Revelation 22 – Part 3

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Revelation 22:7

Chuck Swindoll quotes Ravi Zaharias, “Our society is walking through a maze of cultural land mines, and the heaviest price is exacted as we send our children on ahead.” 1

Swindoll continues, “Mazes, land mines, and exuberant youth who rarely watch where they’re going or look before they leap: That about sums up the present world.

“The twentieth century saw the rise of a generation that not only rejected much of what their elders held as unassailable truth but even began to doubt the concept of ‘truth’ itself! The tragic result has been a philosophical system known as ‘relativism’ or ‘postmodernism.’ It’s the belief that truth should be defined as merely the commonly held beliefs of a particular culture or society. As such, the belief systems that individuals or groups use to make sense of their world aren’t necessarily valid for another person or group.

“Through the media, academia, and other opinion formers, this idea continues to shape the thinking of most people in the twenty-first century. Younger generations are left to grope aimlessly through the relativistic maze, feeling insecure, fearful, and overwhelmed. They don’t realize that land mines await them around every turn – destructive deceptions and immoral acts that can bring calamity, even an early death.

“Paul the apostle warned his young protégé Timothy that a primary characteristic of the latter days would be the widespread rejection of truth (I Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:3-4). In light of this warning, the book of Revelation provides exactly what the coming end-times generation – and every generation – needs: objective, certified, reliable truth. When armed with this truth, people can face their fallen world with greater security, deeper faith, and stronger courage.” 2

All the visions that the apostle John had received from Revelation 4:1-22:5 had now ended. In the conclusion of the book of Revelation (22:6-21), the Lord Jesus Christ personally emphasizes some essential truths that He wants His listeners in the local churches to hear and embrace. 3

“Then he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true.’ And the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 22:6). Since the visions of the future ended with 22:5, the angel who now speaks to John is probably the original angel whom Jesus sent to John at the beginning of the book of Revelation (cf. 1:1). 4 This angel assures John that “the things” prophesied to “shortly take place” (4:1-22:5), which John had just seen, were “faithful and true.” 5The purpose of the book of Revelation is not to bewilder and confuse but to reveal many certainties about future events. 6

“This directly contradicts the point of view of many scholars that the Book of Revelation is an imponderable mystery for which no key is available today. This book is the Word of God and not the imaginations of John. In addition, it is intended to describe future events. When taken in its literal, ordinary meaning, this is exactly what it does… The Word of God was not given to be obscure. It was given to be understood by those taught by the Spirit.” 7

The reason why these prophecies are “faithful and true” is because “the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets,” the Lord Jesus Christ, “sent His angel to show His servants,” of whom one is the apostle John, “the things which must shortly take place.” The book of Revelation records future events, which, from God’s point of view, will come upon humankind very soon. 8

In our confused culture, believers in Jesus are to anchor their souls in what is “faithful and true.” Since the book of Revelation comes from the Lord Jesus Christ Who is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), it is very reliable. This inspired source of truth can be fully trusted. 9

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself speaks next! “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7). When the Lord Jesus says, “Behold…” He is telling us to stop what we are doing and pay attention to what He is about to say because it is extremely important. Jesus then announces, “I am coming quickly!” The Greek word translated “quickly” (tachy) means “soon, in a short time.” 10 The words “quickly” and “soon” both convey God’s perspective about His return for His church. His coming is always “soon” from “the standpoint of the saints’ foreview of the future, and when it occurs, it will come suddenly or quickly.” 11

The events of the Rapture of the church, the next event on God’s prophetic calendar (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; I Corinthians 15:50-57; I Thessalonians 4:13-18), will take place very quickly, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” the apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:52.

The Greek word for ‘moment’ is atomos, from which we get our English word atom. Atomos refers to something that is indivisible, that cannot be divided. When Paul wrote these words, no one could imagine splitting the atomos. Today, we would translate this ‘in an instant,’ ‘in a split second,’ or ‘in a flash.’

“The second phrase that describes the duration of the Rapture is ‘in the twinkling of an eye.’ The Greek word for twinkling is rhipe. This might refer to the time it takes for light to reflect in the human eye. Others believe that it refers to the time it takes to blink your eye – ‘in the blink of an eye.’ Blinking is the quickest movement in the human body. People everywhere understand what ‘in the blink of an eye’ means.

“The main point is clear. All the events of this Rapture will happen instantaneously. In a flash. It will all happen so quickly that it will be completely unobservable to the human eye. Like replaying in slow motion a split-second catch in a football game, the Lord slows down the Rapture film for us so we can see exactly what will happen” 12 in I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

A brief outline of the events of the Rapture from I Thessalonians 4 includes:

  • The Return of Christ in the air with Christians who have died– “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” (4:14)
  • The Resurrection of the bodies of Christians who have died –15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep… 16 And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (4:15, 16b)
  • The Rapture of living Christians – “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up…” (4:17a).
  • The Reunion of both living and dead believers with the Lord in the air– “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (4:17). 
  • The Reassurance from this truth – “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:18).

“But don’t let God’s slow-motion version of Rapture in I Thessalonians fool you. The Rapture will occur in a split second. Suddenly, corpses all over the world will be raised and reunited with perfected spirits, and living believers everywhere will be caught up to heaven [with] transformed body, soul, and spirit. The Rapture will shock the world. It will change everything.” 13

Jesus’ announcement of His soon coming in Revelation 22:7a is a message that both nonbelievers and believers must hear and respond to. For the non-Christian, he or she is to get right with God by believing in Jesus. The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The word “believe” (pisteuō) in the New Testament means “to consider something to be true and therefore worthy of one’s trust.” 14

God is inviting all of us to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” alone to save us from the penalty of our sins because all of us have sinned against God with our thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 3:23). The penalty for our sins is “death” (Romans 6:23a) or separation from God. Because God is holy, righteous, and perfect, He cannot be around our sin (Habakkuk 1:13; Isaiah 59:2). The Bible tells us that the final punishment for our sin is death in the lake of fire (Mark 9:43-44; Revelation 20:15).

God does not want any human being to die forever in the lake of fire so out of love for us, He sent His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16), to earth to live a perfect life (since He is God – John 1:1; I John 5:20; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18), and then die on a cross in our place and rise from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6; Romans 5:8), proving His claims to be God are true (Romans 1:3-4). Jesus Christ is alive today and He invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from sin’s penalty and give you eternal life so you can enter His heaven in the future (Acts 16:31; John 3:16; Revelation 21-22).

Those of you who are reading this article need to ask yourself, “What am I trusting to get me into God’s heaven?” Are you trusting your works to get you into His heaven? Are you trusting Christ plus your works? Or are you trusting in Christ alone to get you into God’s heaven? The Bible tells us in Acts 16:31 to “believe” or trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone (not our works or Christ plus our works) to save us from the penalty of sin so we can enter God’s heaven when we die or are Raptured, whichever takes place first.

If you have never understood and believed this before, and now you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me that You are coming soon to remove Your church from the earth. Before today, I was not prepared to hear this. I did not understand that I am a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever. I thought if I lived a good life and treated people like I want to be treated, I might make it into Your heaven. But Your Word reveals to me that I am a sinner who deserves to be punished for my sins forever separated from You in the lake of fire. However, my sin does not keep You from loving me and wanting to be in a personal relationship with me. I now believe You died in my place for my sins and rose from the dead. Right now, as best I know how, I am trusting You Lord Jesus to save me from sin’s penalty and give me everlasting life as a free gift. Thank You for the salvation I now have and for the future home I will have with You in Your heaven. Please help me to share this good news with others who do not know You so they can be ready for Your soon return. In Your precious name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Those of us who believe in Jesus for His gift of salvation are to respond to His announcement of coming soon by keeping His commands (cf. 22:9, 14). Jesus said, “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7b). God has given us “the words of the prophecy of this book” [Revelation], not only so we might learn about future events, but so we may also prepare (“keeps”) for them and be “blessed.”

In view of Jesus’ soon return, believers in Jesus are to take the words of the book Revelation seriously and act on them. 15 We are to anticipate what God has predicted. People today often doubt whether we can know anything for certain about the present and the past, much less about the future. 16 There is so much fake news in our world today, that we are prone to doubt nearly everything we hear. However, as believers in the God of truth, we can trust what He has said about the future: “Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:11).

We are to live in a constant state of readiness, not neglecting our duties or failing to prepare for the future, but always looking forward to the soon-coming of Christ to take us home.” 17

It is tragic that this last book of the Bible which promises a blessing to those who read it, hear it, and keep what is written in it (Revelation 1:3; cf. 22:7), is often neglected by churches and individual Christians alike more than any other book of the Bible. This is so ironic because of all the books in the Bible, the book of Revelation contains more promises of blessing than any other book. 18 Perhaps Satan is behind this avoidance of this profound prophetic book because he does not want God’s people to receive God’s blessings nor be prepared for what is coming.

Prayer: Glorious Lord God, thank You for the book of Revelation which informs us of many future certainties so we can prepare for what is coming and receive Your many blessings. Every word in the book of Revelation is faithful and true. Help us to read and keep the words of this prophetic book so we can face a world that has rejected Your truth and is spiraling out of control as a result. May we be armed with Your truth so we can face this broken world with more security, unwavering faith, and greater courage in the days ahead. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 397 cites Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder (Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2003), pg. 27.

2. Swindoll, pp. 397-398.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1588.

4. Ibid., pg. 1589.

5. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 251.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6644 to 6649.

7. Ibid.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1589.

9. Swindoll, pg. 398.

10. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 993.

11. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6654.

12. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 129.

13. Ibid., pp. 129-130.

14. Bauer, pg. 816.

15. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2424.

16. Swindoll, pg. 398.

17. Ibid.

18. Constable, pg. 252; cf. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6656.

Revelation 22 – Part 2

3 But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” Revelation 22:3b-4 

For many of us, there are times when we are not too excited about heaven. We are much more interested in earth than we are about heaven. One of the reasons for this is because we have been misinformed about heaven. We have heard that when we get there, it will be all white with no other colors. We will all have wings and look like chubby little cherubs. We have heard that we will all float around on clouds playing a harp. Every thousand years or so we will float by one another. Few things sound more boring to me than being in a colorless place having to play a harp! No wonder we don’t get excited about going to heaven!

Today we are going to learn in our study of the book of Revelation that we will all have responsibilities in heaven. As the apostle John continues to focus on the interior of the New Jerusalem on the new earth in the final stage of heaven (22:1-5), he writes, “But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” (Revelation 22:3b). The greatest thing about heaven is “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in” the New Jerusalem where believers from the church age live. As we saw last time (22:1b), there is one “throne” that is shared by “God” the Father and God the Son (“of the Lamb”). What makes the new earth heaven is the fact that God rules from His “throne” there over His people.

But notice that God is not ruling the new earth alone. “And His servants shall serve Him” (22:3c). Near to God on His throne are “His servants” who “shall serve Him.” These “servants” are overcoming believers who remained faithful to Christ until the end of their lives on earth (cf. 2:7, 10, 25-27; 3:10-11, 21; et al.). While all believers in Jesus will be on the new earth with Christ and serve Him to varying degrees corresponding to their rewards (22:12), 1 overcoming believers will have special privileges and authority because of their faithfulness to Christ.

For example, we saw in Revelation 3:12, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Christ guarantees the overcomer who perseveres in obedience to Him (3:10-11) that He “will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.” This refers to a position of permanent honor and intimate association with Christ. Since God the Father and God the Son will be the temple in eternity (cf. 21:22), this reward is an especially magnificent experience of nearness to God as well as a key position of support and prominence in God’s eternal kingdom. 2

The phrase “he shall go out no more,” describes the permanence of these rewards. Once these positions of honor and authority are given to the overcomer, they shall never be withdrawn. He is firmly set as a “pillar” in Christ’s eternal kingdom and as such will never be separated from this intimate relationship with God. 3

According to 3:12, the overcomer will also have “the name of” God, the name of God’s city, “the New Jerusalem,” and the Lord’s “new name” written on him, stressing a permanent place of prominence in God’s spiritual temple in the eternal state. This is like the promise in Revelation 22:4 which says, “His name shall be on their foreheads.” Since these faithful believers honored the Lord Jesus on earth, He will honor them as His victorious ones forever on the new earth.

