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The New Jerusalem (ch. 21:1-27)


In verse 1 John sees “a new heaven and a new earth”.  You might remember in the last chapter that the earth fled away from the presence of God at the White Throne Judgement.  I believe at that time the old heaven and earth passed away, and new heaven and earth came into existence.  


We need to think about what the word "new" means here. Jesus, in Matthew 24:35 said that heaven and earth would pass away but His Word would never pass away.  This is not a recreated earth that existed during the thousand year rule of Christ.  This is a brand new earth, and, it looks very different from the earth we now see. 


This text also speaks of the new heaven.  There is debate over what heaven is being talked about here.  There are three heavens mentioned in the Bible.  The first heaven is the sky around us.  The second heaven is the universe.  The third heaven, as the Apostle Paul put it, is where God's immediate presence is.   It's the spiritual realm that exists in another dimension around us.  The debate is over just what heaven is made new here.  I'm not sure I can end this debate.  We already know that satan and his demonic force have been kicked out of the third heaven.  At the moment, I believe the heaven spoken of here is the place where God's immediate presence resides.  That being said, I would not be surprised if the word "heaven" here refers to all three of the above named heavens. 


The Greek word "ouranos" is translated as heaven here as it is in other places in the New Testament.  This Greek word simply means "air".  When applied to the third heaven, I guess that would mean "spiritual air".  When applied to earth it obviously means the sky and beyond.         


The Greek word "kainos" is translated as "new" in verse 1.  This word stresses the idea of something being new in quality, not necessarily something totally brand new.  For this reason, many Futurists believe the new earth is a new recreated earth.  I understand their point, and they may be right.  Still, if we believe this new earth is a recreated earth, we have to understand what is meant in the last chapter when it states that the old earth fled away.   


Another thing you might want to consider is that there is a new heaven.  As I've already stated, you can take this in two ways.  Either there is a new universe or there is a new dwelling place of God we call heaven.  One thing we need to consider is that the dwelling place of God will be in the New Jerusalem, not in heaven.  Who will live in heaven might be debatable.  Maybe it's the home of the angels.  So, this is just another piece of the puzzle in attempting to try to figure things out.


Also in verse 1 we see that this new earth does not have any sea.  It is said that the Old Testament Jews did not view the sea as being some kind of thing of beauty.  Rather, they viewed the sea as a place of storms and death.  The Jews were not a nation that loved or even made use of the sea.  Gentile nations built ships to sail the seas but not the Jews. They may have fished in boats on lakes and rivers, but for the most part, they stayed away from the sea.  This began to change as time went on.  Obviously the Apostle Paul sailed the Mediterranean Sea as he preached the gospel in all of the known world back then.   

Those who love the sea might be disappointed to know that there will not be any sea.  I'd suggest that there will be no such disappointment for anyone who exists on the new earth.  Why there won't be any sea is questionable.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that water was used as a form of judgment in Noah's days.  It is quite possible that there were no such things as seas prior to the flood.  The seas and oceans could have easily come about from the upward explosion of water from beneath the earth's crust in the days of the flood.   


In verse 2 John saw the New Jerusalem come down out of heaven from God as a bride.  Whether this heaven is the place of God's existence or the sky above is again debatable.  In reality, I believe it's both.   John saw the city in the sky and he realized it was from where God is.


John says that he saw the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, prepared as a bride for her husband.  Because of the word bride many Prophetic Futurists believe that this city is not a real city but is symbolic of the bride of Christ.  I believe it is a literal city. 

To date we’ve taken the thousand years, and many other things to be literal and not symbolic in Revelation.  So,to continue in this thinking and to be consistent, I believe this is a real city.


The NIV says that the city was prepared as a bride.  Other versions say things like the city was like a bride.  This verse could easily be understood that the city was prepared for the bride.  It's not that the city was the bride.


We should then ask; "Who is the bride?"  I believe the majority of Prophetic Futurists, and even non-Prophetic Futurists, believe that the bride is the church, saved Christians, from the age of grace, otherwise known as the church age.  The problem with this is that no where in the Bible does it state that the church is the Bride of Christ.  Some point to Ephesians 5:22 and following to say that Paul called the church the Bride of Christ, but that's not so.  If you study that text closely Paul calls the church the Body of Christ, not the Bride of Christ.


