"Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 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: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 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. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 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, 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. 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. But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life." (Rev 21:9-27)
We are entering into a section of Revelation that is designed to especially comfort and encourage the saints of God. This is a picture of the glorification of the church-something to which she has been predestinated (Rom 8:29-30). Individual believers are frequently told of this coming glory. It is a strong incentive to faithfulness, alertness, and productivity. "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom 5:2). "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17). "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil 3:19-20). "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col 3:4). "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess 4:17). If the people of God are not regularly and powerfully reminded of their coming liberation, life will become too burdensome, and discouragement will find way into their hearts. Too, when such holy reminders are absent, the world becomes stronger in its attraction, and Satan will be more effective in his aggression against the believer. To deprive the saints of hope is to make them vulnerable to the enemy, and weak in the fight of faith.
If there is a single circumstance to which the deplorable state of the contemporary church may be traced, it is the absence of a vivifying and dominating hope. Of this hope, the Spirit says, "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:3). The absence of purity, or holiness, then, is directly related to the absence of hope. Wayward minds, a failure to grasp the significance of Scripture, and the inability to discern good and evil, are all brought about because "the hope of salvation" is not worn as a protecting "helmet" (1 Thess 5:8). When believers are not illuminated concerning the "hope of His calling" (Eph 1:18), they cannot be equal to the challenges of Kingdom labor or spiritual conflicts.
TO THIS POINT
Until this point, the Patmos vision portrayed the church while upon the earth. The contrast between that portrayal and what we will now see is worthy of special notation.
The church was under the critical assessment of her Lord (2-3). The future hidden, only able to be known as unveiled by the Lamb (5). A time when Jesus conquers (6:2). The removal of peace from the earth (6:3-4). Subjected to famine, scarcity, and measured supplies (6:5-6). A reign of death by sword, hunger, pestilence, and beasts of the earth (6:7-8). Martyred souls whose blood had not been avenged (6:9-11). The collapse and removal of the natural order are depicted (6:16). The day of the Lamb's wrath is declared (6:17). The servants of God are sealed amidst the threat of impending judgment (7:1-17). Divine judgment is portrayed under the figure of seven final trumpets (8:2-11:19). The bottomless pit is opened, bringing delusion and destruction upon the earth (9:1-21). The Word of God causes bitterness in the belly of the one speaking it (10:9-10). The Temple of God, the altar, and the worshipers are subjected to Divine judgment (11:2). God's witnesses are slain (11:3-13). Satan is depicted as leveling a fierce assault the church (12:1-17). Worldly government, shown as a beast, rises from social turmoil to oppress the church (13:1-10). Corrupt religion rises, having the same principles as corrupt government, to deceive and persecute the church. It is pictured as a "second beast," "the false prophet," "Babylon the Great," and "the great harlot" (13:11-18-24). Only the Lord Jesus, the reigning Lamb, can address the dilemma in which the saints are found in this world. The enemies must be judged from heaven, else they will not be overthrown (6:15-17; 11:18; 19:1-21).
A GRIEVOUS ERROR
Those who teach believers have been promised prosperity and success in this world, while they are yet in the flesh, have seriously misrepresented the Lord. They have willingly ignored the forthright declarations of Jesus and the clear teaching of the Apostles. They are also in sharp conflict with the general message of the book of Revelation. For the believer, life in this world is one in which intense warfare and opposition are realized. The warfare not only is all around them, but rages within as well. Apostolic doctrine emphasizes the warfare within the believer, accentuating the need for faith, the armor of God, and vigilance (Rom 7; Gal 5:17; Eph 6:12-18; Col 3:1-5).
The book of Revelation emphasizes the conflict coming from without the believer, showing it is fierce and unrelenting. That conflict will not totally cease until the devil, beast, and false prophet, together with all who followed them, are cast into the lake of fire. Even though there will be a season when the wicked will not be able to assert themselves, and the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the seas, unholy people will remain unholy. It will only take the release of Satan for a little season to rally those wicked people together and surround the saints (Rev 20:3).
Now we will behold the condition of things WITHOUT the presence of the devil, the beast and the false prophet. The Spirit will now set before our eyes how things will be when the temporal order is no more. The saints will no longer have a treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor 4:7). There will be no more struggles within, temptation, or downward pull upon our souls. No part of us will be in bondage, and there will be no form of opposition, resistence, or weakness. It is the time of glory, when we will come into the inheritance that has been reserved for us.
The Spirit will not simply comment on the environment in which the redeemed will be found. He will expound upon the redeemed themselves: "the bride, the Lamb's wife." He will emphasize WHAT we will be even more than WHERE we will be. This is our destiny, and it is the truth. One seen, it exercises a powerful influence on the soul. If this is not seen, the soul becomes weak and debilitated, unable to cope with life. It is a grievous thing to withhold these things.
