Commentary on Revelation (covers all chapters from 1 thru 22, including Introduction)
Copyright © 2019 by Steve Sewell, Theology First. All Rights Reserved
All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
The “holy city,” the “New Jerusalem,” is both the Church and the actual eternal city, or Eternal Kingdom….just as we call a church building a church, it’s not actually the church, but it’s the people who are the Church. So primarily, New Jerusalem is the Church, composed of all believers throughout history. God’s people are the center of New Jerusalem. We are a kingdom. In our eternal state, the people of Christ will finally be one with Him, and “the glory of God” will shine through us.
So this city is both a people and a glorious dwelling place for God’s people. They are so inseparable, that they are spoken of as being one and the same. In other words, the actual city is a reflection of the Church, the “the bride, wife of the Lamb.” Thus John describes the Church to reveal the character and quality of the city. The description of the city is entirely symbolic. We actually have no real idea what this eternal city looks like.
Whatever Heaven is like now, I believe will be much like what this Eternal Kingdom will be like, if not exactly the same. It’s just that it continues on this “new earth.” The glory and beauty of this Heaven on earth is so wonderful and so beyond our comprehension, that I don’t believe there is any description that would do justice to it. That’s why I believe the focus is on the quality and character of it. When we’re ushered into the Heaven of the new earth, we will be in total awe. We will be speechless, realizing that everything we had pictured about it fell woefully short of reality. The important thing to understand about the Eternal Kingdom is that it’s glorious and wonderful beyond our wildest dreams, and nothing in this world is worthy of comparison.
Therefore, what’s actually being described in this chapter of Revelation is the Church. But it serves to reveal the nature of the Eternal Kingdom. To be clear, contrary to what many Christians believe, it’s not the physical appearance that’s being described, but the glorious nature of it. The spiritual features of this city is what’s in view, not the physical features. The physical appearance is left to our imagination, for it’s too wonderful to get an accurate picture of it with our finite minds. We do ourselves a disservice when we take the description of this New Jerusalem literally. When we interpret this book with a strict literalism, we end up with a very distorted view or message. We can’t miss the message that the symbolism of this book actually presents.
Land promises: The land promises to Israel are finally fulfilled in this Eternal Kingdom of the “New Earth” of this chapter. The land promises were never earthly. Canaan was a type of the promised land that is to come in eternity. The premillennial view that the land promises are to ethnic, national Israel, and that they’re fulfilled in an earthly kingdom, falls sadly short of what those promises are actually about. Premillennialism diminishes the glorious nature of those promises.
The land promises to Israel were to be an “everlasting possession” (Ge 13:15; Ge 17:7-8; Ge 48:4; Ex 32:13). Premillennialism teaches that the land promises are fulfilled in an earthly kingdom (where Christ rules). However, that’s a kingdom that only lasts for a 1000 years. A 1000 years is not the same thing as an everlasting possession. This is one of a great many of the inconsistencies of the premillennial position.
The only way that those eternal land promises are fulfilled, are in the Eternal Kingdom of the “New Earth,” given not to ethnic Israel, but to the Church, which is the true Israel in Christ—who is Himself, True Israel. We are spiritual Israel in Him, a spiritual nation, a spiritual people in Him (1 Pe 2:4-10).
(Rev 21:1) – 1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more.
This is to be understood as the heavens (universe), and not as the Heaven where God dwells (Is 65:17).
The Apostle Peter spoke of this same event:
(2 Peter 3:10-13) – 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, 12 looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
When sin entered the human race via Adam and Eve, all creation – which includes the universe – was contaminated or corrupted. Thus this world and all creation has to be purified, and this will be done by way of fire—which I believe will be a literal fire that destroys the old creation and gives way to the new. Fire purifies. This new creation will be completely without the contamination of sin. Paul spoke of the present condition and how it awaits the new in Romans 8:19-23:
NET – (Ro 8:19-23) – 8:19 For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly but because of God who subjected it – in hope 8:21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. 8:23 Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
I don’t believe that this new creation will be merely a renovation of the old. I believe the present earth, as well as the whole universe, will be completely destroyed and a completely new creation will emerge in its place. However, renovation is possible.
