II. New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21:1-6)
Following the account of God’s outpoured wrath upon Satan and his followers, we have the millennial reign of Christ with His saints. Then follows the final judgment at the white throne, which is a solemn and determining factor affecting all evil and evil ones. After this there is the eternal and glorious future with God and Christ in the new heaven and the new earth. How many have a vague conception of what God has prepared for the redeemed ones in the future. It is not a spiritual state, but a literal place as we learn from this twenty-first chapter of Revelation. The earth and the heaven are definite places and will be throughout eternity.
“New heaven”: not blotted out, but touched, renovated, cleansed and changed from all its disorders and imperfections. The great Architect will bring about a perfection and beauty that will rightfully honor the love and faithfulness of His only begotten Son, and it will be renewed into a fresh and eternal splendor. “New earth”: The earth now is full of sickness, disorder and corruption. Think of what regeneration will bring when there is no longer the curse of sin and the earth will be clothed with the blessedness of paradise restored! The new Jerusalem will come out of heaven to fill the new earth and the new heaven as well.
III. The Blessedness of That World (Revelation 21:7)
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’” This is the consummation and the goal of a holy and loving God. It was in the garden of Eden that He visited man before he fell, and there He walked and talked with Adam and Eve. Sin severed this relationship. God dwelt with Israel in the holiest of the tabernacle, and today His church is His dwelling place by the Holy Spirit. In eternity God will again dwell in the midst of His redeemed people. God will be all and in all. Former things are passed away and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither pain. These all came into existence through sin and the effects of sin will be gone. It is beyond comprehension what joy this will be.
A. Every Tear is Wiped Away by God Himself
Human hands are poor at drying tears. If they succeed in removing some, others come. Earthly power, however good and kind, cannot fully effect the binding up of broken hearts. Only the hand that made us can reach the deep sources of its sorrow. His loving almightiness shall wipe away every tear.
B. Death no Longer Exists
Whom has it not touched! What circle has it not invaded! What home has it never entered! The highways are lined with cemeteries and depositories of the dead. Every newspaper we pick up has its obituary lists and every week brings forth its toll of mortality.
C. Sorrow Then Ceases
Many are the heartaches and the griefs which now torment the children of men. We cannot escape them. They follow us like our shadow. Each heart knows its own bitterness. But there is a boundary line over which no sorrows ever pass, the line which divides between the new earth and this.
D. And all Crying Shall be Hushed
The cry of pain and passion, the cry of fear and strife, the cry of wrong and oppression, the cry of want and harm and danger, the cry of torn affection and blasted hopes, the cry of weariness and disability, the cry of suffering and of death, the cry of a thousand unnamed distresses, vibrates everywhere now but these will have no part in eternity with God, the source of all comfort.
E. Life is There
Life in its highest fullness—eternal life. “The water of life” flows there free and plenteous for all. What that water is, we do not know, but it is a water of freshness, purity and cleansing; a water that satisfies all thirst. They are the life-waters which gladden eternity and make eternally glad.
IV. The Occupants and Possessors of That World (Revelation 21:8)
Not the “cowardly” who shrink from the conflict with sin, ashamed or afraid to confess and maintain their faith in God and His Christ; not the “unbelieving,” who set at naught the testimonies of their Maker, scorn to trust for salvation in the merits of a crucified Saviour, and will not have Christ rule over them; not the “abominable,” who basely degrade themselves with their uncleanness, bestiality and abominations; not the “murderers,” whether such by outward act or inward malice; not “sexually immoral,” whether of the body or the cherished lust of the soul; not “sorcerers,” and seekers and exercisers of powers such as God has forbidden; not “idolaters,” whether in the form of pagan worship, or the giving of the heart to covetousness, selfishness, mammon or what is not of God, nor any false ones who make, or love, or act lies.
But all the saints are there: the church, the holy people of God from Adam to the last martyr under the antichrist.
V. The New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-27)
A real city is meant here. All the elements of a city are indicated. It has specific dimensions. It has foundations, walls, gates and streets. It is called a city, “the holy city.” It is named as a city, “the holy Jerusalem.” It is called “the new Jerusalem,” in contrast to the old Jerusalem, which was an earthly city.
