Author: Ron Graham
The Beauty of Heaven (Revelation 21-22) >Seven Final Visions >7th vision >Excursus on the New Jerusalem
The last two chapters of Revelation —indeed the last two chapters of the Bible— are among the richest hope passages in scripture. They present in glorious visions, and in the last recorded words of our Lord Jesus, the hope of the gospel (Revelation 21-22).
These last chapters of Revelation help us to do what Paul exhorts: "continue in the faith, firmly grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you have heard and which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven" (Colossians 2:23).
We will take a few overviews of these two chapters before we study them verse-by-verse. In this lesson we consider the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem
First consider the beautiful vision of "The New Jerusalem" the heavenly City of God. "It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a precious jewel" (Revelation 21:11). Its foundations were studded with precious stones (Revelation 21:18-21 cf Ephesians2:20).
I am especially interested in the city gates. There are three in each side of the square city wall — twelve gates in all. The measurement of the walls go by twelves, 12 thousand stadia each side and 144 (12x12) cubits high (Revelation 21:12-21). This matches the symbolic number of the citizens of the city, 144,000 (Revelation 7:4-8). But there's more to these gates than nice symmetry and symbolism.
These pearly gates are never closed! They will never be shut by day, and there is no night in which to close them (Revelation 21:25). Only one angel guards each gate (Revelation 21:12). Heaven's security system is not looking good at this point, is it? Yet in the same place that it says the gates will always be open, it also says "And nothing unlcean, and no one who practices abomination and lying shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life" (Revelation 21:27). What stops the wicked entering, if the gates are always open? The answer is simple. They are not there at the gates, and they cannot ever come to the gates. Why not? Because they have been sent to the lake of fire and cannot escape (Revelation 20:11-15 cf Matthew 25:31-46 esp v46).
So we see that only those whose names are recorded in the Book of Life can come to the pearly gates. When they get there, they find the gates open and they can enter into the city freely. They are never locked in because not one of them will ever want to leave.
There's one other thing to mention about these gates. There are identical gates on all four sides of the city. So people are expected, and equally invited, to come from every direction. The gospel and eternal life is for all mankind, for people of every nation. The gates in the vision of heaven reassure us that, whatever our language, color, or country, we can gain an equal right to citizenship in the eternal city of God.
In this city was a river of water, the water of life (cf John 4:7-14). What a contrast to the vision of the lake of burning sulphur! (Revelation 21:6-8). And Jesus through the Holy Spirit and the church says to everyone, including you, "Come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (Revelation 22:17).
That invitation is for now, and it is for you. The moment Jesus appears in the clouds (Revelation 1:7), the invitation is closed, the opportunity is lost. You don't have time to delay. How will you feel if you can never taste the water of life and experience the wonders of heaven?
On either side of the river is a wide avenue lined by the Tree of Life. We recall that there was a Tree of Life and a river in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:7-9). There was no such tree in the wilderness outside that garden, and there is no such tree outside of the kingdom of Heaven (Revelation 22:14).
This tree bears fruit every month, year round. Yet not only its fruit gives life, but its leaves provide healing (Revelation 22:2). In Heaven there will be no tears or pain (Revelation 21:4).
I'd especially like us to note this feature of the new Jerusalem: "The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city" (Revelation 22:3-4). A little later Jesus says, "Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:7). These two statements are connected. The King on the throne blesses those who serve him.
Jesus is not a king who exploits his people, but who shares with them his riches in glory. As the first chapter of Revelation said, "He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to whom be the glory and the dominion forever and ever Amen" (Revelation 21:6)
How does King Jesus bless his people? Here's one way to answer that question.
With every throne there goes a crown. But in a previous vision Jesus is seen to wear "many crowns" (Revelation 19:11-13). Now it is a surprising and wondrous thing that Jesus offers a crown to each of his followers. At the beginning of the visions Jesus promised his disciples, "Be faithful, even to death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). Paul believed that he would receive such a crown. "There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will present to me on that day —and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2Timothy 4:8).
Is there a crown for you? Yes, "a crown of glory that will never fade away" (1Peter 5:4), an "inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, reserved in heaven for you" (1Peter 1:4, 5:4). Have you made sure that you have one of the many crowns in the possession of Jesus? How will you feel if you realise that because of your own foolishness and ignorance, you lost that inheritance to which you are entitled, and forfeited your crown?