Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 50 - Revelation 21:9-27

Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. (1-2 NLT)

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

Then he said to me, "These words are faithful and true." And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.

"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."

Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

Then he said to me, "See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God." And he said to me, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still." (3-11 NKJV)

Living Water

Why does the river of life flow from the throne? How does this river relate to the tree of life?

We looked at the living water before and discovered that it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. We have seen that this water will flow from each believer in this life. As we are gathered together in the New Jerusalem, it will be concentrated in front of the throne as we worship God and the Lamb. Even with this, we must remember that the Holy Spirit is a gift who originates with Jesus. That is why the river flows from the throne.

The tree of life (one tree) is on both sides of the river. Without water, there is no physical life and without the Holy Spirit there is no spiritual life. The river, or the Holy Spirit, gives life to the tree to show that as we partake of the Holy Spirit, we will have life. Those who have never partaken of this water are not alive. People may call themselves Christians but without this water, the Holy Spirit, they are dead.

Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. (Ezek 47:1 KJV)  

How is the river of life like the river from the temple in Ezekiel? See Ezek 47:1-12.
Ezekiel was shown a river similar to the one John saw. The water was only ankle deep but every thousand cubits it got deeper until it was a river too deep to cross. It also had a great number of trees on each side. It went to the Sea (presumably the Dead Sea) and the sea became fresh. Ezekiel’s river was a vision for the millennium because it was coming from the temple and flowing to the sea; there will be no temple in the New Jerusalem and no sea in the new world.

The similarities emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit in the millennium as the river in the New Jerusalem show His work in eternity. An interesting thing about the river is that it rapidly gets deeper and deeper. Ezekiel’s vision was for a different purpose as his description focused on the river outside of the city to show that there was still work to be done in the world. John saw the river only as it flowed through the streets of the city. In Revelation, the work has been completed.

The trees along Ezekiel’s river could very well represent believers. They draw their nourishment from the river, yet the river gets deeper. That is the way the Holy Spirit works. The more we rely and draw on His power, the more His power is available for us. As we share with others, fruit is yielded all year long. Swarms of living creatures and fish will live wherever the river flows, again signifying that eternal life only comes when the Holy Spirit works in us.  

There is no mention of fish in the river of water of life. What might this reveal to us?

And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking. (Luke 5:5-6 RSV)

Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish. (John 21:5-6 RSV)

Jesus told Peter that he would become a fisher of men and He gave two demonstrations of fishing. The first time, before He called Peter, the nets broke because of the number of fish. At that time Peter was still depending on his own abilities even though it was at Jesus’ direction. If we witness and do His work in our strength we may get a harvest but we may also lose some.

The second time, there wasn’t any argument but an admission of inability to do anything on their own and the nets didn’t break. If we fish in His power and strength, we won’t lose anyone. They may not come when we expect, but that isn’t our call. If we fish relying on the Living Water to draw the fish instead of our own efforts, we will succeed and not lose any.

In the New Jerusalem, there won’t be any more fishing for men. All that have responded to the Gospel will be there. There will no longer be a need to tell people how to know the Lord. 

But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. (Ezek 47:11 NASB)

What warning can we apply to our lives from this aspect of the river in Ezekiel? 

Another difference about the millennium river is that the swamps and marshes will not become fresh but will remain salty. In these places the water doesn’t flow, becomes stagnant, and unfit to support life. The warning to us is to keep moving. When we stagnate, we do not bring life to others, and our lives can become worthless. The water evaporates and leaves the impurities instead of flushing the impurities by the motion of the water. It also shows that there will still be unbelievers in the millennium.

Tree Of Life

And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. (Gen 2:9-10 KJV)

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Gen 3:24 KJV)

And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing. (Ezek 47:12 ESV) 

Compare these trees with the tree of life found in Revelation 22. What is different or the same?

In Ezekiel, the water flows to the trees. These trees are not the same as the tree of life even though they have some of the same characteristics. Their leaves do not wither, they bear fruit all year long, and their leaves are used for healing. Since these trees are plural, they are not the same as the singular tree mentioned in both Genesis and Revelation.

The tree of life in Revelation stands on both sides of the river and is in the city. The tree in Genesis is in the garden but appears to be the same tree. I find the wording of Gen 2:10 interesting. It says that the river flowed from Eden to water the garden. This identifies Eden as a larger location than just a garden. Gen 2:8 also makes the same distinction. Eden means pleasure. [1] It is where God put Adam and Eve and it is in the garden where He met with them.

The tree of life in the New Jerusalem appears to be at the source of the water as indicated by the statement that it stands on both sides of the river. The tree of life is shown in both the garden and Revelation to be where God meets us and provide the pleasure of eternity with Him.