“the sea is no more”
Many believe that the “sea” here is symbolic for the sea of evil or the sea of unrest and anxiety, or the like. While this could very well be the case (considering the symbolic nature of this book), I believe that since the context is about the destruction of the literal old heaven and earth, and the creation of the new, I believe that a literal sea or ocean is in view. Of course, the symbolic interpretation is obviously still true either way. When determining whether a description is literal of symbolic (or figurative), we have to consider the context.
(Rev 21:2) – 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
“Coming down out of Heaven,” means that Heaven continues, but it continues in the New Earth—the Eternal Kingdom of God.
I don’t believe the Heaven that now is, will be destroyed when God creates the new heaven and new earth, for there is no need for it. The universe has been contaminated by sin, and so all traces of it has to be destroyed. Heaven is not part of that. I don’t believe that Heaven is part of the universe, but is in a whole different sphere or dimension, completely separated from the corrupted universe.
Heaven is the throne and dwelling place of God. Heaven is pure and eternal, but continues on the New Earth. Throughout this commentary I have referred to this as the Eternal Kingdom. There’s an eternal kingdom in the general and spiritual sense (Kingdom of God), and then there is the Eternal Kingdom of Christ (2 Pe 1:11) of the New Heaven and New Earth….more specifically, the New Earth. While it’s not called the Eternal Kingdom in these chapters, what’s described is certainly God’s kingdom that lasts forever (Rev 22:3-5). Others refer to it as our eternal state. Both terms are true and appropriate.
Our eternal dwelling place is referred to as a “city,” because there are no separate continents or countries or counties, etc. A city is basically a community of people. Thus this kingdom will be one large community of believers in Christ. Therefore, it would be inaccurate to view our eternal dwelling as a new earth with a city in the midst of that new earth. No, the “new earth” is the “holy city.” The city is the Eternal Kingdom. It’s called the “holy” city because we are holy in Christ. It’s a direct reference to who we are in Christ, as a direct reflection of Christ.
That “New Jerusalem” is both a people (“bride” of Christ – the Church) and a city is plain to see in the following passages:
NET – (Rev 21:9-10) – 21:9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven final plagues came and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb!” 21:10 So he took me away in the Spirit to a huge, majestic mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.
NET – (Rev 19:7-9) – 19:7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 19:8 She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen”(for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints). 19:9 Then the angel said to me, “Write the following: Blessed are those who are invited to the banquet at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” He also said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
NET – (Rev 3:12) – 3:12 The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well.
NET – (He 11:8-10) – 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, and he went out without understanding where he was going. 11:9 By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land as though it were a foreign country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise. 11:10 For he was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
NET – (He 11:14-16) – 11:14 For those who speak in such a way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 11:15 In fact, if they had been thinking of the land that they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 11:16 But as it is, they aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
NET – (He 12:22-23) – 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the assembly 12:23 and congregation of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous, who have been made perfect,
NET – (He 13:14) – 13:14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
NET – (Rev 11:2) – 11:2 But do not measure the outer courtyard of the temple; leave it out, because it has been given to the Gentiles, and they will trample on the holy city for forty-two months.
NET – (Rev 20:9) – 20:9 They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely
A careful comparison of these passages certainly reveal New Jerusalem to be both the people of Christ (who is His Bride), and a city—the Eternal Kingdom. It’s a “heavenly” city, for it begins in the Heaven that now is, and continues in this eternal kingdom of the “new earth.”
