the city; three on the north; three on the south; and three on the west (Rev. 21:13).
a) Directions will be observed in the New Jerusalem. Just as we reference our geographic location here on the present earth in terms of north, east, south, and west, so will we in New Jerusalem and, presumably, New Earth. The principal direction seems to be east, inasmuch as it is identified first (Rev. 21:13). Other references to east as the principal direction are found as follows: Gen. 2:8; Ezek. 10:19; 11:1, 23; 43:1-4; 44:1-3; 46:12; 47:1.
b) The city, as we shall soon see, is of a prodigious size. Each wall is 12,000 stadia (see Rev. 21:16) (approximately 1,380 miles) in length. That means each gate is situated 4,000 stadia (460 miles) from another gate or a corner.
4) The twelve gates of the city consist of twelve pearls. Each gate is an enormous, solitary pearl (Rev. 21:21)!
a) In ancient cultures, a necklace of matched pearls was considered to be the most expensive jewelry in the world. The value of pearls correlated directly with their scarcity. No one had yet discovered the process of culturing pearls. The pearl gates of New Jerusalem retain that high value of pearls. It is highly unlikely that these enormous pearls are the product of gigantic oysters in distress. It is far more likely that they appeared as direct creations of the Creator. We have already made an educated guess that the city walls are as high as, or nearly as high as the city itself. This is so because the overall appearance of the city from a distance is jasper (Rev. 21:10-11), the substance of which the wall is made (Rev. 21:18). It need not be thought, however, that the gates of the city wall are necessarily as high as the walls themselves. Indeed, no height is stated concerning either the wall or the gates. Nevertheless, if 144 cubits (216 feet) is the thickness of the wall (Rev. 21:17), the twelve pearls which comprise the twelve gates of the city must be enormous.
b) What is the significance of the fact that each gate is a pearl? John Phillips writes, “How appropriate! All other precious gems are metals or stones, but a pearl is a gem formed within the oyster—the only one formed by living flesh. The humble oyster receives an irritation or a wound, and around the offending article that has penetrated and hurt it, the oyster builds a pearl. The pearl, we might say, is the answer of the oyster to that which injured it. The glory land is God’s answer, in Christ, to wicked men who crucified heaven’s beloved and put Him to open shame. How like God it is to make the gates of the new Jerusalem of pearl. The saints as they come and go will be forever reminded, as they pass the gates of glory, that access to God’s home is only because of Calvary. Think of the size of those gates! Think of the supernatural pearls from which they are made! What gigantic suffering is symbolized by those gates of pearl! Throughout the endless ages we shall be reminded by those pearly gates of the immensity of the sufferings of Christ. Those pearls, hung eternally at the access routes to glory, will remind us forever of One who hung upon a tree and whose answer to those who injured Him was to invite them to share His home. (Exploring Revelation, rev. ed. [Chicago: Moody, 1987; reprint, Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1991], 254, as quoted in John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Revelation 12-21, QuickVerse, a Division of Findex.Com, Inc.)
c. Another notable feature of the immense wall surrounding New Jerusalem is its enormous foundation stones (Rev. 21:14).
1) There are twelve stones that comprise the foundation of this city, and each is of monstrous size (Rev. 21:14).
2) Assuming the foundation stones are contiguous, supporting the wall of the city, each stone would stretch in length at least 4,000 stadia (460 miles). Their thickness and depth are not given, but must be sizeable to support that much weight.
3) On each foundation stone was inscribed the name of one of the twelve Apostles (sent ones) of the Lamb (Christ) (Rev. 21:14). This means that New Jerusalem is the future permanent home of the Church.
4) Today, January 11, 2008, in the present Jerusalem, US President George Bush is attempting to partition Jerusalem, designating west Jerusalem as a capital for the State of Israel, and east Jerusalem as a capital for a proposed Palestinian State. Under this plan both Jews and Gentiles (non Jewish people) can claim Jerusalem as their capital city. These attempts ignore the provision God already has made for Gentile as well as Jewish participation in New Jerusalem. Here are God’s provisions:
a) Only Jewish people who have circumcised hearts, not of hard stone but of pliable flesh, will be granted residency in New Jerusalem (Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:24-26; Romans 2:28-29). The rebels must first be purged out (Ezek. 20:33-38). Only Jewish people who have been born again and born from above by God’s Holy Spirit will be permitted residency in New Jerusalem (Ezek. 36:27; John 3:1-8). There is only one way for Jewish people to be born again, to be born from above into God’s family as His children. That way is to receive Jesus of Nazareth as the Jewish Messiah who died and rose again to pay for the sins of all Jewish people (Psalm 22:1-18; Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12; John 1:10-14, 24-34; John 3:9-21, 36; 11:21-27, 38-45; 14:6; 20:30-31).
b) From ancient times God has planned to include Gentiles (non Jewish people from the earth’s nations) as residents of New Jerusalem, the ultimate Jewish capital. But God has not restricted their number to Arabs. People from every tribe, kindred, language grouping, and nation are to be included as residents of New Jerusalem (Rev. 5:9). In Psalm 87 we are told that God loves Zion more than any other place in Israel. It is the glorious city of God (Ps. 87:2-3). The remarkable truth is this, that in ancient times, as sung by the Sons of Korah, Yahweh revealed His great love for Gentiles. He has committed Himself to the policy of granting “born in Zion” status to many Gentiles (Ps. 87:5-6)! Specifically mentioned are individuals from Rahab (probably a reference to Egypt), Babylon (modern Iraq), Philistia (now expatriate Egyptians and Jordanians living in the Gaza strip), Tyre (Lebanon) and Ethiopia (Ps. 87:4)! The inclusion of many believing Gentiles in Jerusalem will be fulfilled first in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, but most prominently in New Jerusalem! New Jerusalem will be the permanent residence, first, of Israelis who have placed their trust in Messiah Yeshua, and second, of Gentiles from around the globe who have also, during the Church Age, placed their trust in Jesus, the Christ. The same condition applies to Gentiles as it does to Jewish people. Each Gentile who wishes “born in Zion” status must be born again, born from above by the Spirit of God. This takes place when anyone receives as his own, Jesus of Nazareth, King of Kings, Son of Man, and Son of God, who died and was resurrected to pay for the sins of each of us (John 1:1-3; 10-14, 29; John 3:9-21, 36; 11:21-27, 38-45; 14:6; 20:30-31; Acts 4:12; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; Rom. 5:8-10; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Rev. 3:20). The Church is comprised largely, but not exclusively, of Gentiles who have placed their trust in Jesus, starting on the Day of Pentecost, and ending at the Rapture (John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:50-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Tit. 2:13; Rev. 4:1). The Apostles are the founders of the Church (Eph. 2:20), and their presence in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:14) certifies the presence of the Church, the Bride of Christ (Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17). We Gentiles who believe in Jesus, like Abraham and the Jewish patriarchs of old, are also looking for that city which has permanent foundations, built by God, heavenly Mount Zion, New Jerusalem (Heb. 11:10, 16; 12:22; 13:14)!
c) Will President Bush succeed in bringing peace to the Middle East with his plans to partition Jerusalem and Israel? In a word, NO. He will be unable to do so. Jerusalem will remain trampled underfoot by Gentiles until the “times of the Gentiles” have been completed (Luke 21:24) at the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation (Zech. 12:1-9; 14:1-4; Rev. 19:11-21). Then Yeshua, Messiah, will reign as King over all the earth, bringing peace to the entire globe (Isa. 2:1-4; 9:6-7; Zech. 14:9; Rev. 20:1-7). That peace will last only a thousand years. Only when the Final Revolt has been quelled (Rev. 20:7-10), the present heavens and earth destroyed (2 Pet. 3:7, 10-12; Rev. 20:11), and all evil and evil people eliminated from the universe (Rev. 20:11-15), can a New Universe be created (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1), replete with New Jerusalem as its capital city (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10) – an unending era of righteousness, goodness, joy, and peace.
5) Rev. 21:19 states that “The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone.” My understanding is that, collectively, the foundation stones were decorated with various precious stones. But individually, each stone consisted of a single mineral, as the enumeration of each stone seems to suggest. Whether each foundation stone was a conglomerate of the stated mineral or a homogenous entity sculpted in the shape of a single stone is unknown. A number of the minerals listed below have a wide range of color. Since God is a God of incredible complexity and variety, it is my belief that each stone, over its vast surface will display every hue that these gemstones each exhibit according to its own characteristics. It should also be noted that, if my view that New Jerusalem will be a satellite city orbiting New Earth is correct, there will be no portion of these foundation stones that is below grade. The external and bottom surfaces of each stone will be visible from New Earth below.
a) The first foundation stone was jasper, which can be red, brown, reddish-brown, or yellow in color.
b) The second foundation stone was sapphire, which is the mineral corundum. Pinkish-red to red corundum stones are called rubies. Sapphires include all the other colors of corundum: “blue, pink, green, yellow, violet, purple, orange, brown, white, gray, black, and colorless.”
c) The third foundation stone was chalcedony, which can exhibit colors of pale lavender-blue to lavender-purple, pink, and white.
d) The fourth foundation stone was emerald, which is green beryl. Emeralds typically display a deep green color, but can also be seen with yellowish or blueish tones.
e) The fifth foundation stone was sardonyx. Sardonyx is a variety of onyx that usually contains “flat-banded, white and brownish-red bands. Onyx is a gemstone with alternating light and dark bands, which are colored in brown, red, black, white and grey.”
f) The sixth foundation stone was sardius. Sardius is a designation that appears to be virtually unknown in modern gemological circles. Some Biblical scholars connect it with carnelian (see Rev. 21:20, NIV), listed as a red-orange variety of agate.
h) The eighth foundation stone was beryl. The term beryl covers a number of different minerals, including aquamarine (blue to blue-green to sea-green), bixbite (red beryl), emerald (green beryl), goshenite (colorless beryl), heliodor (golden/yellow beryl), and morganite (pink beryl).
i) The ninth foundation stone was topaz. Topaz is “commonly colorless,” but it also appears in a wide variety of colors – “light to medium blue, yellow / orange / pink / red / violet with or without brown tone, brownish green, brown.”
j) The tenth foundation stone was chrysoprase. Gemstone quality colors include “pale green, yellowish green, apple green, deep green.”
k) The eleventh foundation stone was jacinth, which is a variety of the mineral zircon. Jacinth “occurs in the clear, transparent red, orange, and yellow colors.”
l) The twelfth foundation stone was amethyst, which is a variety of quartz. Its colors are light to dark purple.