The tree of life is so important in regard to spiritual life that God chose to keep men away from it after the fall in Gen 3:24. The tree is a representation of Jesus who is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). He forms the connection between God and us through the river of life – the Holy Spirit. In Ezekiel, the trees could be a representation of believers since the water flows to them and nourishes them. Anyone who hungers or thirsts for righteousness are to come to Him. People who are spiritually hurt are to come to the source of life and be healed by the leaves. As we receive the water, the Holy Spirit in our lives, we too can minister the same healing and provide food to others.

In the New Jerusalem the tree of life has been put in easy reach of all. The curse of God on the earth has been completely removed and now all have access to eternal life. If there are any scars left among the nations, then the leaves of the tree will take them away. There will no longer be any prejudice, jealousy, envy, or any other things that cause people to war against each other. All people in the New Jerusalem have already partaken of the tree of life – of Jesus Himself so there will not be room for any sin. I think that the healing from the tree is to emphasize that the curse has been lifted. 

What is indicated by the tree of life bearing its fruit all year long?

The trees in Ezekiel bore their fruit all year around. The tree of life will bear its fruit all year around also. There will never be a time or season that eternal life isn’t available. Just as with us, there should not be a time of year or season in our lives that we are not ready to share the news of eternal life with others. We are the representatives of Jesus who is the tree of life. We are not to withhold it from others who come and seek it. It is given to us freely and we need to pass it on. We have much more than we can use for ourselves. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is available to us now and in every season. It will be the same in eternity.
How does being able to see God’s face show that the curse has been finally removed?

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Is 40:5 KJV)

After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:13b-14 KJV)  

God made it clear that sinful man in his natural state cannot see His face and live (Ex 33:20). We have many promises in the Bible that someday in the future, we will be able to see the Lord face to face and live. He promised in Isaiah that everyone will see His glory. The deposit or earnest of the Holy Spirit living in us after we come to Christ is a promise that we will be redeemed with a physical body that will be able to see Him. That is our inheritance.

The description of the river of living water and tree of life flows into a description of what it will be like to be in the presence of God forever. Now at long last, people will be able to look upon the face of God and live. The curse has been removed completely and entirely. We will be totally owned by God, as we will have His name on our foreheads.

How does having God’s name on our foreheads dispel some cults’ theology?

You would think that reading these verses in context with the last chapter would dispel all of the Jehovah’s Witness’ comments about only 144,000 getting into heaven. It clearly says that all who have their names in the book of life get into the New Jerusalem. It appears evident to me that we all have God’s seal on us, not just the 144,000. They in fact will have been sealed after us. JWs are not the only ones that claim this exclusiveness for their members. 

Ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: (1 Cor 6:19b-20a KJV)

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Rom 6:22 NIV) 

In the spiritual realm, we already have His name on our foreheads since we were bought with a price. The result of that purchase is twofold in that we are freed from sin, which produces holiness, and we have been granted eternal life. We are now His servants and will serve Him forever. 

What comes to your mind when you think of the Lord being our light in the New Jerusalem?

Again the Lord has emphasized that in eternity, we will not be walking by physical light. We will be walking in spiritual light. That light will be all we need. It will allow us to see more clearly than any physical source of light. There won’t be any shadows since the light comes from God. When we look back at the description of the city and consider that it is the Bride (us) and that God is in us, and then we realize that the light could be coming from everything, even us.

It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai … that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. (Ex 34:29 NASU)

Moses’ face glowed after spending 40 day on the mountain in the presence of the Lord. He didn’t even see God’s face in the same way we will see Him in heaven. Think how it will be after spending only a short time in His presence face to face! And we will have all of eternity to spend with Him!

The Word is Trustworthy

Why was John told that the words were trustworthy and what was his assurance of this?

This is the second time that we are informed that these words are trustworthy and true. They have been given to John by the Lord, the same God who moved the prophets. John is assured that this is the same God who spoke to the prophets and moved them to write the Scriptures. At this point in the Book of Revelation, God is revealing that all of this has been announced because it will soon take place. The rest of the chapter is assurance.

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things which angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:10-12 NKJV)

What was the significant message of the prophets how is it similar to John’s revelation?

The prophets of old spoke of the grace of salvation that would come to us. They were looking forward to a time that they couldn’t comprehend because Jesus had not yet come and died. They saw the suffering of Jesus but didn’t understand how that fit in with God’s redemptive plan. They had to search diligently to understand and many didn’t. It was a mystery that God kept but revealed to the Church (Eph 3:1-13).

These things were given to the prophets, but not for their sake. It wasn’t for John that the Lord revealed Himself. It is for us, His servants. According to Peter, it wasn’t as easy for the prophets of old. Neither is it easy for us to understand the future. It is probably a mystery that won’t be full revealed until we are with Jesus. However, we are told that it is trustworthy and true. It will happen.

