The Book of Revelation, Part Two, Chapter 23, The New Jerusalem

In detail Scripture tells us very little about the rest. We may ask: how shall this new state be? We know a few things of that new and perfect state which shall be characterized by God’s dwelling with men. Certainly, we know that sin and suffering shall be no more. All will be holy and righteous and filled with the glory and knowledge of God. We also know the temporal and all that is connected with it: and that temporal shall be no more. All that is of the present time shall be changed. But for the rest, our experience will be like the expression made by the Queen of Sheba after she had visited Solomon: “The half was not told me.” In the text we have before us a little more in detail is expressed of that new state of things. We read in vss. 9 and 10: “And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials . . .” John is to be shown the glory of the New Jerusalem. And it seems that it is very appropriate that one of the vial-angels, that had been instrumental in the final destruction of Babylon, serves as the mediating angel for this purpose. “Come hither,” so the angel speaks to John, “I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” The New Jerusalem that is described in the rest bf the text is here called the bride, the wife of th? Lamb, which is, as we know, the church. The church and the New Jerusalem are one. We are here warned at once that the description of the city that follows is by no means to be interpreted as referring to a literal city, but is the glorified church as a social community, centered in Christ Jesus our Lord. Then we read: “And he carried me away in the spirit . . .” The mountain to which John is carried away is great and high, in order to afford John a proper view of this colossal city that is shown him, “the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God” (cf. vs. 2).

From verse 11 on we have a general description of this New Jerusalem. In vs. 11 we read: “Having the glory of God,” that is, the very glory of God, which is the radiation of His infinite virtues and perfections, such as eternity, omnipresence, knowledge, grace, righteousness, holiness, etc., is reflected in the New Jerusalem. God’s glory is revealed in the perfected church. “And her light was like a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.” Evidently these words describe the appearance of the glory of God in the city as John perceives it in the vision. Cf. also Rev. 4:3. The glory of God is the light of the city. And the light is like the brilliancy of the jasper; very bright and very clear and very transparent is the brilliancy of the city. In Revelation 4:3 God Himself is described under the symbolism of a jasper. And then we have in verses 12 to 14 a description, first of all, of the wall of the city. In these verses the general structure of the wall about the city is described as follows. In the first place, it is great and high. Cf. also on vs. 17. Secondly, that wall has twelve gates, indicative of the number of the citizens within that enter through these gates. Twelve is the number of election, especially when it is multiplied by ten. And hence, this number refers to the fullness of the people of God, of the old as well as of the new dispensation. In the third place, we are told that at the gates there are twelve angels. This certainly cannot mean that these angels serve as guards, to watch over the city against possible enemies and possible attacks by the enemies. For there will be no one in the new creation and in the New Jerusalem that will hate and attack the people of God any more. We must rather understand that these twelve angels are indicative of the fact that they served the ingathering of the citizens of this New Jerusalem. Then, in the fourth place, on the gates are the names of the twelve tribes of the people of Israel, indicative of the identity of those that are within. All Israel from Jews and Gentiles, constitutes the glorious church of God and the glorious, holy Jerusalem. In the new creation there are not two peoples; there is only one people, and that people is the church. Cf., for this, also Chapter 7. In the fifth place, the gates are equally distributed in the four sides of the wall, which constitutes, therefore, a perfect square: three on each side. Sixthly, the wall, according to the text, has twelve foundations, evidently to be conceived as standing next to one another, one under each gate. And on these foundations are the names of the twelve apostles, indicating that the foundations are laid through the instrumentality of the apostles, of which Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone. Cf. also Eph. 2:20. There we read: “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” And then in verses 21 and 22 we read: “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” We may note, as I have already expressed, that throughout this description the number twelve prevails, which is the multiplication of three and four, three being the number of the Trinity and four being the number of the creature. Hence, we say that the number twelve is the number of election.

Then in verses 15 to 17 we find the measurements of the city. The interpreting angel measures the city, as John looks on, with a golden reed. Golden is the reed, in harmony with the glory of the city. And the measurements as they are given here are as follows. First of all, we may note that the city is a perfect cube in form, symbol of the strict universality of this city: it embraces heaven and earth, and it embraces all the nations of the earth. Further, it is a symbol of the heavenly perfection of the house of God. Cf. also the most holy place in the temple of the old dispensation. Further, we find that the city is twelve thousand furlongs each way, which signifies that it is an immense city. It is colossal in size. For note that a furlong is six hundred feet. Hence, twelve thousand furlongs is approximately fifteen hundred miles. The church as it is finally perfected is a multitude which no man can number. Further, we find that according to the number the city is complete. This is symbolized by the number ten. We also find that it is the church of God’s elect, as already expressed. God Himself determines the size of the city. The wall of the city is one hundred forty-four cubits high, approximately two hundred twenty feet, “according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.” Notice here that the wall is comparatively low, which means that the city needs no protection. The wall merely serves to circumscribe the number of citizens within, twelve times twelve.