Therefore, just so we’re clear, the description of this “holy city” is a description of the people of Christ—the Church, but it’s used to reveal the nature of the literal city of our eternal dwelling. Thus the description of this city does not describe the physical features of this city, but the quality and character of it. What this eternal city looks like and what it will really be like there, will remain a mystery until we are actually there. And as I’ve already mentioned, the current Heaven where God rules from His glorious throne, may be completely duplicated (or transferred) in this eternal city of the “new earth.”
The Church is New Israel: That fact that the “bride” (also Rev 21:9; Rev 19:7-9) is referred to as the “New Jerusalem,” strongly supports the position that ethnic, national Israel has its fulfillment and continuation in Christ and the Church as a spiritual nation (1 Pe 2:4-10). Jerusalem is the governmental and religious seat of Israel, and is, therefore, representative of all Israel. When the psalmist said to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps 122:6), it was surely with all of Israel in view (Ps 122:4). Notice that John says that New Jerusalem comes down out of Heaven as a bride (also Rev 21:9-10). This pictures the heavenly nature of Christ’s Church. Therefore, the New Jerusalem exists now in the present as a people, but also as an eternal city yet to come (He 12:22-23).
The idea that God has a plan for the nation of Israel that is separate from the Church – as dispensationalism teaches – is an Old Testament notion, based on an OT understanding. The New Testament doesn’t teach such an idea. It doesn’t teach an earthly, Jewish millennial kingdom. Dispensationalists are missing the whole point, which is this: It’s the spiritual that’s emphasized in Christ of the New Covenant, not the physical. God’s ultimate plan for Israel was never of an earthly, physical nature, but of a spiritual nature, which is realized in Christ and His Church.
To gain a proper understanding of God’s Word, we must begin with a proper understanding of the NT, and then interpret the OT according to that understanding. Interpreting the NT according to an OT understanding, results in mass confusion.
(Rev 21:3-4) – 3 And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: 4 and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.
Are there more comforting words than this in all of Scripture? That God will dwell among us forever and ever, in a place where there will be no more sin or pain or suffering or hardship or disappointment or frustrations, etc., is glorious beyond our comprehension. Never again will we have anything to fear. Never again will we have to deal with an aging body of pain and suffering. Everything will be perfect. A place of total joy and total fulfillment that will go on and on throughout eternity. We will finally and forever dwell in the very presence of our God, Savior and King.
(Rev 21:5) – 5 And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true.
The old life and the old universe is forever gone. All things are not only new, but they are wonderful beyond our comprehension. These “words are faithful and true.” We can count on it, for God Himself is faithful and true. In a world of uncertainty, this we know for sure will “come to pass” (vs 6).
(Rev 21:6) – 6 And he said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
NET – 6 He also said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the one who is thirsty I will give water free of charge from the spring of the water of life.
“Alpha and the Omega”
First and last letters of the Greek alphabet.
God is the “Alpha and the Omega,” the “beginning and the end” of all things. He is the eternal Creator of the universe. He is preeminent over all things. As Sovereign God, all things are subject to Him. All people are accountable to Him.
“the spring of the water of life.”
This is a reference to the Holy Spirit, through whom we are regenerated, indwelt by, and given eternal life to those who are spiritually “thirsty:”
NET – (Jn 7:37-39) – 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and 7:38 let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” 7:39 (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.)
NET – (John 4:13-14) – 4:13 Jesus replied, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again. 4:14 But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.”
God’s promise to mankind is that those who are “thirsty” (spiritual need), He will give “of the fountain of the water of life freely.” Those who are spiritually thirsty will receive the water of everlasting life, which is through faith in His Son, Jesus. Spiritual thirst is produced through the work of the Holy Spirit. Once the truth has been made known, this will create a thirst within one’s heart, drawing them to Christ (John 6:44).
Forgiveness of sins and eternal life is a “free” gift from God—through faith. (Ro 6:23; Eph 2:8-9). It can’t be worked for, nor do we need to. However, true faith will be evidenced by faithfulness to the One who provided this free gift.