How do some modern day prophets abuse prophetic gifts?

Some of our modern day prophets who say they have received revelations from God miss the boat when they think it is for them that God has revealed His plan, if it is really God who has spoken to them. They think that the prophetic utterances are there for their personal guidance and benefit, and nothing more. We can look back at some of the Old Testament prophets and see that even when the Lord told them to go some place, it was always to minister. Even when Elijah was told to go to the widow’s house and live there for over two years, it was because the Lord had more in store for him later in his ministry.

Timothy is a good example in that the gift given to him through a prophetic utterance was for ministering to others (1 Tim 4:11-14). He was told to teach and not neglecting sound doctrine. Many current prophets put their revelations ahead of God’s word revealed in the Bible. He was told to live a godly life. Many prophets use their so-called gifts to extort and live shameful lives in secret.

John was told clearly that the angels were sent to show God’s servants what must take place. The reason that the book of Revelation fits with all of the rest of the Bible is not that John was a good student of the Scriptures and wrote it of his own accord; it is because the Lord sent His angels to reveal it to him.

It seems that some of the modern day prophets also expect to be worshiped in a sense. If they don’t claim to have a new revelation from God, they claim to have an inspired meaning to Scripture that no one else has been provided, but unfortunately, their revelations usually don’t square with the rest of Scripture. Because of their revelations, they command a position in their congregation that borders on worship. No one is willing or allowed to question their revelation or their interpretation of Scripture. However, it is very clear from the angel’s response to John that a true servant of the Lord doesn’t want a position like that. They will always point to God and not to themselves as the object of worship.

Sealed Prophecy

Why did God seal up some prophecies in the past?

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. (Isa 8:16-17 KJV)

At different times in the Bible, the Lord has said that certain words or events should be sealed up or their meaning hidden from people. Isaiah was told to seal up the law among God’s disciples. It’s interesting to note that there appears to be a distinction between His disciples and the rest of Israel – the house of Jacob. Many times, Scripture is sealed up or hidden because people are so stubborn or disobedient that it simply won’t make a difference. They have already decided what they are going to do.

And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. (Isa 29:11-12 KJV)  

Others will find excuses why they don’t even try to read or understand God’s Word. This is probably one of the biggest reasons people don’t try to read or understand the book of Revelation. They have been told that it is too hard to understand so they don’t even try. Perhaps the real problem is that they haven’t read or tried to understand most of the Bible and therefore haven’t developed the discipline to study the book of Revelation. They would much rather have someone spoon-feed the Word to them.[2] The problem with this is that they become susceptible to the modern day prophets mentioned above. The good news is that the angel says that Revelation isn’t sealed up.  

Why were Daniel’s visions sealed up? Was there a different meaning to being sealed up? 

And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days. (Dan 8:26 KJV)

Daniel was told to seal up the visions he saw because they were for the distant future, even though he had already described his vision and the explanation. In context it would seem likely that he was simply to make sure that the scroll was written and preserved for the future.

And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. (Dan 12:8-9 KJV)

In Daniel’s later vision, he is later informed that the words being sealed up means that the wicked will not understand. They will continue to be wicked. On the other hand, wise people will be able to understand the visions and prophecies in the book of Daniel only near the end of time.

How will people be able to understand Daniel’s vision?

One of the reasons people will be able to understand at the end is that the book of Revelation has been given to us to help clarify, interpret, and expand on what Daniel saw. This is not like Rev 10:4 where John was instructed to seal up (not write down) what the seven thunders said. We can understand Daniel’s visions because the time is near.

Why do many people feel that the doctrine of the rapture is aberrant Christian theology?

I need to address this because we are talking about a theology that came as a revelation to a person in the 19th century. Was this revelation scriptural? Did it negate or alter anything in the Book of Revelation or any other part of the Bible?

We are truly near the end. It may surprise most of you to know that the rapture is a teaching that has been known to the Christian church for less than 200 years. Up until 1830, the concept of the rapture can’t be found in Christian writings. As I understand its origin, it came as a vision to Miss Margaret MacDonald in Scotland. A Presbyterian minister named Edward Irving was informed of it and began to expound on it. Later, John Darby, the founder of the Plymouth Brethren visited Miss MacDonald, then also began to preach in support of the rapture, and so popularized it that he has been credited with its origin. “Darby was a brilliant theologian with outstanding scholarly abilities.” [3]

While researching this, I noted that most people who have researched the topic have done so to debunk the rapture as a valid Christian doctrine. They cite its recent origin to explain that it can’t be true. Well, if a brilliant theologian saw how Scripture fit together and then expounded on it, why should we dismiss it? It also appears to me that it is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel.