The angel calls it “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” The heavenly city is Christ’s bride, not because of what makes it a city but because of the redeemed and glorified ones who inhabit it. Mere edifices and avenues do not make a city; neither does a mere congregation or multitude of people make a city. You cannot have a living city without people to inhabit it, and you cannot have a city without the edifices and avenues arranged for the accommodation of those who make up its population.
A. Its Source
John sees it “descending out of heaven from God.” It is of celestial origin. It is the direct product of almighty power and wisdom. He who made the worlds is the Maker of this city. No mortal hand is employed in its construction. The saints are all God’s workmanship. He who by His Spirit garnishes the heavens erects and fashions the new Jerusalem.
B. Its Splendor
Glory is brightness, luster, splendor. The glory of God, or that in which God is arrayed, that which most speaks and characterizes deity, is light; for “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) And this city has, and is invested with, the glory, light, brightness and radiating splendor of God. Hence the brightness is like a most precious jasper stone. A jasper stone is wavy with the various colors of the rainbow, but it is opaque. This city has this jasper-like appearance. It is “like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.” perfectly transparent, like a diamond or rock-crystal. So pure, so bright, so soft is the luminous and divine splendor in which this whole city is arrayed.
It has “a great and high wall,” which is not only like jasper but is built of jasper itself. That wall stands on twelve foundation-stones, and each of these twelve immense stones is a separate and distinct jewel in itself. Through these walls are twelve openings or gateways, with twelve gates, and each of these twelve gates is made of one solid pearl.
From these gates inward are many streets, and all the streets are gold, gold in perfect purity such as cannot be produced by any earthly refinement, gold with a peculiar heavenly quality beyond what is ever seen in our gold, transparent gold like the most perfect glass.
The city itself is of the same material, nothing but “was pure gold, like clear glass.” It is a true crystal palace, made of nothing but transparent gold. The splendor of this gold far outshines the most sublime creations of which the human imagination ever dreamed.
C. Its Dimensions
The golden city, for which the church of the redeemed is taught to look as its eternal home, is 1500 miles square, for 12,000 furlongs make 1500 miles. Here would be streets over streets, and stories over stories, up to the height of 1500 miles, and each street 1500 miles long. Thus the city is a solid cube of golden constructions 1500 miles every way.
This golden city has not been built in all this dimension and magnificence of proportions for mere empty show. God did not create the earth in vain; He formed it to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18). Much rather, then, would He not lavish all this glory and splendor upon the eternal city without knowing that enough out of the family of man would embrace His salvation to fill and people it. And the population to fill and occupy a city 1500 miles long and breadth and height allowing ample room and space for each individual, family, tribe and tongue and nation, would necessarily mount up to multitudes, who sing the songs and taste the joys of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
D. Its System of Illumination
It is a grand prism of inherent light, the light of God and the Lamb, which illuminates at once the eyes of the body and of the soul, and shines not only on the objects without but on the understandings within, making everything light in the Lord. It shines like a new sun, inside and out, sending abroad its rays over all the earth and into the depths of space, making our planet seem to distant worlds as if suddenly transformed into a brilliant luminary, whose brightness never wanes.
E. Its Lack of a Temple
It is no oversight that the new Jerusalem has no temple; it is one of its majestic peculiarities. Not that worship is then to cease. Not that communion with the eternal Spirit and Source of all things is no longer to exist, for He Himself will be the temple thereof. The glorious worshippers there hold direct communion with His manifested glory which encompasses them and all their city alike. As consecrated high priests, they will then have come into the holiest of all, into the very cloud of God’s overshadowing glory, which is their covering, their temple, their God.
F. Its Relation to the World at Large
“And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light.” Spiritual illumination for the soul, as well as glorious light for the eyes, the light of truth and righteousness, and the light of life for all wants, personal, social and national, in the redeemed family of men, shall go forth from the sublime city, and “the nations” shall walk in that light. What never yet has been upon this earth, a really holy nation will then be found wherever man is found, and all people shall be the people of the Lord. Men talk of Christian nations, but in all the dwelling places of man, from the beginning until now, there is nothing to answer to this description and there never will be until the new earth appears and the new Jerusalem comes. Then, all nations shall be sanctified and holy, for they shall walk in the light of the eternal city of the eternal King.