“Writing one’s ‘name’ on something indicated ownership in John’s day, as it does now. In the ancient world, columns often bore the names of conquerors. In the pagan world, devotees of certain gods often wrote the name of their god on their forehead (cf. Exodus 28:36). Scripture does not reveal Jesus Christ’s ‘new name’ elsewhere. Perhaps this new name is a symbol of His character, which overcomers can only appreciate when they see Him (cf. 2:17; 3:5).” 4

“On earth, the role of a servant to a king is generally reserved for those who play a special role in the king’s administration. The Lord Jesus stated that His elite servants in eternity will be those believers who serve Him well during their lives. For their earthly service they will be abundantly rewarded in eternity (cf. Matthew 16:24-27; 19:27-30; Luke 9:23-27; 12:31-34; 14:12-14; 18:28-30; 22:28-30; John 4:35-36; 12:24-26).” 5

These overcoming believers will have the opportunity to serve God up close before His throne. “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” (Revelation 22:4). It is true that in one sense all believers in Jesus from the church age will stand before Him and see His face (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; I John 3:2), 6 but the implication here is that these “servants” of God are under His good favor and in His “inner circle.” 7

At this juncture it is important to understand the concept of a king having an inner circle of friends or companions. The book of Hebrews develops this theme involving “partakers” (metochoi) or “companions” of “the heavenly calling” (Hebrews 1:9; 3:1, 14; 6:4; 12:8) which culminates in the heavenly realities associated with participation in the New Jerusalem (Hebrews 11:16). 8 This includes sharing in the dominion and inheritance of God’s King-Son, Jesus Christ. 9

In the Old Testament, it was common for a new king to have around him close associates and friends. For instance, Rehoboam turned for counsel to “the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him” (I Kings 12:8). Moses had his personal attendant, Joshua. King David had Hushai who is described as “the king’s companion” (I Chronicles 27:33). 10

Other examples of this can be seen in the Hellenistic world. Jeremias said of the first century Herodian Court: “In the royal apartments, among the King’s associates are to be found his intimate friends, the ‘cousins and friends,’ and ‘cousins’ does not necessarily mean relations. These ‘cousins and friends’ constitute the highest rank we meet in all Hellenistic Courts.” 11

Suetonius said of Caesar: “Moreover, when he came to power, he advanced some of his friends to the highest positions; even though they were of the huhn blest origin; and when he was taken to task for it, flatly declared that if he had been helped in defending his honor by grigands and cutthroats, he would have requited such men in the same way.” 12

With this background in mind, it would be clear to the readers of Hebrews that Christ’s reign on earth (Hebrews 1:6-8) would include His own circle of friends or “companions” (Hebrews 1:9). Since Jesus obtained His joy and rulership through a life of consistent righteousness (“You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness” – Hebrews 1:9a), it is obvious that the readers of Hebrews would understand that for them to share in His joy and rulership as His “partners” or “companions,” they will have to do the same. 13

So, when a person believes in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, he or she begins a partnership with Christ involving their journey to His Kingdom and the New Jerusalem. Only believers who remain faithful to Christ to the end of their lives will be able to rule with Him in His eternal kingdom on the new earth (Hebrews 3:14; 10:23, 35-36; cf. Luke 22:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10, 26-27; 3:10-11, 21). Failure to remain faithful to Christ does not result in the loss of eternal life and a place in His kingdom (2 Timothy 2:13), but it does mean the loss of eternal reward, particularly losing the privilege of reigning with Christ from inside the New Jerusalem. 14

When the apostle John refers to God’s “servants” being up close to God’s throne where they “shall serve Him” (Revelation 22:3b-4), I believe this is a reference to the “partakers” or “companions” of King Jesus that is developed in the book of Hebrews. This is a privilege reserved only for believers who remained faithful to Christ till the end of their lives on earth.

Next John writes, “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5). In this final stage of heaven in the New Jerusalem, “there shall be no night there” nor need of a “lamp nor light of the sun” because the radiant presence of “the Lord God gives them light” (22:5a).

The greatest privilege of overcoming believers is “they shall reign forever and ever” (22:5b). The exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21). Again, this is a privilege that awaits believers who remain faithful to Christ to the end of their lives (Matthew 25:21, 23; Luke 19:15-19).

Some Christians are not interested in ruling with Christ. Such an eternal reward does not appeal to them. They do not care to be in a position of authority over other people because they don’t want to deal with all the problems that entails. But having a position of rulership with King Jesus on the new earth will be a much different experience than being in a position of authority over people in this fallen world. 15

In Christ’s eternal kingdom on the new earth there will be no more sinners. Hence, reigning with Christ will be much more enjoyable and fulfilling than managing sinful people in this life. 16

We probably don’t think very often about being an overcoming believer or companion who shares in Christ’s reign on the new earth. A co-ruler with Christ will have special tasks to perform. They will have more authority and opportunity than other believers who were not faithful to Christ to the end of their lives. Overcoming believers will glorify King Jesus more than those who are not. As a result, their eternal experience will be filled with more joy (Hebrew 1:9). 17

Wilkins suggests several different ways overcoming believers will reign with Christ:

“Some will hold positions of authority in the new world government: Presidents, Governors, Mayors, City Council members, Judges, Legislators, and the like. Others will have authority within commerce. Surely the kingdom will have transportation companies, publishers, architectural firms, developers, utilities, entertainment, and sports companies, and so on. All of these businesses will need people in various levels of management.

“The more authority a person has, the more he or she will be able to glorify the Lord Jesus.” 18

Oglesby writes, “A group of retired Marines gathers on Sunday mornings at a local Jack’s for biscuits, coffee, and Marine solutions to the country’s problems. To them it’s straightforward: adapt, improvise, and overcome. They are friendly, but it’s clear that if you’re not a Marine, you’re not a Marine. They have a special bond forged by Marine history, warrior ethos, core values, tradition, and sheer toughness. The Marine Corps motto is Semper Fidelis, Latin for ‘Always Faithful.’ Their caps, coats and sometimes their lips say, ‘Semper Fi!’” 19

King Jesus has a special place and role reserved for His servants who are always faithful. They will be companions at His side when He rules the new heavens and new earth from the New Jerusalem. 20

Are you putting yourself in a position to be among those who will rule with King Jesus on the new earth? To be among this privileged group you must first receive Jesus’ gift of everlasting life simply by believing in Him alone for it. Christ said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The moment you are convinced Jesus was speaking the truth here and is therefore trustworthy, you have eternal life and can begin a partnership with Christ involving your journey to His Kingdom and the New Jerusalem. Only believers who remain faithful to Christ to the end of their lives will be able to rule with Him in His eternal kingdom on the new earth (Hebrews 3:14; 10:23, 35-36; cf. Luke 22:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10, 26-27; 3:10-11, 21). Position yourself to be among those who will rule with Christ by obeying His Word, drawing near to Him, seeking His rewards, maturing through adversity, and living a life of faith. 21

One of my favorite movies is “Rudy.” It is about a young man who wants a better life than the steel mill life of his father and older brother. He dreams of going to Notre Dame to play football. Rudy endures all kinds of adversity to finally get there. Initially, he becomes the water boy for the football team. This small guy has no special talents. For four years Rudy is on the practice squad getting the tar beat out of him by the starting football players, some of whom were nearly twice his size.  

Rudy comes to the last game of his senior year. A few seconds are left in the game. Players on the sideline begin to chant, “Rudy… Rudy … Rudy…” Then the crowd starts to join in and soon the entire stadium is chanting for Rudy. Finally, the head coach gives in and lets Rudy go into the game. On the next play, Rudy makes the tackle. After four years of faithfulness in the background, he made a play at the end of the game and was carried off the field by his teammates. You may think that is no big deal. But none of the other Notre Dame players got a movie made about them!

You may feel like you are a nobody faithfully serving God behind the scenes. But the day is coming when the Lord Jesus Christ will give you a name that everyone will know in heaven. He will give you a special position of authority to rule with Him forever on the new earth. This promised reward assures you of close fellowship with Christ forever by receiving the honor of sharing His royal throne.

Prayer: Lord God, please empower those of us who believe in Christ to remain faithful to You until the end of our lives so we may receive Your eternal reward of ruling with You on the new earth and enjoying a special intimacy with You. In Your glorious name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen. 

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2423.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1513.

3. Ibid.

4. Constable, pg. 54 cites Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John. 2nd ed.

(London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 58.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1588.

6. Ibid.

7. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6640.

8. Paul Tanner, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1250.

9. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 313.

10. George Lang, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (Miami Springs: Conley and Schoettle Pub. Co., 1985), pg. 71.

11. David O’Farrell, “The Metochoi of the Book of Hebrews,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1984, pp. 29-31 cites Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Times of Jesus, pg. 89.

12. Ibid., pg. 45 cites Suetonius, Deified Julius, 1:14.

13. Robert Govett, Govett on Hebrews (Miami Springs: Conley and Schoettle Pub. Co., 1981), pg. 24.

14. Tanner, pp. 1253-1254.

15. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 42.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid., pg. 43.

18. Ibid., pg. 45.

19. Rick Oglesby, Among the King’s Companions: Position Yourself Today to Be Among Those Who Rule With Christ (Rick Oglesby, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 138.

20. Ibid.

21. Adapted and condensed from Ibid., pp. 4-5.

Revelation 22 – Part 1

“And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Revelation 22:1

After focusing primarily on the glorious external appearance and materials of the New Jerusalem on the new earth (21:1-27), the apostle John is directed by the angel to the interior of the New Jerusalem which will nourish and enrich the lives of God’s redeemed people (22:1-5). 1

McGee writes, “Up to this chapter, the New Jerusalem seems to be all mineral and no vegetable. Its appearance is as the dazzling display of a fabulous jewelry store; we wonder if there is no soft grass to sit upon, no green trees to enjoy, and no water to drink or food to eat. However, here are introduced the elements which add a rich softness to this city of elaborate beauty.” 2

“And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Revelation 22:1). The phrase, “And he showed me” (kai edeixen moi) indicates a new aspect of the Celestial City that John’s guiding angel proceeds to show him. John sees a literal “river of water of life” that is “clear as crystal.” Since “there was no more sea” on the new earth (21:1), water will be supplied by this river. 3 This river is described as bright or “clear as crystal” because it was “shimmering like mountain water over the rocks” 4 and “sparkling” like a stream of unpolluted water. 5

In this section the apostle John is describing Paradise Restored which includes a river, the tree of life, fruit, and God’s presence (22:1-3). In the original Paradise, the Garden of Eden, there was a river that watered the garden (Genesis 2:10), a tree of life (Genesis 2:9b), fruit (Genesis 2:16; 3:2-3), and God’s presence (Genesis 2:15-25; 3:8). When Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-6), this original Paradise was lost. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden so they could not eat from the tree of life and live forever in unglorified bodies (Genesis 3:22-24). 6 From that moment on, humanity began to decline into disharmony, disease, and eventual death.” 7

But now in the final stage of heaven, we see the original Paradise is restored. This life-giving and pristine river in the New Jerusalem flows “from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1b). Notice that there is one “throne” that is shared by “God” the Father and God the Son (“of the Lamb”). This is important to observe because it helps us understand what is meant in I Corinthians 15:24 which says, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” When the Lord Jesus “delivers the kingdom to God the Father,“ it does not mean Christ’s reign on the throne ceases, but that it will change its character. Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords forever. 9

This river that flows from God’s throne suggests not only physical refreshment for God’s people throughout eternity, but also everlasting enjoyment of God and His eternal life flowing to His people as well. We were told in Revelation 7,15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to fountains of the water of life. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (7:15-17). Throughout eternity, the Lamb of God will be the source of experiencing and enjoying eternal life or “the water of life” (21:6; 22:1, 17; cf. John 4:10, 14; 7:37-39; I John 5:20).  The water that flows from God’s throne in the New Jerusalem will cause the tree of life to grow and produce different fruit each each month (22:1-2). Both the fruit and the water will enhance the lives of those who consume them. 10

Alcorn adds, “Notice that the source of this powerful stream is the throne of God, occupied by the Lamb. He’s the source of all natural beauties and wonders. They derive their beauty from the Artist. The great river reflects His thirst-quenching, need-satisfying nature. He always meets His people’s needs and fulfills their longings.

“On the New Earth, we won’t have to leave the city to find natural beauty. It will be incorporated into the city, with the river of life as its source. The river flows down the city’s main street. Likely it has countless tributaries flowing throughout the rest of the city. Can you picture people talking and laughing beside this river, sticking their hands and faces down into the water and drinking? This fully accessible natural wonder on the city’s main street is amazing – something that would be featured in any travel brochure.” 11

“In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2). This life-giving river flowing from God’s throne runs down “the middle of” the New Jerusalem’s very broad “street.” Each “side of the river” is lined with “the tree of life,” which we were told earlier is located “in the midst of the Paradise of God” which is the New Jerusalem (Revelation 2:7). 12

These trees lining the riverbank will bear “twelve” different “fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.” While most fruit trees on the current earth only bear fruit a few months of the year at most, these trees will produce fruit all year long. 13

Notice also that there will be a sense of time in heaven. The Bible says each of the trees will produce fruit “every month.” Many people think there will be no sense of time in God’s heaven. A theologian argued, “What a relief and what joy to know that in heaven there will be no more time.” 14 Someone else wrote, “Heaven will be a place where time will stand still.” 15

The book of Revelation contains many other references to time in heaven. The descriptions of worship in heaven include successive actions, such as falling down at God’s throne and casting crowns before Him “whenever” the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne (4:9-11). There is a sequence of events; things happen one after the other, not all at once. Martyrs in heaven are told to “rest a little longer” when they asked “How long” before God would avenge their deaths (6:10-11). Believers in heaven could not ask “how long” or be told to “rest a little longer” unless time passes in heaven. God’s people in heaven “serve Him day and night in His temple” (7:15). Revelation 8:1 says, “There was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” The inhabitants of heaven sing (5:9-12) which requires a sense of time. 16 “Meter, tempo, and rests are all essential components of music, and each is time related. Certain notes are held longer than others. Songs have a beginning, middle, and end. That means they take place in time.” 17

“How can Scripture be any more clear about time in Heaven? (Right down to silence in Heaven for half an hour.) To say we’ll exist outside of time is like saying we’ll know everything. It confuses eternity with infinity. We’ll live for eternity as finite beings. God can accommodate to us by putting Himself into time, but we can’t accommodate to Him by becoming timeless. It’s not in us to do so because we’re not God.” 18

Alcorn astutely observes, “People imagine time is an enemy because the clock seems to move so slowly when we’re having a root canal and so quickly when we’re doing what we love. But time isn’t the problem, the Curse is. Time isn’t the enemy, death is (I Corinthians 15:26). Time predated sin and the Curse. When the Curse is lifted, time will remain. Without the Curse, time will never work against us. We won’t run out of it. Time will bring gain, not loss. The passing of time will no longer threaten us. It will bring new adventures without a sense of loss for what must end.

