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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 21


Chapter 21

1. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

2. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

4. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6. And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

7. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

8. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The New Jerusalem

In Genesis 1:2, the verb that describes the action of the Holy Spirit at the dawn of creation is moved in a number of major versions of the Bible, such as the KJV: "The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Moved suggests an extremely broad action to a Hebrew word, which should be much more specific. The first definition for that word in the Strong’s Hebrew dictionary states: A primitive root; to brood. It is the same verb used in Deuteronomy 32:11, where it is usually translated flutters… “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young…”

If the Holy Spirit is seen brooding over creation, it adds passion to His movements. Then, when the trinity communes in Genesis 1:26 and states, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” we see man’s creation, not only as the main event in creation, but an uncovering of the heart of the Creator. The entire biblical revelation of the purpose of the existence of mankind is that of a being, who is capable of having intimate communion with God. I will not yield to the temptation to go into details that will clearly prove the point, but will simply declare it to be fact, hoping for your acquiescence. When we are talking of creation, we are specifically speaking of the creation of man, male and female, and the rest of the work was to provide an ideal ambiance for his existence.  

In John 14, verses 2 and 3 (AMP version), Jesus speaks to His beloved disciples: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places (homes). If it were not so, I would have told you; for I am going away to prepare a place for you. And when I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” In John 17:24, He pours his heart out to His Father: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me…” And now, as we draw near the end of the New Testament, John the beloved disciple sees, “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (2). This is the perfect, eternal ambiance for His followers. He told them that He would prepare a place and here it is, prepared as a bride. It fits their new nature like a glove.

John was not the first one to see this city; it was revealed to Abraham already in Genesis. It spoiled him for anything that was earthly. “He went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (He.11:9,10). For this reason, Abraham put nothing more than tent stakes into the earth and never laid a foundation. His earthly life was a sojourn, meaning a pilgrimage. The apostle Paul instructed the Colossians, concerning this principle of the Christian life: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth… When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col.3:2,4). He assured the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Php.3:20) and he taught the Galatians that the heavenly Jerusalem was the Christians’ mother city (Gal.4:26). It is where their “new-birth certificates” are registered and where they hold citizenship.

In the last chapter, we saw that the old earth and sky disappeared at the time of the Great White Throne Judgment (20:11; Is.66:15-16). Isaiah, in his last two chapters, prophesied of a new heaven and earth (1, Is.65:17-19; 66:22). He also prophesied that, when God descended to earth and took on flesh, “they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (Mt.1:23 from Is.7:14). The chief feature of eternity is the union of God with mankind: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (3)… “and I will be his God and he will be my son” (7).  

There are no cemeteries in the New Jerusalem. Death is abolished and every tear is dried; pain, physical or emotional, exists no more (4). “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps.16:11). In the parable of the talents, the master of the faithful servants told them, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Mt.25:21,23).

He who sits on the throne is the beginning and the end, and Alpha and Omega refers to the construction of language: It is the ‘a’ and ‘z’ of the Greek alphabet. Because he is the Alpha and Omega, His word is final, and John is told to write it down (5). Because He gave that command, we have it available to us and we are the beneficiaries of its promise. In verse 6, He said, “It is done!” From the cross, Jesus cried, “It is finished!” and it meant that His work for the redemption of mankind was complete and perfect. Nothing could be added and now, with the construction of the New Jerusalem, God’s plan for the eternal state of the redeemed is finished.

God pauses in the middle of the revelation to offer salvation “from the spring of the water of life without payment” to any thirsty soul, to whom this word may come. To the conqueror, He promises that this is his heritage; it is not a goal, but a destiny. Be sure that you do not think of it as something, which must be attained. He declares it a free gift and His word seals it.

Should anyone be tempted to interpret grace as something short of holiness, the New Testament, more than once, exposes that error. The apostle Paul is aware of this deception, so he warns, “You may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph.5:5,6). Here it is again in the letter to the Corinthians: “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Co.6:9,10). He gives the Galatians a similar list and ends it by saying, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal.5:21) God gives a final warning interjected between all the glories and wonders of the New Jerusalem (8).

9. Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

10. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,

11. having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

12. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed-

13. on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.

14. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15. And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.

16. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal.

17. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement.

18. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.

19. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald,

20. the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

21. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

23. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

24. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,

25. and its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there.

26. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

27. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

An unimaginable description

Warren Wiersbe comments, “The eternal city is not only the home of the bride; it is the bride! A city is not buildings; it is people. The city John saw was holy and heavenly; in fact, it descended to earth from heaven, where it was prepared… Heaven is a real place of glory and beauty, the perfect home for the Lamb’s bride.” The city is defined by its inhabitants. I remember at the end of a camp in Romania, I was standing on the grounds with the director, looking at the buildings. He said sadly, “The young people are gone; there is nothing left and the buildings are meaningless.”  I also felt the loss. The heavenly city’s inhabitants are the Bride of the Lamb. The description is filled with meaning and glory.