At the moment I see the bride in this chapter to be saved Jews.  Hebrews 11:10 and 16 speaks of a heavenly city for the Old Testament Jewish saints to live in at some future point.  I believe this city here in Revelation has been built for these Old Testament Jewish saints, and, possibly the Jews that are saved at the end of the tribulation.  At the moment, I'm a bit fuzzy in my thinking concerning whether these Jews are just Old Testament Jews, as some believe, or, they're Newt Testament saved Jews.  Whatever the case, I do believe the New Jerusalem will house Jews.        


We will see that God provides much detail about the New Jerusalem.  Such detail in my opinion tells me that it is a literal city which I believe replaced the present city of Jerusalem, although as we will see it's much larger in territory, and looks nothing like a city that exists today.  


Verse 4 tells us that “now the dwelling place of God is with men”.  The New Jerusalem is not only the place where God's people live but it is the place where God Himself will live.  His desire has alwasy been to live among man and that He will some day do. 


Note the word "men" here in verse 4.  We're talking all mankind who have been saved by the blood of Jesus.  We're not just talking about Jews here.  Although the New Jerusalem is where Jews will live, the rest of the new earth is inhabited by Gentile saints, or so I believe at the4 moment.  


I think we should clarify at this point the distinction between God and Jesus.  On numerous occasions throughout the book of Revelation we see Jesus as the Lamb of God.  God mentioned here isn't Jesus.   It's not God in the person of Jesus we're talking about here.  It's God Himself.  It's the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God's presence will no longer be in the heavenly spiritual realm.  His presence will be on earth.  

The question can be asked.  Will we see God at this time?  1 John 4:14 clearly states that no man has ever seen God at any time.  This is probably so because God is spirit and man is physical.  We cannot see into the spirit with our physical eyes.  Even in Old Testament times, no one saw God.  Moses met with God but he only saw God's glory, not God Himself.  I can't say if we will ever see God.  Maybe in the next life we will be able to see Him.  I do know that we will see Jesus and He is the express and exact image of God.    


In verse 4 we see that there will be no more death, no more crying or pain, because the old order of things, or, first things, as the Greek seems to imply, has passed away.  Living on the new earth will be like something we’ve never experienced before.   At this point I'd like to point out the difference between heaven and the new earth.  Upon death the believer goes immediately to heaven.  However, the believer will not spend eternity in heaven.  The believer spends eternity on the new earth.      


One question is often asked about how can there be no crying on the new earth?  What if our loved-ones aren't there with us?  Won't that make us sad?  Wouldn't that make us cry?  It would make me exceedingly sad if my two boys weren't in this paradise but in the Lake of Fire instead.  So why won't I be sad then?  Verse 4 gives us the reason.  It states that we will not cry because the "old order of things will have passed away."   Apparently, our past life and its memories will pass away with the old heaven and earth


Another passage that answers this question is found in Isaiah 65:17.  Isaiah states that in the era of the new heaven and new earth we will not remember anything of this life.  This life will not come to our mind.  We may not have any recollection of any children, especially if they are in the Lake of Fire , that is, if I understand this verse correctly.  With this in mind, I believe raising children for Jesus is very important. We're not raising children for ourselves.  We're raising them so they will be with Jesus in the era of the new earth.  When it comes right down to it, children are given us to care for on behalf of the One who gives breath to all mankind.                     


In verse 5 John must have been so overwhelmed again that God Himself had to tell him to keep writing what he saw.  God told John again, that He will make all things new.  Everything will be made new at this point of time.  Nothing of the past will remain onto the new earth.      


God tells John that He is making all things new.  All things mean all things, not some things.  He is making all things new.  He is not recreating, or fixing up, the old.  The new heaven and earth will be totally new.  It will probably be way beyond our present imagination.  It may have absolutely no resemblance of what we know of earth today.                  


I believe it is important to notice here that it is God Himself who is speaking to John.  It's not an angel.  I can't begin to imagine just how John must have felt at this moment.  All that he had seen in these visions was way beyond his comprehension and now he hears from God Himself.  


In verse 6 God says that “it is done”.  We’ve seen these words before.  We’ve seen them on the cross and at the end of the Great Tribulation, and now we see these words in reference to God replacing the old with the new. God continues to say that for those who thirsty will drink from the water of life.  I believe in context that this is not talking about the Holy Spirit's quenching our thirst now.  Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 about living water.  In once sense of the word, the Holy Spirit is the answer for those who are spiritually thirsty, but in context here. The ultimate quenching of our spiritual thirst will be quenched in the era of the new earth.  This water might well be from the river of life that flows from the New Jerusalem.  If this is not the case, it is surely that spiritual water that comes from the presence of God.  I believe this is the ultimate fulfillment of the living water that Jesus told the woman at the well she could have to drink. 