“We’ll live with time, no longer under its pressure. When we see God face-to-face, time will pass, but we’ll be lost in Him. We’ll be busy exploring His universe, working on projects, fellowshipping with Him and each other, listening to and telling great stories. We’ll delight in time because it’s part of what God calls ‘very good.’ It’s a dimension in which we’ll enjoy God.

“When we say good-bye in Heaven, we’ll know people won’t die before we see them next. Time will no longer be an hourglass in which the sands go from a limited past to a limited future. Our future will be unlimited. We’ll no longer have to ‘number our days’ (Psalm 90:132) or redeem the time, for time won’t be a diminishing resource about to end.” 19

Since consumption of this fruit from the tree of life is an eternal reward, only overcoming believers – those who remained faithful to Christ to the end – will have the right to eat this fruit (2:7; cf. 2:10, 25-27; 22:12,14). 20 This fruit will give life-enhancing properties which will give overcoming believers additional energy or capacity to fulfill their responsibilities, including ruling on the new earth.

“It will reward those who overcome with a special privilege, an enhanced intimacy with God. The original tree of life would have provided immortality on earth in mankind’s natural bodies had Adam not sinned and been expelled (Genesis 3:22). This future tree of life will provide an enhanced experience of life in the new heavens and the new earth.” 21

Since the tree of life will produce fruit monthly throughout all eternity, “it seems possible… to understand participation in the tree of life and eating of this monthly fruit as a picture of the regular experience of fellowshipping with God. It is inconceivable that a Christian, in whom eternal life dwells, must continually eat from a tree to obtain final entrance into heaven or maintain his presence there. Therefore, eating of the tree of life cannot refer to regeneration.

“It is impossible that the tree of life refers to final entrance into heaven. Why? Because we are told in Revelation 2:5 that the condition for obtaining the right to eat of this tree is based upon ‘doing,’ that is, on works. Final salvation comes to us by faith alone apart from works. In Revelation 22:19, Jesus says that if anyone takes away from the words of the prophecy, ‘God will take away his portion (Gr meros) from the tree of life and from the city.’” 22

Marty Causley notes, “Obviously one cannot lose something one does not have… Genuine believers are in danger of losing their right to this tree; unbelievers have no right to this tree to lose.” 23

Barnhouse correctly states, “Some have said that eating from the tree of life was the equivalent of receiving eternal life, but this is most evidently a false interpretation. Eternal life is the prerequisite for membership in the true Church. Eating of the tree of life is a reward that shall be given to the overcomer in addition to his salvation…. He receives over and above his entrance into eternal life, a place in the Heavens in the midst of the paradise of God.” 24

John also says, “The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (21:2b).  An additional function of the tree of life is for its “leaves” to provide “healing of the nations.” Keep in mind that “the nations” outside the New Jerusalem consist of believers from before and after the Church Age, some of whom will not have resurrected or glorified bodies. These will be sinless believers, much like Adam and Eve before they sinned, who descended from infants and children that survived the Tribulation period. 25 Even though there will be no more disease or death on the new earth because of sin, it may still be possible for these people who do not have glorified resurrected bodies to be injured or hurt. The leaves of the tree of life will bring healing and restoration to these people.

The Greek word for “healing” (therepeia) means “health-giving” and is where the English word “therapeutic” is derived from. 26  Hence, it is possible that these leaves will enhance the well being of all believers on the new earth in some way.

Next John informs us, “And there shall be no more curse.” (Revelation 22:3a). To help us understand what this means, think about what the earth would have been like if Adam and Eve had not sinned. They would have been fruitful and multiplied and filled the earth with billions of people since there would have been no death (Genesis 1:26-28).  Eternity would have taken place on a glorious earth that was free from sin and its consequences. 27

If Adam and Eve had not sinned, there would have been no “curse” on the ground (Genesis 3:16-19). Adam and his descendants would have enjoyed satisfying caretaking of the earth. There would have been no “thorns and thistles.” Imagine not having to toil or sweat trying to remove unwanted plants (weeds)! No one would have returned “to the ground” in death.

Had Adam and Eve not sinned there would also have been no curse (Genesis 3:16) on conception (menstrual cycle) and childbirth so women could have conceived and eventually given birth to children without the pain and discomfort of the curse (cf. Isaiah 65:17-23).

The point is this earth would be where humankind would have lived eternally if Adam and Eve had not sinned. 28 Certainly, it would be much better than this current earth. This planet has changed drastically since Noah’s flood. But if the first man and woman had not disobeyed God, this earth would be perfect.

God is telling us that the new earth and the New Jerusalem will be like the Garden of Eden before the Fall (Genesis 2) revisited with the river of life providing refreshment for all of God’s people and the tree of life providing special enhancement for faithful believers to rule with Christ (22:1-2; cf. 2:7, 25-27; 3:12, 21; 22:12, 14).

Revelation 22:1-3a shows that what Genesis 3:8 anticipated will be realized on the new earth – walking with the Lord Jesus in the cool of the day in the garden. The Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, “will live with us forever, but not on a fallen earth, but a new and unfallen earth.” 29 An earth that “will be free from death, sin, disease, a ground that fights us, wild animals, pests, etc.” 30 This is going to be a spectacular place to live forever!

Do you want the New Jerusalem and new earth to be your future home? Listen to what Jesus said on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles during His earthly ministry: 37 If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38). Only thirsty people drink. God has created us with a built-in need for Him. We are all born with a thirst for God—a longing to know God. For some, there is a deep thirst for significance. They want to feel like they are important and belong. That they are somebody. People whom society overlooks – those who are not wealthy, or handsome, or have strong personalities – thirst to be regarded as important. Some are looking for power – the ability to accomplish things. Jesus says to such, “If that is what you want, come to Me. Enter a personal relationship with Me,” Jesus says, “And your thirst for power and significance will be satisfied forever.”

Have you ever really been thirsty? When you are thirsty, there is not much else you can think about. When you are thirsty, you cannot get it out of your mind. That is what Jesus means. If you feel yourself driven, wanting something, restless and thirsty and longing for satisfaction, then His invitation is, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” Regardless of your background, color, culture, education, intelligence, past, or social status, Jesus says to come to Him for eternal satisfaction. It is free. You don’t have to pay a cent. You simply come to Christ as you are.

The way to come to Christ is by faith alone apart from any good works. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38). To “believe” in Jesus means to be convinced that He is speaking the truth here and is therefore trustworthy. And then trust Him for your eternal destiny.

Years ago, three men were fishing on the Broadback River in northern Quebec. A violent storm arose, and gale force winds overturned their canoe. The men knew they couldn’t save themselves. They noticed the large ice chest that had been in the canoe now floating on the water. They pulled the ice chest underneath them, rested their weight upon it and trusted it to save them. It did.

What Jesus is saying is we are to come to Him just as we are – as sinners, understanding that He died in our place to take the punishment for all our sins and rose again, so that all we must do is believe in Him alone for His gift of salvation. The moment a person believes in Christ alone for everlasting life, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

What “Scripture” is Jesus thinking of? I agree with Hodges who argues that it refers to Ezekiel’s vision of the future Millennial Temple in Ezekiel 47. 31 “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east…south of the altar… it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep… And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live” (Ezekiel 47:1, 5, 9).  Ezekiel is talking about the Temple of God in the future thousand-year reign of Christ on earth.

The waters of Ezekiel’s prophecy have similar properties as the rivers Jesus speaks of, “And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.” (Ezekiel 47:9). Those waters are properly described as living waters. This will be a life-giving river that flows from the Temple in the future Millennial Kingdom that will bring blessings to all it reaches.

If the Millennial Temple was to become the source of living, healing waters, could the destiny of those who believe in Christ be any different? Jesus tells us that when we come to Him as we are and believe in Him for His gift of eternal life, out of our innermost being will flow “rivers,” not just a river, of living water. The great thing about what Jesus offers is that it will never run dry. We will always have more than we need. When we are filled with the water Jesus offers, it does not stop with us. It gushes out of us! It keeps coming and touches those that we touch. We become, pipes, so to speak – pipes for Jesus – that in effect, allow Christ’s living water to flow through us to others. We are former thirsty people who now show thirsty people how to get a drink. God wants these rivers of living water to flow out of our lives and bless others.

When we come to Jesus, and He more than satisfies our spiritual thirst, we start to show concern for others. The satisfaction that we found in Christ leads us to reach out to needy people around us and to minister to them. Why not be a pipe for Jesus and let His blessings flow through you as you step out in faith to share the gospel with those who don’t have Christ in their lives? Be the channel through which the unsaved can discover how much God loves them and wants to bless them with eternal life. God saved you so that you can become a blessing to others as His rivers of living water flow through you to satisfy the needs of other people.

Those who believe in Christ will be able to experience the supreme blessing of Paradise on the new earth. On the new earth in the New Jerusalem, a river of living waters will flow from the throne of God the Father and God the Son, not from a temple. God will then reside with His people on the new earth forever and we will experience a new earth that is totally free from the Curse.

Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, thank You so much for this incredible description of our future home in the New Jerusalem on the new earth. This experience will be much like the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned. There will be a river, a tree of life, fruit, and most importantly – You! We will get to experience what Genesis 3:8 anticipated – walking with You in the cool of the day in the garden. Thank You for reminding us that the fruit of the tree of life is an eternal reward for those who remain faithful to You to the end of their lives on this earth. Please grant us the grace to faithfully serve You now so we can experience in the New Jerusalem this life-enhancing fruit and a deeper intimacy with You. And may each of us who believe in You be the channel through which the unsaved can discover how much You love them and want to bless them with eternal life. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 246.

2. Ibid., cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 1075.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2423.

4. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 230548.

5. Constable, pg. 246.

6. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 78.

7. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 392.

8. Evans, pg. 2423.

9. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 6622.

10. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1526-1527, 1587.

11. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 361.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1587.

13. Constable, pg. 247.

14. Alcorn, pg. 376 cites Rene Pache, The Future Life (Chicago: Moody, 1971), pg. 357.

15. Ibid., cites Salem Kirban, What is Heaven Like? (Huntingdon Valley, Pa.: Second Coming, 1991), pg. 35.

16. Alcorn, pp. 377-378.

17. Ibid., pg. 378.  

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid., pp. 379-380.

20. Vacendak, pg. 1587; Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 678.

21. Dillow, pg. 679.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid., cites Marty Cauley, The Outer Darkness 2 Vols. (Sylva, NC: Misthological Press, 1231 Monteith Branch Road, 2012), pg. 510.

24. Ibid., cites Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Last Word: Revelation; an Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), pp. 43-44. For a similar view see Richard R. Benedict, “The Use of Nikaō in the Letters to the Seven Churches of Revelation” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1966), pg. 11.

25. Vacendak, pg. 1586; cf. Evans, pg. 2423.

26. Walvoord, Kindle Location 6629 to 6633; Constable, pg. 247.

27. Wilkin, Road to Reward, pg. 94.

28. Ibid., pg. 95.

29. Ibid., pg. 96.

30. Ibid.

31. Zane C. Hodges, “Rivers of Living Water – John 7:37-39,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136:543 (July-September 1979), pp. 239-248.

Revelation 21 – Part 10

“And the nations shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him.” Revelation 21:24

Last time we saw that there will be no need of the sun or moon to shine because the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ will illuminate the entire New Jerusalem on the new earth (21:22-23). This Celestial City is so bright that it will also provide light for the entire new earth. “And the nations shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him.” (Revelation 21:24). Notice that there will be “nations” on the new earth, perhaps much like we have today. Since the New Jerusalem is inhabited by King Jesus and believers from the Church Age (21:2, 9-10; cf. 19:7, 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27), these “nations” consist of believers in Christ from before and after the Church Age who live outside the city on the new earth. These other believers will also have access to the New Jerusalem because of their faith in Christ (21:27b).

Vacendak writes, “God will create human beings to live on the new earth just as He created Adam and Eve – sinless people whose status and condition will be similar to Adam and Eve’s before the Fall… More likely, believers who are alive on earth at the end of the Millennium will be brought into the new heavens and earth in their unresurrected bodies to populate it. These bodies will be transformed into sinless bodies, but will not have been resurrected. They will be like Adam and Eve before they sinned, but without the ability to sin. As such, they will procreate and populate the new heavens and the new earth, and so they will form the nations.” 1

It is likely then that the nations will be comprised of resurrected and unresurrected believers from before and after the Church Age who “shall walk in” the brilliant “light” of the New Jerusalem. The “kings” (basileis) or rulers 2 are “overcomers” who remained faithful to Christ to the end of their lives (21:24b; cf. 2:10b, 25-27; 22:5; cf. 2 Timothy 2:12).

