We are now at the last sermon of our series on the book of Revelation. We finally arrived at the end. Next week we are going to begin a new sermon sermon on the book of Job. Please pray for it and may the Lord continue to bless us with the preaching of his Word.
Last week, we heard about the prophetic symbolism of the John’s vision of the new heaven and new earth. We understood how Christ is new creation and serves as a pattern for us in understanding what will happen to God’s people when they enter this new and eternal state. We listed down several realities we will all experience in new creation: No more evil. No more sin and misery. No more suffering and pain. No more death. No more broken communion with God. No more alienation from God. No more hypocrisy. Indeed, all the stains and marks of the old creation are completely gone. We will live with God forevermore.
Now, John will continue with the description of new creation, He narrows it down to the realities of New Jerusalem. He will focus on the symbolisms Scripture uses to describe God’s people and He will return to the visions of the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel the describe to us its the fulfillment in the end. John will use the symbolisms of God’s people in contrast to the demonic counterfeits: The Bride vs the Prostitute; The City of Man vs the City of God. Then at the end, he will close his vision with the cosmic contrast between the Old Creation/Old Eden and the New Creation/New Eden. And if we think about it Revelation is indeed the book ending of Genesis.
So let us hear God’s Word preached this Lord’s Day morning. We have three sermon points: 1) The Bride; 2) The City of God; and 3) The New Eden. But before we begin, let us pray:
Almighty, gracious Father, our salvation depends upon our true understanding of your holy Word. Grant to all of us that our hearts, being freed from worldly affairs, may hear and grasp your holy Word with all diligence and faith, that we may rightly understand your gracious will, cherish it, and live by it with all earnestness, to your praise and honor. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (Worship Sourcebook)
The Bride as the Wife of the Lamb
Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (verses 9-14)
This middle section of Revelation chapter 21 is a continuation and details of the the previous section the describes for us the New Heaven and New Earth. As expected, it is uses a lot of symbolisms and at the same time, utilize the Hebraic poetical style of parallelism by means of contrast.
John now compares and contrast the Bride or the Wife of the Lamb with the Great Prostitute (Babylon) we just read from chapter 18 and 19. We know now that Babylon symbolizes worldliness and uses her economic power and influence to oppress God’s people here on earth. And while she seems attractive with all her clothes and jewelries, she is rotten at her core. She meets her doom from the hands of those who she uses and seduces. In the end, she gets punished in hell together with Satan, his beasts, and followers. But the Bride of the Lamb on the other will continue living in new creation. She is New Jerusalem. Later on the symbolisms will overlap one another but at the point from verses 9 to 10, it is clear that the Bride lives with his Groom and as the Wife of the Lamb, she dwells in the presence of God. Compared to Babylon who at this point suffers eternal death. the Bride inherits eternal life.
The coming down of the Holy City of Jerusalem out from heaven means that in new creation, heaven and earth are united. God’s people will dwell with God forever more. The relationship symbolism of marriage and the geographical allusion of Jerusalem points to the reality of God’s intimate presence with his people. Clearly, John wants the church militant to understand that in new creation, our union with God is perfected. God and his people will finally dwell together permanently and securely. We will learn about these details on the succeeding verses but for now let us focus on the descriptions John wrote regarding New Jerusalem.
John wrote, “had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (verses 12-14).” The architectural symbolism of the walls, gates, and foundations describes New Jerusalem as the total number of elect who are written in the book of life and now occupies new creation with God. It is not a literal and physical city of Jerusalem as some premillennialist thought. Rather, it symbolizes God’s people. So the twelve gates with the twelve angels and the twelve sons of Israel means the perfect number of God’s people, God’s true Israel. The symbolism of the East, North, South, and West gates reveal to us again the expansive nature of the geographical reach of this city. It means everything inch of God’s new creation God’s people dwells with him. It includes people from every nation, tribe, and language. Then the foundations teaches us of the apostolic teaching of the gospel of Christ. In sum, it is the international assembly of God’s people living together as one and united to God forever. This is vision John wants us to read, imagine, and understand. It is the prophetic heavenly vision he desires for us to take heart as Christians here on earth.
The City of God
And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (verses 15-21)
Then to further cement this glorious vision of God being united with his people forever, John continues his description of the City of God in comparison to the city of man which has been destroyed by fire upon Christ’s second coming.
In contrast to the city of man, New Jerusalem as the City of God in New Creation features the power and holiness of God himself. John uses the symbolism of measurement and materials to describe the permanance and protection of this city. Both having God as it source, the City of God displays the glory of his power and holiness.
As we read the measurement of city, it becomes clear that it contains symbolism rather than an actual physical city. The symbolism points to a perfect cube with equal sides equivalent to 12,000 stadia. The number 12 of course points to the people of God. The 10x10x10 is the symbolism of complete generations. Therefore, the act of measuring the city as symbolism for God’s people guarantees for us the total number of elect are there and none of them are lost. It also means that precise number of occupants in new creation points to the permanent state of affairs. It is eternal. It goes on forever like this and no one gets lost or even forgotten.
The symbolism of the materials used to describe the city with precious stones goes back to the Old Testament breast plate of the high priest in the old temple (Exodus 28:17-20; 39:8-14). The fact that there are twelve kinds mentioned there means again is a symbolism for God’s people. Their place there in new creation is secure because their holiness before God is perfected. They are all priest before God reflecting his holiness and glory. The riches symbolized by the precious stones and even minerals like gold points to the extravagant and sacred nature of God’s grace and holiness. By them, God’s people dwells with God permanently and securely. Their hearts and minds are protected by their love for God and his holiness.
This is the City of God. It is where God dwells in power, grace, and holiness. God’s power secures God’s people of his favor and guarantees the enjoyment of his holy nature forever.
The New Eden
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22-27)
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. This is the final vision John leaves us with in the last section of chapter 21 and the beginning of chapter 22. The Glory and Enjoyment of God is the purpose of creation and occupation in new creation.
We will no longer live outside of Eden. There will no need for temples as God himself dwells his people. The Bride lives in the City of God as New Jerusalem and this is the New Eden.
New Eden sustains God’s people with the provision of light, water and food. God will forever sustain his people and they will never lack of anything. For guidance, God’s glory will forever become their source wisdom. For sustenance, God’s provision will forever become their source of strength and power. In the New Eden, no more probation nor curse. Our permanent state of affairs is the glory and enjoyment of God. We will live with God and for God forever and ever. Amen.
So what are our key take aways from this book?
In sum, God is in control and his people will be with him forever. There are three important things we need to remember and receive comfort from. First, He is sovereign and providential. Nothing happens beyond his knowledge and power. Second, the wicked, unregenerate, and hypocrites are soon judged by God’s wrath. They will receive both temporal and eternal punishment. Third, God elect, the people of God, the regenate are sealed by God himself. Christ speaks to them, adddresses them with his Word, and abides with them by his Spirit. And while judged by their works, they are saved by his God’s grace. They will receive their reward in new creation and it is God himself. Finally, they will glorify God and enjoy him forever. Amen.
ZCRC(Imus), Jesus who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon (Revelation 22:20).” So let us our hearts reply: “Amen. Maranatha! (Come, Lord Jesus).”
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.