6) Different varieties of gemstones have varying degrees of transparency. Certain varieties are transparent, others translucent, and others opaque. I believe that an observer examining the foundation stones of New Jerusalem from an external vantage point will be overwhelmed with the kaleidoscopic colors and shades filling his field of vision. The glory of God and of the Lamb will illuminate the city (Rev. 21:11), including its foundation stones. The dazzling and colorful effect of Divine light streaming through the multi-colored foundation stones and the jasper wall of the city will overwhelm the senses. The light will be so bright that it will illuminate the earth below, so that the nations of the earth will be able to walk, or live, by its light (Rev. 21:24)! Nothing on the present earth can begin to compare with the glory and the beauty of New Jerusalem!
d. A dimension is given with reference to the wall (Rev. 21:17). That dimension is, literally, 144 cubits. It need not be pointed out that 144 is the square of 12. Though they do not say why, most conservative commentators believe the dimension given refers to the thickness of the wall, rather than its height. That is probably so for the following reasons: (1) the material of the wall is jasper (Rev. 21:18); (2) the over-all appearance of the city from John’s distant vantage point was jasper (Rev. 21:10-11); (3) therefore we conclude that the height of the wall is so great that jasper is the over-riding color that presents itself to the eye of an external beholder. So the wall of the city, then, according to the measurement of the angel, was 216 feet, or 72 yards thick, because a cubit was approximately 18 inches. Many who interpret the book of Revelation prefer to impose a figurative meaning, even to the numbers. John warns against that, explicitly stating that human and angelic measurements are one in the same!
e. The material of the wall consists of the gemstone jasper (Rev. 21:18).
1) According to MineralMiners.com, “Jasper is a cryptocrystalline variety of the mineral Quartz ... the most abundant single mineral on earth.” “Jasper is a variety of chert ...” “Chert is the general term applied to the granular cryptocrystalline varieties of quartz, of which flint and Jasper are examples.” Jasper has a typical reddish brown color, but it can appear in tones of red, brown, or yellow.
2) Interestingly, to the Apostle John, God sitting on His throne had the appearance of jasper as well as sardius (Rev. 4:3). The city of New Jerusalem glowed brilliantly as a costly “stone of crystal-clear jasper (Rev. 21:11).” The unmistakable impression is that jasper is the predominant feature and color of the city as it meets the eye from a distance. Since the city proper is composed of pure gold (Rev. 21:18), but the appearance of the city is jasper, the gold must be concealed behind the walls of the city to a visitor approaching it. That would indicate that the wall of jasper surrounding the city would have to be of sufficient height to obscure the gold structures within this enormous city. This would lead one to believe that the city wall itself, if not 12,000 stadia (1,380 miles) high, would have to approach that height in order to conceal the golden structures behind it.
3) John MacArthur thinks that jasper here refers to diamond, because diamonds are clear, while jasper is opaque (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Revelation 12-22). On this particular point, I differ with MacArthur. I know of no etymological connection between the Greek word iaspis and the English word diamond, but a good dictionary will inform you that jaspis in Latin, which came from iaspis in Greek, the word used in the Greek text of Rev. 4:3; 21:11, 18, 19, is jasper. Jasper grades from translucent to opaque. The glory of God is more than sufficient to shine through jasper walls. By way of comparison, the city itself is comprised of gold (Rev. 21:18), but the glory of God and of the lamb is so great that no artificial lighting is needed inside the city. We will have a different set of physics in motion in New Jerusalem than we have here upon the present earth. The first foundation stone of the city wall, as mentioned before, also consisted of jasper (Rev. 21:19).
3. As already indicated, the city of New Jerusalem is prodigious in size. It is also clear that God wants us who read the book of Revelation to know the precise measurements of this enormous city.
a. It simply will not do to say, “Well, it’s a big city,” and let it go at that. It is disingenuous to say that the numbers given relative to the size of the city are to be considered as figurative. There are said to be twelve gates, twelve angels at the gates, and twelve tribes of the sons of Israel (Rev. 21:12). Are those numbers figurative or literal? There are said to be three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south, and three on the west of the city (Rev. 21:13). Are those numbers to be taken figuratively or literally? The city is said to have twelve foundation stones, with the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb inscribed on them (Rev. 21:14). Is the number twelve to be taken figuratively or literally? The beautiful foundation stones are numbered, from the first to the twelfth (Rev. 21:19-20). Is that enumeration figurative or literal? The twelve gates are said to consist of twelve pearls (Rev. 21:21). Is that to be taken figuratively or literally? In every case the obvious answer to the question is that John expected his readers to take the numbers literally. That being the case, we cannot take the numbers in Rev. 21:15-17 as figurative, or as merely indicating a large city without precise specifications.
b. To reinforce that the numbers are to be taken literally, one of the angels who had poured out one of the bowls of wrath upon the earth came to John with a gold measuring rod. The purpose of this rod was to measure the city, its gates, and its walls (Rev. 21:15). Gold was considered by the ancients to be the mineral of greatest value. A gold measuring rod meant that the highest standards of accuracy were being assured. God sent this angel to John with a gold measuring rod to measure the city in John’s presence in order that John and John’s readers might have the most accurate information available as to the precise size of the city, its gates, and its walls.
c. The first thing John reports relative to the dimensions of the city is that it is laid out as a square, its length and breadth being equal (Rev. 21:16).
d. We observe next that the angel physically measured the city. He did not guess at its size. He did not estimate it. He did not “eyeball” it. He actually measured it (Rev. 21:16).
e. When the angel measured the city, John learned that its dimension on a side was, literally, 12,000 stadia. Note again, the emphasis on the number 12 or its multiple.
1) The note in the text of the NASB version indicates that “a stadion was approx 600 ft.” 600 feet X 12,000 = 7,200,000 feet / 5,280 feet = 1363.64 miles. That is a conservative estimate.
2) Professor Richard Pogge, an astronomer at Ohio State University, delineates (in his notes in Astronomy 161, Lecture 4) 1 stadion as being 600 Greek Feet (length [sic] of a foot race in a Greek "stadium"). The best modern guess is that 1 stadion = 185 meters, based on the "Attic Stadion" measured from the Stadium at Athens.
3) 185 meters X 12,000 = 2,220,000 meters. Using The foot-meter Converter, 2,220,000 meters = 1379.44 miles. This is probably a more accurate measurement of 12,000 stadia. For convenience’ sake, we have rounded the figure upwards to 1380 miles, the same figure John MacArthur uses in his commentary on Revelation 12-22. This figure is the basis for calculations in this document.
4. What is the shape of the city? John has already reported that the city is square in two dimensions, having four symmetrical sides of the same length (Rev. 21:16). But having given his readers the stunning physical dimensions, he makes a statement that catches readers living on the present earth completely off-guard. John states with all sobriety that the length and the width and the height of the city are equal (Rev. 21:16)! We have absolutely nothing with which to compare this phenomenon in our present earth. A city 1380 miles high!?! But that is precisely what the text states, and believe it we shall.
a. Is the city a cube or a pyramid? Many have opted for the shape of a pyramid, but there is nothing in the text that suggests a pyramid. Egyptian pyramids were in existence long before John wrote the book of Revelation, and he would know how to describe one. At face value, the language John used suggests a cube.
b. We have no idea what the size of New Earth will be. Let us assume for the moment that New Earth is approximately the same size as our present earth. How could a city 1380 miles high rest on the surface of the earth? If we assume that New Earth will revolve as does our present earth, would not this city throw the earth remarkably off balance, much as a car tire with lead weights in the wrong position?
c. Let me suggest again that the present tense language used to describe New Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:2, 10) is, to me, appropriate language to describe a city orbiting around New Earth, much like our present day moon. Let us make some statistical comparisons. The volume of the moon is 5,291,335,807.6 cubic miles. The volume of New Jerusalem, assuming a cube configuration, is 2,628,072,000 miles. While that is a staggering amount of mass, it is merely one half of the volume of our moon, and well within the limitations of even our present day physics. New Jerusalem would comfortably orbit New Earth.
5. What is the composition of the city of New Jerusalem?
a. We have already learned that the entire city glistens brilliantly with the glory of God, appearing like a costly stone of crystal-clear jasper (Rev. 21:11), that the city’s wall consists of jasper (Rev. 21:18), that the city’s foundations consist of twelve different, kaleidoscopic gemstones (Rev. 21:19-20), and that the twelve gates consist of solitary pearls (Rev. 21:21). What is the city itself made of? The text (Rev. 21:18) states, “and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.” Some have taken this to mean that the gold is of a different composition than gold on the earth today. They have suggested that this is a transparent gold which can be seen through, just as glass is transparent. That does not appear to be the meaning. Literally, what John wrote is this, “and the city [was] gold pure, like glass pure” (author’s literal translation). It is readily observable that the same adjective, pure (katharos), describes both gold and glass. The emphasis appears to be on the high quality of the gold, just as it is on the high quality of the glass. Neither had any impurities. What John is trying to tell us is that the gold of the city was of the highest standard, to be compared with the standard of the highest quality of glass in that day. In that day, gold was the most precious of metals. The point here is that the entire city is constructed of the most valuable metal, and of the highest standard of that most valuable metal! God, in His grace, offers a permanent residence for Israel and the Church built of the most valued metal of the highest quality! He obviously takes great pleasure in us! We are loved!
b. To reinforce the notion that the entire city was built of gold, John commented on the street of the city. He said, “And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass (Rev. 21:21b).” Here John uses a different word to describe glass, the word transparent (diaugēs). The effect is the same, however. The word diaugēs functions merely as a synonym for pure (katharos), indicating how pure the gold of the city street was. Gold will be so commonplace that we will walk on it!