These “kings of the earth bring their glory and honor of the nations to Him” (21:24b). This suggests that there will be human government and economy on the new earth. The leaders of these nations will reenact what the wise men did over two thousand years ago when they brought their gold and other treasures to the Baby Jesus (cf. Matthew 2:1-11). 3 In eternity on the new earth, the kings of the earth are going to bring their “glory and honor” or treasures to King Jesus year after year in the New Jerusalem to worship and glorify Him. Everyone on the new earth will bring glory to God.

Next the apostle John informs us, Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).” (Revelation 21:25). In John’s day, cities closed their gates to keep their enemies out, especially at night. But on the new earth there will be no need to shut the gates of the New Jerusalem because King Jesus will have no enemies on the new earth and there “shall be no night there” because the light of His glory illuminates everything. The phrase “shall not be shut at all” (ou mē kleisthōsin) is emphatic and literally says “shall no not ever be shut.” 4 Since the gates of the New Jerusalem will never ever be shut, the rulers of the nations will have continual access into the city.

“And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations so that they may enter it.” (Revelation 21:26). The kings “shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations“ into the New Jerusalem “so that they” themselves “may enter” (21:26b) through “its gates” (21:25a). Only overcoming or faithful believers will enter through the main “gates” of the New Jerusalem. This is seen in Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the phrase “do His commandments.” Only those believers whose lives are characterized by obedience to Christ to the end of their lives (cf. 2:10, 25-27) will be rewarded with this special honor. The emphasis of verse 14 is not on entering the city, but on entering by “the gates” into the city. Every believer can enter the city, but only some will come in through the gates. This is emphatic in the Greek text which literally says, “and by the gates they may enter into the city” (kai tois pylōsin eiselthōsineis tēn polin).The apostle John is emphasizing the way of entrance, that is, by the gates, and not the fact of entrance. 5

“Gates of ancient cities were for defense or honor or both. To be known ‘in the gates’ was to sit among the ‘elders of the land’ and have a position of high honor and authority (Proverbs 31:23, cf. ISBE 2:408). Since defense is not a function of these ‘gates’ into the heavenly city; they are to be regarded as places of honor and authority. The overcomer was promised ‘authority’ over the nations (Revelation 2:26). John describes them elsewhere, as memorials to the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12, 14). We are reminded of the Roman victory arches which sat astride the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. There were thousands of entry ways into Rome, but Caesar entered by these gates, by the victory arch. Through these gates, according to John, ‘the honor and glory of the nations’ will enter (Revelation 21:25-26).” 6 “As Lange has suggested, to enter by the gates means to enter ‘as conquerors in triumphal procession.’” 7

So what John probably had in mind when he speaks of the kings of the nations entering into the New Jerusalem through “its gates” (21:24-26), are “the victory arches that towered over the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. Through these gates the triumphant Roman generals and their soldiers would march.” 8

Arch of Titus

For example, “the Arch of Titus near the Forum in Rome… was constructed after his victory over Jerusalem in AD 70.

“Engravings on it show Roman soldiers bringing back treasures from the temple in Jerusalem. Similarly, those Christians [believers] who remain faithful to their King will enter the city in victory and will be likewise honored.” 9

Whether you are an overcoming believer who enters through one of the main gates of the New Jerusalem or a non-overcoming believer who enters the city through another entrance, everyone will have a desire to bring honor and glory to God Who reigns over the new earth from that city. Not one person will be unwilling to do this because every citizen on the new earth will be a sinless believer. The eternal state will have rules and laws, but no one there will want to disobey them. 10

After mentioning who may enter the New Jerusalem, John now tells us what cannot enter the city. “But there shall by no means enter it anything profane, nor one who causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Revelation 21:27). Nothing that is “profane” (koinon) or impure 11 can enter the New Jerusalem, “nor one who causes an abomination” (bdelugma)which refers to “something that causes revulsion or extreme disgust… in the sight of God.” 12 Nor will anyone enter the city “who causes… a lie” (pseudos) or falsehood. 13

Even though the city gates will continually be wide open, nothing that is evil or leads to evil will ever be part of the New Jerusalem. This does not mean there will be people on the new earth outside the New Jerusalem who are evil. In the context of these final chapters in the book of Revelation, unbelieving people and all their evil ways have been confined to the lake of fire forever (cf. 20:11-15; 21:8). 14 This part of the verse is saying nothing about born again believers in Jesus who were evil or led people to do evil during their lives on the old earth because their sins are now gone forever since they are forgiven, immortal, and sinless (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14; I Corinthians 15:35-57; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 5:26-27; I John 3:1-3).

Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (21:27b) will be able to enter or inhabit the New Jerusalem. It is important to observe that it is the absence of one’s name “in the Lamb’s Book of Life,” not the absence of good works, that determines one’s eternal destination. Evil works are not the issue for entrance into the New Jerusalem. Many of the earth’s greatest sinners’ names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life because they received God’s free offer of eternal life through faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9). 15

Alcorn states that many Americans believe going to heaven is their “default destination.” 16 But this optimism is contrary to what Jesus warned when He said, 13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). Christ makes it clear that “few” people find the way that leads into eternal life. This is probably because few people are being told that faith alone in Christ alone is the only way into God’s heaven (John 10:9; 11:25-26; Act 4:12; I Timothy 2:3-5).

What would keep all of us out of heaven is failure to believe in Christ alone for His gift of eternal life. This is the one sin that cannot be forgiven. All other sins are forgivable (Colossians 2:13-14; Psalm 86:5; 103:2a, 3a; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19b; Acts 10:43). 17

Jesus said God the Holy Spirit was sent to 8 convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” (John 16:8-9). The word “sin” (hamartias) means “to miss the mark or standard.” 18 All people fall short of God’s perfect righteousness because “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) against God through their thoughts, words, actions, and motives. Our sin separates us from God because He is holy and righteous and cannot allow sin into His presence: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” (Habakkuk 1:13 NIV; cf. Isaiah 59:2). Because we are all sinners, we deserve eternal death or separation from God forever in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23a; Revelation 20:15). We are not able to enter God’s heaven as we are. Hence, heaven is not our default destination. The lake of fire is our default destination. 19

Yet the world tries to persuade people that they are not sinners. Many secular scientists and psychologists seem bent on destroying peoples’ awareness of sin. They may say that all people are inherently good. As a result, many people have a difficult time admitting they are guilty of sin. Oh, they may admit that they make mistakes or have failures and vices, but it is very difficult for them to admit that they have sinned against God. Even some churches say that people are not that bad and because God is love, He will accept everyone into heaven. Hence, many people, including Christians, believe that going to heaven is their default destination.

But the ultimate proof of the world’s sinfulness, Jesus says, is that “they do not believe in Me” (John 16:9). A court of law can convict someone of murder or theft, but only God the Holy Spirit can convict someone of unbelief toward Christ. The Holy Spirit can convict people of their individual sins they have committed, but people can clean up their own lives and still go to the lake of fire. It is the sin of unbelief toward Jesus Christ that condemns people to an eternity in the lake of fire. Jesus said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18).That is why the Bible says that “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). Those who refuse to believe in Jesus will not have their names written in the Book of Life.

Unbelievers are judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-13; cf. Matthew 23:14; Mark 12:40), not their eternal destination. But their condemnation and placement in the lake of fire is because of their unbelief toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:15; cf. John 3:18).

Because faith in Christ and His full payment for sin on the cross (John 19:30) is the only solution to our sin problem, the Holy Spirit wants to convict people of their sinful condition, so they can see their need to believe in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life (John 3:14-16). The Holy Spirit is the prosecuting attorney who presents God’s case against sinful humanity. He creates an awareness of sin so that it cannot be dismissed or excused or evaded by taking refuge in the fact that “everybody is doing it.” When we are convicted of our sin, we admit to God that we have been wrong in our unbelief toward Jesus and then we believe or trust in Him alone, so we can live with Christ forever in the New Jerusalem on the new earth.

Do you know for sure your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Don’t wait and see, just hoping that your name will be in the Book of Life. You can know for sure right now by taking God at His Word. The apostle John who wrote Revelation and the gospel of John, also wrote First John. He writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13). This one verse is written to “you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” Do you believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, Who died for all your sins and rose from the dead, proving His claims to be God are true (cf. John 20:31; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)?

If you do, the Bible guarantees “you may know that you have eternal life.” It does not say you may “think” or “hope” you have eternal life. It says you may “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours right now. Because Jesus Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), we can be confident He will keep His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 3:15-16). Do you now know for sure you have eternal life and a future forever home in the New Jerusalem on the new earth? If you do, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for persuading me that I am a sinner whose default destination is in the lake of fire. I believe You took my place on the cross to die for all my sins and then rose from the dead, proving You are God. As best I know how, I am now believing in You for Your gift of everlasting life. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the future forever home I will have in the New Jerusalem on the new earth. Please use me now to tell others how they can know for sure they will live forever with You in Your heaven. Help me remain faithful to You so I may honor and worship You more with the rewards You give for faithfulness. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:  

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1586.

2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 169-170.

3. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 40.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 245.

5. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 974-975.  

6. Ibid., pg. 975.

7. Ibid., cites John Peter Lange, “The Revelation of John,” in A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, ed. John Peter Lange, et al. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 12:446.

8. Dillow, pg. 975.

9. Ibid.

10. Vacendak, pp. 1586-1587.

11. Bauer, pg. 552.

12. Ibid., pg. 172.

13. Ibid., pg. 1097.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1587.

15. Adapted from David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 21 who cites William R. Newell, The Book of the Revelation, 9th ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1935), pg. 334.

16. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 54 cites K. Connie Kang, “Next Stop, the Pearly Gates… or Hell?” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2003.

17. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32) is not unforgivable, it is unforgiven because those who commit this sin are too hard of heart to seek God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:33-37). See “Can a Christian commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?” at www.seeyouinheaven.life.

18. Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol V: John and Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 267.

19. Alcorn, pg. 54.

Revelation 21 – Part 9

“The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” Revelation 21:23

Following the descriptions of the exterior of the New Jerusalem (21:1-21), the apostle John now focuses his attention on the interior of the city (21:22-22:5). The first thing John mentions has to do with the absence of the temple. “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Revelation 21:22). For hundreds of years the tabernacle and the temple symbolized God’s presence with humankind on the earth (Hebrews 9:9). 1

“People tend to associate impressive structures with religious activity, such as the massive, ornate buildings of the Vatican or the enormous golden Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Even smaller structures, such as our own churches, represent sacred places to us where we learn about and worship our God. The New Jerusalem, however, will have no need for a special building set aside for worship.

“It’s true that in the present age of the church, God redirected the location of worship from the physical temple in Jerusalem to the spiritual ‘temple’ of the church itself – the body of believers (I Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:19-22).” 2

But in the future New Jerusalem, where all the redeemed from the church age will dwell, the center of worship will be God the Father, “the Lord God Almighty,” and God the Son, “the Lamb” (21:22b).In the New Jerusalem, the temple will no longer be necessary because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Under the Law of Moses only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place and only once a year. In eternity, people will live in God’s presence continually.” 3

Heaven’s greatest miracle will be our constant access to God. Christ promised His disciples, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3b). For believers in Jesus, to die is to “be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). The apostle Paul stated, “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23b). Paul could have said, “Having a desire to depart and be in heaven,“ but he did not. His focus was on being with the Lord Jesus, which is the most important aspect of being in heaven. 4

Samuel Rutherford wrote, “O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee, it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell and have thee still it would be a heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.” 5 Martin Luther said, “I had rather be in hell with Christ, than be in heaven without him.” 6

What will make heaven so special is not the huge dimensions of the New Jerusalem or the precious materials that comprise the city and its beautiful array of colors. It is the presence of Jesus Christ that makes heaven heaven. Since Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins when He died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6), we will be forever free from the penalty of our sins or even the fear of sin. We will have no more shameful skeletons in the closet or secrets to keep hidden. All barriers between us and Jesus will be forever removed. 7 We will be able to relax in His presence, free from the bondage of sin and shame.

Next John writes, “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” (Revelation 21:23). This verse does not say there will be no sun or moon, but that there will be “no need of the sun or of the moon to shine.” Why? Because “the very glory of God illuminated it.” Our sun is ninety-three million miles away from us, yet its power is sufficient to illumine the entire earth. God’s presence can replace the sun with ease because the Lord possesses an even greater degree of power and radiance. 8

The New Jerusalem will be the heavenly version of “the city that never sleeps” because “The Lamb is its light” (cf. I Timothy 6:16; I John 1:5). 9 The glory of the Lord Jesus will illuminate the Celestial City.

“It truly will be the Jesus Christ Light and Power Company then.” 10

We will not need to sleep because we will have glorified bodes that never grow tired (I Corinthians 15:35-58; Philippians 3:20-21). There will be no need for Monster or Red Bull energy drinks!

When Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father that we may be with Him in heaven He explains why in John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” When Jesus prays for believers to “be with Me where I am,” it is so “they may behold” His “glory” illuminating the New Jerusalem and the new earth.