In verse 7 God says that he who overcomes, that is, those who don’t lay aside their faith in times of trouble, will receive all that John sees.  The believer has ample opportunity to lay aside his faith in this life.  The Apostle Peter in his first letter speaks of our faith being tested.  If we pass the test, our trust in Jesus is strengthened.  That being said, a test is a test and one can fail the test.  If we overcome, there are rewards waiting for us. 


As I've said before, I believe the book of Revelation is specifically addressed to and about Jews, especially Jews living during the time of the tribulation.  We've seen the word "overcome" in the seven letters of chapters two and three.  I therefore suggest that the specific ones to overcome here might be Jews living during the tribulation period.   


In verse 8 we see a list of people who will not inherit all of this new life.  Those who are cowardly, unbelieving, vile, murders, sexually immoral, liars, idolaters, those involved in witchcraft, and so on will not see these things.  One thing we need to note here is the reason why these people will not see the new life.  The reason is not because they are liars, murders, and so on. They miss out on the next life because they are unbelievers.  What really sends people to the Lake of Fire is there unbelief.  They did not trust Jesus.  A murderer does not go to the Lake of Fire because he killed people.  He goes to the Lake of Fire because he refused to give his life to Jesus.  It's because he did not give his life to Jesus that he became a murderer.  That’s why the murderer will not be found in the New Jerusalem.  After being judged as an unbeliever, then these sinners will be judged to how severe their punishment will be.  This depends on what sins they have committed and how evil they were.  Hitler will be punished with greater severity than your non-believing neighbour.       


We need to note here that even though these people are sent to eternal damnation because of their unbelief, at this point, at the White Throne Judgment, they're judged according to their works, and in this case, their bad works.  My point is simple.  If you don't give yourself to God's grace, you will be judged according to your works.  Judgment is either by faith or by works.  It's our choice.  You really don't want to be judged by your works.    


In verses 9 and 10 one of the seven angels that participated in the seven bowl judgements took John to a high mountain and showed him the Bride of Christ, which as we saw earlier is the New Jerusalem.  Once again, because of this analogy the city being a bride in this verse, many believe the city is not a literal city.  Again, I believe it to be a literal city.  I also believe it to be the Bride because the Bride lives in the city.  


If the city in this verse is a literal city, then I suggest that 
the mountain is a literal mountain.  This would mean that there are mountains on the new earth.


In verse 11 we are told of the glory of this holy city.  It glittered like precious stones.  I won't go into detail concerning the stones mentioned in these verses.  Some commentators go into great length over these stones.  Suffice it to say, the picture Revelation gives of the city is that it is very luxurious.   


In verse 12 we see that this city had very high walls around it with twelve gates.  Why this city had to have a wall is a question to me that I’ve not found an answer to.  Also, why did twelve angels have to stand at these gates as if they were keeping watch?  I suppose we could speculate.  The text doesn't explain the reason for what we see. That being said, in heaven right now, God has angels standing around Him and the throne, as we've seen throughout the book of Revelation.  


We note that each side of this city had three gates each and on each gate was written one of the twelve tribes of Israel .  This is significant because even in this New Jerusalem we see that Israel has a place.  They have a prominent place in this city.  We also note that this city has twelve foundations and on each foundation we see the name of one of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. 


Some people might suggest that since the twelve apostles' names are written on the foundation of the New Jerusalem this suggests that Gentile Christian live in the city.  They would suggest this because they believe the twelve apostles represent the church.  I can certainly understand that, but remember, the twelve apostles were Jews, not Gentiles.  Just because their names are written on the foundation doesn't mean that Gentiles will reside in the city.    


One question that is often asked is; “Who is the twelfth apostle”?  Is it Matthias who was chosen via a lottery, or might it be the Apostle Paul?  I don’t believe Paul was the 12th apostle that took Judas' place.  I believe he was an apostle set apart from the rest.  In 1 Corinthians 15:8 Paul said that he was abnormally born, or so he NIV puts it.  The KJV says that he was born out of season.  I believe he was born abnormally, as seen in Acts 9, because his calling was different from the Twelve.  Paul, more than any other apostle, even more than Jesus Himself has defined the gospel and the Christian teaching for us.  I always say, if Paul got it wrong, then Christians are in one big mess.     