6. What will worship be like in New Jerusalem?
a. The content of worship. We are given few specific indicators of the content of worship in New Jerusalem in Rev. 21-22. However, other parts of the book of Revelation provide superb and glorious details of the content of worship. It is not the purpose of this essay to describe in detail the content of worship in heaven, for this document concerns itself largely with the descriptions of New Jerusalem contained in Rev. 21-22. It is appropriate, however, to list, at least partially, the content of worship from other sections of this book. Presumably, the worship here described in heaven will also take place in New Jerusalem.
1) Four living creatures are described as ceaselessly worshiping the Lord God Almighty (Rev. 4:8). They thrice honor Him for His holiness. They honor Him for His sovereignty – He has power and jurisdiction over everything! They honor Him for His eternity. He is the One who was being in the past, He is the One being in the present, and He is the One coming! These living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the One sitting on the throne – the One living into the ages of the ages (Rev. 4:9).
2) When they do so, the twenty four elders fall down before the One sitting on the throne, who lives into the ages of the ages; and they cast down their crowns before the throne (Rev. 4:10); These twenty-four elders acknowledge that God is worthy to receive the glory and the honor and the power because He is the Creator! He created all things; and it is on account of His will that they existed and were created (Rev. 4:11).
3) In Rev. 5:5-7, the Apostle John was told of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, root of David, who had conquered, qualifying Him to open a seven-sealed book of judgment. Then John saw standing as if slain, in the middle of the throne and the four living creatures, and in the middle of the elders, a seven-horned, seven-eyed Lamb. Obviously this is none other than Jesus Christ. As a Lion, He had conquered sin, death, Satan, and Hades. As a sacrificial Lamb He had died to pay for the sins of the world. His seven horns depict His power; His seven eyes depict His omniscience; and together His seven horns and eyes depict the Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. When Jesus took the book from the right hand of God, praise erupted from around the throne (Rev. 5:8-14)! The four living beings and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one of them holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which consists of the prayers of the saints. They sang a new song of praise, incorporating the following points for worship:
a) Jesus’ sacrificial death: Jesus was worthy to open up the seven-sealed book of judgment because He had been killed.
b) Jesus’ vast and far-reaching redemption: With His own blood He had redeemed out of the marketplace of slavery to sin, Satan, and death individuals for God from every clan and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9).
c) Jesus’ instrumentality in establishing a Kingdom for God’s benefit: Jesus made this multitude to be, for our God’s benefit, a kingdom, and priests. This means that they constitute God’s kingdom, and their assignment in that kingdom is to serve as priests to draw others to God. In the process this vast multitude will reign alongside Jesus in His Millennial Kingdom, and in the Eternal Kingdom on New Earth (Rev. 5:10; 20:4, 6; 22:5).
4) Millions upon millions of angels around the throne joined with the four living creatures and the twenty four elders (Rev. 5:11), thundering in a loud voice Jesus’ worthiness to inherit all wealth and praise: “Worthy is the Lamb, the one having been slain, to receive the power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise” (Rev. 5:12, author’s literal translation.)
5) All animate and inanimate entities in the entire universe ascribe praise and honor to God the Father and Christ the Lamb throughout eternity! “And every created being in the heaven and upon the earth, and under the earth, and upon the sea, and the things in them – all” – John heard them say, “To the One sitting upon the throne, and to the Lamb – [may there be] the praise and the honor and the glory and the might unto the ages of the ages!” (Rev. 5:13, author’s literal translation.) It is my belief that this will not completely be fulfilled until the Eternal State, when all unbelievers and all fallen angels have been forever banished from the New Universe into the Lake of Fire.
6) “And the four living beings were saying, ‘Truly!’
7) And the elders fell down and worshiped!” (Rev. 5:14, author’s literal translation.)
8) Again, let it be said that John’s observation of this magnificent praise and worship took place in heaven. It coincided, I believe, with the call of the Church up to heaven at the rapture (symbolized by John’s upward call into heaven (Rev. 4:1), and prior to or simultaneous with the introduction of the“Seal Judgments” of the Tribulation Period commencing in Rev. 6. That having been said, there is no reason not to assume that this sort of praise will abound typically in New Jerusalem throughout eternity. The citizens of New Jerusalem will participate joyously and enthusiastically in praising God and the Lamb, as will citizens of New Earth below, especially as they enter New Jerusalem and personally encounter God and the Lamb. Vast throngs will gather and respectfully, yet exuberantly voice together their utter devotion to God for His creation and to the Lamb for His Salvation!
b. The place of worship. There are distinct differences between worship in heaven and worship in New Jerusalem.
1) The most notable difference is the absence of a temple in New Jerusalem. There are sixteen occurrences in thirteen verses in Revelation of the word temple (naos). Two of those occurrences refer to the earthly temple in Jerusalem during the Tribulation (Rev. 11:1, 2). One instance speaks of a temple that does not exist in New Jerusalem, while another in the same verse explains that God and the Lamb are the temple in that eternal city (Rev. 21:22). The remaining twelve occurrences all refer to the temple that exists in Heaven, the abode of God. Let us examine these twelve instances to learn about God’s temple in heaven.
a) God’s temple exists in heaven (Rev. 3:12). Jesus said to the Church in Philadelphia that He would make him who conquers “a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will not go out from it anymore.” Jesus did not, of course, mean that He would turn people into literal pillars. He meant rather that those believers who conquer will be made into integral and permanent worshipers and servers of God inside His temple and in His presence, wherever He might be. (Remember that in eternity, God will localize Himself outside Heaven and inside New Jerusalem, capital of New Earth!)
b) Evidently God’s throne in heaven is located inside His temple. Saints who have been martyred during the Tribulation will take their places before the throne of God and “will serve Him day and night in His temple (Rev. 7:14-15).”
c) In John’s vision of what was up in heaven, the temple in heaven was opened up so John could see what was inside. He was able to see the ark of God’s covenant inside the temple (Rev. 11:19). Centuries earlier, God had given to Moses instructions for the construction of the tabernacle on earth (Exod. 25-27). That earthly tabernacle was modeled after the real temple up in heaven. Similarly, the ark of the covenant on earth was modeled after the real ark of the covenant up in heaven (Heb. 8:1-5; 9:11). The earthly ark of the covenant contained the two tablets of stone on which were engraved the ten commandments (Heb. 9:3-4). Presumably the heavenly ark of the covenant contains a representation of God’s covenant, including the ten commandments, but conceivably covenantal revelation much broader than that.
d) There are angels in the temple of God in heaven. Periodically they exit to deliver messages (Rev. 14:15, 17) or perform their mission (Rev. 15:6-8). In this latter passage, seven angels who have seven plagues emerge from the temple (Rev. 15:6). They are given seven bowls filled with the wrath of God (Rev. 15:7). The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and His power to such an extent that no one was able to enter the temple until after the angels had finished pouring their bowls of God’s wrath upon the earth (Rev. 15:8)!
e) There exists an altar in connection with the temple in heaven (Rev. 14:17-18).
i This altar is made of gold (Rev. 8:3; 9:13), and it stands before the throne of God within the temple (Rev. 8:3). The prayers of the saints appear on this altar before God, along with a constantly burning fire (Rev. 8:5). An angel periodically adds incense to the prayers of the saints on the altar (Rev. 8:3).
ii The altar has four horns (Rev. 9:13).
iii The altar is, in some sense, animate, able to speak. It issues commands (Rev. 9:13-14), and it worships God (Rev. 16:7).
iv There is a period of time, evidently during the Tribulation period, when the souls of martyred Tribulation saints are housed underneath the altar. They cry out to God for vengeance on those who have brutally murdered them on the earth. They are told that they must wait until the number of martyrdoms has been completed. Meanwhile they are comforted by being given a white robe (Rev. 6:9-11).
v Angels periodically serve at the altar. An angel who has power over fire emerged from the altar and issued a command to another angel to reap a bloody harvest of judgment upon the earth below (Rev. 14:18-20).
f) The temple in heaven is smaller than, and contained inside“the tabernacle of testimony in heaven” (Rev. 15:5). The word temple is naos, and refers to the specific chamber or edifice where God rules, seated upon His throne. It is the compartment found within the larger tabernacle or tent in the courtyard of which the Israelis gathered for worship on earth. The temple (naos) or shrine within the larger tabernacle was sometimes called the Holy of Holies in the earthly tabernacle. The temple in heaven evidently also has a Holy of Holies. In Rev. 15:5, we read, “the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened.” “Naos (temple) refers to the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary where God’s presence dwells, emphasizing that God is the source of the plagues. The tabernacle was sometimes referred to as the tabernacle of testimony (Ex. 38:21; Num. 1:50, 53; 10:11; Acts 7:44) because the most important item in it was the ark of the covenant, sometimes called the ark of the testimony (Ex. 25:22; 26:33–34; 30:6; Lev. 16:13; Num. 4:5; 7:89; Josh. 4:16). It was so named because it contained the testimony, the two stone tablets on which God had written the Ten Commandments (Ex. 25:16, 21; 40:20; cf. Ps. 78:5).” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Revelation 12-22, comments on Rev. 15:5).
g) John heard a loud voice from the temple instructing the seven angels who had the seven bowls of wrath to proceed to pour out the bowls upon the earth (Rev. 16:1). When the seventh angel had poured out his bowl, again, a loud voice from the throne in the temple thundered the words, “It is done!” (Rev. 16:17). Immediately there erupted upon the earth below lightning and thunder and a monster earthquake of unprecedented magnitude (Rev. 16:18-20), followed by one hundred pound hailstones (Rev. 16:21)!