When we accomplish something, we want to share it with those closest to us. Likewise, Jesus wants to share His accomplishments with us. He wants to share His glory with us. 11 Christ is saying in John 17:24, “Here is My family. All who have believed in Me. They know about the cross and they know how I was born in a manger in Bethlehem. But there are some things they don’t know about Me. They don’t know some of the best parts of Me. They don’t know what it is like for Me to be glorified, sitting on My throne in glory as King of kings and Lord of lords. I want them to be there. I want them to see that. I want them to know what great lengths I have gone to, at such sacrifice, to prepare a place for them to behold and participate in My glory. When I am sitting on My throne in My eternal kingdom, I want them to see My glory illuminating the New Jerusalem on the new earth.”

What a wonderful day it will be when we behold the glory of the Lamb illuminating the  entire New Jerusalem. No more darkness. No more crime. No more shadows. No more night. No more fatigue.

God wants those of us who believe in Christ to walk in His light now. The Bible says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7). Notice John says to walk “in” the light, not “according” to the light. Walking “according” to the light would refer to sinless perfection as a condition for fellowship with God. But the preposition “in” refers to walking in the sphere of God’s light where there is no darkness or dishonesty. In other words, to have fellowship with God we must be open and honest with Him, not sinless, as we walk in the light with Him.

Like a man walking in the sphere of light produced by a streetlamp at night where he can see any stains on his clothing, so believers are to walk in the sphere of light that God gives us through His Word and His presence. As we walk in the light in which God dwells (“as He is in the light”), His light will reveal any unconfessed sin in our lives. We then have a choice to make. We can either agree with God and confess our sins (I John 1:9) or we can disagree with God and deny our sins. Denying our sins will cast us into the darkness of broken fellowship with God. Confessing our sins will enable us to maintain close fellowship with God.

When we are open and honest with God, the Bible says we will “have fellowship with one another.” The “one another” refers to God and us in the context. How can sinful believers enjoy fellowship with a holy God? The last part of the verse explains. “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Right now, you and I are not aware of all the sin that is in our lives. But God knows about it. And being the gracious and merciful God that He is, He does not reveal all our sin at once. If He did, we would be so overwhelmed by all our sin it would probably kill us on the spot. But the reason we can enjoy closeness with our holy God even though we have all this unknown sin in our lives is because the blood of Christ cleanses us of “all” that sin. So, no matter how badly or often we have sinned, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse us of all our sins.

I believe I John 1:7 speaks to the process of healing that God wants all of us to experience. When we experience trauma in our childhood which may be intense (e.g., physical, or sexual abuse, parents divorce, etc.) or less intense (e.g., frequent moves, a hurtful word on the playground, etc.), we may retreat into the darkness of fear and shame, blaming ourselves for what happened to us. We don’t trust anyone, nor do we believe anyone could love us. Often, we pick up where our abusers left off and we abuse ourselves with critical self-talk and/or addictions. We may feel engulfed in a sea of darkness and hopelessness.

But Jesus wants to shine His light of love and truth into the darkness that engulfs our wounds. He wants us to understand that when trauma took place in our childhood,He was there with us with tears in His eyes. And He is saying to us, “It was not your fault. I love you and I am so proud of you.” And even though we may abuse ourselves as adults, Jesus is still with us, waiting for us to welcome Him into the darkness where we have been hiding under the weight of our fear and shame. Jesus wants to shine His light of love and truth into the broken and wounded areas of our souls – not to condemn or shame us, but to heal us. And the more we permit Him to shine His light in the depths of our wounded souls, the more eager we will be to walk in the light of His love and truth, being open and honest with Him. 

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for giving us a glimpse of the magnificent glory of the Lord Jesus Christ which will illuminate the entire New Jerusalem on the new earth. Lord Jesus, You are light. You are all that is pure, holy, gracious, love, merciful, and true. There is no darkness or deceit in You. As we grow in our understanding of Who You are, we want to choose to be open and honest with You, Lord, because You are a good, good God Who is eager to forgive us and cleanse us, not forsake us or condemn us. When we focus on our sin and shame, we retreat into the darkness where You are not. We shut You out of our lives because we perceive ourselves to be too bad for You to love us. But the truth is Lord, You know us better than we do, and You still love us and cherish Your time with us. Knowing we are deeply surrounded and filled with Your love for us, frees us to release our sin and shame to You. Please help us to say “good-bye” to the lies that isolate us from You and Your family. Please cleanse us of those lies and hold us in Your everlasting arms of love and mercy. Thank You for letting us be open and vulnerable with You. Thank You for listening to us and loving us as we are. Oh, how we appreciate Your gentleness and graciousness with us. We love You Lord Jesus. Thank You for loving us far more than we deserve or can comprehend. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1586.

2. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 391.

3. Vacendak, pg. 1586.  

4. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 272.

5. Alcorn, pg. 272 cites Samuel Rutherford, quoted in Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, January 17, morning reading.

6. Ibid., cites Martin Luther, quoted in James M Campbell, Heaven Opened: A Book of Comfort and Hope (New York: Revell, 1924), pg. 148.  

7. Ibid., pg. 273.

8. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2422.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1586.

10. Constable, pg. 245 quotes J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 5 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 1072.

11. Adapted from Alcorn, pp. 273-274.

Revelation 21 – Part 8

“The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” Revelation 21:21

After discovering the shape and size of the New Jerusalem on the new earth during the final stage of heaven (21:15-17), the apostle John now describes the construction materials of this colossal city (21:18-21). He zooms in to take a closer look at the texture and color of the walls, gates, and foundations. 1 “The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.” (Revelation 21:18). The word “construction” (endōmēsis) means “to build in,” suggesting the wall had jasper built into it and was not made of solid jasper. 2 John may have meant that the walls were overlaid with this brilliant material, 3 making the city walls appear to glisten like a perfect diamond. 4 When describing both the “jasper” and “gold,” John was using the language of appearance (“clear as crystal,” “like clear glass,” “like transparent glass”), since both metals apparently differed in appearances as we know them today (21:11, 18, 21). 5

The entire city appeared to shine as a mass of “pure gold” that was “like clear glass” (21:18b). “Clear glass” in John’s day was the best quality of glass, so when he compares the “pure gold” to “clear glass,” he may have meant that there was no impurity in the New Jerusalem. 6

Swindoll takes this reference to the city being “like clear glass” (21:18) to mean something different. He writes, “In our present fallen world, people build walls to maintain privacy and security. These can be physical barriers to keep curious onlookers from watching our every move, but they can also be mental, emotional, or spiritual walls that protect us from harm, hide our shame, or keep people at a distance from us relationally. This kind of secrecy and security will be unnecessary in the Celestial City. To a certain degree, Christians today can reflect the grace and glory of God, not by hiding in the ‘inner sanctuary’ of private life but by being transparent with others. This means keeping the inside as pure as the outside, then letting people see the glory of God shine through us.” 7

Next John zooms in on the foundation stones of the colossal city which reveal its permanence (Hebrews 11:10). 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.” (Revelation 21:19-20). The apostle names twelve precious stones, one different gem adorning each of the twelve foundations. Eight of these gems correspond to the stones of the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:17-20). 8 Another view is that the jewels did not decorate the foundation stones, but the foundation stones were themselves whole gemstones. 9

These twelve foundation stones involve a different color: “jasper” is diamond, 10  “sapphire” is deep blue; the “chalcedony” comes from Chalcedon, Turkey and is basically blue with stripes of other colors. 11 The “emerald” is a bright green; the “sardonyx” is red and white; and the “sardius” is usually ruby-red in color, though it can have an amber or honey color. 12 The “chrysolyte” is a golden color, different from the modern chrysolyte stone which is pale green. 13 The “beryl” is a sea green; the “topaz” is a transparent yellow green; the “chrysoprase” is also green; the “jacinth” is violet in color; 14 and the “amethyst” is purple quartz. 15 Together these precious stones provide a brilliant array of beautiful colors, much like the rainbow’s colors.

Instead of there being one pearly gate as we are accustomed to hearing, there are twelve gates of pearl, three on each wall. “The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl.” (Revelation 21:21a). Each gate leading into the city was made of a single giant pearl.

“Among the ancients, pearls were ranked highest among precious stones, because their beauty derives entirely from nature, improvement by human workmanship being an impossibility.” 16

The significance of these gates of pearl is noted by John Philips: “All other precious gems are metals or stones, but a pearl is a gem formed within the oyster – the only one formed by living flesh. The humble oyster receives an irritation or wound, and around the offending article that has penetrated and hurt it, the oyster builds a pearl. The pearl, we might say, is the answer of the oyster to that which injured it.” 17

“The pearl represents pain resulting in beauty, suffering crowned with glory. When we read of this symbol of the pearl eternally embedded in the doorways of heaven, it should remind us that Christ’s suffering had an eternal purpose and opened heaven for us (John 10:9; 14:6). It also assures us that our own suffering for the sake of Christ has a purpose and can be used by Him to reflect His glory in our lives (Romans 5:3-5; Philippians 3:8-11; James 1:2-4).” 18

In addition to the gates of pearl, John describes the street of the New Jerusalem. “And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” (Revelation 21:21b). People frequently talk about the streets of gold in heaven, but there is only one “street” or pavement “of the city.” Everyone living in the New Jerusalem will live on Main Street. 19 The street in our eternal home will not consist of gravel, nor of tar, nor cement or asphalt, 20 but of “pure gold, like transparent glass.” This “street will be paved with gold polished to mirror brilliance. Gold is so plentiful to the Creator that He uses it to pave His street.” 21

“In the New Jerusalem the materials we adore the most in this world will be put to common use. The marble-paved streets of Ephesus, where the apostle John lived out his days, were unusually extravagant, earning Ephesus a reputation as one of the most opulent cities of the Roman Empire. But the opulence of the New Jerusalem will far exceed that of Ephesus or any other city. Gold will be trodden upon like asphalt. There will be no vanity, no materialism, no envy, or greed. Best of all, no one will be poor in a place that paves its streets with gold.” 22

Can you imagine approaching the New Jerusalem and seeing it from a great distance? A remarkable city over 14,000 miles long, wide, and high being built upon gemstone foundations, each gate brilliantly crafted from a single giant pearl, with a street poured from the purest gold. One day all who have believed in Jesus Christ for His gift of eternal life will be able to walk into this magnificent city with jaws dropped and eyes widened in absolute wonder, for even the most beautiful places on earth do not compare to what the Lord Jesus is preparing for those who believe in Him.

Would you like to call the New Jerusalem your eternal home? You can if you will come to God on His terms. The Bible says, “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). The person who comes to God “does not work.” Getting right with God is not based on the things you do. It is not based on praying, living a good life, obeying God’s commands, confessing your sins, being baptized with water, or turning from your sins. Getting right with God is not based on the things you do but on what Jesus Christ has already done when He died in your place on the cross to pay the penalty for all your sins and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6).

Getting right with God is not based upon behaving, but upon believing in Jesus Christ “who justifies the ungodly.” It does not matter how well you have behaved; you are still “ungodly” before a holy God. You may say, “Well, I’m not as bad as him or her.” You need to understand that God is not comparing your life to other sinful people. He is comparing your life to the only perfect Person who has ever lived on earth – Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus never told a lie, but you have told many. Jesus loved everyone, including His enemies. But you have days you cannot stand to be with your own family. The good news is that the moment you believe or trust in Christ alone who paid the full penalty for your sin when He died on the Cross and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6), God “justifies” you which means He declares you to be totally righteous as if you had never sinned.  

The fact is that all people are “ungodly” sinners who deserve to be separated from God forever in a terrible place called the “lake of fire” (Romans. 3:9-23; Revelation 20:15). But the moment you believe in Jesus Christ alone, God gives you a right standing before Him as “your faith is accounted for righteousness.”

God now invites you to come to Him on His terms. He doesn’t say to behave or “work,” He says to “believe” in His only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, who died in your place on a cross and rose from the dead. All of us are “ungodly,” and we need to believe or trust in our only Savior, Jesus Christ. The moment we do, God declares us to be totally righteous in His eyes so He can let us enter the New Jerusalem on the new earth in the final stage of heaven.

You can tell God through prayer you are now believing in Jesus to give you His gift of righteousness so you can be accepted by God and enter His heaven.

Prayer: Dear God, thank You for showing me that I could never live up to Your standards of holiness. Thank You for sending Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, Who did live up to Your standards of holiness because He is God. And He lived a perfect life and then died in my place on a cross and three days later rose from the dead so that He is alive today. I am now believing in the risen Lord Jesus for His gift of righteousness and eternal life. Thank You God for declaring me to be totally righteous the moment I believed in Jesus. Thank You that I am totally accepted by You and I can now enter Your heaven in the future. Please use me to share this good news with others who are trying to behave instead of believe to enter Your heaven. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, God declared you to be totally righteous in His eyes. You are now covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God sees all the beauty, holiness, and goodness of His Son when He looks at you (Romans 8:31-38). God can now permit you to enter His heaven based on your faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for you on the cross. Now that you know you will be living in a magnificent and beautiful city and world – apart from any evil – in the presence of Jesus Christ, this can encourage you to endure difficulties in this life knowing what awaits you afterward. 24

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 389.

2. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 230,163; cf. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 334.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 243.

4. Jasper is said to be “clear as crystal” in 21:11.

5. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6585.

6. Constable, pg. 243 cites Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 381.

7. Swindoll, pg. 390.

8. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 360.

