Revelation 21:9-22:5: The New Jerusalem

Revelation 21:9‑22:5  •  22 min. read  •  grade level: 8
From verse 11 of chapter 19 we have had an unfolding of great future events that will be introduced by the appearing of Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, and carry us on through millennial days to the eternal state.
In the course of the Revelation it is seen now and again that the record of events is interrupted in order to bring before us deeply important truths as to certain persons and events. So in this closing portion, having seen the fulfillment of all God's purpose in the eternal state, we are carried back in thought to learn important details as to the blessedness of the church in relation to the world during millennial days.
Revelation 21:9
One of the seven angels that had the seven vials, that a short time before had shown John the judgment of the great whore, under the figure of the great city Babylon, now comes to talk with the apostle and unfold to him the glories of “the bride, the Lamb's wife,” under the figure of the “holy city Jerusalem.”
In one city we see headed up all the long centuries of evil and corruption that have marked professing Christendom; in the other city we see the glorious end of all the trials and sufferings of the true people of God.
Judging by that which is before our eyes, we may be deceived as to the true character of the great profession which is so imposing before the eyes of men, or disheartened by the weakness and reproach which prevails among the people of God. But we are not left to form our own estimate of the evil of that which professes the Name of Christ upon the earth; nor are we left to our own conclusions as to the glory that awaits the true people of God according to the eternal counsels of God.
Through the ministry of the angel we learn that the vast profession, with all its display of riches and power and human wisdom, is in the sight of God but a false woman going on to judgment; while the true people of God, so outwardly weak and insignificant, are passing on to the great day of the marriage of the Lamb, at last to be displayed before the world in all the glory of Christ as “the bride, the Lamb's wife.”
We do well to mark these words, for it is not only the church as the bride, that the apostle sees, but “the bride, the Lamb's wife. Only in heaven is the church called the Lamb's wife. On earth, since the day of Pentecost, there has been the church composed of true believers, in relation to Christ as His bride (2 Cor. 11:2), but the church is not complete until the rapture, followed by that great day of which it is said, “The marriage of the Lamb is come.” Following the day of the marriage, the church will be displayed in all the comeliness that Christ has put upon her as “the bride, the Lamb's wife.”
We know from Scripture that God's earthly people Israel are viewed in relation to Christ under the figure of a bride, but, as such, they are the bride of the King; the church is the bride of the Lamb. All saints, earthly or heavenly, will be in relation to Christ on the ground of His death; but the earthly bride will be presented as “the Queen in gold of Ophir” to Christ the King, when through judgment, He will have reached His earthly throne (Psa. 45). To secure His heavenly bride, Christ must indeed take the path of suffering as the Lamb, who “loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” Having taken the way of the cross to secure His bride, and having dealt in judgment with the false woman, the church is presented to Christ a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The marriage of the Lamb takes place before Christ comes forth as King of kings, and Lord of lords to take His earthly throne.
In the beginning of the Revelation we see the church in its utter failure as the responsible witness for Christ on earth. Moreover, we learn that the root of the failure was the loss of bridal affection for Christ. It should have been “like a bride adorned for her husband” waiting for the marriage day. But it failed in affection for Christ, and the Lord has to utter those sad words, “Thou hast left thy first love.” The church should have been attached to Christ by “love” and shining before the world as “light.” Marked by “love” and “light” it would have been a true witness for Christ. Failing in love to Christ, the Lord has to say, “Repent... or else I will come unto thee, and will remove thy candlestick.” Having left first love to Christ, the church lost its light before men.
Turning to the end of the Revelation we are permitted to see that, in spite of all its grievous failure, the church will at last be displayed before the world in its true character as “the bride, the Lamb's wife.” As the bride the church will be seen in true affection for Christ and will then shine as a light before the world in all the loveliness of Christ. Christ will be glorified in the saints. This, then, is the blessedness of this great Scripture; it sets before us the church according to the heart of Christ. If we catch some glimpse of what Christ will have us to be in the future, we shall begin to learn what Christ would have us to be morally even now.
Revelation 21:10-11
To see this great vision the Apostle John was carried away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain. He is set free from the things of earth to have his mind set on things above. The corruptions of Babylon had been viewed from a wilderness; but the glories of “the holy city, Jerusalem” can only be seen from a “high mountain.” To detect and discern evil requires no great moral elevation. The man of the world can go far in condemning the corruptions of Christendom; but the natural mind is wholly incapable of entering into the things of God. Even for true saints, it is only as they are lifted above the things of earth, and walk in separation from the corruptions of Christendom, that they will be able to appreciate the coming glories of “the bride, the Lamb's wife.”