2) The intriguing thing is that there will be no temple whatever in New Jerusalem when it comes to reside in New Heaven in connection with New Earth (Rev. 21:22)! Temples on earth are evidently somewhat artificial crutches to use to aid believers in their worship of a physically absent God who cannot be seen. When God first created the earth and fellowshipped on a regular basis with man in the Garden of Eden, there was no temple, and no need for a temple (Gen. 2:16, 19; 3:8). In New Jerusalem on New Earth, God will fellowship personally and directly with man. He will tent among men and dwell among them. He Himself will exist among them (Rev. 21:3). He will personally dry the tears away from their eyes (Rev. 21:4). The throne of God and of the Lamb will be physically present in New Jerusalem and His slaves will serve Him (Rev. 22:3). “They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:4). Because there is accessibility to God and Jesus on their throne, there will be no need, throughout eternity, for the assistance of a temple in which to commune with and worship God. We will all be able to come and communicate with God face to face!
7. What is the light source for this city? We are told that “the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev. 21:23). We are told, furthermore, that “there will no longer be any night; and they [the bond-servants, or slaves of God and the Lamb] will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them...” (Rev. 22:5). We learn, then, at least three things:
a. First, there will be no need in New Jerusalem for “natural light,” here defined as light occurring within nature unaided by man. By that we mean, of course, that sunlight will not be necessary by day, nor will moonlight be necessary by night.
1) Many have concluded, thereby, that there will be no sun, moon, or stars in New Heaven, the deep space of the New Universe. That is certainly a logical conclusion to draw. But if one notes the wording carefully, the text does not say no moon or sun will exist. And it says nothing whatever about stars. All it states is that “the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon in order that they should shine on it” (Rev. 21:23, author’s literal translation and emphasis). Similar language is used in Rev. 22:5: “And night there will not be any longer; and not will they have need of light of lamp and of light of sun, because the Lord God will enlighten them...” (author’s literal translation and emphasis).
2) What gives us pause about asserting that there will be no sun or moon in New Heaven is Yahweh’s dogmatic assertion about the perpetuity of the sun, the moon, and stars in connection with the New Covenant (Jer. 31:27-37 ). He states, “Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night .... If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever” (Jer. 31:35-36). It sounds very much as if there will always be a sun, moon and stars, else Israel will cease to exist as a nation. Conversely, since Israel will always exist as God’s chosen nation, the sun, moon, and stars will also exist into eternity.
3) In our present heavens and earth, there is no need for the moon to shine by day. The light from the sun is entirely adequate for us to see. But the moon does shine by day, at times visible in the sky. It is superfluous, but it is visible. Just so, it is my opinion that both sun and moon will indeed shine in New Heaven. They will be utterly superfluous, but they will still exist. And I believe that there will be stars that will shine out in space. The present heavens dramatically, if silently, proclaim the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-6). A New Universe without any other celestial bodies would, it seems to me, decrease the proclamation of the glory of God, not increase it. Will the sun and other stars emit light on the same fuel-burning basis that our present stars exhibit? I have no idea. Whatever the source of light, it will be a “perpetual motion” arrangement. There will never be a time when celestial bodies in the New Heaven run out of their ability to produce light, even though quadrillions of years have elapsed!
4) To confirm the correctness of this conclusion, let me quote from some passages in the Psalms and the book of Isaiah.
a) Psalm 148:1-6 calls on angels, sun, moon, stars, the highest heavens, and the waters above the heavens to praise the name of Yahweh! Psa. 148:6 states, “He has established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away.” I have long wondered how statements relating to the perpetuity of sun, moon, and stars could be true since God has manifestly stated that He will destroy them (2 Pet. 3:7-12). The answer is that He will re-create them (2 Pet. 3:13) at a time when only righteousness will exist in the New Heavens! Had man never sinned, there would have been no decay in this present universe, and it never would have been doomed to pass away. As far as God is concerned, there is a sense in which the sun, moon, and stars will never pass away! His purging of the universe (2 Pet. 3:7-12) is but a momentary blip on the radar screen. The newly created hosts of deep space will continue to exist, free of sin, and free of the decay and death that proceed from sin after their new re-creation, throughout all eternity!
b) Speaking of Israel in New Jerusalem (and probably in the Millennium also), Isaiah predicted, “No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light; but you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory” (Isa. 60:19).
c) “Your sun will no longer set, nor will your moon wane; for you will have the LORD for an everlasting light” (Isa. 60:20).
i Observe the continued existence of both sun and moon, along with the light from Yahweh Himself (Isa. 60:20). Though this statement does not specifically state the continued existence of the sun and moon, it virtually implies it. At the least, it leaves the door open for the continuing existence of both.
ii Notice that the context is one of no more sorrow, “And the days of your mourning will be over” (Isa. 60:20; cf. Rev. 21:4).
iii Notice also that the context describes Israel as being righteous and possessing her land forever (Isa. 60:21).
d) Isa. 66:22-23 is the strongest passage on the continuing existence of both sun and moon in conjunction with New Heaven and New Earth. “For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD, “So your offspring and your name will endure. And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the Lord. (End quote.) Observe the following:
i New Heavens and New Earth will endure perpetually – into eternity.
ii The offspring of Israel and the name of Israel will also endure perpetually.
iii In the same context, all mankind will come to bow down before Yahweh from new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath.
iv If the first two items are perpetual, logically the third item is perpetual. When will all mankind come to worship Yahweh? The preliminary fulfillment is in the Millennium, but even then there is the real possibility that some nations will not come to worship Yahweh. Zech. 14:16-19 contemplates situations in which nations refuse to come to worship the King, celebrating the Feast of Booths. Egypt is specifically mentioned as a nation that, hypothetically, might not come. The nation who refuses to come worship the King at the Feast of Booths will have a plague of drought. The next year they will be back! This cannot possibly happen upon New Earth, where only those resurrected individuals exist who are confirmed in righteousness. The non-worshiping scenario can only happen during the Millennium. Isa. 66:22-23 contemplates a time when all mankind everywhere come to worship God regularly without fail. That can only apply to New Jerusalem and New Earth.
v During that time of perfect worship, time will continue to exist. The Jewish lunar calendar will continue to be employed – from new moon to new moon. We will continue to mark time on God’s ordained seven-day week cycle. He established it in His Creation week (Gen. 1:1 - 2:3), and it will continue to be observed throughout eternity. So there is a moon that will be created in the New Heavens.
vi The moon is a secondary light-bearer. It has no light of its own, but reflects the light of the sun, around which it orbits. Therefore we conclude that there will continue to be both a sun and a moon that exist throughout eternity.
vii Though both the sun and the moon will be visible, they will be superfluous as far as providing light is concerned. The light emanating from the glory of God and of the Lamb will be sufficient to light not only New Jerusalem, but New Planet Earth, around which New Jerusalem orbits. The sun and moon will, however, function as time markers throughout eternity. They will also serve as a decorative function. Much as we have electric lights in our homes, but sometimes add candles for beauty and accent, the newly-created sun, moon and stars will provide a decorative wonder that continues to shout forth the glory of God throughout eternity, just as they do today (Psalm 19:1-6).
b. Second, there is no need for artificial light in New Jerusalem, either. We read that there is no need for lamp light (Rev. 22:5). So there will be no need of flashlights, of kerosene lamps with wicks, of incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs of any type. Why will this be so?
c. That leads us to our third observation: There will be no need for artificial illumination because the Lord God will illumine the citizens. The glory of God and the Lamb (Rev. 21:23) will be so permeating that whatever buildings or structures that exist, whether above grade or below grade, exterior or interior, will be well-lit by the glory of God. This is that same shekinah glory that was a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day as Israel traveled through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21-22). It is the same glory that John viewed on the island of Patmos. When he looked into the face of the risen Christ, it was like looking at “the sun shining in its strength” (Rev. 1:16). No wonder John fell at Christ’s feet like a dead man (Rev. 1:17)! As citizens of New Jerusalem with glorified, spiritual bodies (1 Cor. 15:40-49), we will be able to tolerate the blazing glory of God permeating every corner of New Jerusalem. It will be a joy, not an eternal distraction!
8. What effect will the light from New Jerusalem have upon New Earth (Rev. 21:24)?
a. Again, it is my view that New Jerusalem will be a satellite city orbiting New Earth at a Divinely-designed altitude. The light emanating from New Jerusalem will be so great that it will illuminate New Earth below! We are told that “the nations will walk by its light” (Rev. 21:24). The word “walk” means “have their existence” or “conduct their lives.” The term “nations” here refers to a great body of non-Jewish citizens of God’s kingdom who are privileged to inhabit New Earth for eternity. We have already observed that New Jerusalem is earth’s capital. We have already observed that New Jerusalem will be the eternal home of Israel, as is evidenced by the twelve gates inscribed with the names of the twelve sons of Israel (Rev. 21:12). We have also observed that New Jerusalem is also the home of the Church, as is evidenced by the names of the twelve Apostles inscribed on the twelve foundation stones (Rev. 21:14). So Gentiles (nations) who are part of the Church will exist in New Jerusalem. All other Gentiles, I presume, will exist on New Earth. Incidentally, it should not be thought that those who dwell on New Earth are second-class citizens. While it is a privilege to dwell in New Jerusalem, all New Earth citizens have ready access to New Jerusalem, as we shall see momentarily. By way of illustration, we Americans are privileged to dwell anywhere in this great country. We are not second-class citizens because we do not dwell in Washington, D. C. We can travel there any time we wish, provided we have the funds needed to make the trip. Nor are citizens of New Earth second-class because they do not live in their capital city. And it will cost them no money whatever to travel to New Jerusalem!
b. Here are some Scripture references from the prophecy of Isaiah that demonstrate the Apostle John’s predictions of Jerusalem as a source of light were not made in a vacuum. God, through John, is merely confirming that which He has already revealed!