9. Constable, pg. 243 cites James Moffatt, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament Vol. 5, 4th Ed. Edited by W. Roberston Nicoll (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910), pg. 484.

10. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 455.

11. Walvoord, location 6591.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid., location 6596.

15. Hitchcock, pg. 456.

16. Constable, pg. 244 quotes Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 473.

17. Swindoll, pg. 390 quotes John Philips, Exploring Revelation, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), pg. 254.

18. Swindoll, pg. 390.

19. Hitchcock, pg. 456.

20. Tony Evans, CSB Bible by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2422.

21. Hitchcock, pg. 456.

22. Swindoll, pp. 390-391.

23. David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 101.

24. Adapted from Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1585.

Revelation 21 – Part 7

“The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.” Revelation 21:16

Thus far in our study of the final stage of heaven we have learned that the capital city of the new earth is the New Jerusalem from which King Jesus and His bride, the church (21:2, 9-10; cf. 19:7, 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27), will rule the nation of Israel and the entire new earth (21:1-14).

Next John will discover the dimensions of this remarkable City. “And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.” (Revelation 21:15). The angel who has led the apostle John on this guided tour of the New Jerusalem now “had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.” The fact that the angel’s measuring rod is “gold” suggests the dignity of the task of measuring the city’s gates and walls. It also reflects the immense value of the city. 1

John first describes the shape and then the size of the city. “The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.” (Revelation 21:16). Its base was “laid out as a square.” The city’s exact dimensions are measured by the angel and is reported to be “twelve thousand furlongs.” The Greek word for “furlong” is stadia and is “a measure of distance of about 192 meters.” 2 Twelve thousand furlongs would be approximately 2,304,000 meters or about 1,432 miles. According to this angel, the New Jerusalem is a colossal cube that is 1,432 miles long, 1432 miles wide, and 1,432 miles high. It contains 432 quintillion cubic feet of space. How big is that?

To help us envision this, think of a map of the United States. The footprint of the city would be about the same as drawing a square from Miami, Florida up to Boston, Massachusetts then westward to Minneapolis, Minnesota then south to Corpus Christi, Texas and then back to Miami. And that is just the ground level. This colossal city rises 1,432 miles into outer space.

Since this city is cubicle, we can assume it has more than one level. 3 Given the dimensions of a 1,432-mile cube, if the city has different levels, and if each story were a generous twelve feet high, the city could have over 630,000 stories. If they were on different levels, billions of people could occupy the New Jerusalem. 4 There is no question that this colossal city would be able to house all believers in Jesus from the church age.

The cube shape of the New Jerusalem reminds us of the cube shape of the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, the dwelling place of God on earth in the Old Testament. It was a perfect cube measuring fifteen feet on every side. Likewise, the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple was a thirty-foot cube. 5 “The New Jerusalem, also a perfect cube, will be like a huge Holy of Holies, a cosmic Temple, where God dwells eternally. The parallels between the New Jerusalem and the Garden of Eden (a river, the tree of life, and God’s presence) and the Holy of Holies have led some to call the New Jerusalem the ’Edenic Temple-City.’” 6

Swindoll states that critics think these dimensions cannot be taken literally. They argue that a cubicle city of this size would send the earth wobbling in its orbit and perhaps careening into the sun. 7 But the apostle John himself understands “these measurements to be human and literal, not spiritual and symbolic. He makes a point of noting that the human measurements were the same as angelic measurements (21:17).” 8

“Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.” (Revelation 21:17). The city wall was “one hundred and forty-four cubits” thick which is about 216 feet or 72 yards.Even though an angel of God was doing the measuring, he was using human units of measurement. 9 If God did not want us to take these dimensions literally as some argue, 10 then why does the Bible give us the dimensions and then say it is according to the measurement of man which the angel was using? This emphasis on man’s measurement seems to be an appeal to believe that the New Jerusalem is truly this huge!!! 11

If God did not want us to believe the New Jerusalem is 1,432 miles wide and deep and high, how would we expect Him to say this besides what the Bible plainly says? Isn’t it possible for the God of the universe to make such a city? Isn’t it possible for people in glorified bodies like the risen and exalted Lord Jesus to inhabit such a city? 12 Absolutely!!!

Skeptics argue that a city of this size would alter the earth’s orbit causing it to spin out of orbit and careen into the sun. But this assumes that the new earth will be the same size as our current earth. The Bible does not tell us the size of the new earth. Isn’t it likely that God will create a new earth whose size is perfectly proportionate to the New Jerusalem? 13

Someone may argue, “But this city rises above the earth’s oxygen level.” Can’t God put oxygen 1,432 miles high in the new heaven and new earth if He wants? Or can’t God make it, so we don’t have to breathe oxygen in our resurrected glorified bodies? Such things are not impossible for the Lord. 14

One of the reasons why there is so much skepticism about taking what the Bible says about heaven literally is because of the influence of christoplatonism. Alcorn explains the origin of this term. “Plato, the Greek philosopher, believed that material things, including the human body and the earth, are evil, while immaterial things such as the soul and Heaven are good. This view is called Platonism. The Christian church, highly influenced by Platonism through the teachings of Philo (ca. 20 BD – AD 50) and Origen (AD 185-254), among others, came to embrace the ‘spiritual’ view that human spirits are better off without bodies and that Heaven is a disembodied state. They rejected the notion of Heaven as a physical realm and spiritualized or entirely neglected the biblical teaching of resurrected people inhabiting a resurrected Earth.

“Christoplatonism has had a devastating effect on our ability to understand what Scripture says about Heaven, particularly about the eternal Heaven, the New Earth… If we believe, even subconsciously, that bodies and the earth and material things are unspiritual, even evil, then we will inevitably reject or spiritualize any biblical revelation about our bodily resurrection or physical characteristics of the New Earth. That’s exactly what has happened in most Christian churches, and it’s a large reason for our failure to come to terms with a biblical doctrine of Heaven. Christoplatonism has also closed our minds to the possibility that the present Heaven may actually be a physical realm. If we look at Scripture, however, we’ll see considerable evidence that the present Heaven has physical properties.”  15

Another reason for refusing to take God’s description of heaven literally is scholasticism. Alcorn explains: “The writings of twelfth-century theologians such as Peer Abelard and Peter Lombard and thirteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas led to the Philosophical movement known as scholasticism, which came to dominate medieval thought and ultimately took hostage the doctrine of Heaven.

“The scholastic writers viewed Heaven in a more impersonal, cold, and scientific manner than their predecessors. They departed from the Heaven of Scripture that contains both the unfamiliar transcendent presence of God, surrounded by the cherubim, and familiar earthly objects and personages, including people wearing clothes and having conversations. They embraced Heaven entirely intangible, immaterial, and hence – they thought – more spiritual.” 16

“They ignored almost entirely – or allegorized into oblivion – the New Earth as the eternal dwelling place of resurrected humans living with the resurrected Jesus in a physical realm of natural wonders, physical structures, and cultural distinctives.

“The scholastic view gradually replaced the old, more literal understanding of Heaven as garden and city, a place of earthly beauty, dwelling places, food, and fellowship. The loss was incalculable. The church to this day has never recovered from the unearthly – and anti-earthly – theology of Heaven constructed by well-meaning but misguided scholastic theologians. These men interpreted biblical revelation not in a straightforward manner, but in light of the intellectually seductive notions of Platonism, Stoicism, and Gnosticism.” 17

Refusing to take God’s descriptions of the new heaven and new earth literally because of an anti-supernatural bias toward the Bible which scholastic theology promotes, is unfortunate and all too common today.

When faced with the decision to interpret the Bible literally or figuratively, how do we know which is correct? One way is to interpret based on what the Bible says elsewhere about the same subject. For example, the Bible tells us that Christians will possess a glorious resurrection body like that of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20-21). Was Jesus’ resurrection body visible and tangible? Yes, the risen Christ could be seen and touched (John 20:14-29). Could Jesus eat food in His resurrection body? Yes, He ate in the presence of His disciples after His resurrection (Luke 24:36-43). What this means is we will be seen and touched in our glorified bodies on the new earth. We will be able to eat food on the new earth (Revelation 2:7, 17).

The tree of life was a real tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8). If it was not real, why would God not allow Adam and Eve to eat from it after they sinned (Genesis 3:22-24)? Obviously, it was a literal tree in the Garden of Eden, and it will be a literal tree in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14).

God has given us many details about the New Jerusalem on the new earth. To interpret them symbolically or figuratively undermines our trust in God and His Word. If we assume the dimensions of the New Jerusalem cannot be literal, then what is to keep us from believing the city is not real either? If it doesn’t really have its stated dimensions, then it is a short step to believing it does not have dimensions at all. 18

When we interpret figuratively what God intended to be literal, we are doing what Revelation warns us not to do. 18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, may God add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, may God take away his part from the tree of life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19). We take away from God’s Word by denying its plain meaning. We add to it by adding new meanings not supported by the biblical text. 19

God wants His people to forever enjoy a resurrected life on a literal new earth in a literal New Jerusalem. We know this to be true because God plainly says it. Paying attention to the context and bringing other Scriptures into account, we need to draw God’s truth from the text, not read our preconceived ideas into it. 20

Many Christians are being deceived by Satan’s lie which says God’s Word cannot be trusted. This is what the Devil told Eve in the Garden of Eden when he said, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4) if you eat what God said not to eat. Satan planted a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind that basically said what God’s Word clearly says cannot be trusted. This is what Satan wants to do concerning our understanding of the new heaven and new earth. If he can get us to doubt God’s clear descriptions of our future home on the new earth, he can lessen our motivation to prepare for that wonderful place.

But the Bible is filled with promise after fulfilled promise about the trustworthiness of God’s Word. Jesus Himself spoke of this: “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18). Jesus guarantees that the smallest Hebrew letter (“jot”) or smallest Hebrew stroke (“tittle”) cannot change and will not pass away until they are all fulfilled. Jesus Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) and He cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), therefore we can trust what He says.

Taking God at His Word requires faith. “Faith means believing that God keeps His promises.” 21 The author of Hebrews said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). Having faith doesn’t mean we have to see something to be convinced it is true.

For example, I can know I have an incredible home in heaven not because I have been there and seen it, but because I believe Jesus’ promise. 2 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. 3 And 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). Christ has been preparing this place for me for nearly two thousand years since He returned to heaven after His death and resurrection. If I didn’t believe Christ’s Word, I would have no confidence in heaven or anything else He has promised in His Word. If Jesus does not return in the next few decades, I know I am going to die. But I am not afraid of dying because I believe Jesus’ promise to usher me into His presence in His Father’s heavenly home. My faith is in a real God Who had made real promises about heaven. 22

Prayer: Exalted Lord Jesus, Your Word is true because You say it is. We can trust what You clearly say in Your Word because You are true and cannot lie. Thank You so much for Your detailed description of the New Jerusalem with its incredible dimensions. Such a colossal city will have more than enough space for all Your redeemed people from the church age. Use us Lord God to help populate the New Jerusalem by preaching Your gospel of grace to those who are perishing without You. In Your mighty name we pray Lord Jesus. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1 Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pp. 241-242.

2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 940.

3. David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 100.

4. Adapted from Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 353.

5. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 455.

6. Ibid., pg. 455 cites James M. Hamilton Jr., Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), pg. 393.

7. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 388.

8. Ibid., pg. 389.  

9. Constable, pg. 249.

10. Alcorn, pg. 684 cites John Gilmore, Probing Heaven (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), pg. 114, who says that taking these verses literally would dishonor God.  

11. Ibid., pg. 684.

12. Adapted from Ibid.

13. Swindoll, pg. 389.

14. Alcorn, pg. 684.

15. Ibid., pp. 90-91.

16. Ibid., pp. 675-676 cites Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), pp. 80-81.  

17. Alcorn, pg. 676.

18. Ibid., pg. 685.

19. Ibid., pp. 686-687.

20. Ibid., pg. 687.

21. Tony Evans, God Can Not Be Trusted (and Five Other Lies of Satan), LifeChange Books, (The Crown Publishing Group, 2005 Kindle Edition), location 362.

22. Ibid., location 362 to 368.

Revelation 21 – Part 6

“Also, she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.” Revelation 21:12

As the angel continued to give the apostle John a guided tour of the New Jerusalem on the new earth, what caught John’s attention next was the wall of this magnificent city. 12 Also, she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.” (Revelation 21:12-13). The number “twelve” is prominent in the city. There are “twelve gates… angels… tribes of the children of Israel… foundations… apostles … pearls… fruits…” (21:12, 14, 21, 22:2)with the wall “one hundred and forty-four cubits” or twelve times twelve (21:17), and the length, width, and height of the city is “twelve thousand furlongs” 1 or about 1,432 miles 2 for each dimension (21:16).

The “great and high wall” encompassing the New Jerusalem tells us it is a place of tremendous security and serenity for its inhabitants. 3 An added sense of security is noted by the mention of “twelve angels at the gates” to guard them.