From this elevated position there passes before the apostle the vision of a glorious city. The angel says, “I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife”; actually he sees a city. Clearly, then, this resplendent city is used as a figure to set forth the church in glory.
In the beautiful description that follows we are first permitted to see the character of the city. It is a “holy city”; it descends “out of heaven”; it comes “from God”; it has “the glory of God”; and it is a “shining” city.
Who can fail to see that these are the very characteristics that were displayed in infinite perfection in Christ, Himself, as He passed through this world as the perfect Man? At His birth He is called that “holy thing which shall be born” of Mary. And again, we read, He is “holy, harmless, undefiled.” Moreover, He can speak of Himself as, “He that came down from heaven” (John 3:13). Then, He can say, “I proceeded forth and came from God” (John 8:42). Further we read of “The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). He too is described as the light that “shineth in darkness” (John 1:5).
The very terms that are used to describe the loveliness of Christ are here applied to the church in glory. The church that has so grievously failed to represent Christ in the day of His absence, will at last be displayed in all the beauty of Christ in the day of glory. It will be seen to be “holy” in nature; “heavenly” in character; “of God” as to its origin; setting forth “the glory of God”; and “shining” as a stone most precious to reflect the glory of Christ.
Here, then, we see the church according to the heart of Christ and the eternal counsels of God. Would we learn the blessedness of these counsels, settled before the foundations of the world, we must look on to the coming glory, to see the church displayed in all the loveliness of Christ. In the light of this coming glory the passing glory of this present world becomes very dim, and its highest honors lose their charm. Moreover if we see the character the church is going to wear in glory, we learn what the church should be even now.
Revelation 21:12-14
We have seen the marks of the city, setting forth the lovely character of Christ that will be displayed in the church in the day to come. In the verses that follow, there passes before us the walls, the gates, and the foundations of the city, all speaking to us of the security, protection, and stability of the city, reminding us that the church must be kept from the evil of the world if it is to be a testimony to Christ and a blessing to the world. Thus the wall speaks of protection from every enemy, and exclusion of everything unsuited to Christ. The gates speak of the reception of all that is suited to Christ, as well as the outflow of blessing to the world.
In the days of old, when the condition of the people of God had become so evil that the LORD had to bring judgment upon them, the solemn message by Jeremiah was, “I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come and set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about” (Jer. 1:15). So it came to pass, for we read that the enemy came in and “sat in the middle gate,” and “brake down the walls of Jerusalem” (Jer. 39:3-8).
As in the days of old, so today, professing Christendom has become so corrupt that it is unable to exclude evil, and is no longer a testimony to the world. The walls and the gates are broken down. And with those who seek to answer to the truth in a day of ruin, it will be found that the unceasing attack of the enemy is upon the “walls” and the “gates.” How well the enemy knows that if we let down the barriers against that which is contrary to the word, and let in that which is unsuited to Christ, we shall be drawn back into the corruptions of Christendom and cease to be any testimony to the Lord.
In the day of glory no evil will enter the city and there will be nothing to hinder the outflow of blessing to the world. In the city there are three gates on each of the four sides of the city, and the names of the tribes of Israel are found on the gates, surely indicating that blessing through the church will flow out first to Israel and then to every quarter of the earth.
Moreover, at every gate there is an angel. In Scripture we constantly see angels employed as the guardians of God's people, as we read, “The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Psa. 34:7; Acts 12:7-10). Then they are used in executing governmental judgment upon the wicked, as in the case of Herod, of whom we read, “The angel of the Lord smote him” (Acts 12:23). Further, angels are used as the messengers of the Lord between earth and heaven, as the Lord can say, “Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51).
So in the millennial day the angels will have a subordinate position in relation to the church, but will still be found at the gates in their guardian character, and ready to act as the messengers of God.
Further, the wall of the city had twelve foundations and in them the names of “the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” In Scripture the unique character of the church is carefully maintained by the way it is distinguished from all that went before. Heavenly in its character, it was kept secret since the world began, and its existence on earth is not a development from any earthly kingdom. “In other ages (it) was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:5). Therefore, though the names of the tribes of Israel may be found in the gates, they are not in the foundations. The witness of the church may flow out to the twelve tribes, but the revelation of the church was made to the twelve apostles. So the Apostle Paul can say, “Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ, Himself, being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). The unique character of the church may be entirely lost in corrupt professing Christendom, but it will be clearly set forth in the day of glory.