1) “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isa. 60:1). Light for the people of Israel is directly related to the glory of Yahweh.
2) “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isa. 60:3)! Though this passage may have some degree of fulfillment in the Millennium, ultimate fulfillment awaits Eternity. Nations and kings of the earth will be drawn to the spectacular brilliance and glory of New Jerusalem!
3) “No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory” (Isa. 60:19).
4) “The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory” (Isa. 62:2a). I believe the glory here refers to a visible glory emanating from New Jerusalem.
9. What activities will there be upon New Earth as it relates to New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24-26)? Fragmentary, but viable clues are given.
a. We are told that the kings of earth will bring their glory into the satellite city (Rev. 21:24). They will have 24-hour-a-day access to this city, for there will be no night there (Rev. 21:25)! Furthermore, the gates of the city will never be closed!
1) My family and I lived in Australia from 1978-82. We were accustomed to the business hours of American cities. Early on in our stay there, we were in the city center of Adelaide, capital of South Australia. We were in a store in a down-town mall on a Saturday, just before noon. We were stunned when an employee began pulling a huge accordion metal gate across the entrance to the store. It became apparent that the city’s commerce largely shut down at noon on Saturdays! They were no longer open for business for the rest of the weekend! “What’s wrong with these Australians?” we Americans wondered. “Don’t they want to make any money?”
2) That will never be the case with New Jerusalem! Its gates will be open for access around the clock. They will never be shut. It will never be night-time there! It will never be closing time!
b. Let us identify first the specific activities that are connected with New Earth and New Jerusalem. Then we will endeavor to interpret what those activities imply. Here are the activities:
1) “The nations will walk by its light” (i.e. the light of the city) (Rev. 21:24).
2) “The kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Rev. 21:24).
3) “They will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it” (Rev. 21:26).
c. Now let us ask the question, what do these activities mean? John the Apostle did not make these marvelous predictions in a vacuum. He was repeating, to a large degree, prophecies made centuries earlier. Since Scripture is its own best interpreter, we must examine these earlier prophecies to determine what John meant. Isa. 60-66 is full of prophecies from which the prophecies in Revelation are drawn. Revelation is a commentary on Isaiah, and Isaiah is a commentary on Revelation. Let us look at several of these prophecies in Isaiah.
1) Isaiah made this prediction: “Your gates will be open continually; they will not be closed day or night, so that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession” (Isa. 60:11). Certain aspects of Isaiah 60 deal with conditions in the Millennium, while other aspects deal with conditions in the Eternal State, but certain aspects are true of both. Isaiah’s prediction of wealth being brought into Israel and Jerusalem certainly applies to the Millennium. But John the Apostle makes it clear that this particular prophecy of Isaiah also applies to New Jerusalem throughout eternity!
a) What does it mean? Regardless of whether the 1380-mile cube New Jerusalem is orbiting the earth or is perched on the surface of the earth, it makes no difference as to the conclusions which I am about to draw. In either case, these conclusions will be true.
b) Clearly Isaiah understood that the nations of the earth would be engaged in some sort of commercial enterprise by which they could accumulate wealth. Israel would be the leading nation of the world, and all nations would be privileged to honor their spiritual heritage from God through Israel by bringing taxes, commodities, manufactured goods, and stores of food. In both the Millennium and the Eternal State, it will be a privilege to pay taxes to God and His reigning King, Jesus. The major ways nations today make wealth are through mining/harvesting (mining gems and metals or harvesting natural resources such as timber), agriculture (planting and harvesting crops, ), manufacturing (of items as diverse as clothing or machines or technology), construction, banking, and services.
c) Clearly John envisioned the same sort of thing. There is no reason to believe that there will not be commercial enterprise and interaction between New Earth and New Jerusalem. It will be a great privilege for the nations to bring tithes and offerings (call them taxes and gifts) to God and the great King, just as it is a privilege for Christians today to give to the Lord’s work.
d) To be candid, I see no reason why there will not be such activities on New Earth as mining, forestry, farming, grazing, manufacturing, service industries, construction, food service, and free enterprise. God’s original intention with his newly created original earth was for all these things to take place in a benign, environmentally friendly way. Prior to the fall of man God had arranged for gold, onyx, and aromatic resin (Gen. 2:11-12). Did God intend for man to ignore those products and leave them untouched? Of course not. Work in New Jerusalem and upon New Earth will be a great pleasure, intensely rewarding, for we will be serving God and the Lamb!
2) Here are other Scriptures in Isaiah that speak of the fact that the Gentile nations will bring great wealth into Israel and New Jerusalem.
a) “Nations will come to [her] light and kings to the brightness of [her] rising” (Isa. 60:3). The first fulfillment is during the Millennium, but John makes it clear that the same thing will happen in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24). Nations will walk by the light of New Jerusalem and [New] Earth’s kings will bring their glory into it!
b) Israel will “suck the milk of nations” and “the breast of kings” (Isa. 60:16). Israel will derive great benefit and wealth from the surrounding nations during the Millennial Kingdom, but Rev. 21:25-26 makes it clear that the same thing will happen during the Eternal State. The glory and honor of the nations that is brought into New Jerusalem will include prodigious wealth from the nations of New Earth!
c) Strangers will pasture Israel’s flocks and foreigners (people among the Gentile nations) will be Israel’s “farmers and vinedressers” (Isa. 61:5). With the Gentile nations performing Israel’s manual labor, the people of Israel will be free to perform a spiritual ministry of serving as priests of Yahweh and ministers of Elohim (Isa. 61:6). This will happen during the Millennium, but there is no reason why it will not also happen on New Earth and in New Jerusalem.
d) Israel will “eat the wealth of nations” and boast in their riches (Isa. 61:6). This will occur during the Millennium, but Rev. 21:24-26 makes it clear that this prophecy applies also to New Jerusalem in connection with New Earth.
e) Because of God’s everlasting covenant with Israel, blessings promised to Israel to be fulfilled in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom will not end there. Redeemed Israelis in New Jerusalem will also be known among the nations of New Earth. All who see these Israelis will recognize that Yahweh has blessed them indeed (Isa. 61:8-9)!
f) The nations of New Earth will see Israel’s righteousness, and the nations’ kings will witness Israel’s glory (Isa. 62:1-2)! Jerusalem will be a praise in the earth (Isa. 62:7)! These promised blessings will fulfilled first of all in the Millennial Kingdom, but Rev. 21:24-26 makes it clear that they will most completely fulfilled upon New Earth in connection with New Jerusalem!
g) Israelis will be overjoyed, and greatly comforted and nourished in Jerusalem (Isa. 66:10-11). They will experience blissful peace and comfort (Isa. 66:12-13). They will experience “the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream” (Isa. 66:12)! This bliss will experienced by Israelis during the Millennial Kingdom, but again, Rev. 21:24-26 makes it clear that they will also experience more completely in New Jerusalem in connection with New Earth!
d. What a marvelous, cooperative society we will experience on New Earth and in New Jerusalem – holy and Biblical multiculturalism at its most complete, most holy, most God-oriented, and most others-oriented capacity! Anti-Semitism will be forever absent. There will be complete love, cooperation, mutual aid, and benefit between Arab and Israeli, between Iraqi and Iranian, between Russian and Ukrainian, between American and Cuban between Chinese and Taiwanese, between Indian and Pakistani! Work will be exciting, rewarding, and stimulating. Intellectual growth and spiritual growth and perfect harmony between all mankind and between man and God will expand throughout all eternity. All of New Earth will revel in New Jerusalem as the acme of all civilization and the unfading zenith of relations between man and God. What an unbelievably glorious future awaits the man and woman who put their trust in Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only provision for reconciliation and redemption!
10. New Jerusalem (and New Earth) will be completely uncontaminated by any moral or physical pollutants.
a. Rev. 21:27. “... and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it [New Jerusalem], but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
1) There are multitudes in our western societies who labor under the delusion that moral turpitude does not undermine a nation’s economic or political well-being. They are the sort who say, “What goes on in someone’s bedroom is no business of the state.”
2) How sadly deluded they are. Religious Muslims and conservative Christians have something in common. We both appreciate that a nation cannot be great if it is riddled with moral debauchery. God cannot and will not bless a nation whose people are morally corrupt at the core. Here is the truth of the matter: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34). When a nation loses its moral base, it loses its ability to function rightly and efficiently in any capacity.
3) People who claim to be conservative in matters of economics and national defense, but liberal in matters of morals are self-deluded. What makes you think that you can be immoral in the bedroom, but escape the leaching of that sin into other areas? What makes you think an immoral person will always be honest? What makes you think an immoral person will not also steal money from the public treasury? Corruption is an equal-opportunity employer. He who is corrupt in the bedroom cannot avoid corruption in other areas of his or her life. Sin is a cancer that metastasizes and spreads. Sin never restrains itself to one tiny compartment!
4) In New Jerusalem upon New Earth, we will not be plagued with any corruption whatever! We will never have to doubt another’s love; never have to doubt another’s sincerity; never have to doubt another’s financial policies; never have to be on guard for a sinister, hidden agenda! What a relief not to have to battle sin anymore! What a relief to be surrounded for eternity only by GOOD people! – people who have one another’s best interests at heart! – people who are unanimously, without exception, working for the best interests of the King – God and the Lamb!
