Thursday, 5 August 2021
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2
In the previous verse, the new heaven and new earth were seen by John. The verse now says, “Then I, John.” As a note on these words, some manuscripts do not have John’s name in this verse. Rather, it simply says, “And I saw…” Either way, the source is still clear. John is the one having the vision which is that he “saw the holy city.”
The idea of the holy city is one that is unique and set apart. It is the ideal that has been set forth throughout Scripture. It is that which the author of Hebrews says the faithful of the ages have anticipated –
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire 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.” Hebrews 11:13-16
This city is then said by John to be “New Jerusalem.” Earthly Jerusalem has been set forth as the ideal of where God dwells with man. It is the location where access to Him is found acceptable. This was seen in Genesis 14 with the introduction of Melchizedek who was “priest of God Most High.” From there, the earthly Jerusalem was slowly developed as the place of this access and fellowship with God. However, it is merely an ideal set forth of a greater hope that Paul refers to in Galatians 4 –
“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 4:24-26
So important is this concept of New Jerusalem, that the author of Hebrews completely contrasts access to it with Mt Sinai, meaning the Law of Moses. The access is not through the law, but through Jesus –
“For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.’)
22 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 12:18-24
Understanding these few key points, John now says that New Jerusalem is “coming down out of heaven from God.” This city will be described as a bride in verse 9. As such, there is an intimate connection of the city to the Lord that is being conveyed. A city represents the people in the city, and thus, those people who reside there are ultimately what is being referred to. The city bride is for the people of God who are united to the Lord.
As it is coming down out of heaven, it signifies that it is something that is not man derived. In other words, Babel started on the earth and was built up toward the heavens. God rejected that approach, demonstrating that man’s works are insufficient to reach Him. On the other hand, New Jerusalem has a heavenly source. Charles Ellicott rightly states, “The world will never evolve a golden age or ideal state. The new Jerusalem must descend from God.”
Access to God in the heavenly city is not man originated. Rather, it is by faith in what God has initiated and provided. Of this city, John next says that it is “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This terminology is brought forth from the book of Isaiah –
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10
“For as a young man marries a virgin,
So shall your sons marry you;
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So shall your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:5
What John’s eyes are beholding is the anticipation of man since his fall. It is free, full, and unfettered access into the presence of God once again. It is “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10) where man can forever delight in what God has provided through the giving of His Son.
Of note is that the author of Hebrews refers to this city as being for everyone whose hope was in Messiah. This includes the entire list of those from the Old Testament noted in Hebrews 11, and it includes those of the church today. It will include the tribulation saints, and it will include the redeemed of the Lord during the millennium.
The hope of the New Jerusalem is the hope of man’s return to what was lost. God is doing one overall thing for all of the people of the world, even if it occurs during different dispensations. The book of Revelation is detailing this hope for those in the church from the early establishment of the church, through the church age, into the tribulation period, and then into the millennium. To say otherwise makes the book of Revelation a curious oddity that has no true relevance or application concerning the eternal hopes and desires of those of the church who have set their eyes, hearts, and affections on Jesus.
Life application: Throughout the Bible there are two contrasting cities which God has used to lead us to understand who He is, what is right, what is wrong, and what the blessings of following Him properly – or the curses of failing to follow Him in a right manner – are. These two cities are Babylon and Jerusalem.
Babylon is a picture of chaos, false religion, disorder, and fighting against God. It is the location where God’s people were sent when they were disobedient. It is also the location where His people mourned as they waited to return to their city of peace, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is a picture of the idea – of harmony, right religion, order, and peace with God. It is the hope and the aspiration of the people of God – to live in her, to walk in her, to exult in her because of her direct connection with the Creator. It was considered an honor to have been born there –
“The Lord will record,
When He registers the peoples:
‘This one was born there.’ Selah” Psalm 87:6.
Even the stones and the dust of Jerusalem are considered precious to God’s people –
“For Your servants take pleasure in her stones,
And show favor to her dust.” Psalm 102:14.
In the book of Revelation, we have seen God’s triumph over Babylon. Her destruction is complete, and she will never rise again. In Revelation 20:9, we saw a final attack against earthly Jerusalem that was thwarted by God, and after that came the great white throne judgment.
When this occurred, heaven and earth fled from the presence of the Lord. Then, in the first verse of chapter 21, we saw “a new heaven and a new earth.” This implies that the Jerusalem that exists now will be gone in the renewal of creation, but it is not the end of the ideal set forth by earthly Jerusalem.
There is the true Jerusalem awaiting the saints of God. It is a place that is only pictured by the Jerusalem that now exists. It is the hope and the anticipation of all who anticipated Christ’s coming, or who have called on Him since He came. Being a resident of the city implies citizenship in that city. Paul speaks of that in Philippian 3 –
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Philippians 3:20, 21
This city is the spot where God will dwell with men. A marvelous description of it will be given in the verses ahead. It is a city for the people of God, and it is built of the people of God. Peter speaks of us as “living stones” in a spiritual house, and Jesus says that those who overcome will be made “a pillar in the temple of My God.”
What God has prepared for His people will be astonishingly glorious. He is the Architect of this building, and He has been preparing it since the beginning of time. When we behold its marvel and glory, there will be no thought of what exists now. It will be a city of such marvelous wonder that we will never tire of it, even throughout eternal ages.
Until we arrive in the New Jerusalem, we look to the earthly Jerusalem, knowing that Jesus will return there to fulfill His plan for the ages. Only when that plan is fulfilled will the true city of peace be realized. And so, let us follow the admonition of the psalmist and pray for the city of peace. When peace returns to Jerusalem, it will be because the King has returned to dwell in her midst.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you. Psalm 122:6
This is the wonder and delight that lies ahead for the redeemed of the Lord. But in order for there to be the redeemed of the Lord, there must be the Lord who redeems. Thank God for our Redeemer, JESUS!
Lord, when we think of the glory that is coming and the heavenly city which You have prepared for Your people, we stand in awe and in anticipation of that wondrous day. Until it comes, help us to shine forth Your light to this world and let others see the great hope is in us, leading many to desire the same – to Your glory we pray. Amen.