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. (Dan 12:4 KJV)

The rapture has always been in the Scripture, it wasn’t revealed until recently because it wasn’t time to do so. Knowledge has increased as we get closer to the end. It isn’t just technical knowledge, but knowledge of the end times and God’s working.

Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. (Dan 12:10 KJV)

What is something that is common between Daniel’s instructions to seal up the words and John’s instructions not to seal up the words? 

Another thing in common between these last words in Revelation and Daniel is that they both state that the wicked will continue to be wicked. Revelation adds that those who do right should continue to do so. I’m sure that some people have used these words to condone their own evil desires, thinking that God has given them permission to do evil. However, Isa 29:11-12 ties into Daniel and Revelation to demonstrate that sinful man will continue to be sinful right up to the very Day of Judgment. Contrary to some doctrines of the past, the church is not going to save the whole world and thus usher in God’s eternal kingdom. (People who hold to this doctrine really rail against the rapture.) While we must be obedient and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, some will still reject Him as their Lord and Savior. They will not turn to the living water or the tree of life.

What kind of people should we be in light of this?

2 Peter 3:11-14

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God's righteousness.

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. (2 Peter 3:11-14 NLT)

Let’s heed Peter’s admonition to look forward to this time and be holy now.

[1] The Online Bible Thayer's Greek Lexicon and Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Copyright © 1993, Woodside Bible Fellowship, Ontario, Canada. Licensed from the Institute for Creation Research.
[2] Have you noticed that with the advent of study Bibles, there are more words from the author than from God? Some pages have only four or five verses on the page. Some notes are good but some contradict notes in other study Bibles.
[3] Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D, Chapter 17: The Rapture Theory - Its Surprising Origin. Associates for Scriptural Knowledge, Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 50 - Revelation 21:9-27

And there came to me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like a most precious stone, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And it had a wall great and high, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written the gates, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 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 the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and its gates, and its wall. And the city lies foursquare, and the length is as long as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured its wall, an hundred and forty and four cubits [216 feet], according to the measure of a man, which is the same as of an angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. And there shall in no way enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, nor makes a lie: but they who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (KJV – with modification)

The Bride

Throughout our study, we have seen the bride of Christ as ourselves, the Church. Now when this very important angel says he is going to show us the bride of the Lamb, he shows us a city, not a person or people. It is not just any city, but a city that sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. It comes down out of heaven and yet takes up more space than the state of Texas. It will reach about 1,420 miles into the air.[1] Satellites normally roam at three to six hundred miles up. Only the stationary satellites are higher. The physical beauty of it is beyond anything we can ever imagine.  

How can we relate to being the Bride of Christ which is described as a city? 

Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion; Declare among the peoples His deeds. For He who requires blood remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted. (Ps 9:11-12 NASU)

Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, Which You have redeemed to be the tribe of Your inheritance; And this Mount Zion, where You have dwelt. (Ps 74:2 NASU)

His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loves the gates of Zion More than all the other dwelling places of Jacob. (Ps 87:1-2 NASU)  

To understand how to relate to this, we need to go back into the O.T. to see how God has related His love of the O.T. saints with Jerusalem. Zion is a part of Jerusalem and after a time, it became synonymous with Jerusalem. The Lord was enthroned in Zion and one of the reasons was so that His awesome deeds would be proclaimed among the nations. In Psalm 74, the connection between Israel and Zion is made. It is His chosen people, not the physical structure, which is the object of His love. However, Psalm 87 says He loves Zion more than any other city in Israel.  

Why does God love Zion more than other cities?

I think it goes back to His original intention to live among His people. Even with Adam and Eve, His intent was to live among them and fellowship with them. We cannot go to Him; He has to come to us and makes His dwelling with us. The nation of Israel is special because He has made Himself known to all mankind through it.  

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isa 2:3 KJV)

Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (Isa 28:16 KJV)

People have come and will continually come to Zion. God’s perfect law has come out from Zion. Finally the reason for Zion being special is revealed. The foundation in Psalm 87 that He established is none other than Jesus. Jesus is the cornerstone of Zion and all people will be coming to Jesus when they want to come to God. Jesus is God with us. The Old Testament relationship between God and Zion was a shadow of the Church and the New Jerusalem that is still to come.

What connects the Church in the New Testament with the believers in the Old Testament? 

In the New Testament we don’t see Jerusalem but the Church. Jesus said He would build His Church on this rock. 

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt 16:18 KJV)  

The rock that Jesus is referring to is Himself, the rock of salvation, the cornerstone. It also ties back to the Old Testament in many passages where God refers to Himself as the Rock. David also affirms that God, the Savior and the Rock are all the same. 

The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation. (2 Sam 22:47 KJV)  

How, then does the Church become a building or a city? 