We are also informed by John that “the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” are written on the twelve gates, with “three gates” on each side. Notice also that there will be geographical directions on the new earth (“east… north… south… west”) suggesting that physical space will exist throughout the eternal state as well as time. 4

“If the names of the gates corresponded to the millennial Jerusalem described in Ezekiel 48:31-34, the north side from east to west would have the gates Levi, Judah, and Reuben. On the west side from north to south were Naphtali, Asher, and Gad; on the south side from east to west, Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun; and on the east side from north to south, Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan. In contrast to Revelation 7:5-8, where Dan is omitted and Joseph and Manasseh are included, Ezekiel mentioned Dan but not Manasseh.” 5

Hitchcock encourages us to “stop and think for a moment about the lives of the twelve sons of Jacob that the tribes were named after. They were devious, sinful men who even sold their brother Joseph into slavery and lied to their aged father. Genesis 38, which recounts the sins of Judah, is one of the most sordid chapters in the Bible. The fact that God etches the names of these men on the gates of His Holy City is an eternal witness to God’s amazing grace. These names on the gates of heaven should reassure us all that ‘even the worst of sinners can enter heaven by God’s redeeming grace.’” 6

Next John writes, “Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:14). Regarding the foundations of ancient cities, Alan Johnson observes, “Foundations of ancient cities usually consisted of extensions of the rows of huge stones that made up the wall, down to the bedrock. Jerusalem’s first-century walls and foundation stones have recently been excavated. Huge stones, some of which are about five feet wide, four feet high, and thirty feet long, weighing 80 to 100 tons each and going down some 14 to 19 layers below the present ground level, have been found.” 7

John sees this great and high wall resting on twelve massive foundation stones which emphasizes the permanence of this city compared to former temporary dwellings on the old earth which lacked such foundations. 8 It is very significant that “the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” are written on these foundation stones.The foundation of the New Jerusalem is like that of the church which was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus had promised His apostles, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28).

Gates in ancient cities were often named with reference to where they led. For example, in ancient Jerusalem, the Benjamin gate led to the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. 9 Since the names of the twelve apostles, whom Jesus promised would rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, are on the twelve foundations of the city, this suggests that King Jesus and the Church will rule Israel and the entire new earth from the New Jerusalem. The context supports this understanding when it already identified the New Jerusalem as the Lamb’s Bride, the Church (21:2, 9-10; cf. 19:7, 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27).

Hence, every believer in Jesus during this Church age will live in the New Jerusalem and all other believers before and after the Church Age will live outside the City on the new earth. But these other believers will also have access to the New Jerusalem (22:27b).

King Jesus and His Bride will rule the new earth. “Their marriage is one of shared royal power. Their decrees go forth from the gates that lead to the twelve tribes” 10of Israel.

The fact that the apostles are “of the Lamb” (21:14b) once again brings our focus back to where it should be – on the Lamb in this City. 11 Christ is at the center of the New Jerusalem. He is meant to be our central focus both now and throughout eternity.

A man who knew something about the centrality of Christ is the apostle Paul. He wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). While sitting in a prison, Paul realized that the only worthwhile thing in life is Jesus Christ. It was not in his fame or fortune as an apostle. It was not in the money, or in his health, nor in the rewards of ministry. It is Jesus! Christ was the hub around which Paul’s life revolved. For Paul, living was all about Jesus Christ. Since Jesus was at the center of Paul’s life, Paul saw death as a “gain” because it would bring him into the presence of the One who is life itself.

When Jesus is at the center of our lives here on earth, we leave nothing behind when we die because all that is dear to us is already on ahead of us. No one meant more to the apostle Paul than Jesus Christ. Hence, the thought of being with Christ brought great joy to Paul. Jesus was Paul’s most intimate Friend. The thought of being with Him in heaven kept the apostle going. Not because it meant relief from his pain and suffering, but because it meant being with the One who meant the most to him.

As I grow older in the Lord Jesus, I am becoming more convinced that we are not ready to live until we are ready to die. Paul longed to be with Christ in heaven, but he was willing to gladly remain on earth to continue his ministry. He was willing to live or die because for Paul living and dying revolved around Jesus Christ. Could that be said of you and me?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, so much is changing in our world even as we talk to You. But we are deeply encouraged to find stability in our relationship with You because You never change and nor does Your Word. Thank You for reminding us that it is only by Your grace that we could ever live with You in such a glorious place as the New Jerusalem. Reading about the walls, gates, and foundation of this City heightens our anticipation of being in an absolutely secure and permanent place with You for all of eternity. The fact that the apostles will sit on thrones ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel reminds us that we too can sit on thrones if we remain faithful to You to the end. Please grant us the grace to serve You in God-honoring wasy so all the glory goes to You. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6569 to 6574.

2. The Greek word for “furlong” is stadia and is “a measure of distance of about 192 meters” – see Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 940.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1585.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 241.

5. Walvoord, location 6574 to 6580.

6. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 455 cites Bruce Waltke and Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), pg. 515.

7. Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 388 cites Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” in Hebrews-Revelation, Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 596.

8. Constable, pg. 241.

9. Vacendak, pg. 1585.

10. Ibid.

11. Constable, pg. 241.

Revelation 21 – Part 5

“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the city, the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” Revelation 21:10

The night before Jesus’ crucifixion when Satan entered Judas and Judas went out to betray Christ (John 13:27-30), Jesus then said to His eleven remaining disciples, 31 Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him…  33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” (John 13:31, 33-34).

While the other disciples remain silent, Peter ignores Jesus’ command to love one another and focuses on Christ’s phrase, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” Peter does not like to be told what he cannot do, so he asks Jesus, “Lord, where are You going?” (John 13:36a).

Instead of answering Peter’s question directly, Jesus stares at Peter and says, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” (John 13:36b).

Peter is not willing to accept what Jesus is saying, so he quickly retorts, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” (John 13:37).

Without hesitation, Jesus says to Peter, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.” (John 13:38).

Peter probably looks down at the table when he hears Jesus’ rebuke. The awkward silence that follows is suddenly interrupted by Jesus’ words:

1 Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 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. 3 And 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. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1-4).

No doubt the imaginations of the eleven disciples began to soar wondering what Jesus meant when He promised to “prepare a place for” them and then “come again and receive” them to Himself (14:2-3). The apostle John was among those remaining disciples that night, reclining next to Jesus listening to His every word.

Years later when John was on the island of Patmos, the Lord Jesus reveals details about the place He has been preparing for His church on the new earth in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-22:5). 1

Beginning in Revelation 17, John began to contrast two cities, both of which were portrayed as women. “The great harlot” representing the city of Rome was wicked and temporary (Revelation 17-18). The “New Jerusalem,” also called “the Lamb’s bride,” is perfect and eternal (Revelation 21:9-22:5). 2

John is about to begin a guided tour of the New Jerusalem from one of the angels from the seven bowl judgments. “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the woman, the Lamb’s bride.’” (Revelation 21:9). Just as one of the seven bowl angels invited John to come see “the great harlot” (17:1), now another “one of the seven angels” who poured the “bowl” judgments invited John to “come” see “the Lamb’s bride” (21:9). Clearly John is making a connection between “the Lamb’s bride,” the Church (cf. 19:7, 22:17; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27), and the New Jerusalem (21:10). For nearly two thousand years the Lord Jesus Christ has been preparing this special place for those who comprise His bride, the Church (John 14:1-3), where they will enjoy uninterrupted perfect fellowship with one another. 3

Hence, every believer in Jesus during this Church Age will live in the New Jerusalem and all other believers before and after the Church Age will live outside the City on the new earth. But these other believers will also have access to the New Jerusalem (22:27b).

Next John writes, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the city, the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” (Revelation 21:10). In his vision of the harlot the bowl angel transported John into the wilderness (17:3), but this bowl angel “carried” John “away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain.” Observe this is “a… mountain,” not “the… mountain.” This tells us that there will be more than one mountain on the new earth. 4

Alcorn writes, “Just as our resurrection bodies will be better than our current ones, the New Earth’s natural wonders will presumably be more spectacular than those we now know. We can expect more magnificent mountains and more beautiful lakes and flowers than those on this earth. If we imagine the New Earth to have fewer and less beautiful features than the old, we picture the earth’s regression. The least we should expect is retention. But in fact, I believe there’s every reason to anticipate progression. The depiction of the precious metals and stones and vast architecture is lavish beyond imagination, as are the descriptions of trees on both sides of the great river, bearing fruit each month. Everything God tells us suggests we will look back at the present Earth and conclude, creatively speaking, that God was just ‘warming up’ and getting started.

“Look at God’s track record in creating natural wonders in the universe. On Mars, the volcano Olympus Mons rises 79,000 feet, nearly three times higher than Mount Everest. The base of Olympus Mons is 370 miles across and would cover the entire state of Nebraska. The Valles Marineris is a vast canyon that stretches one-sixth of the way around Mars. It’s 2,800 miles long, 370 miles wide, and 4.5 miles deep. Hundreds of our Grand Canyons could fit inside it.

“The New Earth may have far more spectacular features than these. Imagine what we might find on the new Mars or the new Saturn and Jupiter and their magnificent moons. I remember vividly the thrill of first seeing Saturn’s rings through my new telescope when I was eleven years old. It exhilarated me and stirred my heart. Five years later, I heard the gospel for the first time and came to know Jesus, but the wonders of the heavens helped lead me to God. How many times in the new universe will we be stunned by the awesomeness of God’s creation?

“Remember, God will make the new heavens, which will correspond to the old and which will therefore include renewed versions of the planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies God created in the first heavens.

“The New Earth’s waterfalls may dwarf Niagara – or the New Niagara Falls may dwarf the one we know now. We will find rock formations more spectacular than Yosemite’s, peaks higher than the Himalayas, forests deeper and richer than anything we see in the Pacific Northwest.” 5

On this magnificent mountain, John was shown “the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” (21:10b). The “New Jerusalem” is called “the holy city” in contrast with the earthly Jerusalem that existed as the capital city of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. 6 That earthly Jerusalem will be destroyed at the end of the Millennium when the old heaven and earth are destroyed by fire (21:1b; cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13). Since we know that Jesus currently dwells in the third heaven at the right hand of God the Father (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; cf. Acts 7:55-56; Mark 16:19; Hebrews 12:2), we can assume He is preparing this city in the third heaven (John 14:1-3). 7 John then watches the New Jerusalem complete its descent to the new earth “out of” the third “heaven from God.”

John describes the appearance of this city as having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.” (Revelation 21:11). John uses two words to describe the stunning appearance of the New Jerusalem: “glory” (doxan) which refers to “the state of being magnificent, greatness, and splendor” 8 and “light” (phōstēr) which expresses “the state of brightness or shining, splendor or radiance.” 9 Together these two words describe the brilliant, glowing presence of the Lord Jesus Christ Who will illuminate the entire city (cf. 21:23; 22:5). 10 Christ’s glorious presence will make the New Jerusalem look like “a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.”

“The jasper stone known today is opaque and not clear (cf. 4:3). It is found in various colors, and John apparently was referring to the beauty of the stone rather than to its particular characteristics. Today one might describe that city as a beautifully cut diamond, a stone not known as a jewel in the first century.” 11

Another commentator writes, “Heaven’s capital city is thus pictured as a huge, flawless diamond, refracting the brilliant, blazing glory of God throughout the new heaven and the new earth.” 12

John was trying to describe what he saw in a way that would be familiar to his readers. However, it is evident that what he sees transcends anything he had experienced. Nothing on earth even begins to describe what the Lord Jesus has prepared for us because any choice of words falls short of capturing “the breathtaking intensity of His glory.” 13

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He said, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12a). When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” it’s as though He was saying, “Do you remember the pillar of fire that came between the Israelites and the Egyptians near the Red Sea, the pillar that protected them and led them on their wanderings in the wilderness? That was My presence with them. I was God with them, and I am God with you! It was I who protected them. It was I who guided them through the wilderness. I am the light of the WORLD – not just the light for the nation of Israel, but the light for the entire the world. I offer hope to every one of every country, culture, and color.” What a statement! Jesus is claiming to be God and He alone can give us eternal life!

The phrase “I Am”is how God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14). “I Am”is also how Jesus will continue to state His own identity to the people of Israel.

In the final stage of heaven on the new earth in the New Jerusalem, “the light of the world” will shine so brightly in His exalted and glorified condition that there will be no need for the sun or moon in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:23; 22:5). Jesus will be the source of light in the New Jerusalem, and He is the source of light for us today.

Do you want to join Jesus Christ as God’s child of light in the final stage of His heaven on the new earth? If you do, listen to what Jesus says in John 12:36: “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” As soon as possible, “while you have the light,” you need to decide what you will do with Jesus. No person is promised tomorrow on earth, so it is important for you to respond in faith to Christ while you still have time.

Notice that Jesussays you can become “sons of light” (or daughters of light) simply by believing or trusting in Him alone for His gift of salvation. This verse does not say you become “sons of light” by living a good life, praying, or being religious. The only condition is to believe in the light which is Jesus Christ. To believe in Jesus means to be convinced that He is speaking the truth here and is therefore trustworthy.

Let me ask you a question that all of us ought to consider: “If you were to die today, would your relatives know where to find you?”

John B. McFerrin, a noted preacher in the South, was dying. He was ready to die, and he was eagerly looking forward to being with the One he had loved and served so faithfully. His son, also in the ministry, spent as much time as possible at his father’s bedside. But one Saturday he found it necessary to leave him because he had to fill a preaching assignment in another city. Well aware of his father’s grave condition, he was hesitant about going. Sensing his son’s reluctance, McFerrin encouraged him to be on his way. “So, you’d better get started,” he said. “Don’t worry about me. I’m feeling some better today. But if I should slip away while you’re gone, you’ll know where to find me!” 14

Why could McFerrin say that? Was it because he had been a preacher? No, because that will not get you to heaven. Was it because he had lived a good life? No, because that does not get you to heaven. It was because he believed in Christ, the light of the world, who died in his place and rose from the dead.

