Friday, 13 August 2021
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Revelation 21:10
Having cited the angel’s words, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” John now says, “And he carried me away in the Spirit.” It is a similar thought to that which came at the very beginning of Revelation when John said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” John is carried away in this heightened state “to a great and high mountain.”
It is a similar experience to that of Ezekiel –
“In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of the Lord was upon me; and He took me there. 2 In the visions of God He took me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain; on it toward the south was something like the structure of a city.” Ezekiel 40:1, 2
The intent of being taken to a high mountain seems obvious. Once there, his view would be totally unobstructed as he next beholds the scene before him. Ezekiel saw the structure of a city. It would be hard to view such a city in its total scope while standing on the same level as it. Walls, hills, trees, and so on would obscure parts of it from his view. But the Lord wanted him to see the city laid out before him. Such is the case now with John. Like Ezekiel, he next says, “and show me the great city, the holy Jerusalem.”
In this, there is a slight variation in source texts. Some omit “great,” and the adjective describes the word “city.”
“the holy city, Jerusalem” NASB
“the great city, the holy Jerusalem” YLT
Either way, the intent is understood. Like Ezekiel, John is seeing Jerusalem. It is the city of God’s focus, and it is the city set in contrast to Babylon. Where Babylon was a harlot and defiled, Jerusalem is set apart to God. In Scripture, the earthly Jerusalem was used as an ideal set forth by God to represent something greater and more perfect.
At times, it did not meet up to the standard, and it was defiled by the people who dwelt there. Nonetheless, it was used as a type of that which is prepared by God, just at the earthly tabernacle was set forth based on a heavenly pattern (see Hebrews 8:3-6).
What earthly Jerusalem anticipated is what is then spoken of by Paul and by the author of Hebrews, anticipating that which lies ahead –
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.” Galatians 4:21-26
“ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” Hebrews 12:22-24
As such, there is the type, earthly Jerusalem, and there is the antitype, “the holy Jerusalem.” Of this, John next says it is “descending out of heaven from God.” Christ is the fulfillment of the tabernacle in heaven, and He descended out of heaven from God. Now is seen the fulfillment of the anticipation of the earthly Jerusalem likewise descending out of heaven from God
The vision may be something that literally happens, or it may be that what John is seeing is a vision containing a spiritual truth. Until the New Jerusalem is actually beheld by the people of God, we can only look to the words of Revelation and speculate how much of what is to be described is literal and how much is symbolic. No matter what, it is to be a city fashioned by God, and it is to be prepared by Him for the dwelling of His people.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown immediately takes the symbolic approach and states, “descending—Even in the millennium the earth will not be a suitable abode for transfigured saints, who therefore shall then reign in heaven over the earth. But after the renewal of the earth at the close of the millennium and judgment, they shall descend from heaven to dwell on an earth assimilated to heaven itself. “From God” implies that “we (the city) are God’s workmanship.”
They are correct that what is being prepared will be beyond that which is to be seen in the millennium (implying that there will actually be a thousand-year reign of Christ), and that what is being expressed by John now will be after that period. Whatever it is that God has planned, it will be glorious, even beyond our current ability to grasp. John’s words are given as a foretaste of what will be experienced in its fullest some wonderful day.
Life application: In Isaiah 40:9, we read these words –
You who bring good tidings,
Get up into the high mountain;
You who bring good tidings,
Lift up your voice with strength,
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
Isaiah 40 is a passage of comfort for God’s people in all ages, but it is a passage that only is fully realized in the book of Revelation. Today is the beginning of that realization in a tangible way.
Although John saw New Jerusalem descending in verse 2, he will now get a close-up look at it and see the splendor of the city in detail. He is going to be provided a fuller scope of what Isaiah and so many others only saw from a distance. And then he will record what he sees as a point of hope and anticipation for the saints of God.
In Hebrews 11, we learn that the faithful believers of ages past knew this city was coming. In Hebrew 11:10, it says that Abraham waited “for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Later in the same chapter, when speaking of all the faithful witnesses of time past, it says that they desired “a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
This heavenly city is now described as descending out of heaven from God. Imagine the city’s marvel in this way – everything that we now see was created by God in just 6 days – the splendor of the mountains, the magnificent creatures of the seas, and the wonder of the secret caves of the earth with all their variety of life hidden in them. But in addition to the things we have here on earth, God also created the other planets, the stars, the constellations, the immensely vast workings of the universe… it all came from the mind of God and was ordered and established in just 6 days.
Now imagine – “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2, 3
Jesus spoke these words 2000 years ago. And since then, He has been building a city and a home for His people. If God created every wonderful thing we perceive in just 6 days, imagine the marvel of what He will present to us after His Son finishes what has taken 2000 years?
Will we truly have eternal joy? Youbetcha! It will be so marvelous and so glorious that we will never tire of what is coming. And the best part of this amazing city will be described last of all. It will be such a wonderful source of majesty that God’s people will eternally revel in what they behold.
If you are tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, or just beaten down by life, then hold fast to what is promised. The joy that is coming will erase every thought of the difficulties we now face. Great is God and wonderful are His dealings with the sons of men. Thank God for what He has done for us. Thank God for JESUS!
Oh God, how glorious it will be to see the city that You have prepared for us. Each room will be lovingly fashioned by our glorious Savior. Thank You for showing John these things so that he would record them for us in our times of difficulty – sure promises to carry us through in hopes of something better – a city which has foundations of whom You are the Builder! Amen.