Revelation 21:15-17
The measurements of the city follow and prove that the city lieth foursquare. Thus the city is tested, for not only are measurements given, but it is “measured,” with the result that all is found to be in perfect proportion. Today, alas, one truth may be presented and another neglected. In the day to come every truth will be set forth in the church in perfect relation to every other truth and thus the church will be perfectly fitted to present Christ before the world.
Revelation 21:18-21
In these verses we come to the materials of which the city is built. The walls of jasper; the foundations garnished with precious stones; the gates twelve pearls; and the street pure gold. In Christendom man has built up a vast system that professes the Name of Christ, but into which there has been introduced that which is false, and a denial of His Name—wood, hay, and stubble. Looking on we see in the church in glory nothing but what is real—gold and precious stones.
Already, in the early part of the Revelation jasper has been used to symbolize the glory of God (Rev. 4:3). Now we read that the wall, that excludes all evil, is of jasper and so is a witness to the glory of God. Nothing that comes short of that glory will have part in the glorified church. The church, or company of believers, that ceases to exclude evil will cease to be a witness to God.
“The city was pure gold like unto glass.” The gold speaks of the divine righteousness in which every believer has part. At present, alas, the practical display of this righteousness is often hindered by the dross of the flesh. In the day of glory there will be only “pure gold.” No hidden unworthy motives will ever mar our practice or lurk beneath our words. Nothing will dim the fine gold, it will be “like unto clear glass.”
The foundations, garnished with precious stones, would seem to symbolize the all varied perfections of Christ. The source of light is found in God and the Lamb, but the stones reflect the light and thus display the glories of Christ before the world.
The pearl, we know from the Lord's own words, is used to set forth the preciousness of the church in His sight (Matt. 13:46). Thus, when we read that “every several gate was of one pearl” we are assured that in the day of glory there will be the setting forth, to every quarter of the world, the unity of the church as well as the preciousness of the church in the eyes of Christ.
Moreover, the street of pure gold reminds us that in the church in glory there will be nothing to defile our walk, and therefore no need for the girded loins. Further, there will be nothing to hide from one another, for the street will not only be pure gold but it will be “as it were transparent glass.”
Revelation 21:22-23
The spring and source of all blessing in this glorious city is that therein God is fully revealed. There is no temple in which God is hidden behind a veil. The whole city is filled with the glory of God revealed in Christ, for we read, “the glory of God did lighten it and the Lamb is the lamp thereof” (JND). Christ will ever be the One in whom God is revealed; moreover, He is presented as the Lamb for, as such, He not only declares the glory of God but fits His people for the glory. The sun and the moon had, indeed, in their season declared the glory of God in His handiwork (Psa. 19); but in the church in glory the everlasting witness to the glory of God will be found in the Lamb.
Revelation 21:24-27
From these verses we learn the relation of the church in glory to the millennial earth. The church was left in this world to shine as a light for Christ in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Alas! failing in its bridal affection for Christ, it has ceased to set Him forth before the world. The love failed and the light went out. But when this day of glory dawns the church is seen in its bridal affection for Christ, and as a light before the world. The Lamb who is the light of the city will shine through the church before the world. Christ will be glorified in the saints. Moreover, the church will be the witness of the riches of God's grace according to that word, “That in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). Learning of Christ and of the grace of God through the light of the city, the kings of the earth will bring their glory to it, thus doing homage to the One who is the light of the city.
Moreover, the blessing that will stream through the city to the nations will be unceasing, for the gates will not be shut at all by day; and no shade of darkness will ever obscure the light, for there will be no night there. Further, if light and blessing pass through the gates to the world, we are assured that “there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth.” Today, under the plea of carrying blessing to the world, we may become defiled by the world. In the day of glory the world will receive blessing through the church, and the church will be unsullied by the world.
