Revelation 21:10,22-22:5 gives us a vision of the New Jerusalem, especially the heart of the Celestial City. We have a chance to explore its origin, appearance, exterior, dimensions, materials, characteristics, brilliance and blessings. The entire city will be a holy temple where God and the Lamb dwell, and whose inhabitants will be priests who serve God. The Celestial City will descend from heaven when Christ returns.
John also gives us a vision of the centre of the city. The most striking fact is that there is no temple. That’s because Christ will be the temple. There’s no need for a special building set aside for worship. God and Jesus will be the centre of worship.
We sometimes think our efforts bring about the Kingdom, but we must remember that the Kingdom and its fulfillment belong to God. God’s final fulfillment in Revelation fluctuates between exclusion and inclusion. One can read that in the end nearly everyone will be saved or only Christians will be saved. Current thinking emphasizes exclusion, but the New Jerusalem is a welcoming city, not a gated community. Even foreigners are invited to enter. In our time, when nations and neighbourhoods try to secure themselves against outsiders, the church can claim Revelation’s true vision of openness and welcome for the whole world.
God’s plan in choosing a people for himself is to bring everyone into the embrace of His love and His life. That plan includes the mission to carry the good news of God’s love to all nations. God is a God of embrace, not exclusion. We as God’s people can’t isolate ourselves from people whom we see as different by making the lines between us more rigid. We must recognize that every human being is a beloved child of God.
In the new creation, sin’s corruption will be eradicated. God’s light will displace the darkness of sin. God’s shining presence will drive out sin. Everyone will enter God’s presence without hindrance or hesitation. Everyone will have complete access to the tree of life. There will be no more disease or death.
Entry into the New Jerusalem is by God’s grace. It is a reminder that, by God’s grace, those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will live in the New Jerusalem. God will remove all uncleanness from us. God will provide healing for the nations, healing from the idolatry and falsehood that has infected us. God’s drawing of the kings and nations to Himself is no threat; the uncleanness that led to oppression, violence and evil will stay removed forever.
According to Ephesians (and other books of the Bible) we are marked with the sign of the Holy Spirit. The sign reflects baptism. The seal or sign is a promise, and in Revelation 21:4 we have the fulfillment of this promise. We see Jesus and bear His name. The books of Exodus and John reflect the idea that one can’t see God and live, but in the New Jerusalem, we will live in the very presence of God.
Believers will serve God in heaven. Exactly what they will do isn’t known, but they will use their God-given talents. Whatever we do will be far better than all we can imagine, to the praise and glory of His name.
In recent years society has become increasingly aware of the crises concerning the environment. Scholars have encouraged us to read the Bible in light of the problems in our environment. The vision of the new heaven and the new earth is fascinating when we consider the current state of the environment. Many people who read Revelation as a literal script for the end of the world use the new heaven and the new earth as an excuse not to care for the environment. While it is true that God will make all things new, that does not give us an excuse to abuse the environment. Until the new heaven and the new earth are created, we have to come together to take care of our current, earthly home.
The new creation will be a return to the Garden of Eden, paradise regained. The original order will be restored, with the redeemed ruling over all creation with Christ. The tree of life and the pure river-once guarded by the cherubim with the flaming sword at the Garden of Eden-reappear to beckon the weary pilgrims of the Lord to their future inheritance.
Jesus and God will be in every part of their earthly temple. They will be adored in all places. Earthly rulers will lay down their earthly treasures at Jesus’ feet. We will be allowed to visit every part of God’s realm and see His wonderous works.
There will no darkness of any kind-no disasters, no sorrow, no bereavement. Christians will live forever. They will gain knowledge about everything in God’s realm, and they will know everything about God. There will be nothing but peace and happiness. We will be able to enjoy the tree of life-the one tree Adam and Eve were forbidden to touch in the Garden of Eden. That tree will constantly produce fruit. It will grow everywhere. People who partake of that tree will be blessed with long life and good health. Our heavenly home will be pure and happy. There won’t be any place for sin. There will be no divisions or exclusions because of race or politics.
The same angel who has been speaking about the new creation assures John that these things will happen because the lord God guaranteed both the words and the events foretold by the holy prophets. The phrase, “which must shortly take place,” indicates that both the book and time itself are nearing their conclusion.
Revelation’s vision of God’s life-giving watershed in the centre of our cities renews hope for the future. We need the New Jerusalem. We need the tree of life and the healing of nations. The glimpses of a renewed earth that we see in Revelation can inspire and motivate us. Through each of our cities there is a river flowing from God’s heart. It is the life-giving water of life, into which we are baptized and by which we are renewed.
We may think that there is a scarcity of resources on earth, but in the New Jerusalem there is more than enough for everyone. The rejuvenation from the water of life and the healing leaves are accessible to everyone since the river of life provides equal access to the wholeness and not just those who are already powerful and privileged.
This passage gives Christians hope for the future. Jesus can forgive and heal. He will also reign, so His healing power has authority. He will sustain us for eternity. All of this gives authority to the church in the world. The church’s authority depends on the authority and truth of the Gospel.
Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we have access to God when we approach Him by faith in prayer. In our heavenly home we will live in God’s presence forever.
Saint Augustine said that the reason we are here on earth is to love God and glorify Him forever. The vision of heaven that John gives us in this passage from Revelation bears that out. We will glorify, love and serve God forever. We will reign with Him in the glory that was His before the world began.
All good things will never end. All bad things have been removed for eternity. We will be with all believers who have gone before us, including our believing relatives. Are you feeling homesick? Are you ready for your heavenly home? Are you ready to sing the words from the great hymn “Jerusalem the Golden?”
Jerusalem the Golden
with milk and honey blessed,
beneath thy contemplation
sink heart and voice oppressed.
I know not, O I know not
what joys awaits us there,
what radiancy of glory,
what bliss beyond compare
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp.1868-1869)
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- Palmer, E.F. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 35: 1,2&3 John/ Revelation (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 231-234)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Anne Graham Lotz, “In His Presence…Forever.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Ed Young, “Why Are We Here?” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Micah D. Kiel, “Commentary on Revelation 21:10,22-22:5.” Retrieved from https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2846
- Barbara Rossing, “Commentary on Revelation 21:10,22-22:5.” Retrieved from https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1695
- Rev. Alan Brehm, “Precious in His Sight.” Retrieved from http://thewakingdreamer.blogspot.com/2010/05/precious-in-sight-rev-2212-21-1-it.html
- Brian Peterson, “Commentary on Revelation 21:10,22-22:5.” Retrieved from https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=573
- Michael R. Lomax, “Lectionary Commentary.” Retrieved from http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org/PopupLectionaryReading.asp?LRID=4
- George Carlson, “Revelation 21:10,22-22:5.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2011; pp. 281.828,285-287)
- “Jerusalem the Golden.” Written by Bernard of Cluny (12th cent.). Translated by John Mason Neale. Printed in Common Praise (Toronto, ON: Anglican Book Centre; 2000)