VI. The Holy City—Description Continued (Revelation 22:1-5)
The apostle here continues his description of the new Jerusalem, and for this reason these verses should not have been separated from the section which precedes them. They relate to the same subject, and have nothing to mark them from what has gone before, except that they refer more to the interior of the heavenly city. The description throughout is rather external than internal. John saw from the outside and from a distance, and his description has more to do with what the city is to those who contemplate it from without than with what it is in itself or to those who have their homes in its “many mansions.” (John 14:2)
The apostle begins by telling us of a wonderful river. One of the most important things on earth is water. Paradise itself was not complete without it. A city without water would be a most unpleasant place; therefore we see cities at great pains providing themselves with water and these are recognized the best which are well- watered. So the new Jerusalem is not without its plentiful supply of living waters. The river is a heavenly river, and belongs to a heavenly city, and is for the use and joy of a heavenly people. Its waters are literal waters, of the nature and quality answering to that of the golden city to which they belong. Men on earth never knew such waters, neither such a city. The city is a sublime reality, the home and residence of the Lamb and His glorious bride, and these waters are a corresponding reality. Heaven is not a place of dust and drought. It has its glad water spring and ever-flowing river, issuing direct from the eternal throne whose crystal clearness cannot be defiled.
The apostle tells us also of a wonderful tree. What is more beautiful than trees? What charm they add to our world! What a joy they are to the monotony of a city! The first Eden had its glad glorious trees, “The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden.” (Genesis 2:9) “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river,” John saw the “tree of life, (in numerous specimens) which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
The trees, like the river whose sides they line, are first of all for the joy and blessedness of the dwellers in the holy city, to beautify their eternal home and to minister to their happiness. They are fruit-bearing trees, yielding their products every month.
It is sometimes asked whether the glorified saints are to eat in heaven? We may safely answer that they can eat, although they are under no need to eat, just as we can enjoy a rose and yet not suffer from its absence. The Saviour ate after His resurrection. The angels ate Sarah’s cakes and Abraham’s dressed calf (Genesis 18:6-8). There is much that is morally and spiritually related to eating. It was by eating that the fall and all its consequences came into the world. The Saviour several times refers to eating and drinking in the kingdom of glory. So the implication here is that there will be eating in this eternal city, the eating of fruits, the eating of the monthly products of the tree of life. The inhabitants there drink life-water and eat life-fruits.
We cannot suppose that they ever hunger or thirst in heaven, or that there is any waste in their immortal energies needing recuperation from physical digestion; but still the participation of these life-fruits speaks of a communion with life, the joy which exceeds all we can comprehend.
These trees are also for another purpose; their leaves are for the healing of the nations. As the fruits add to the joys of heaven, the leaves add to the joys of earth. The meaning is the preservation of health and comfort, and not that which exist to be removed.
The apostle further informs us that all sin there and its ill consequences will be no more. Man once had a right to the tree of life but lost it, and that tree and all the garden in which it grew vanished from him and left the world under the tokens of Jehovah’s anger. The curse came. It came upon man himself and all his seed. It came upon innocent nature with which he stood associated. It came upon the very ground because of sin. Therefore we have the special assurance given that “there shall be no more curse,” The apostle tells us also of a glorious throne. This throne is in the new Jerusalem. It is “the throne of God,” as Christ is God, and it is “the throne of the Lamb,” in that it is held and occupied as the result of Christ’s achievement as a sacrifice for sin, and in His particular character as the world’s Saviour and Redeemer. It is the throne of God as the Lamb, the All-Ruler, who once was slain but lives again and here is to reign with His glorified saints forever.
Finally the apostle tells us of the condition of things under this administration. “His servants shall serve Him.” It tells of the very highest honor and dignity of the closest intimacy with eternal power and authority, of the most inward nearness and participation in the administration of divine government. But it tells also of mighty activities and responsible duties. It shows us most clearly that the heaven of the glorified saints is not one of idleness. They have something more to do than to sing and worship and enjoy. Indeed the perfection of worship is service, activity for God, the doing of the will of God. And this is to be one of the highest characteristics of heaven for its saints.