Revelation 22:1-2
We have seen that only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will enter the city. Now we learn the everlasting provision for the sustainment of the life. The life of believers is indeed eternal life, but none the less it is a dependent life; it is not life apart from Christ. “The river” and “the tree” are symbols that very blessedly bring Christ before our souls. Further, they speak of Christ in connection with “life,” for the river is the “river of water of life,” and the tree is “the tree of life.” Christ is not only the fountain of life through whom we receive life, according to His own touching words, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely,” but, as the river of life He is the One that sustains the life He gives. So the Apostle Paul can say, “Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). The new life is sustained by Christ in all His wondrous love as the object before the soul. Alas! it may be but feebly that we keep our eyes on Christ, and thus feebly live the new life we have. In the day of glory the new life will be sustained and enjoyed to the full as, without let or hindrance, we shall have Christ before the soul and thus drink of the river of water of life. Thus we can say,
Oh, Christ! He is the fountain,
The deep sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I've tasted,
More deep I'll drink above.
Moreover, the river of life is “clear as crystal.” Any little reflection of Christ seen in one another will help to sustain the new life; but, in ourselves, the stream is often fouled and muddied with the things of earth, and hence reflects little of the loveliness of Christ. In Christ the river of water of life is “clear as crystal.” “He is altogether lovely.”
The river proceeds from “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” God is the blessed source of this life, for it is the “eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” But it comes to us through Christ as the Lamb—the One who was “lifted up that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Moreover, if the life in us is a dependent life, it is also a fruitful life. If Christ is the river of life from which we drink to sustain life, He is also the tree of life on which we feed in order that our lives may be fruitful. Even now, if, like the bride of the Song, we sit down under His shadow, we shall find His fruit sweet to our taste, and abiding in His love we shall bear fruit as in our little measure we reflect His excellencies.
In the day of glory there will be nothing to hinder our souls delight in feeding on Christ. No longer will there be “Cherubim and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life,” for the tree will be “in the midst of the street,” open and free to all in that fair city. The fruit, too, is not only free; it is always available, for the tree of life “yielded her fruit every month.”
Thus, as we look on to this glorious city, we see that it is God's eternal purpose that the saints shall find in Christ the One that sustains life, and makes the life beautiful with the comeliness that He has put upon us. If this is His purpose for us in glory, it is His desire for us even now. Alas! it is little we may drink of the water of life now, or feed upon the tree of life, but very soon it will be our eternal portion to
Drink of life's perennial river,
Feed on life's perennial food,
Christ the fruit of life and Giver—
Safe through His redeeming blood.
Further, we learn that “the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” The church in glory, beyond all her sorrows, will enjoy the fruit of the tree of life. But on earth the nations will have passed through the sorrows of the tribulation that will come upon all the world. The One that brings fruit to the church will bring healing to the nations, for “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psa. 147:3).
Revelation 22:3-5
Looking back to the Garden of Eden we remember that the tree of life was there, and “a river went out of Eden to water the garden,” and God came down to walk with man in that fair scene. Alas! man had sinned, and God could not dwell with man; the way of the tree of life was barred, and the curse was over all. Looking on we are permitted to see this vision of the church in glory, and find again the tree, and the river, and free to all, for there will be no more curse.
The curse being forever removed, the purpose of God to dwell in the midst of His people can be fulfilled. Thus we read, “The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it.” Moreover, the glorified saints will delight to serve the One that dwells in their midst. In their passage through time, poor and unprofitable servants they may have been; in the coming glory, set free from every unworthy motive, they will serve Him with singleness of purpose and devotedness of heart.
At last, in all the nearness and intimacy of His presence they will see His face, and His Name shall be in their foreheads. They will see His beauty and, looking upon the redeemed, He will see His own glorious character reflected in their faces. Even now, as by faith we behold the glory of the Lord, we are changed into His image from glory to glory; but when, at last, faith is changed to sight, and we see Him face to face, we shall be altogether conformed to His image. We shall see His face, and He will be seen in our faces.
To look within and see no stain,
Abroad no curse to trace;
To shed no tears, to feel no pain,
But see Him face to face.
Further, we read, “There shall be no night there.” Now our gaze is often obscured by the mists of earth— “we see through a glass darkly”; but when at last we see Him “face to face,” the darkness will be past, for there shall be no night there, and we shall know even as we are known. Our knowledge will not be the result of any artificial aids, nor flow from natural sources. We shall need “no candle neither light of the sun,” for the source of all the light in that glorious day will be in the Lord God Himself.
Moreover, to the eternal ages, the church will be associated with Christ, for we read, “They shall reign forever and ever.”
God and the Lamb shall there
The light and temple be,
And radiant hosts, forever share
The unveiled mystery.