(Rev 21:7) – 7 He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
This should be understood as an “if” promise—if we “overcome,” we shall inherit the glories and blessings of this eternal city, and the Triune God shall be our God and King, and we shall belong to Him as His “sons” (“children” – NRSV, NIV, NLT). In other words, by overcoming, we reveal true faith in Christ. Overcoming is the fruit of true salvation.
What is it that we’re to “overcome” as believers? It means to endure in our faith, to overcome the temptations of sin and the allurements of the world, remaining firm in our devotion to Christ—no matter what the costs. Jesus ended His address to each of the seven churches with an encouragement to “overcome,” with a promise for those who do:
Ephesus – (Rev 2:7) – 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.
Smyrna – (Rev 2:11) – 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Pergamum – (Rev 2:17) – 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it.
Thyatira – (Rev 2:26-28) – 3:26 And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations: 3:27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers; as I also have received of my Father: 3:28 and I will give him the morning star.
Sardis – (Rev 3:5) – 3:5 He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments; and I will in no wise blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Philadelphia – (Rev 3:12) – 3:12 He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out thence no more: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and mine own new name.
Laodicea – (Rev 3:21) – 3:21 He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.
I encourage you to read the commentary on each of these passages in their context to give you a better understanding of what we’re to overcome as Christians.
Lest there be a misunderstanding, none of these passages teach that our salvation depends on our faithfulness (works). However, what they (Jesus) do teach is that true faith will produce the fruit of faith, which is an enduring devotion to the One we profess to believe in. Faithfulness is the by-product of faith.
(Rev 21:8) – 8 But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.
This refers to unbelievers, those who die in their sins (examples mentioned in this verse) without Christ as their Lord and Savior. They will not have a place in the “New Jerusalem,” but will spend eternity in the “lake of fire,” which is the “second death” (Rev 20:14-15).
The lives of unbelievers are characterized by sin, while the lives of believers are characterized by a life of obedience to God. Those who profess Christ as Savior, but are living a worldly, sinful life, are deceiving themselves about their salvation. True salvation is characterized by a life that is sincerely and genuinely devoted to Christ and the Christian faith—which involves the Christian way of living our lives in a sinful world that is hostile to Christ. If professing believers are blending in with a world that is anti-Christ, then they need to reevaluate who and what they really believe in, and who and what they’re actually devoted to.
(Rev 21:9-10) – 9 And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were laden with the seven last plagues; and he spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb. 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
The angel that introduced the “seven bowls” of judgment against unbelievers, now gets to introduce the flip side of that, and that’s the eternal blessing of the people of Christ, those who do believe.
As discussed in verse 2, the “holy city Jerusalem” is seen as “coming down out of heaven from God” as the “bride, the wife of the Lamb.” The wife of the Lamb is, of course, the Church of Christ, of whom He is Head (Eph 5:23; Col 1:18). Our salvation places us into a right relationship with God and into His eternal presence. This pictures a transfer of Heaven (the dwelling place of God) to the Eternal Kingdom, where we will finally have “Heaven on earth,” or more accurately, on the “new earth.” And again, this “holy city Jerusalem” is both a people and a literal city. The eternal city is a reflection of the people of Christ—the Church. Thus the description that follows describes the quality and character of this city, and not the physical features of it (see introduction to this chapter). And again, it also depicts God’s dwelling among us (Rev 21:3), as the next verse confirms:
(Rev 21:11) – 11 having the glory of God: her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal:
“having the glory of God”
The Shekinah glory of the Old Testament (the visible manifestation of God’s presence), which is manifested in the Person of Christ (Col 2:9) and in His Church (Eph 5:23; Col 1:18; 2 Cor 6:16), is ultimately manifested in this eternal city, which is a reflection of “the bride, the wife of the Lamb,” which is His Church. The Shekinah glory dwells among His people forever and ever.