I would like to quote from The Christ of the Apocalypse, concerning the capital city of the new earth, the New Jerusalem (9,10): “In it, the Old and New Testament come together; Jews and Gentiles are made one. The gates name the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve foundation stones bear the names of the twelve apostles” (12,14). Here is where I begin to “lose it”; I mean, my imagination is not big enough to capture what John is describing. The radiance, the wall, the gates and the jewels are well beyond my comprehension.

We even get the measurements and I believe that they are literal. It is cubic, because it is of equal length, width and height, but it could also be a pyramid. A friend, who taught me much about the book of Revelation, imagined that it might be an extremely high mountain with dwelling places from top to bottom, all with riverfront properties! The city is 1,500 miles square… and 1,500 miles high! The walls are 216 feet high. Remember, this is just the capital city of the new heavens and the new earth (15-17).

In contrast to the tents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, this city has twelve foundations and twelve gates, three gates facing in each direction. Each gate has an angelic guard (12-13). Wiersbe again comments concerning the 12 foundations: “Building foundations are usually underground, but these foundations will not only be visible but beautifully garnished with precious stones. Each separate foundation will have its own jewel, and the blending of the colors will be magnificent as God’s light shines through. Our God is a God of beauty, and He will lavish His beauty on the city He is preparing for His people (19-20). Each gate is a pearl and the pearly gates will never close (21,25). The Holy Spirit has His unique way of describing the fact: “Its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there.”

 The walls are jasper (clear crystal), but the city is pure gold (18), as are its streets. There is no temple there and I quote again from The Christ of the Apocalypse: The Lamb is at home in this city. He wanted to take his disciples away with him to a city, built to suit Him perfectly. He is its Architect. Every nook and corner was designed according to His specifications. There is joy, peace and love beaming from every wall.

In the city of jewels, pearls, crystal and gold, there is no temple. He, who turned the seashore into a chapel and the hillsides of Galilee into cathedrals attending thousands, needs no monument to make New Jerusalem into a city of worship. His presence suffices (21). “The Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands” (Ac.7:48).

Jesus had no fixed place to lay His head. From Bethlehem to Golgotha, there was no room for Him. His kingdom came not with observation and was not of this world. In His earthly ministry, He established no headquarters. Peter’s house, hillsides, desert places and Solomon’s porch were adequate for His meetings. Neither did His disciples see the need to initiate a building project. The only place He set down roots was in the hearts of men.

It took some time before Christians began to build temples, later to be called ‘churches’. As Christianity decayed, they became more ostentatious. Slave labor and money taken from the poor built many. Today, massive programs continue to be launched, entailing millions of dollars.

There is no temple in New Jerusalem because the presence of God and the Lamb render one totally unnecessary. When Christ is real, symbols tend to disappear. Christianity is never strong because steeples reach to the sky, but only when the manifest presence of God fills towns and countryside with glory. It is not difficult for God-hungry Christians to become nostalgic about the Methodists’ crude camp meetings, a simple schoolhouse ringing with Finney’s sermons or the secret meetings of believers in China.

The beautiful sights are not the main attractions in heaven. The reunion of loved ones, wonderful as that will be, is not what draws us upward. Our great, eternal future is to be spent with Jesus. He will come for us and take us to be with Him forever. He is all we need. Immanuel – Jesus, the Temple of heaven, manifest in our lives and congregations as we seek to serve Him on earth.

The New Jerusalem becomes the holy of holies with the glory of God shining throughout. There is no need for sun and moon: “The glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (23). The light from the city will shine out upon the nations (24). There will be nations upon the new earth with eternal, glorious kings. The nations themselves will be glorious and honorable with no uncleanness (25-27). There will be no falseness or deception forever and the entire population with be citizens, whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

One further comment, which is not of great importance, although I think it is important to know that the sovereign God never does anything in vain, nor is anything ultimately perishable. I mean, He loses nothing that He undertakes to do. Though the elements melt with fervent heat, when God destroys the old heaven and earth, the new heaven and earth will be a transformation or regeneration (Mt.19:28). Even our bodies, created in Adam and Eve, will never cease to exist. They will be resurrected and transformed. The unstable sea, which occupies roughly two-thirds of our present planet, with its tides and waves, will no longer exist, but there will be water. In the last chapter of the Bible, we will learn about a garden with a wonderful river and trees bearing twelve kinds of fruit.


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