What about you? Could you say something like what McFerrin said to your own relatives? If not, take a moment, and take Jesus at His Word when He said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” The moment you believe in Jesus, you become a child of God who will live with Jesus in the New Jerusalem. Thank God for His grace which makes this possible!

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, we praise You for the incredible place You are preparing for those of us who believe in You. None of us could ever deserve to live in such a glorious place. But because of Your grace, we can live with You forever the moment we believe in You for Your gift of everlasting life. Thank You that there will be no more darkness or shadows there because Your glorious presence will illuminate the entire City. As we reflect on Your love and grace toward us, we are motivated to share the good news of eternal life with those who are perishing without You. Please give us opportunities today to share Your gospel with the lost. We pray Your Holy Spirit would prepare them to hear and believe it. Thank You for hearing our prayers. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen. 

ENDNOTES:

1. Adapted from Charles Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 384-385.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1584.

3. Ibid.; cf. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 239 cites Robert Gundry, “The New Jerusalem: People as Place, not Place for People,” Novum Testamentum 29:3 (July 1987):256.

4. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 364.

5. Ibid., pp. 364-365.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 6517.

7. David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015 Kindle Edition), pg. 99.

8. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 257.

9. Ibid., pg. 1073.  

10. Vacendak, pg. 1585.

11. Walvoord, location 6560 to 6565.

12. Swindoll, pg. 387 cites John MacArthur, Revelation 12-22, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), pg. 279.

13. Swindoll, pg. 387. 14. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012), pg. 264.

Revelation 2 – Part 3

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

The ascended and glorified Lord Jesus now addresses the church in Pergamos. “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword.’” (Revelation 2:12). Pergamum was famous for its university with a library of about 200,000 volumes, and for manufacturing parchment resulting in a paper called pergamena” 1 from which the city derived its name. 2

The city of Pergamos (the northernmost of the seven cities, fifty miles north of Smyrna) was full of temples and was a center for the cults of Zeus, Soter, Athena, Dionysus, and Asklepios.” 3 “Emperor worship was more intense there than in any other surrounding city.” 4

Satan’s activity in this city not only affected the unsaved but also was profoundly detrimental to believers as well. They tolerated false teaching. Thus, Jesus tells the believers in this pagan city just what they need to hear.” 5

When addressing “the church in Pergamos” the Lord Jesus refers to Himself as “He who has the sharp two-edged sword” because His judgment of them with His Word was near (2:12; cf. Hebrews 4:12).

“It is interesting that Pergamum was a city to which Rome had given the rare power of capital punishment (ius gladii), which was symbolized by the sword. The Christians in Pergamum were thus reminded that though they lived under the rule of an almost unlimited imperium, they were citizens of another kingdom—that of him who needs no other sword than that of his mouth . . .” 6

Because these believers at Pergamos were not doing anything about the false teaching in their church, the Lord Jesus wanted them to see His Word as an instrument of judgment and to know that His judgment of them was imminent (cf. 2:16; John 12:48). 7

Next, the Lord Jesus commends the church for holding fast to their commitment to Him amid a Satanic stronghold. “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.” (Revelation 2:13). The Lord Jesus was aware (“I know”) of the difficulties these Christians faced in a city where “Satan” was very active, initiating both idolatrous practices as well as the persecution of believers.Even though these Christians were compromising the truth by tolerating false teaching, Christ graciously commends them for holding “fast to” His “name” and for refusing to “deny” His “faith” even after one of their fellow church members, “Antipas …  was killed.” 8

“Antipas is said to have been a dentist and a physician, but the Aesculapiades suspected that he was propagating Christianity secretly and they accused him of disloyalty to Caesar. He was condemned to death and was shut up in a brazen (or copper) bull, which was then heated until it was red-hot.” 9

After commending them, Jesus rebukes these believers for compromising the truth. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.” (Revelation 2:14-15). This church was toleratingthe false teaching “of Balaam” who introduced idolatry and “sexual immorality” to “the children of Israel” (2:14; cf. Numbers 31:15-16; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11).

In the Old Testament, Balaam told Balak that he could overcome the Israelites if he would involve them in the Moabite religious feasts that included sacred prostitution (Numbers 22-25; 31:15-16). This would compromise their faithfulness to God and subject them to His painful discipline. The unbelievers in Pergamos, likewise, were evidently encouraging the Christians to join in their pagan feasts, and the sexual immorality that accompanied those feasts (2:14). The believers in the church who participated in these immoral feasts had given their approval to Balaam’s teaching. The “Nicolaitans” evidently regarded these sins as acceptable, under the pretense of Christian liberty (2:15; cf. Revelation 2:6). Interestingly “Balaam” in Hebrew can mean “swallow the people,” so the conceptual connection between the Nicolaitans (“conquer the people”) and Balaam is clear. 10 These false teachers were more interested in dominating or using people than serving them.

Chitwood makes an astute observation: “The main facet of the doctrine of Balaam which is being promulgated in Churches today is the teaching that [equal] future blessings and rewards have been set aside for every Christian solely on the basis of Christ’s finished work on Calvary and the Christian’s positional standing ‘in Christ.’ Thus, all Christians—regardless of their conduct during the present time—will receive crowns and positions of power and authority with Christ in the [millennial] kingdom. However, the teaching throughout the Word of God is to the contrary. The Israelites did not sin with immunity, and neither can Christians. Sin in the camp of Israel resulted in the Israelites being overthrown in the wilderness, short of the goal of their calling. And it will be no different for Christians.” 11

It is a big deal to God when we cause other believers to stumble, especially when we do it knowingly and for profit like Balaam (2:14-15). That is why the Lord demanded that the Christians in Pergamos repent. 12 “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” (Revelation 2:16). The verb “repent” (metanoeō) is a compound made up of two Greek words. The first is meta, “after,” and the second is noeō, “to perceive, understand or think.” The two together mean “after perceiving, understanding, thinking” or “to change one’s mind.” 13

These believers were to change their thinking and stop tolerating the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. If they failed to do this, Christ warns them, “I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” They would be judged by “the sword” proceeding from the exalted Lord Jesus’ “mouth.” Balaam had died, ironically, by the Israelites’ sword (Numbers 31:8). This judgment of unrepentant Christians at Pergamos would be by the unyielding standard of God’s revealed Word—that clearly condemns such compromise. Having taken sides with the enemy, they could expect God to oppose them in His “war” against evil. 14

Christian leaders are not to tolerate compromise in their churches, whether it be doctrinal or moral. Leaders cannot control peoples’ decisions, but if wayward Christians refuse to repent, leaders are to implement church discipline to restore them back to fellowship with God and one another (cf. Matthew 18:15-17; I Corinthians 5:1-13).

What does Christ promise believers who repent and live victoriously for Him? “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17). This verse mentions two eternal rewards for the believer who “has an ear” and “overcomes” by rejecting the teachings of Balaam and Nicolaitans.  

The first reward consists of “the hidden manna to eat,” a possible reference to the miraculous manna from heaven, that sustained the lives of the Israelites in the wilderness, of which a sample keepsake lay “hidden” in the holy of holies (Exodus 16:32-34; cf. Hebrews 9:4). This manna will surely provide the benefits good food offers today: increased energy, enhanced ability to serve God, and enjoyment. Eating that bread will forever remind us that the Lord Jesus is the Bread of Life (see John 6:35).” 15

It may be “hidden” in the sense that it is not available to everyone, only to those believers who reject the teachings of Balaam and Nicolaitans. 16 Some suggest it represents a special kind of intimacy with the Lord Jesus when He returns to earth to set up His Kingdom. 17

The second reward is “a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” I read an intriguing article about this white stone by Ken Yates that changed my view of this reward. 18  

Yates has a friend who is a gemologist. When his friend sees the words “white stone,” “he thinks of a pure diamond. A diamond has a numerical rating from 0 to 10. The less color it has in it, the closer it has to a rating of zero. A zero is a perfect diamond with no color. It is a white diamond…

“Years ago, he wanted to give his wife a special gift. He wanted to find a diamond as close to a zero as he could find. He found one with a rating of .3. It was a special gem and one that was very expensive.

“He gave it to his wife on that special occasion. Being married to my friend for many years, she knew the special character of that gem. She knew that her husband had gone out of his way to give her this stone. She knew he wanted to give her something very special.

“I don’t think I need to tell any reader of this blog that this was a special piece of jewelry to this woman. Sure, it was beautiful. Sure, it was not like any other piece of jewelry she had. Sure, it was expensive.

“But there was something else about that gem. She knew that her husband had great joy in giving it to her. Every time she wore it, she was reminded of how he loved her. She knew that it had come from her husband who wanted to honor her.

“In other words, this gem was valuable to her because of the one who gave it to her. It was valuable to her because it showed what he thought of her. He found her worthy of this gem.” 19

Yates continues, “Don’t you think that it will be like that with those who receive this white stone at the Judgment Seat of Christ? John tells us that the stone will have a new name on it. The believers who receive it will know that the Lord thought they were worthy of it. They will know that He received great joy in giving it to them. The fact that it came from Him will make it of infinite value.” 20

Jesus said that the “new name” on this white stone will only be known by him who receives it.” Certainly, the Lord Jesuswill know the name as well since He is the one giving (and probably inscribing) the stones. It is as if the Lord will say, “Because you refused to deny My name in time, I will honor you with a special name in eternity.” 21

Dillow observes, “The giving of a ‘new name’ was a Jewish custom of assigning a name at a point in life which characterizes the person. See Judges 6:31-32, where Gideon was renamed Jerub-Baal, which means ‘Let Baal contend with him’ because he took a stand against Baal and cut down his altars. In the early church James was called ‘camel knees’ because of the calluses on his knees from so much kneeling while he was praying. Our Lord called Simon by a new name, Peter, which means ‘rock,’ signifying his future as the rock of stability in the church. Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, was called ‘Barnabas,’ which means ‘son of encouragement.’” 22

Each believer in Jesus Christ has his own distinct life message, his own unique history of struggle and demonstration of God’s life in his or hers. The Lord Jesus is a God of the individual as well as of the church. The secrecy of the name implies a special intimacy between Christ and each overcomer. It will be a name which in some way signifies an outstanding attribute of that person’s life. This of course challenges each of us to consider the question, “What will my name be?” And more significantly, “What would I like my name to be?” 23

In summary, Jesus’ message to the church in Pergamos challenges Christians to repent of any doctrinal or moral compromise so they can faithfully serve Christ until death and receive eternal rewards involving delicious foods and precious jewelry (2:12-17). Such rewards will forever bring Jesus glory and honor!

Prayer: Almighty Lord Jesus, some of us may be tempted to give up in our Christian lives because the journey is difficult. The road can be treacherous at times. Hidden dangers lie ahead of us that can overtake us. Things like betrayal, depression, disease, failure, loneliness, loss of loved ones, persecution, or rejection. Like the Christians at Pergamos, we may be living in an area of Satanic strongholds. Temptations bombard us continually in a declining society. We may be tempted to follow the world’s substitutes consisting of lust, greed, and pride (I John 2:16). But You call us to follow You against the cultural currents of compromise and evil. You offer us something far greater than fame, money, power, or sex – all of which are temporary. You offer us rewards that last forever and will be far greater than any earthly pleasure or treasure. Lord Jesus, please give us the strength to lean into You instead of this world when we are afraid or in pain, knowing You will give us eternal rewards consisting of delicious food and a precious white stone with our own special name on it. Both rewards will be eternal reminders that You deemed us worthy of such recognition. Both rewards will grant us greater intimacy with You throughout eternity. Thank You, our Lord and our God. In Your mighty name we pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

2 Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 213293-213295.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1506.

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 38 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 1 (The Daily Study Bible series. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 110.

5. Vacendak, pg. 1506.

6. Constable, pg. 38 cites Alan Johnson, “Revelation.” In Hebrews-Revelation. Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vols., (Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg. 440; G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St. John the Divine (Harper’s New Testament Commentaries series. New York: Harper, 1966), pg. 38.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1506.

8. Ibid.

9. Constable, pg. 38 cites Frederick A. Tatford, The Patmos Letters (By the Author, 1969; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, n.d.), pg. 75.

10. Constable, pg. 39 cites Alan Johnson, pg. 441.

11. Ibid., pg. 40 cites Arlen L. Chitwood, Judgment Seat of Christ (Norman, Okla.: The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., 1986),pg 70; cf. Charles H. Savelle, “Canonical and Extracanonical Portraits of Balaam,” Bibliotheca Sacra 166:664 (October-December 2009), pp. 387-404.

12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2373.

13. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 640. 

14. Constable, pg. 40.

15. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 78.

16. Evans, pg. 2373.

17. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 959-960;  John f. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966); G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), pg. 252.

18. Ken Yates’ June 2, 2020, blog entitled, “Looking at the White Stone from a Different Angle (Revelation 2:17)” at www.faithalone.org.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. Vacendak, pg. 1507.

22. Dillow, pg. 969.

23. Adapted from Ibid.