(Rev 21:12-13 – 12 having a wall great and high; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 on the east were three gates; and on the north three gates; and on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
This wall symbolizes protection, eternal protection provided by our God and King. Our salvation is forever secure and nothing within this kingdom (city) can ever ever harm us, for it’s a “wall great and high.”
(see verses 25-27)
I believe these refer to “guardian angels” (He 1:14), which are involved in the lives of God’s people in the world now. That doesn’t necessarily mean that each Christian has an angel assigned to them, but it seems clear that God uses His angels in some manner within His Church.
In the context of this passage, I believe this is symbolic of God’s eternal care and watchfulness over His people. What role angels actually have among us in the “New Jerusalem” of this “new earth,” Scripture doesn’t say. However, I think it’s certain that we will dwell together with the angels of God, serving God side by side—although, I believe the type of service will be different for angels than they will be for us.
These gates have “names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel,” which make up the nation of Israel. Christianity has its roots in Israel and in the religion of Israel. That is what’s pictured here. Jesus Himself was an Israelite, who came through the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The nation of Israel continues in Christ and His Church as a spiritual nation—which is composed of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles.
(Rev 21:14) – 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
In verses 12-13 we see Israel of the Old Covenant, and in this verse we see Israel having its fulfillment in the New Covenant, which is represented by the “twelve apostles of the Lamb.” The Church is build upon the “foundation of the Apostles and prophets”:
NET – (Eph 2:19-22) – 2:19 So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 2:20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 2:21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 2:22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
This Ephesians passage interprets this passage in Revelation. As I’ve been saying throughout this chapter, what’s primarily in view here is not the physical features of this eternal city, but the quality and nature of it, which characterizes the Church of Christ. Thus these “twelve foundations” are symbolic of the Church, whose “foundation” is Christ Himself (1 Cor 3:11). The “dwelling place of God” that Paul reveals in Ephesians, we see in both His Church and in this eternal city—the “New Jerusalem” (Rev 21:1-3). Jesus radiates His glory throughout the eternal city, and does so through His Church. The New Jerusalem cannot be separated from Christ’s Church.
(Rev 21:15) – 15 And he that spake with me had for a measure a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
“golden measuring rod” (NET)
The fact that this angel had a “golden measuring rod,” shows that this city is not to be viewed literally, but symbolically. Same is true with the measuring rod itself. For who can believe that this whole kingdom is being measured by a little measuring rod? No one. Therefore, what’s being measured is not the physical dimensions, but the quality and character of it.
That this measuring rod is made of gold, may symbolize the quality or accuracy of the measurements. It may also symbolize the character of what’s being measured.
(Rev 21:16) – 16 And the city lieth foursquare, and the length thereof is as great as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs: the length and the breadth and the height thereof are equal.
NET – 21:16 Now the city is laid out as a square, its length and width the same. He measured the city with the measuring rod at fourteen hundred miles (its length and width and height are equal).
I think the idea that our eternal dwelling place is one giant square box, is really really far-fetched. This is what happens when we interpret the book of Revelation according to a strict, literal method. Those who do, and believe that the Eternal City is actually a huge square, are missing the whole message and glory of what’s being conveyed here. John is trying to explain something too wonderful for words, something beyond our comprehension. He’s describing the indescribable.
Therefore, this square is actually symbolic for a kingdom that is perfect! Perfect in glory and beauty and completeness. Also, this square gives us the picture of total protection—every side closing us in from every form of sin and evil, which overall, pictures our eternal security in Christ.
“fourteen hundred miles”
The number seven is half of 14. In the book of Revelation, the number seven is used often, which symbolizes perfection and completeness. That holds true here. This verifies the interpretation that this “square” city-description symbolizes that which is perfect and complete in every way.
(Rev 21:17) – 17 And he measured the wall thereof, a hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.
CSB – 17 Then he measured its wall, 144 cubits according to human measurement, which the angel used.