We should also note the importance of these twelve Apostles of the Lamb.  I do believe there are apostles today.  I believe we can find other apostles in the New Testament, other than these twelve, but these twelve and Paul are special.  They are on a higher level of authority than any other apostle that followed them. Any apostles that came after these twelve must teach and preach that which these original twelve taught and preached.  There are some that suggest that all apostles throughout history have their own particular gospel to preach, but this is not New Testament thinking.  All other apostles are secondary apostles and must teach what is clearly stated in the Bible.  The proof that they are special is that their names are written on the foundations of the New Jerusalem.


Verses 15 through 21 describe this city.  In our terms today, the city is about 1400 to 1500 miles long, wide, and tall.  It's cube shape.  This is roughly the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River.  The walls were about 200 feet thick.   It’s hard to understand a city looking like such a large cube with such think walls, but this is the way it is described.         


We should note the Greek word "plateia" that is translated as "street" in most English texts.  The basic meaning of this Greek word is broad. Therefore, the NIV translated it as street, or, broad street.  That being said, "plateia" can also be understood as a city square or a market place where people come to gather.  I choose to see this more as a city square than a street.  I don't think that New Jerusalem only has one street as our English texts seems to imply.       


Because of the way the New Jerusalem is described here some suggest that it is symbolic, but I don't believe that to be the case.  As I've said before, we should understand that at this stage in the vision God has created a brand new heaven and earth.  There is no text stating that the new earth should resemble the old earth.  The new earth could well have no resemblance to what we know today.  It's my thinking that there will be some things that are similar, but there will also be many things that are totally unheard of or unseen today.  The mountain we saw a few verses back would be something that is the same.  The New Jerusalem would be something that is now unheard of and unseen.  


During the thousand year rule of Christ on earth there is a temple in Jerusalem as seen in Ezekiel 40 through 48, but in the New Jerusalem, as verse 22 states, there is no need for a temple because we will be in the immediate presence of God.


In verse 23 we note that there is no sun or moon in the New Jerusalem because the glory of God and the glory of the Lamb shed light for the city’s residence.  This would be a radiance that we have never experienced before. This would be one of those things that are presently unheard of and unseen today.


Note here that there is the glory of God and also the glory of the Lamb, that is, Jesus.  God the Father and Jesus, although being eternally one but yet distinctively different in eternity past, is now less distinctive as being one.  That is to say, since the incarnation of Jesus on earth, Jesus has totally changed His existence just for us. He is not what He was prior to His incarnation.  Then, since the cross, one step farther has taken place in this change of His existence.  We will see the nail prints in His hands and in His side.  My point to this is simple.  Jesus is still Jesus, but His existence now and into the future is not what it once was.  


Verse 24 is very interesting and very hard to interpret.  It says that the nations of the world will walk by the light of the New Jerusalem.  Also, the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into the New Jerusalem.  Remember, the New Jerusalem has come down from heaven and plopped itself down on the new earth, and I believe right smack dab in what we now know as the Middle East .  This means that the rest of the earth is inhabited by people.  The question thus arises, “who lives in the rest of the earth”?  Who are the nations and the kings that come to the New Jerusalem?


Some suggest that there are left over people from the thousand years, but this can’t be so because nobody was left after the White Throne Judgment.   Only the redeemed will live on the new earth.  These nations have to consist of believers.  We do know that Christians will be rewarded for their works done by faith.  Paul speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 3.  Maybe part of these rewards is where we will live on the new earth.  


Some suggest that because the word “nations” in the Old Testament often refers to the Gentile nations that the nations and the kings that bring their splendor to the New Jerusalem are Gentile Christians and that the New Jerusalem is inhabited by Jewish Christians.  This is my position on this matter at the present.  Gentiles inhabit the nations and Jews inhabit the New Jerusalem.


In verses 25 through 27 we note that the gates to this city will never be shut because there won’t be any such thing as a night.  Gates are normally shut at night. 


This chapter ends with us knowing that nothing evil or wicked will enter the New Jerusalem. The reason for this is because all evil has been cast into the Lake  of  Fire.  There is no such thing as wickedness or evil on the new earth. 


This chapter ends with the statement that only those whose names
are written in the Book of Life will live in this city.  I suggest that
 even though Jews will live in the New Jerusalem, Gentiles can come to 
visit and worship.  Zechariah 14 tells us that during the thousand year rule of Christ on earth, the nations will come to worship in Jerusalem once a year.  This, or something similar, may be the case on the new earth. 


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