5) My wife and I each have a member’s card that permits us to enter Sam’s Club anywhere in the nation. Without that card, we cannot enter the store. No one will be permitted to enter New Jerusalem except those whose names have been permanently registered in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27). The Book of Life is a register of all those who have trusted in God in the Old Testament era and the Lamb in the New Testament era. These names have evidently been recorded in the Book from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Thus, only those who are redeemed from their sin nature and from any vestige of sin will be permitted to enter the city!
b. The curse that was placed on the original earth because of man’s sin (Gen. 2:17; 3:14-19; Rom. 8:20-22) will be removed (Rev. 22:3).
c. The entire physical universe, including Planet Earth, will be destroyed (2 Pet. 3:7-12). In its place God will create New Heaven and Earth in which only righteousness exists (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). There will be no Green Movement in New Jerusalem or upon New Earth. That is because no one will pollute or contaminate anything. Man will, throughout eternity, make the wisest use possible of the natural resources God has placed upon New Earth and in New Jerusalem.
11. Just as a throne has existed in heaven from time immemorial, there will also be a throne in New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:1, 3).
a. God will change His place of residence and the center of His rule from Heaven to New Earth. He will live (tent) in New Jerusalem in conjunction with New Earth. He will dwell among men in the eternal, sinless New Universe which He has created for man. He will fellowship directly with man forever (Rev. 21:1-3)! Everything will be different. All vestiges of pain and suffering and death and sorrow will be removed (Rev. 21:4)!
1) Since God is fellowshiping with man as a matter of policy, there is no longer need of a temple in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22). The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb themselves serve as the Temple!
2) However, wherever there are multiple beings inhabiting the same locale, there is always a need for administration. There is a need for government. There is a need for organization. Someone has to lead, and someone has to follow. This is true wherever there is more than one person in proximity with another. Even in a marriage of two people, God has decreed that the husband shall be the loving leader, and the wife shall be the respectful follower (Eph. 5:22-33).
b. So it should be no surprise that in New Jerusalem, though there is no temple, there is a throne (Rev. 22:1, 3).
1) John was shown a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 22:1). Note first of all that this is a dual throne. Both God and the Lamb are seated on this throne. There continues to be a co-regency all throughout eternity. God is the first ruler, and Jesus rules in subservience to Him.
2) Observe second, that this throne is not a throne of judgment. All judgment has been done away with, for all sinners and all the results of sin have been banished forever from God’s New Universe (2 Pet. 3:7-13; Rev. 20:10-15; Rev. 21:4, 8, 27; 22:14-15, 19). Gone is the fiery throne of burning flames and a river of fiery judgment proceeding from it (Dan. 7:9-11). Gone is the Great White Throne from which unrepentant sinners are cast into the Lake of Fire forever (Rev. 20:11-15).
3) In place of the throne of judgment seen elsewhere in Scripture, this throne in New Jerusalem will exist as a life-giving throne. Life-giving water proceeds from the throne in New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:1).
4) Again we are informed that the throne of God and of the Lamb will exist in New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:3). It is a throne of benevolence, for there will be no curse associated with this throne. Furthermore, the throne of God and the Lamb will represent a focal point of service and worship. His slaves will serve Him as an act of worship.
5) Do we have two different thrones? I suspect not. I believe that New Jerusalem is presently housed in heaven. I believe also that God’s throne in His temple is presently housed on heavenly Mount Zion (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 14:1), which is situated within New Jerusalem. When God moves New Jerusalem out of Heaven down to New Earth (Rev. 21:2, 10), the throne will go with New Jerusalem. There will be a fundamental change, however. No temple will exist in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22).
12. There is river of life-giving water that flows from God’s throne (Rev. 22:1-2).
a. This water is first described as a “river of water of life.” So it is real water, but it has the capacity to give life. There is a sense in which all water here on earth gives life. The body of an adult male is 60% water, and that of an adult female is 55%. We cannot survive without water. But the river of water of life in New Jerusalem must have a greater capacity than earthly water, or it would not have been emphasized in this fashion. Our bodies in New Jerusalem and New Earth will last forever. Evidently part of what contributes to their eternal life span is this life-giving water.
b. Next, this river of life-giving water is described as being clear as crystal. It has a purity of the highest degree. Water on earth is mixed with minerals and chemicals, some of them harmful. Not this life-giving water. It is utterly pure and thus utterly beneficial.
c. This clear, life-giving water is next described as proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In other words, God and Jesus are the source of this life-giving water. God is the source of physical life for man (Gen. 2:7; Deut. 32:39; Job 33:4; Ezek. 37:5, 9; Dan. 5:23; 1 Tim. 6:13; Rev. 2:7; 7:17; 11:11; 22:1, 19). But He is also the source of eternal life for every person who believes in His Son (John 1:11-13; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:33; 17:3; 20:31; Rom. 5:10; 6:22-23; Titus 1:2; 1 John 5:11-13, 20; Jude 1:21). I suspect that the life-giving water flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb imparts not only physical life, but also eternal life. We learn from Rev. 7:17 that “the Lamb in the center of the throne” in Heaven will guide, as a Shepherd, the Tribulation martyrs there gathered to springs of life-giving water. John is there probably describing the river of water of life, though the two references are separated by a thousand years in real time.
d. This river of water of life emanating from the throne of God flows down the middle of the street of the city. The basic meaning of the word street (plateias, from platus) is broad or wide. (The Platte River that flows through Nebraska is a wide river.) Here is Robert Young’s Literal Translation of Rev. 22:1-2: “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, bright as crystal, going forth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb: in the midst of its broad place, and of the river on this side and on that, [is] a tree of life,” etc. I concur with Young, and so also, apparently, does Constable (Notes on Revelation, 2007 Edition, p. 200). I believe what John is describing in Rev. 22:1-3 appears to be more like a broad pedestrian mall that constitutes the main thoroughfare of the city. At the head of this mall is the throne of God and of the Lamb. Flowing from this throne is a river of life-giving water. It is possible that the tree of life described in Rev. 22:2 is situated on either side of this river, as NASB translates. But there is only one tree, so how could it exist on both sides of the river? To me that would be grotesque – a tree is supposed to be tall and straight. To have two trunks, one on each side of the river, that bend over and merge in the middle of the river would be a freak of nature. There is only one tree of life, not two trees. So to me it makes better sense to say that John was describing one tree of life in the middle of this broad pedestrian mall, but that the river flowed around the tree, on this side of it and on that side of it. I visualize an island in the middle of the river, the focal point of which is the tree of life. Of course, the river flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and so that means the throne is prominently situated at the head of the mall.
e. The city of Omaha, NE has a man-made waterway that flows eastward from about 13th Street down past 10th Street, eventually emptying into a park area adjacent the Missouri River. Central Park Mall amounts to an inner city park between 13th Street on the west and 10th Street on the east. The park is a block wide, bordered on the north by Douglas Street and on the south by Farnam Street. There are walkways on either side of the stream, trees, and a playground area. Bridges cross from one side of the stream to the other. This is something of how I visualize the main thoroughfare of New Jerusalem – more of a park in the middle of a city than a street. Of course there would be pedestrian areas on both sides of the river of life-giving water. How would people reach the tree of life, perhaps on an island in the middle of the river? Perhaps there are bridges that access the tree. We are not told. Absent any bridges, why not wade across or swim across? Who would not want to immerse himself in a crystal-clear, life-giving river in which there is no pollution? One could drink while he swam, something you really don’t want to do in your neighborhood swimming pool! No amount of human immersion or wading or swimming in this river will ever contaminate it. It is crystal clear for it flows from the throne of God!
13. Situated in the middle of the river of life, probably on an island, is a tree of life (Rev. 22:2). In the Greek text, no article is used, so the sense is that there was a life-giving tree in the middle of the street, or broad place and the river.
a. It is appropriate that the water emanating from the throne was life-giving; that the water nourished the tree, which was also life-giving, and that the fruit of the tree was exceedingly bountiful, unlike any tree known on earth. This tree of life bears “twelve fruits, according to each month yielding the fruit of it” (author’s literal translation). Though it is possible that John meant that there was only one kind of fruit, but that there were twelve monthly crops, a literal rendering suggests that there were twelve different kinds of fruit. It is interesting to observe that there is a passage of time in heaven. Each fruit lasted a month, and there were twelve different kinds of fruit. So in a year’s time, the fruit would cycle back to the first variety. Without a doubt this fruit will be the most delicious fruit one will ever have eaten! We have no idea of the varieties of fruit on this tree, but from our experience on earth, we can be assured that there will be no mealy apples, no tasteless oranges, and no soft, mushy, over-ripe pears. What a delectable banquet that will be!
b. The leaves of the tree have a unique quality (Rev. 22:2). It says, “and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Who are the nations, and why do they need healing?
1) The Greek word nations, ethnōn, is the plural of ethnos, from which we derive the English word ethnic. It is the standard New Testament word for non-Jewish nations of the world. It is oftentimes translated Gentiles. God chose the nation Israel as His own special nation through His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. With rare exceptions, the nations, Gentiles of the world were outside the pale of God’s salvation and blessing. But God has always had a plan to bless and save individuals from among the nations (Heb. goiim) of the world through His Messiah, Jesus (Gen. 12:3). In eternity God will accomplish that goal in two ways.
2) First, Gentiles make up the majority of the Church, the bride (Rev. 19:7-8) of Christ. The Church will inhabit New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:14) throughout eternity with Jesus alongside the redeemed of Israel (Rev. 21:12).
3) But second, individuals from redeemed Gentile nations will also have the privilege of inhabiting New Earth throughout eternity! They are the nations who will walk by the light of New Jerusalem, whose kings will bring their glory into the heavenly city (Rev. 21:24, 26). As the nations from New Earth periodically enter New Jerusalem, to worship the King and bring Him gifts from their labors on New Earth, they will be drawn to the tree of life to partake of its delicious fruit. But they will also take leaves from the tree back with them, for these leaves have therapeutic value. The Greek word for healing in Rev. 22:2 is therapeian. We have already been told that on New Earth and in New Jerusalem there will be no tears, death, mourning, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4). That means that there will be no sickness. So in what sense can these leaves heal? As I have already indicated, these leaves have therapeutic value. Just as today, a person can be healthy, without illness, yet can be benefitted remarkably by eating certain herbal formulations, so it will be then. Perhaps visitors from New Earth will take leaves from the tree of life back down to earth and brew them in a delicious tea which they will drink. They will be reinvigorated, possess new energy, renew their focus and mental acumen, and experience a sense of pleasure and well-being. Not living in New Jerusalem, and with only periodic visits to the city, these the nations on earth will not have as ready an access to the tree of life as will Israelis and Churchians living in New Jerusalem. It will be convenient for the nations on New Earth to take back leaves from the tree of life to store them for use from time to time.