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3 KJV)  

Jesus has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house. Jesus gave us a quick, simple description of the New Jerusalem – His Father’s house. Note that we are not doing the preparing. He is. Even though we are commanded to lay up treasures in heaven, this does not imply that we are building anything. It is by His power and grace that the place is being prepared. He is preparing it so that we may be where He is.

Each room in the house of the Lord is actually a reference to one of us. When He is preparing a place, He is molding and shaping us into His image. In addition to that, we are being joined together as living stones as Peter says.  

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 NKJV)  

All of the rooms are being filled with God – it is His house, He will live in us. It is a picture of the Church and how we are all linked together now and how we will also be even more closely linked. Somehow it will be even more tangible in the New Jerusalem. We are stones being laid upon the foundation, the cornerstone, who is Jesus. How can we be a room, a part of a building and also a person, even a priest? I don’t know, but I do know God, and what He has in store for us is much more than anyone can fathom. 

How does this affect the way we live today? 

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor 6:19-20 KJV)  

We are familiar with this verse, but think of it this way. Instead of a verse used to condemn any activity that harms the body for momentary pleasures such as smoking (or even include extreme sports), think of it as a verse that describes who or what we are. We are part of a larger building, the Church, the bride of Christ. When we are connected together, contamination from one room can flow into the one next to it. We should also examine our activities out of respect for the One living in the temple and the temple rooms next door to us. One block supports the ones around it. If one crumbles or is weak, the others have to take on an additional load or the whole building may collapse. 

Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. (Rev 3:12 KJV) 

We will become pillars in His temple. This is the promise to the one church of the seven that was the weakest in human terms. 

So how do we make the leap from a building or buildings the Bride?  

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev 21:2 KJV) 

The image of a building can be impersonal and cold. Yet John clearly makes the connection when he says that it is adorned like a bride, and we know that it will be God Himself dwelling in it. The angel specifically says that he was going to show John the bride and then shows him the city. Being a bride brings a special relationship with it. It is intimacy with God Himself. How can millions of people be the bride, a singular noun? How can millions have intimacy with God all at the same time? It is only if they are somehow joined together themselves – hence the building. Yet the building is immobile, non-functioning, lifeless. So the Lord gives us the description of bride, which is alive and vibrant. We are also described as the body of Christ with different members and purposes. At the beginning of the chapter, the old order passed away and a new order has come. These things are no longer inconsistent with each other unless we try to comprehend them in terms of the old order. We can’t continue with the description of the New Jerusalem and think only in terms of this current fallen world.

Description of New Jerusalem

We need to remember that the New Jerusalem is prepared by God and is coming from Him (verse 2). It is adorned like a bride, and is the bride – so the description of the city is also describing us. The terms are both symbolic and yet the description and setting also suggest that it is a reality we will see.
How do the glory of God and the transparency of the city describe our relationship in heaven?

The city shines with the glory of God. It has a brilliance and transparent quality. In verse 18 it says that the city is made of gold as pure as glass, again suggesting the transparent appearance. In verses 23 and 25 we can see that it doesn’t need any outside lighting because the glory of the Lord and the Lamb light the city. The glory of the Lord is what makes it transparent. We are the city and that means that before God in eternity, we too will be transparent. There will be nothing between us and God or each other. It comes back to the way Adam and Eve were with each other in the garden, naked. Before God we will be completely naked in a sense, and unashamed. We will be adorned with jewels and white clothes, but naked. We will be able to see each other in the same light.  

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor 13:12 KJV)  

As Paul said, we will fully know God and most likely, each other. There will be no dim reflections. The intimacy of the relationship will be something that we cannot even imagine now. If we were to experience this intimacy in our present bodies, it would kill them.  

He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen. (1 Tim 6:16 NLT) 

That is part of why Paul said God lives in unapproachable light. In the New Jerusalem we will be able to live in the presence of that light and it will be shining out of us and through us. 

What is significant about the gates?  

The gates are made of one large pearl each. A pearl is developed over a long period of time. It is the result of suffering on the part of an oyster. Since each gate has the name of a tribe, not a patriarch, and since a gate is the way into the city, the gate symbolizes the Old Testament plan of God. He wanted people to come to Him through His people. And many did. It was centuries of suffering and difficulties for the tribes. The reason for the problems was that at the center was an irritant – sin. Impurity was there and the job was incomplete. The gates, however, were only part of an overall plan. 

Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank thee that thou hast answered me and hast become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps 118:19-23 RSV)  

The Lord showed a gate of righteousness to the Old Testament saints. But it wasn’t what most expected. It was the cornerstone, Jesus, and it was faith in Him that most rejected. The Gate came through the twelve tribes. It was God’s plan and without them, He would not have appeared. They provided the gate in history for Jesus. In a very true sense, as Romans 11 points out, it was for all mankind that the nation of Israel was developed. We can only come to God because He revealed Himself first to the Jews then to the Gentiles. As the Psalm says, we always need to be grateful and give thanks to the Lord. 

