Welcome to this blog which is following the Book of The Revelation. Previous blogs can be found by date from the archive, or at emmock.com bible reference, or emmock.com topic word. Comments and questions are always welcome. My other blog, which is more political can be found at xtremejesus.co
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The New Heaven and the New Earth
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home[ of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6 Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless,[e] the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’
Vision of the New Jerusalem
9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ 10 And in the spirit[f] he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; and he measured the city with his rod, fifteen hundred miles;[h] its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, one hundred and forty-four cubits[i] by human measurement, which the angel was using. 18 The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth cornelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass.
22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practises abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
I’ve urged the reader to interpret the 3 series of seven visions, the seals, the trumpets and the bowls, as different perspectives on the struggles of the seven church assemblies described in chapters 2,3 and 4. using the principle that what happens in the heavenly visions is the counterpart and ultimate future of what is happening on earth, for example, that the victory of God over Babylon / Rome is the counterpart and ultimate future of the faithfulness of Jesus and his followers to the one God. The heavenly reality is the other side of the earthly coin.
Now however, in this chapter we get something different. Here it is explicitly stated that there are new heavens and a new earth. The old cosmos in which God was in heaven and not (openly) in the world, in which the sea remained as an reminder of primal chaos, is abolished, and a new cosmos, in which God is openly present on earth as well as in heaven, is revealed. If until this point, the heavenly visions have shown what lies beyond the immediate horizon of worldly events, now that horizon itself is abolished as the author moves wholly beyond this time and place, to the final perfecting of creation by the creator God. As we read it we realise that it is this vision, in which heaven and earth visibly correspond, and in which both are images of God’s creative goodness, which justifies all the previous visions, in which God’s victory has only been dimly visible in the faithful sufferings of his people. Not that these sufferings are simply overcome as if they had not happened. God still rules along with the Lamb, Jesus the crucified, and the tears of suffering are honoured by God’s personal attention even as they are wiped away.
The holy city is first of all the community of all who have refused to worship idols and have thereby honoured the One God, while it is also “the bride of the Lamb” symbolising the perfect partnership of Jesus and his people amongst whom God is happy to dwell. The description of the city tells us that its four walls have gates inscribed with the names of the tribes of Israel, meaning that the destiny of God’s ancient people is fulfilled here. The foundations are inscribed with the names of the original followers of Jesus, meaning that it is based on human trust and discipleship of the Lamb. The list of precious stones used in the foundations and the gates are the same as those adorning the breastplate of the Jewish High Priest, and as those used for the signs of the Zodiac in John’s time, meaning that this is a community in which the whole cosmos ministers to its creator. All that is good amongst all nations will be offered to God in this place.
The walls of the city stand for its unique culture: it is not for everyone without distinction but for those who, like Israel, worship the one God, and those who, like the 12 disciples, are faithful to the Lamb. Its communal life has this definite structure. Those who in my own church who formed the slogan “Church without walls” are judged mistaken by this image of the holy city. A church assembly modelled on this holy city might have no physical buildings or walls, but would have clear beliefs and customs which gave its life a distinctive structure.
On the other hand, there are as many gates as there were tribes and disciples and they face in all directions. This stands for the perpetual openness of God and his people to all humanity. The gates are a sign of the gospel invitation which is issued through God’s creation, through the Lamb, Jesus Messiah and his people, and through God’s spirit which inspires the prophets’ visions. Nevertheless, there will be those who do not come into it, because they want to worship idols of their own making. The Lamb’s Book Of Life contains the names of those who have made the great refusal by denying evil powers their allegiance.
The voice from the throne sums up the life of the Holy City:
1. God will dwell with humanity. This overturns a recognition in the Hebrew Bible that at present God does not really dwell on earth. In Solomon’s great prayer at the dedication of the temple he asks, “But will God truly dwell on earth? Behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have made!” The final vision of Revelation insists that the dwelling together of God and humanity is the purpose of creation.
2. God will have more than one people. The best manuscripts say “They shall be his peoples”. The life of the holy city is multi-ethnic.
3. God will personally acknowledge and heal the sufferings of his people. We were given this tender image taken from Isaiah in chapter 7 of Revelation. Its repetition shows its importance to the author.
4. Death, part of the curse laid by God on the rebellious children of Adam, to restrict their capacity for evil, will be abolished. God is revealed as unequivocally the God of Life.
How does the prophet arrive at these affirmations? We should not ignore the possibility that this man, John, exiled on Patmos, actually experienced visionary states of mind. But his mind had been formed by:
- His faith in Israel’s God.
- His knowledge of Israel’s bible.
- His trust in the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
- His partnership in the life and suffering of the Messianic Assemblies in Asia.
This final vision however, on which all the other visions depend, is the work of his imagination. Faced with persecution by the Roman Empire he dares to leap beyond the horizon of worldly history to paint the picture of God’s new creation, and to come back saying, “This is where we’re going.” The scholars call such a vision “eschatological” meaning it deals with the end-time (Greek: eschaton) but it is no mere pipe-dream. It is a development of faith which encourages faithful people to stay on the road even when it leads them through the valley of the shadow of death. And it lifts from God the “shame” of having permitted evil in the first place; as the writer of Hebrews says in his version of eschatology, “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he has prepared for them a City.”