In these chapters all the promises of God are finding their “YES” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). All the promise of Eden of eternal life, of the open presence of God, of shameless community, of nature and humanity at peace together and supporting each other. All the promises to Abraham to bless the nations of the fallen world through his descendants by bringing them back to God. All the promises of righteous and clean, whole and successful lives held out to God’s people in the law of Moses. All the promise of leadership, wealth, security and community given to King David and Jerusalem. All the promises of God to be our God and we his people. (Exodus 25:8, Lev 26:9-13, Ezk 37:27-28, Jer 31:33, John 1:14 & 10:16 …). [Audio | Notes]
For further thought
As earlier in this book the images are deliberately mixed because Jesus, in this Revelation to John, wants to describe what something means rather than what something looks like. This is why the coming of God’s kingdom is described as a new creation (an improved Eden), a bride and a city. Each of these images expands on important Old Testament themes: creation and the threat of Uncreation (Genesis), the establishment of God’s kingdom and, eventually, the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital city of the world (Exodus through to Isaiah), the wedding feast as an image of God’s love and longing for his people (Ezekiel, Song of Songs, Hosea, just to name a few).
What is happening in these chapters is that all the promises of God are finding their “YES” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). All the promise of Eden of eternal life, of the open presence of God, of shameless community, of nature and humanity at peace together and supporting each other. All the promises to Abraham to bless the nations of the fallen world through his descendants by bringing them back to God. All the promises of righteous and clean, whole and successful lives held out to God’s people in the law of Moses. All the promise of leadership, wealth, security and community given to King David and Jerusalem. All the promises of God to be our God and we his people. (Exodus 25:8, Lev 26:9-13, Ezk 37:27-28, Jer 31:33, John 1:14 & 10:16 …).
In chapter 21, the old creation is not thrown into the lake of fire but simply passes away.
Q: From your reading of Revelation so far – what is the significance of there being no sea in the new creation?
Q: Why does it take the presence of God with his people for healing to occur? (21:3,4; 22:2)
Q: Jesus often spoke of water as a metaphor for the Spirit of God (See, for example, John 3, 4 & 7:37-39). In these chapters there is an allusion to the waters that flowed out of Eden to water the earth (Genesis 2:10-14). What do the waters that flow from the New Jerusalem accomplish for the world? (21:6, 22:1)
The New Jerusalem is depicted as the capital city of the world with nations still living outside the city (see Isaiah 65).
Q: The kings of the nations were destroyed in chapter 19 (verse 21) but here are bringing their wealth into Jerusalem. What has happened to the kingdoms of the world?
Q: Is the wealth they bring a tribute, tax or gift?
Q: What is the significance of Jerusalem being made of precious jewels and metals and yet it is transparent and full of light – even its foundations, which are normally hidden, are seen?
The only other cube in the Bible is the Holy of Holies where the high priest went once a year to offer sacrifices for himself and for the people. The holy of holies and the holy place, which surrounded it, was paved in the purest gold.
Q: What is the significance of describing the New Jerusalem as a massive cube, paved with purest gold, yet with huge gates that are always open to the nations of the world?
Q: Why is there no temple in Jerusalem?
Aside: The best and worst of who we are
People concerned with Architecture, Art and the best of human achievement have looked to these chapters for ideas to inspire design.
Q: What ideas do these chapters give you for combining what God has made with the best of what humanity has made?
Q: What makes the luxuries of the harlot Babylon ugly compared to the translucent wealth of Jerusalem and how do we avoid the former?
No human hand makes this city and yet the best things we can create are brought to it to enrich it.
Q: What is the significance of the harmony between what is grown and what is built in the New Jerusalem? (Genesis 3:13-20).
The history of the human city is not a glorious one (Genesis 4:17, Genesis 11…) but in the new creation God has not ignored human achievement or idenity (e.g. different languages continue) but redeemed it.
Q: How may God redeem our work?
The judgement of people is described with various metaphors in these last four chapters of Revelation as: a lake of fire, the second death, not being found in the lamb’s book of life and being excluded from the city like an unclean animal. I think the most telling description, however, is found in 22:10-15.
Q: Is there an ongoing life for those who are judged?
Q: What are the marks of that life?
Q: Are those who have chosen judgement wanting to repent and enter the city?
Q: Why is the last word of this prophecy a call for the church now to worship and a warning not to alter or obscure the prophecy?
The church, God’s people, will be honoured by the nations of the world. Not marginalised or persecuted as we see currently. For a small church in the first century this vision of Jesus Christ given to John was immensely encouraging. To see this world as God sees it we need to know that the church is at the centre of his purposes for everything. That is why we can persist in patience (14:12) in a world marked with tragedy and rebellion against what is good for us.
Yet, even so, come Lord Jesus!
The Lamb and his Bride – Revelation 21 & 22 (talk outline)
When words fail us
There is encouragement and warning
About our future
For all the promises of God find their “YES” in Christ Jesus
While the vile continue to do what is vile
Even so; Come Lord Jesus.