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. (Prov 31:23 KJV)
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Prov 31:31 KJV)  

How does the woman in Prov 31:10-31, with Christ sitting in the gate picture the Church?

Suddenly the perfection and relentless energy of this “perfect” wife makes sense as the Church, the bride of Christ. Some wives have many of these qualities (mine does.) But if any wife believes that she has to live up to all these standards, she will become a basket case in no time. But the Church should be and is doing all these things as the wife of Christ. Jesus has confidence in her, she goes all over the world, she takes care of the family, on and on the Church is doing these things.

Of course there are some congregations that certainly don’t fit this picture, but you can find members of the body of Christ doing these things at all times all over the world. The woman is dressed in fine linen and purple. That is righteousness and royalty. The bride of Christ is righteous and we will serve as priests and rulers with Him.

The husband, Jesus, will be respected at the gates; the Church should be bringing respect to the name of Jesus rather than contempt. He sits at the gates of the New Jerusalem, which has the names of the elders of Israel written on them. 

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it. (Matt 7:13-14 NASB)

But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. (John 10:2-3 NASB)

Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. (Heb 13:12 KJV)

How do these three passages referring to gates of heaven tell the story of redemption as we have been pondering the pearly gates? 

The New Jerusalem will be 1,400 miles on each side. That means that you would have to go 466 miles between gates. Even though heaven is large enough to hold everyone, the gate, or the way in is still narrow in comparison. Sinfulness of mankind has always looked for the easy way but it doesn’t get us to the gates. It is by Jesus and only by Him that we have entrance to heaven as we follow the Good Shepherd in the gates.

The tribes of Israel were the early watchmen for Jesus. They were given the Word of God and were to protect it and know what it said. They were also supposed to share it with all nations, which they didn’t do very well. They were supposed to be able to point others to the narrow gate, Jesus. Instead they made up their own rules and gates. They were supposed to be familiar with the Word so that when Jesus came, they would recognize Him and open up. Instead, they tried to close the gates.

And so Jesus suffered outside the gates for us. In the new order, the gates will symbolize the completion of the perfect plan, and because of the faithful of many Jews, we have the entrance to heaven. 

We are looking at the New Jerusalem as a picture of all believers united in Jesus. If we are that building or city, how does the cornerstone set the parameters for our relationship with God and other believers? 

Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: "Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken. I will test you with the measuring line of justice and the plumb line of righteousness … (Isa 28:16-17 NLT) 

In the face of the lies of the false prophets, God boldly declared that He would provide the cornerstone for all righteousness. The cornerstone of a building was the point from which all measurements were taken. If it were off by a fraction of an inch, the next corner would be off by inches or even feet depending on how long the foundation was. The plum line made sure everything was straight up and down. Our vertical alignment with God is measured in righteousness, coming from Jesus. The measuring line is how we relate horizontally, with others. Justice is a measure of how we do that. Since Jesus is the cornerstone, we know that it is perfectly straight. Our relation with God is perfect because of Him. But we still have to focus on Him to keep it that way. The building should be perfect if we are looking at His measuring line and always sighted in on the cornerstone. It is only as we all abide in Jesus that we can have the relationship with each other to build a city of believers that could reach 1,400 miles high, wide, and long.

The cornerstone laid the direction for the building. The foundation was built from it. If the foundation had cracks or flaws then the whole building would be weak and easily shaken.  

What do the twelve foundations with the names of the apostles written on them symbolize for us? 

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: (Matt 7:24 KJV)

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt 16:18 KJV)  

The foundation of any large building has to be grounded on something firmer than itself. Our foundation is the words that have been passed on to us by the apostles. That Word is Jesus Himself, who is the cornerstone. But Jesus made it clear to the apostles and Peter that the Church would grow from what He was giving them. Jesus is the Rock, but He passed along the words to Peter and the others. 

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26 KJV) 

Jesus let them know that after He left, the Holy Spirit would remind them of everything that He had taught them. A lot has been said about the Jewish custom of disciples memorizing everything their teacher would say, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, we know that the foundation is firm because the Holy Spirit has made sure of it. 

How is this New Jerusalem, believers of all ages, the Bride of Christ being built? 

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Cor 3:11-15 KJV)  

This passage is rich with imagery that parallels Revelation. On the single foundation of Jesus, Paul has been laying a foundation for the New Jerusalem. There isn’t anyone today who could trace their faith in Jesus back to anyone other than one of the original disciples, including Paul. The books of the New Testament came from them or people that they brought to Jesus. Paul was a disciple because he came to Jesus directly in response to Jesus appearing to Him. In a sense we too are continuing the building as the Lord uses us to bring people to Him.