Again it is said that “there shall be no night there.” The repetition of this particular phrase emphasizes it as a very special and a very glorious blessing. The light of God and the Lamb shall be so full, glorious and abiding that night no longer can exist in that city. “And they shall reign forever and ever.” The eternal privilege and joy of those who were overcomers, happiness and eternal glory.
VII. The Final Messages (Revelation 22:6-21)
A. The Angel’s Message (Revelation 22:6-11)
“And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.” At the beginning of the book we have a similar announcement. Some day these things will come to pass. God’s people will be called to glory in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and the things which John saw will shortly come to pass. Then the Lord speaks, “Behold, I am coming quickly! blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” In Revelation 22:7, 12, 20 we find this announcement having to do with the life of the believer. At the beginning of the book, a blessing is pronounced upon those who read the words of the prophecy of this book and a similar statement is found at the end. Keeping these words means more than just saying we believe them; their power must have an influence in shaping our walk and conduct. How would we order our days if we remembered constantly the words in this chapter, “Behold, I come quickly.”
John was instructed not to seal the words of this prophecy. Since Christ came, the full revelation of things to come is given and no sealing is necessary. Grace has delayed the fulfillment of the prophecy, but that time will come when He who is to come will come.
B. The Message of the Lord (Revelation 22:12-13)
“My reward is with Me.” This announcement is made by the Lord Himself. He will receive His reward which is due Him as the sin-bearer. He will see the travail of His soul and be satisfied. With His coming His own people will receive their rewards. Jesus Christ is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
C. Two Classes of People (Revelation 22:14-15)
Blessing will be for those who are obedient to the Word of God. Eternal life and glory awaits the redeemed ones. The one who rejects Christ ignores His Word and denies his lost condition and need of a Saviour, he who loves and makes a lie will be under the sentence of God’s judgment. He carelessly lives according to the old nature and is a follower of Satan, who is their master.
D. The Final Testimony of Jesus (Revelation 22:16)
“I, Jesus!” Once more He reveals Himself by the name of His humiliation. He speaks of Himself also as the Root and Offspring of David. He is David’s Lord and David’s Son. He is the hope of Israel and in Him all the promises will be realized. He will come to reign in power and great glory. He is the bright and morning star. His coming in power and glory is the sunrise for Israel and the Gentiles alike.
E. Invitation of the Spirit and the Bride (Revelation 22:17)
Mention of the morning star brings a response from earth. The Spirit on the earth since the day of Pentecost, and the bride, the church, say, “Come,” who are waiting for the coming of Christ and longing for the blessed return of the Son of God from heaven. Every individual believer is asked to join in the desire and longing to have Christ return. In these days of darkness and world confusion, the Spirit is saying, “Come.” The nearer we get to the end-time, the greater will be the force of that cry, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” It is those who are longing, watching and waiting for His return who will be prepared to meet the Lord in the air. The cry from loving hearts will increase and become a loud and pleading cry, until one day He will come to take His waiting people to be with Him. The final gospel message of the Bible is: “Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” The water of life is free to all who want it and will take it. This is the last “whoever” in the Bible.
F. The Final Warning (Revelation 22:18-19)
Solemn warning! This warning really applies to the whole Word of God. Those who take away, false teachers, those who discredit the truth of the Word of God, those who try to eliminate what they don’t like and only accept that which pleases them, those who do not preach the whole Word of God, those who add to it, find written here their deserved judgment. This is particularly true of this book of Revelation. After studying this book, we can so easily understand why Satan does all in his power to keep people from studying it. It is an exposure of his subtle tactics and finally how he and his followers meet their final doom. This is bad for his business because the outlook is that of terrible judgment.
G. Final Word and the Final Prayer (Revelation 22:20-21)
The next time the voice of the Lord will be heard will be on that day when He descends out of heaven with a shout. We have an affirmation of the absolute certainty of the events. The blessed response is “Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Let us live each day in anticipation of Christ’s return. It will help us to order our days.