THE DESCRIPTION OF THE NEW JERUSALEM
THE “GAUDY CITY”:
I heard a comment some years ago that was directed toward Revelation 21-22. It was one of those “drive-by shooting” kind of remarks that are brief, harsh, and tend to make one either defensive or to reinforce one’s own thoughts. The comment was simply: “The Gaudy City.” It takes aim at the description of the New Jerusalem, which uses jewels and precious metals in abundance. Is this, somehow, “unspiritual”? Is it way over the top? What is this description trying to convey?
We might notice the wording that is connected to all this “conspicuous consumption.” (“Conspicuous consumption” was a term coined by Thorstein Veblen to refer to how people consume in order to be seen and to achieve higher social status.)
· The city has “the glory of God” (21:11): “Glory” is a difficult term to define. We use it for “fame” or “achievement.” In Scripture, it sometimes refers to the presence of God. See Exodus 40:34-35, where the “glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” It seemed to be some sort of visible manifestation, and this probably is what is meant in Revelation 21:11. See also 21:23-24: the glory gives light to the city and to the whole world. The extravagant decoration expresses the beauty of the glory of God. But, not only is the visible manifestation implied, but also the “glory” of God in the sense of his great achievements and utter worthiness of all praise, honor, and glory. See, for examples, Revelation 4:11 and 5:9-10.
· “The Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (21:2, 9): The city is a representation of the people of God (as I have discussed in a previous post). The extravagant decoration is the beauty of the people of God, the bride of Christ who is adorned for her marriage.
· The city is of fabulous wealth and extravagant decoration in a way that out-does the other city, Babylon (see chapter 17).
THE PLACE OF WORSHIP AND BANISHMENT OF EVIL:
The city contrasts with the original Jerusalem in that it does not have a temple, “for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” (21:22) It is the center of worship for the world, and kings come there to “bring into it the glory and honor of the nations.” (21:26)
The description of the city includes a reminder that all evil has been banished. The Great White Throne Judgment (20:11-15) has condemned evildoers to the Lake of Fire (21:8), and evildoers cannot enter the city, but “only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (21:27)
THE POWER OF REDEMPTION:
In three cases, we are reminded of redemption from evil:
· In contrast to the one who conquers and who receives an inheritance (21:7), the evildoers will experience the Lake of Fire (21:8).
· The kings will bring the “glory and the honor of the nations” to the city. (21:26) Thus they acknowledge that all glory and honor belong to God. Whatever glory and honor are in the nations have come to them as a gift of God. In contrast to glory and honor are the “unclean” and the “detestable” and “false” and the people who do such things. They cannot enter the city (21:27). Those who enter it have their names “written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
· That which is “accursed” is also banned from the city, for it is the place of the “throne of God and of the Lamb,” and the city is a place of worship (22:3).
In chapter 22, the picture of what we commonly refer to as “eternity” turns from details of the city to reminders of the power of redemption. Jesus had promised living water to the woman at the well (John 4:14) and to all who come to him in John 7:38. In 21:6, the living water comes from a spring and is a free gift of God’s love and grace. Now, in 22:1-2 the “water of life” is a river that flows “from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” This reflects the abundance of life from God. (See Ezekiel 47.) Moreover, the tree of life, which was the source of food that sustains in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9, 16-17), is present in the city (22:2). It is described as being “on either side of the river.” I take that to mean that the singular “tree” stands for a whole species of tree that is found in abundance along the banks of the river of life. The tree supplies leaves that are for the “healing of the nations.” (22:2) Since the condition of people is that they no longer will die nor experience pain (21:4), I take it that “healing” is equivalent to “health” in this case.
THE NEW CREATION:
I take it that the city is the focal point of the new creation. The new creation is implied by the wording: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…” (21:1)
Although there are “the nations,” which we can imagine to be throughout the earth, the nations are in close functional relationship to the city. Their kings come to the city to bring the glory of the nations and then return to their homelands (presumedly). Moreover, the nations throughout the earth experience the light of the city (21:24, 26).
The “new creation” will be everywhere evident in the new heaven and new earth, but God’s work of creating new things has already begun. Paul uses the term in Galatians 6:15 to state the new situation of those who are in Christ, whether they are Jew or Gentile: “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (emphasis added) In II Corinthians 5:16-17, Paul also announces the new creation as the basis for relationships between people. Even if, he says, he regarded Christ according to the flesh (that is in human categories of nationality, social status, etc.), he no longer will think of Christ in the categories defined by society. The basis of this new approach to all persons is that: “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (emphasis added)
THE ANTICIPATION OF THE NEW CREATION IN EARLY CHAPTERS:
One of the glorious features of Revelation is the repetition and references to its own material. In the early parts of the book, we find a number of references to the latter parts of the book. The following are ones that I found quickly. The reader may find additional examples:
· 1:8 uses the expression “the Alpha and the Omega,” which is also used in 21:6. (See my later comment of 22:13.)
· 2:7 refers to the “tree of life,” which is described in 22:2. This is the first of several uses of references to later portions of the book in the rewards to the conquerors (overcomers) in chapters 2 and 3.
· Although it is not a part of 21-22, the “Second Death” is an important concept in the end of the book. It is mentioned in 20:14 and referred to in 2:11 as NOT the fate of the conqueror.
· In 20:15 and 21:27, the “saved” are listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. A place in that Book is assured to the conqueror in 3:5.
· The New Jerusalem is referred to in 21:1 and 21:10. In 3:12, it is also listed as a name that will be written on the conqueror.
· The throne “of God and the Lamb” is an important feature of the New Jerusalem that is mentioned in 22:1 and 22:3. In 3:21 the conqueror is promised that he will sit with the Lord on his throne.
THE JOY OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD
In 22:3-5, the close relationship between those who serve God and the Lord they serve is described. The removal of all cursed things means that there can be intimate communion of the servants with God and the Lamb (22:3). These servants will “see his face.” No longer is the walk “by faith,” but now it is “face-to-face” (see II Corinthians 5:7 and I Corinthians 13:12). The servants dwell with God (see Revelation 21:3) and they see his face (Revelation 22:4).
And the long night will be over. (Revelation 22:5) Even the Christian at times feels as though he is groping around, trying to find his way. He or she has the Bible, the revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth, the witness of the Spirit, and, yet, there is a struggle in this walk of faith. But then the “Lord God will be their light…” (22:5)
Revelation 22:5 concludes the magnificent history that began “In the beginning” in Genesis 1:1. There remains some concluding remarks, that I call “The Final Words.” I shall discuss those in my last post on the book of Revelation. My first post on this book was issued December 26, 2013. It has taken me a long time and a lot of study, but I do not consider that I have in any way come to understand this book. I appreciate all of those who have read some or all of my posts. God bless you.
I shall give you a “sneak preview” of my next project for this website. I am planning a book to be titled “The Second Coming of Jesus Christ.” I shall be working on it through the medium of this website (or “blog,” as I call it). I admit that I am a little intimidated by this project. I request that you all pray for me as I work on it.
As I have stated, I shall publish one more post on Revelation.