As we encourage, instruct, and help others, we are adding gold, jewels, and precious stones. When all of the junk of our lives and junk that we have taught others is burned away, the New Jerusalem will be seen. The lasting things of eternity are how we have invested our lives in helping others know Jesus and live lives worthy of His calling. These things will remain. Jesus is preparing the place, it comes from God, but He is also using us. 

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Tim 2:19 KJV) 

We should all be concerned about the people who come under our influence. We can teach them as much as possible in both word and deed and then someone else can come along and destroy their faith. We have to prepare them for this also. Paul warned the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:28-31 about the wolves that would come. He said that he had warned them for three years while he was with them. Ultimately, we have to commit others and ourselves to God because we know that His foundation is solid. He knows those who are His and He knows how to take care of them. If we have been building upon His foundation then they have become part of the building if they are truly Christians, then He will keep them. 

Summarize the meaning of the gates and the foundation of the New Jerusalem. 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22 ESV)  

These verses are a very good summary of the whole subject. The gates provide entry into the kingdom, but to become part, we must be born again. When we are born again, our citizenship is transferred from the world to God’s household. We are joined to the foundation that is connected to the cornerstone. We become part of the temple of God.

Measurement of the City

How many people do you think could live in the New Jerusalem? How would you calculate the number?

Let’s try to calculate the space available in the New Jerusalem. Some have looked at the city and concluded that it would be impossible to contain all of the people on the earth who have ever lived. (It’s just another poor excuse not to believe.) Part of their problem is that they think everyone is going to go to heaven. Another problem is that they don’t want to admit that man hasn’t been around as long as they say. Lastly they haven’t taken time to see how big the New Jerusalem is.

Each dimension is 1,400 miles. That provides a city of 2,744,000,000 cubic miles. We can assume that each person will get one room in the Father’s mansion. However, let’s be generous and give everyone a mansion-sized room! If each room covers 5 acres and is 500 feet high with enough space for roads, elevators, etc, we could get over 1,177 mansions per cubic mile. That allows 3,229,688,000,000 individual rooms in the New Jerusalem. Now considering the fact that we will want to be much closer to each other and to Jesus than 1 person per 5 acres, there will be plenty of room not just in heaven but also in the New Jerusalem for everyone who is saved.

Let’s assume that there has always been 5 billion people on the earth and that every 30 years, the population turns over in a new generation. Let’s also assume that man has been in existence for 10,000 years. If every one of those people were saved, it would only come to 1,666,666,500,000 people. The New Jerusalem would be less than half-full. All of this isn’t very spiritual, but it does point out that God can provide for all who come to Him. Our secular thinking and arguing does nothing in light of who He is and what He can and will do.

In Ezekiel 40 through 48, God provided measurements for a new temple, furnishings, and regulations. It was summed up in the following verse.

It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there. (Ezek 48:35 KJV) 

How does this relate to the New Jerusalem? 

An angel went through a lot of trouble to give Ezekiel all the measurements of each door, wall, court – everything. The Lord told him to write it all down so that Israel and Judah would be ashamed of their sins and that they would be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. The temple and the surrounding area on top of the mountain will be most holy.

Finally, the last verse says that the name of the city from that time on will be, “the Lord is there.” All the measuring of the New Jerusalem is like the visions in Ezekiel – to show us where the Lord will be. He has designed this city and we are the workmen. As we seek to help others in their walk and to bring others to Christ, we are building on the foundation. We should always be looking back to the cornerstone to make sure we are doing it by the measurements He has laid out. When it is done (because he has designed it), He will be there.

Other Building Thoughts

Why would a wall be needed at all especially if the gates are never closed?

There are a few things that stand out as I read the description of the city. One is that it has a wall. Walls were originally used for protection. This wall of jasper shows God’s protection. He has built the city and has kept all of those who have come into a relationship with Him. 

What does the seeming extravagance of the building materials, gold and jewels bring to your mind?

The city is made of pure gold. The walls are made of jewels; the foundations are all different kinds of jewels and decorated with other kinds of jewels. Even the pearl gates are extravagant. This gives me the impression that the city is very luxurious.  

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Eph 1:7-8 NIV)

He has lavished His grace on us. Now it appears that He is also lavishing His material abundance on us. Even though this may be true, everything will be transparent. We will not have our minds or eyes on the riches. We will have them on Jesus. 

How will this wealth all around us affect us? 

Some may be attracted to Jesus by reading and wishing for these things to come. We even have hymns that sing about the streets of gold, but a person who wants to go to heaven because of the infinite wealth and luxury will most likely never make it inside the city. They have the wrong reason to go there.