Further, we may notice that the city is described as being very beautiful and glorious. The entire description that follows, with its symbolism of gold and precious stones, simply serves to picture the beauty and the glory and the preciousness of the bride of the Lamb. We dare not allegorize each detail: that would be in conflict with the entire context. We may briefly note, therefore, that the wall is of jasper. Again I refer you to chapter 4, verse 3 in this connection. And jasper here, as well as in Revelation 4:3, represents the glory of God. The city itself is pure, transparent gold, symbolizing the purity, the beauty, the glory, and the preciousness of its inhabitants. The different foundations were each a precious stone. There is again the jasper (cf. 4:3). There is the sapphire, which is a beautiful dark blue stone. There is the chalcedony, probably an agate (the description is unknown). There is an emerald, which is a beautiful green. There is the sardonyx, a brilliant flesh color. There is the sardius (again, cf. Rev. 4:3). There is the chrysolite, a stone of a golden, yellow luster. There is the beryl, like the greenness of the sea when the sun shines upon it. There is the topaz, which is a transparent, yellow color. There is the chrysoprasus, a pale, golden color. There is the jacinth, a violet color. There is the amethyst, which is a purple color. Anal then we read that the gates were each a huge pearl, pure and lustrous. And the street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. We might ask the question whether there was only one street in the city, or whether the term street is representative of all the streets; but this is not necessary. The whole, we may say in conclusion of this particular description, is reflecting the manifold glory of God.

Then we come to verses 22 and 23. Here we still have a further description of the glory of the New Jerusalem. “And I saw no, temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” It is very important that we constantly bear in mind that what is described here as a huge and glorious city is actually the glorified church, the bride of the Lamb, in the new creation. All the details of the description must be interpreted accordingly. In the first place, there is no temple in that New Jerusalem. The temple is the house of God, the dwelling place of God in fellowship with His people. This is always the idea of the temple. In the old, earthly Jerusalem there was a special temple, distinct from the rest of the city. Although Jerusalem as a whole was the city of God, the Lord nevertheless did not dwell in the entire city, but in a special house, and particularly in the holy of holies, which was behind the veil. But the New Jerusalem has no such special house of God. The reason is given in the text: “For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” This is the reason for the absence of a special temple in the holy Jerusalem. There is no need, there is no occasion for a special temple: for God Himself is the temple of His people in Christ. The meaning of this is very evident. That God and the Lamb are the temple signifies that God through the Lamb is the temple of the New Jerusalem. Through the Lamb God dwells with His people. Further, that God through Christ is the temple of the whole city signifies that the glorified church now perfectly dwells with God. Constantly and everywhere they know Him as He reveals Himself to them and as He walks with them. They see God evermore and everywhere, and dwell in His blessed fellowship. Further, we read: “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” This does not mean that in the new creation there will be neither sun nor moon. For the reference in this connection is not to the new creation, but to the church. Nor does the text say that there will be no sun and moon, but that the glorified church will have no need of it. And the reason is given in the second part of this verse: “for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” God through the Lamb directly enlightens His church, so that they may behold the glory of His virtues in Christ immediately. Here, in the earthly creation, there is only a reflection of His glory through the light of sun and moon. There they shall see Him face to face, and know Him as they are known, and that through the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In verses 24 to 27 we have a description of the citizens and their activity: “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it.” The city, first of all, is strictly cosmopolitan. Its citizens are gathered of all nations. Not only so, but they appear here as nations even though all national separation shall no doubt be removed. And these nations walk in the light of the city, that is, in the revelation of the glory of God through Christ. By their walk is meant their life and conversation, all their activity, and that too, in relation to God. In eternal glory there will be constant life and constant activity, and that too, all in the service of God. For all the activity is in the light of the city, that is, all their walk and conversation is controlled and motivated by the perfect knowledge of and fellowship with God through the Lamb.