14. We are told that there will no longer be anything that is cursed (Rev. 22:3). This removal of the curse will apply not only to New Jerusalem, but also to New Heaven and Earth, for the first heaven and earth were subject to the original curse (Gen. 2:17; 3:14-19; Rom. 8:20-22).
a. The removal of the curse will necessitate the fiery destruction of the existing universe (Psa. 102:25-26; Isa. 51:6; Matt. 24:35; 2 Pet. 3:7-12; Rev. 20:11). It will also necessitate the banishment of all sinners, all agents of sin, and all vestiges of sin, including death and Hades into the eternal Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20; 20:10-15; 21:8, 27). The removal of the curse necessitates the creation of a New Heaven and Earth, in which only righteousness exists (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). The removal of the curse requires the establishment of New Jerusalem as the capital of New Earth (Rev. 21:2, 10). The most immediately recognizable physical result of the removal of the curse will be the absence of any sea (Rev. 21:1) – God’s instrument of judgment (Gen. 6:11-22; 7:1-14), God’s freedom to dwell personally among men (Rev. 21:3), and His removal of all tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain (Rev. 21:4).
b. For man, the most horrific part of the curse is death (Gen. 2:17), the last enemy to be abolished (1 Cor. 15:25-26). That will have been removed, cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:14). The cursed serpent (Gen. 3:14-15) will be cast forever into the Lake of Fire and Sulphur (Rev. 20:10). The curse connected with being a wife and mother (Gen. 3:16) will be removed. No longer will women have to endure the pain of a monthly menstrual cycle or the pain of childbirth. There will be no procreation in New Earth or in New Jerusalem. No longer will women be placed in a subservient role to their husbands. There will be no marriage in the resurrection era (Matt. 22:30). The ground that was cursed on account of Adam (Gen. 3:17-19) will be cursed no longer. No longer will man have to toil with backbreaking effort, either in New Jerusalem or on New Earth. No longer will thorns and thistles and noxious weeds require the use of herbicides. No longer will man be forced to earn his living by the sweat of his brow. Work will involve cultivation (Gen. 2:5) and management of the earth and its animal kingdom (Gen. 1:26–28), but work will be glorious, not laborious. It will be creative and stimulative, not boring and repetitive. It will be done for the honor and glory of God and of the Lamb, a means of worshiping Him (Rev. 22:3). People and kings from New Earth will gladly and proudly, yet humbly bring their gifts and produce to the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 22:3). They will worship Him, and their gifts and produce will be placed to great use in New Jerusalem proper. What a glorious, cooperative enterprise!
15. The most glorious aspect of New Jerusalem will be personal, face to face, intimacy with and worship of God (Rev. 21:3; 22:3-4).
a. We have already heard a loud voice from the throne of God announce that , in connection with New Heaven and Earth (Rev. 21:1), and in connection with New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2),
1) God’s tent is now with man (Rev. 21:3)!
2) He will dwell among mankind!
3) They shall be God’s people!
4) God Himself will be among them!
5) He will lovingly comfort them by wiping every tear away from their eyes (Rev. 21:4)!
6) He will eliminate death!
7) He will eliminate mourning, crying, and pain!
8) He will have eliminated the old, corrupted order!
9) God himself says that He is making all things new (Rev. 21:5)!
b. Now we learn (Rev. 22:3-4) that
1) The throne of God and of the Lamb will reside in New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:3)!
2) His slaves will serve Him! The word will serve is latreusousin, the future tense of latreuō. Many commentators will say that this verb means to worship. But a careful examination of the word in its various contexts reveals that, while the act of worship cannot be excluded from its meaning, it is often broader than that. The Apostle Paul writes, for example, that he serves (latreuō) God with his spirit in the gospel of His Son (Rom. 1:9). He cannot mean only that he worships God, as in a worship service. What he means is that his very ministry of going from place to place proclaiming the gospel constitutes his worship of God! So it will be with the citizens of New Jerusalem and New Earth. Every activity they conduct, whether it be eating from the tree of life, drinking from the river of life, worshiping God face to face, planting and cultivating and harvesting crops on New Earth, or whether it be mining precious gems on New Earth, or manufacturing or engaging in commerce on New Earth, will be an act of worship to God and the Lamb. This will be the era for which Jesus prayed, literally, “Come to be! – the will of You, as in heaven, so on earth” (Matt. 6:10). Just as the angels of heaven now, whether they be delivering messages on behalf of God or fighting an ethereal warfare against the devil and his angels, or proclaiming His greatness around His throne, are worshiping God, so will all the pursuits of man in that glorious setting be acts of God’s slaves worshiping Him! Even today, we are commanded that, whatever we do, whether in word or in deed, we are to “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to Him through God the Father” (Col. 3:17). All of life is to be an act of worship now, and it certainly will be, then!
3) John goes on to write that His bondslaves will see His face (Rev. 22:4)! Whose face will they see? The nearest antecedents to His (face) are God and the Lamb in 22:3. But there are not two faces, only one. Does God have a face? He is spirit (John 4:24). The closest physical description we have of God Himself in the Book of Revelation is in Rev. 4:3, where he was like a jasper stone and a sardius stone in appearance. Commentators are divided. Several – (Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Revelation, 2007 ed., p. 201, MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Revelation 12-22, Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary) – believe we will see God’s face. A. R. Faussett, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (Jamieson-Faussett-Brown Commentary on the Whole Bible), believes we will see God’s face “revealed in divine glory, in Christ Jesus.... God the Father can only be seen in Christ.” I concur with Faussett. Again, “His face” is singular. There is one face, not two. The nearer antecedent to “His face” is “the Lamb” (Rev. 22:3). We are given a description of Jesus’ face in all its glory in Rev. 1:14, 16. “His head and His hair were white like wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Rev. 1:14). “... out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength” (Rev. 1:16). It is no wonder that John, in his mortal body, “fell at His feet like a dead man” (Rev. 1:17)! In New Jerusalem, we will have glorified, resurrected, spiritual bodies, free from any impediments of sin and corruption (1 Cor. 15:42-44). We will be able to tolerate looking directly into the face of God by looking into Jesus’ face. “No one has seen God at any time; but the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18). Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
4) Not only will God’s slaves see, in Jesus, His face, but “His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:4). What an amazing privilege to bear the name of God on our foreheads! What name of God will it be? He has many – Elohim (The Strong One); Yahweh (The Self-Existent One [Who Keeps Covenants]); Adonai (Master, Lord); Yahweh of Troops (Hosts). We could go on. Or will it be the name of God’s Son? He too, has many names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6-7); Jesus, Christ (Anointed One, Son of God) (Mark 1:1); Son of Man (Matt. 8:20); The Way, The Truth, The Life (John 14:6); The Word of God (John 1:1; Rev. 19:13); Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11); King of Kings, and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16). Again, we could go on. If I were to guess one name, it would be the name Jesus. Why the name Jesus? Because it is the name which God has bestowed on Him “which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” (Phil. 2:10), and “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11). Joseph was instructed to call the son Mary would bear “Jesus.” Why? Because He would “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). What does the name Jesus mean? Appropriately, it is a combination of two words – a name, and a description – Yahweh Is Salvation! John 3:16 appropriately summarizes the meaning of the name Jesus – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” What a glorious name that we will be privileged to bear on our foreheads for the rest of eternity!
a) Bearing the name of Jesus, the God-Man, on our foreheads is a sign of ownership. We are God’s slaves. He owns us. He created us. He redeemed us. He glorified our bodies. He “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
b) Bearing the name of Jesus symbolizes the great wealth of our inheritance. We are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Through Jesus we are predestined to adoption as God’s sons (Eph. 1:5). Through Jesus we have redemption and forgiveness (Eph. 1:7). Through Jesus we have obtained a glorious inheritance, as it has been predestined according to God’s all-encompassing purpose (Eph. 1:11). Through Jesus we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the pledge of our inheritance – that we will be fully redeemed as God’s own personal possession (Eph. 1:13-14)! One day we will fully know the riches of the glory of God’s inheritance in us (Eph. 1:18)!
c) Bearing the name of Jesus identifies us as belonging to Him, not Satan and his Antichrist! (Rev. 13). In the Tribulation, the False Prophet who assists the world ruler (The Beast) will cause people of every political, social and economic status to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead (Rev. 13:16). This mark will consist either of the Beast’s name or his number, and will be absolutely essential for any and all commercial transactions (Rev. 13:17). The number is also part of a totalitarian religion. If people do not worship the image of the Antichrist, they will be put to death (Rev. 13:15)! The number is 666, the number of man (Rev. 13:18). The best that man can come up with is an impersonal, totalitarian, fascist, religious, numerical ID system that is government-mandated on pain of death!
d) The people of God, by contrast, have the privilege of bearing the name, not the number, of Jesus on their foreheads. This name depicts God’s compassionate, self-sacrificial and forgiving love; His ownership, protection, provision, fellowship, and inheritance for eternity!
16. We are told once again that there will be no night in that glorious city (Rev. 22:5).
a. Darkness both physical and spiritual, will have been eliminated in New Jerusalem!
b. There will be no need of either natural or artificial light. We will need no torches, lamps, flashlights, or light bulbs, whether incandescent or fluorescent. We will need no electricity, no generators, no transformers, no electric wiring, no batteries, no wall sockets. In New Jerusalem there will be no need for sunlight or moonlight. There will be no sunburns, no sun tans, and no need for sun screen lotion.
c. This will be true because the Lord God Himself will illumine us.