The concept of infinite wealth points out that the city will be common. It is only valuable if it is scarce. Since it is everywhere, we won’t even notice. We will only be able to enjoy the luxury if we have achieved the same contentment as Paul had.  

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Phil 4:12 NASU)

When we are content, not with physical things, but with being who we are in Jesus, we will experience the true luxury of the New Jerusalem which will be our closeness to God Himself. 

What could the different jewels in the foundation symbolize? 

I noted that each of the twelve foundations is made of a different kind of jewel. This could point out that even though in heaven we will be all put together in one building, we will still be individuals. We will have an identity of our own. Jesus prayed for us that we might be one. Yet he asked that we would be one just as Jesus and the Father are one.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:20-21 KJV)

The mystery of the Trinity is the individuality and the oneness of God. The mystery of heaven is the same thing. How can we be one building, one temple, one bride, one with God and still be individuals? The twelve foundations that are distinct assure us that it is possible. 

How can it be that if we are the temple of God, that there is no temple in the New Jerusalem?

We have spent quite a bit of time talking about how we are the temple of God, now it says that there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, for the Lord God almighty and the Lamb are the temple. I think that this emphasizes that we will be one with God. In truth, the whole city is the temple of God. Just as God is in every believer through the Holy Spirit, so will God be in the New Jerusalem. Only then, there will not be anything to diminish His glory. Our sinful natures will no longer be there to try to take the glory from Him. 

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)  

It is clear that we are to worship Him in spirit and in truth. In the New Jerusalem, that is exactly what we will be doing. There will be nothing to get in the way. Everything being completely transparent, we will all have the same intimate access to the Father and the Lamb. It will be as if we are all individually worshiping alone and together at the same time. 

What do you think about when you see there is no need for sun or moon? 

Many speculate about this new order. Will there still be a physical universe? Will the New Jerusalem exist on an earth that is the only planet? Because of the beauty and variety that is in the current universe, we naturally expect the same in the new order. However nothing in Revelation suggests that there will or will not be anything else in the universe. 

Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13 KJV) 

Note that Peter clearly says we are waiting for new heavens, plural, and a new earth, singular. If he had used the singular for heaven then we might assume that this referred only to the spiritual heaven. Using the plural opens the door to understand that there will be physical heavens like there will be a physical earth.

However Revelation says it will not need a sun or moon and goes on to say there will be no night. It could be symbolic as much of the other descriptions are, but there is also a reality to the description. The reality is that when God is present in His undiminished glory, He is the source of all light. We know that Jesus is the light. He is the light of men. 

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:3-5 KJV)  

The bridge between physical reality and spiritual reality is Jesus. Jesus is the light that darkened men did not accept. Now there will no longer be any darkened men. All of us will be receiving the light from the Lamb and the Father. The physical can also be seen in the fact the gates never close because there will never be any night. The glory of the Lord will so outshine any sun or moon that we won’t know they are there. 

That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: (Eph 3:6 KJV)

Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Col 3:11 KJV)

If in Christ there is no longer any distinctions between us, then why does Revelation still talking about nations?  

They will walk by the light that comes from the glory of God in the New Jerusalem. Hal Lindsey had an interesting explanation. He said that all of the people that reside in the city will be believers who accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. This comes from the reference to the foundation being the apostles. The other residents are the faithful Jews who came to God in faith before Jesus came. That leaves all people like Enoch, Noah, Naaman the leper, and others who were neither Christian nor Jew but had faith in God. They do not reside in the city but have access to it.[2] That sounds like huge stretch to me.

The verses that we are reading right now say the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into the city. If they were never a part before, they certainly are now. Secondly, these are precisely the ones that we mentioned before who Jesus led captive to be in heaven with Him. If they are with Him now, why would there be any separation later even if it is only where they live? They too had to come by faith. It says that only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life can enter the city. They too must be written in the book and therefore be just as much a part of Jesus and the Father as we are. I don’t have a better explanation than Lindsey regarding the nations. However, the simplest explanation is that no one has been excluded from salvation and is welcome in the New Jerusalem.

Rev 21:27 is the reminder that those who belong to Him will be with Him. Those that belong to Him are pure, He has done it and all the glory will be given to Him. That is why the glory of the kings and nations will be brought into the city – to give it to God. All the others have been thrown into the lake of fire. Being part of the New Jerusalem or being in the lake of fire is mutually exclusive. There is no in-between ground.

All I can say is that I am in awe of what He has revealed about Himself and our future with Him. I hope you are as well and that it makes a difference in our lives now.

[1] The Greek word translated furlong is stadion, which simple means the length of a stadium’s racetrack. In Roman times it was 625 feet.
[2] Hal Lindsey, There’s A New World Coming  (Santa Ana: Vision House, 1973) page 290