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that this number (144) is the same number that’s given in Rev 7:3-9 and Rev 14:1 (144,000). As discussed in those passages, that number is symbolic for the Church (see commentaries). Therefore, what we’re seeing in this verse is a “wall” that symbolizes the eternal protection or security of God’s people. Again, it’s a mistake to interpret this as a literal wall that is literally 144 cubits in length. To do so is missing a picture that has far more significance.
In regard to the comparison between the measurement of a man and the measurement of an angel, I believe this simply means that this angel used the same system of measuring that is employed by humankind. This allows us to visualize what’s being conveyed in measuring terms we can understand.
(Rev 21:18-20) – 18 And the building of the wall thereof was jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto pure glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; 20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.
I believe this passage looks back to Exodus 28:15-21, where these 12 stones were placed within the breastplate of the priests, each stone representing the 12 sons of Israel. This was a picture of the completed Church, all those who belong to Christ. Therefore, the “purity” and “precious stones” describe the quality and character of God’s people in Christ, which is what the actual city will be like.
It should also be noted that the OT priesthood was a type of the NT priesthood of believers in Christ (1 Pe 2:9; Rev 1:6; Rev 5:10), while the high priest was a type of Christ, who is our High Priest (He 2:17; He 3:1; He 4:14-15; He 6:20; He 7:26-28; He 8:1-3; He 9).
The “precious stones” represent great value, since they’ve always had high value in our world. Except these stones are absolutely perfect and pure, without any flaws at all, of highest grade. Again, this pictures the people of Christ, who are made perfect in Him. Even with the description given in this chapter and the next, we really don’t know what the actual eternal city is going to look like, or what our life will be like there. We’re given but a glimpse of its reality, and that is all. We do know, however, that it’s a place of total joy, absent of pain and suffering, absent of all sin, where we will dwell in the glorious presence of God forever and ever.
(Rev 21:21) – 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the several gates was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
NET – 21:21 And the twelve gates are twelve pearls – each one of the gates is made from just one pearl! The main street of the city is pure gold, like transparent glass.
The fact that each gate is “made from just one pearl,” confirms that the description of this city is to be interpreted symbolically, and not literally. A wall this size would likely have gates that are also very large. Can you image giant oysters producing giant pearly gates for our eternal city? That’s nonsense. We can’t miss what’s actually being revealed here. Pearls have great value. The more pure a pearl is and the greater the size and the more perfectly round the pearl is, the greater its value. Thus what we have pictured here are pearls that are not only enormous, but perfect in every way possible. Therefore, the Church, the “bride, the wife of the Lamb,” is presented in all of her glory.
“The main street of the city is pure gold, like transparent glass.”
Again, this refers to the purity of the Church of Christ, and of the actual city itself. The fact that this gold is like “transparent glass,” reveals that this is no ordinary gold, but is totally unique and of unusual value. Such is the Church and our eternal dwelling place.
The mention of a “street” or streets, essentially completes the picture of a city. Everywhere we walk, it’s absolutely pure, without sin or pain or hardship of any kind. Thus every aspect of this city is made of the highest quality materials (we are a new creation in Christ), a place of indescribable value.
(Rev 21:22) – 22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof.
The Church of Christ is the temple of God. The Old Testament temple was a type and shadow of the temple to come in the New Covenant. The OT temple gave way to the NT temple. The combined number of believers in Christ are the true temple of God, of whom Christ is Head. As Paul said, “we are the temple of the living God”:
ESV – (2 Cor 6:16) – 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Notice how closely Paul’s words match the words of John in the verses 2-3:
(Rev 21:2-3) – 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God:
The “bride” is the Church of Christ. We, as the Church, are the holy temple of God. We are also the “New Jerusalem,” the eternal and “holy city” of the “new heaven and new earth.” The OT temple has its fulfillment and continuation in Christ and the Church as a spiritual temple. There is no longer any need for a physical temple. That temple is gone forever. It’s been gone since the establishment of Christ’s Church, never to be seen again. That goes for the so-called third temple of premillennialism, which teaches that God will raise up a third temple where animal sacrifices will again be practiced in the so-called earthly, millennial kingdom. That idea falls so short of the glory that God wants us to see in Christ and His Church. The idea of God reverting back to a physical temple where animal sacrifices are performed is completely inconceivable, and absent of the glory of God. The Shekinah glory has departed that temple and now dwells within His Church (see verse 11).