1) “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness” whatever (1 John 1:5).
2) When Jesus came, Light entered the world (John 1:9; 3:19).
3) Jesus said that He had come as the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5) so that every one who believes in Him would not remain in darkness (John 12:46)
4) Praise be to God, who has called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9)!
d. Since it is perpetually light in New Jerusalem, it seems as though its citizens will never need to sleep to rejuvenate their bodies. It will be wonderful never to grow exhausted or tired. Living will be a pleasure for 24 hours a day, noon-stop!
e. Will there be night on New Earth? The Bible does not address that question. On the one hand, one might theorize that if New Jerusalem, the primary light source for New Earth, orbits around New Earth once a day, there might be darkness on the other side. But, supposing there is also a sun, as we have argued, what if New Earth rotates once a day in reference to the sun so that there is never a dark side of New Earth? The citizens of New Earth, having glorified bodies just as those within New Jerusalem, will have no more need of sleep than the citizens of the capital city!
f. If it is always light, how will we be able to see distant galaxies and stars? I do not know the answer to that question. But let me raise another. Today, with powerful telescopes, we can probe deep into space and view the most spectacular astral phenomena – planets, stars, novae, supernovae, nebulae, galaxies – the sights are fantastic. Is it reasonable to assume that in our glorified bodies we will be able to take field trips to distant galaxies and witness unimaginable beauty out in an almost limitless New Universe? Why not?
17. In a fitting irony, the slaves of God will reign forever and ever (Rev. 22:5)! Where will we reign and over whom?
a. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). God created man as the crown of His creation (Gen. 1:26), creating Him in His own likeness and image. Likeness and image, in the context of Gen. 1, has to do, at the least, with sovereignty, or rule. God is the ultimate sovereign, the ultimate ruler. He created man to have sovereignty and rulership over a small portion of the created universe, the earth. God said of man, “Let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26).
b. Tragically, man has never truly fulfilled that role in a benign, God-like way. Too early in man’s history he was corrupted by his fall into sin (Gen. 3:1-6), and all creation has been groaning in suffering ever since (Gen. 3:7-24; Rom. 8:18-25). During Christ’s Millennial Reign, that curse will be partly removed (Isa. 11:6-10; 65:25), and man will be able to rule over the animal kingdom as God intended. Though Satan will be absent (Rev. 20:1-3), sin will still be present (Rev. 20:7-9), and so will death (Isa. 65:20)! Only after the creation of New Heavens and Earth will we have a planet where sin and death are forever absent.
1) The first command of God to man was to multiply and spread over the entire globe and rule (benevolently) over the earth itself and the animal kingdom. Man has been eminently successful at multiplying and spreading over the globe (once God confounded human language and forced man to spread out) (Gen. 11:1-9). Because of man’s success in replicating himself, there will be no human beings added to the population of either New Jerusalem or New Earth. In the resurrection there will be no marriage (Matt. 22:30; Luke 20:35-36), hence no reproduction.
2) But man has never succeeded in ruling the earth in a benevolent way as God has assigned him the task. But man will yet have opportunity to do in a benign, benevolent way what he has never before truly succeeded at doing – ruling as God’s representatives over New Earth and over the animal kingdom thereupon.
3) If it was very good to have animals and man co-exist in harmony on the same planet before sin entered (Gen. 1:24-31), why would it not be good to have that same coexistence after the very possibility of sin has been forever banished from New Jerusalem and New Earth?
4) As in so many prophetic Scripture passages, Isa. 65:17-25 contains portions that have more than one fulfillment. There are portions that apply only to the Millennium. There are other portions apply only to the Eternal State. And there are portions that apply to both. When God says that He will “create new heavens and a new earth (Isa. 65:17), obviously that is a reference to New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21:1). When He says, “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness” (Isa. 65:18), that applies primarily to the Eternal State. However, elements of that statement would apply also to the Millennial Kingdom. When God says, “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people;” (Isa. 65:19), that applies both to the Millennium and Eternity. When He says, “And there will no longer be heard in her the voice of weeping and the sound of crying” (Isa. 65:19), that applies, in its entirety, to Eternity (Rev. 21:4), even though the Millennium will be a time of great joy. When God speaks of the longevity of Israelis, that “the youth will die at the age of one hundred” (Isa. 65:20), He is speaking of the Millennium. When God speaks of building houses and planting vineyards (Isa. 65:21), I believe He is speaking both of the Millennium and New Earth. When God compares the days of His people to the lifetime of a tree and predicts that His “chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands” (Isa. 65:22), He is speaking of the Millennium, for in New Earth, people will live forever, and what they make will never wear out. There will be no decay in Eternity, because the curse will have been removed (Rev. 22:3) and there will be no death (Rev. 21:4). When God says that His people “will not labor in vain” (Isa. 65:23), that applies both to the Millennium and New Earth. But when He promises that they will not “bear children for calamity,” He is speaking only of the Millennium, for there will be no marriage (Matt. 22:30), and thus no reproduction in Eternity. When God says, “before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear” (Isa. 65:24), that will be true both in the Millennium and in Eternity. When Yahweh says that the wolf and lamb “will graze together,” that “the lion will eat straw like the ox,” and that “they will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain” (Isa. 65:25), He is referring to conditions both in the Millennium and New Jerusalem / New Earth.
c. So man’s benevolent rule over earth will begin during the Millennium. But for those who inherit the earth in their mortal bodies, there will still be aging, pain in child-birth, and the occasional death, accompanied by tears. Only in New Jerusalem and New Earth will man reign over the animal kingdom and over Earth itself without death, pain or suffering, as God intended. God’s mandate in the beginning will be successfully achieved throughout eternity, just as God planned! So we will reign over the earth and we will reign over the animal kingdom. In C. S. Lewis’s book Perelandra, he portrays Ransom and Eve as riding on dolphins. Why not on New Earth? In Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy and Susan ride on the back of Aslan, the lion. Why not? In Isaiah 55:12, Isaiah predicts, “The mountains and the hills will break into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands!” Why not? Who are we to say that in the Millennium, and especially upon New Earth, nature itself will not become joyfully animated in some way at the benevolent rule of man under the auspices of the Son of Man? We are told, are we not, that “the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19)?
d. We are told that the slaves of God “will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).
1) With billions of people inhabiting New Earth and New Jerusalem, will we not need some benevolent organization and administration? God will reign, and so will Jesus. Both are omnipresent, but both choose to localize themselves and work through their subordinates, whether they be angels, men, or animals. We are all given gifts ability and unique ministries in this life. Will that be less true in the next? Will the Body of Christ cease to be the Body of Christ in eternity? I think not.
2) In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus told a parable of a nobleman who went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself. He left his ten slaves with ten minas to invest in his absence. Upon his return he rewarded the slave whose mina had gained a profit of ten additional minas. He appointed him as mayor over ten cities. The slave whose mina had gained five was appointed mayor over five cities. The near fulfillment of that parable is that Jesus will reward those who have been faithful in investing their lives to serve Him by appointing them to rule over cities in His Millennial Kingdom. But someone will have to rule over cities in eternity on New Earth. Why not faithful slaves of the King?
18. Would you care to make reservations for that glorious city of New Jerusalem? It is completely possible for any Afghan, American, Australian, Belgian, Brazilian, Briton, Cambodian, Canadian, Chinese, Colombian, Dane, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Finn, French, German, Greek, Haitian, Hungarian, Indian, Iranian, Iraqi, Israeli, Italian, Japanese, Jordanian, Kenyan, Korean, Kuwaiti, Laotian, Latvian, Lebanese, Liberian, Libyan, Malaysian, Mexican, Moroccan, New Zealander, Nicaraguan, Norwegian, Pakistani, Paraguayan, Qatari, Romanian, Russian, Saudi, Serbian, Spaniard, Thai, Turk, Ugandan, Ukrainian, Uruguayan, Venezuelan, Vietnamese, Yemeni, or Zambian or any other citizen to gain citizenship in New Jerusalem! It is a free gift God offers to you ! Here are four things you need to do.
a. Admit you are a sinner. God’s diagnosis is this, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). None of us is as holy as God. We all do, think, and say things that are displeasing to God and violate His standard of goodness and deportment.
b. Understand that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). What we earn from our sin is death.
1) First, spiritual death, separation from God.
2) Second, physical death, our souls or spirits separated from our bodies. Physical death is but a symptom of spiritual death.
c. Understand that God loves you so much that He sent His eternal Son to earth to endure your death penalty in your place and on your behalf. As perfect, sinless man, Jesus died a sacrificial death in your place (Rom. 5:8). Through his substitutionary death and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-8), Jesus satisfied God’s justice for the sins of the entire world, including yours (1 John 2:2)!
d. Trust in Jesus! If you rely upon Jesus, the only way to the Father (John 14:6), you will have eternal life (John 3:16). Everyone who trusts in Jesus receives forgiveness of his sins (Acts 10:43). Everyone who relies on Jesus will be resurrected from the grave (John 11:25-27).
Friend, I would dearly love to meet you personally in New Jerusalem. If you trust in Jesus, you can know that you and I will one day meet up there (1 John 5:10-13)!
About the Picture. This image of New Jerusalem has many flaws. Its altitude is probably not nearly high enough. It size is not nearly big enough. Its composition and appearance is not technically correct enough. Nevertheless, its suspension in mid-air and general appearance at least communicates to some degree what the Bible seems to be saying.
Prepared by James T. Bartsch
Published Online by WordExplain.com
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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Gemstones Comprising the Foundation Stones of New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:19-20
This page updated March 10, 2020
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WordExplain by James T. Bartsch
Scriptures Taken from the New American Standard Bible
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