So then, the fact that we are the temple of God now, and the fact that we are also the temple of God in the “new heaven and new earth,” provides a very strong argument that Israel has its fulfillment and continuation in Christ and the Church. There is no separate plan for the nation of Israel apart from the Church. The Church is clearly identified as the New Jerusalem (Jerusalem represents all Israel) and the holy temple of God. They cannot be separated. Therefore, the eternal city is both now (as the Church) and yet to come as the “New Jerusalem,” as the “bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:2-3,9; He 12:22-23). As already discussed, the physical and eternal city is a reflection of the Church. The Eternal Kingdom is both a people and a literal city.
Therefore, where John says that “the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof,” this speaks of the oneness that we as the people of God (the Church) have with the Father and Son and Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). He dwells in us and among us, therefore He and we are the holy and eternal temple. Thus John is describing the relationship that God has with His people, both now and throughout eternity. The physical OT temple gives way to the spiritual temple of Christ – of whom He is Head – and it continues in the Eternal Kingdom. It’s a continuous temple and a continuous kingdom.
(Rev 21:23) – 23 And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb.
NET – 21:23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb.
(See Rev 21:5)
The “glory of God” and the light from the “lamp” (the Lamb) shines through His people and throughout His kingdom. The glory of God and the light of Christ (Jn 1:9; 8:12) shines through His people both now and throughout eternity. Light is always in direct opposition to that which is dark. Darkness is of the kingdom of Satan. Light is of the Kingdom of Christ. Darkness is associated with that which is false, and light is associated with that which is truth. The light of Christ is figurative now, but will be both figurative and literal in the eternal city. The Church is both the light and truth of Christ, and both will continue in the Eternal Kingdom, for the Church is the Kingdom of Christ.
(Rev 21:24) – 24 And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it.
NET – 21:24 The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their grandeur into it.
The mention of “nations” and “kings” refers to the people of Christ who lived among the nations of the world, and of the leaders who ruled among the nations of the world. The “light” and “glory” refers to the light and glory of Christ, for we have no light or glory within ourselves.
(Rev 21:25) – 25 And the gates thereof shall in no wise be shut by day (for there shall be no night there):
NET – 21:25 Its gates will never be closed during the day (and there will be no night there).
Only the light and truth of Christ will characterize this eternal city—as with His Church. Darkness and falsehood will not have a place in this kingdom. Their place is in the lake of fire. The whole eternal kingdom of God will be illuminated by His glory.
These are special “gates,” for they are one-directional. These are gates that we “enter” (Rev 21:26-27; Rev 22:14), but never leave in the opposite direction. Nowhere in these last two chapters of Revelation is there a mention of going out of the gates. Therefore, these gates have to be purely symbolic of a never-ending entrance (residence) into this kingdom, where we will never have to leave. Since this city is actually the whole Kingdom of God, there cannot possibly be any literal gates.
(Rev 21:26) – 26 and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it:
(See verse 24)
(Rev 21:27) – 27 and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
NET – 21:27 but nothing ritually unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or practices falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Again, these gates are one-directional (vs. 25). The sign above the door says, “entrance only.” Those who are “unclean, etc.,” are those who die in their sins, without Christ. Their place is in the lake of fire (Rev 20:14-15). They will never be allowed entrance into the eternal city. Only those whose names are written in the “Lamb’s book of life” are allowed entrance, which is through faith in the Lamb. Through Christ, we are made “clean.”