THE BRIDE, THE LAMB'S WIFE
"Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.'" Behold how versatile the holy angels are. Here is one of the seven angels employed in pouring out grievous Divine judgments upon the enemies of our Lord. Yet, he is not merely a specialist in judgment. He also has keen insight into the glorified people of God. It is my persuasion that the heavenly places remove the tendency to be lopsided. The soul becomes more versatile when dwelling in high and holy places. It can navigate freely in seemingly contradictory realms. This trait is seen in this mighty angel. Again, there is a forward stance in the Revelation. The sight is not brought to John, but John is brought to it: "Come . . . " Twelve times this summons is used in Revelation (4:1; 6:1,3,5,7; 11:12; 18:4; 19:17; 21:9; 22:17). It denotes the character of the heavenly Kingdom and of spiritual life. Several times our Lord Jesus used this summons with His disciples, calling them forward to better and deeper things (Matt 11:28; 14:29; Mk 1:17; 6:31; John 1:39; 21:12). The very word presumes intense interest on the part of the one summoned. It also assumes the worthiness of the things to which they are called. While this may appear but a small point, it is not. There is a prevailing circumstance in Revelation that must not be missed. Forward progress is always being made. An upward look is consistently encouraged. The movement is always toward perfection, beauty, and thorough satisfaction. If this is missed, we will soon be distracted by the language, missing the things it contains.
There is an additional thing to be seen here. It is something to which we have been introduced in other sections of Scripture. This holy angel, mighty and in glory, "talked with" John. You might say John had been brought into a realm where angels were comfortable talking with him. There was a fellowship between this glorious being and the Apostle who was exiled on Patmos. "He talked with me!" Scripture teaches us we "are come" into the fellowship of "an innumerable company of angels" (Heb 12:22). You can see from this text that this is more than simply being in their presence. I certainly do no advocate making attempts to communicate with angels-you have access to the Lord of the angels. However, it is important to see how comfortable they are in the presence of the redeemed. That is proof that a mighty work, indeed, has been done in believers!
I WILL SHOW YOU THE BRIDE
There is no question about what we are going to behold. The is "the Lamb's wife," the saved of the Lord, or the body of Christ. Concerning her own activity, she has "made herself ready" (19:7). Concerning Divine activity, she is "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (21:2). This is not a city, as ordinarily conceived, but a people!
John the Baptist said of Jesus, "He that hath the bride is the Bridegroom" (John 3:29). These are the people Jesus loved, and for whom Jesus gave Himself. As it is written, "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph 5:25). These are the people who, in this world, were "espoused," or betrothed, to "one husband," the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 11:2). Their marriage is determined to be "even to Him who is raised from the dead," that they should "bring forth fruit unto God" (Rom 7:4). In their spirits, they were "joined to the Lord" in salvation (1 Cor 6:17). Now, we will behold this vast body, divested of everything inherited from Adam, and clothed with everything procured for them by Christ Jesus. They are ready for Jesus, and Jesus is ready for them.
These people, the redeemed, were not taken from the world and gathered together for men to manage. They were brought together to be "presented" to Christ Jesus (Eph 5:27). They are not people for elders to manage, and self-appointed leaders to direct! They were called out to be a bride for the Son! They are not primarily a disciplined and holy people, but the "Lamb's wife!" They are not primarily soul winners, but the "Lamb's wife!" They are not primarily good people, but the "Lamb's wife!" They are not primarily a rescued people, but the "Lamb's wife!"
Do not imagine this gives license to be unholy, uninvolved in fishing for men, or remain captive to sin. It is being "the Lamb's wife" that brings meaning to these other matters. Remove that from the scenario, and there is no reason for being holy, aggressive to preach the Gospel, or being liberated from the guilt and power of sin. The absence of this perspective accounts for the presence of unrighteousness, slothfulness, and enslavement to sin among those professing to know God. This understanding is all but absent in the contemporary church.
From this view, the entire economy of salvation is captured in these words. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for His Son" (Matt 22:2). There you have it! That is what it is all about: God the Father making a marriage for His Son! That is why He is taking out a people for His great Name (Acts 15:14). If you will ponder this truth, at least two things will grip your heart and mind. First, this truth is obvious throughout Scripture when once it is seen with the heart. Second, you will be hard pressed to find anyone at any time emphasizing this central, or pivotal, point of revelation. There are people, devout people, who have never heard any emphasis on heaven, glory, or the Lamb's wife. They have never made a conscious association between their faith and being a chosen bride for Jesus. It is a tragic circumstance, indeed. Let every one who sees these things devote themselves to apprizing kindred spirits of their reality.
WHAT WE WILL SEE
The description given of "the Lamb's wife" is similar to the description of lovers in the book of Solomon. The language is more lofty than that of Solomon 's Song, and it is more appropriate for public articulation. Metaphorical language is used to accentuate the character or nature of the individual Allow me to give you a few examples.
"I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots" (1:10). "Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold" (1:11). "Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead." "Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing." "Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet." "Thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks." "Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armory" (4:1-4). While in this world, the church was also presented under several different figures.
"The body of Christ" (1 Cor 12:27). "Family in heaven and earth" (Eph 3:15). "The flock of God" (1 Pet 5:2). "God's building" (1 Cor 3:9). "God's husbandry," or field (1 Cor 3:9). "Jerusalem which is above" (Gal 4:26). "The temple of God" (1 Cor 3:16-17). Now, in even more lofty language, and with more exalted figures of speech, the glorified church will be described. The angel is specific in identifying what will be exhibited: "the bride, the Lamb's wife."
I want to again emphasize that we are not beholding the dwelling place of believers, but the dwelling place of God and the Lamb. The glorified saints themselves are the city, and they are where God and the Lamb will make Their permanent abode. There is no reason for any reader to think otherwise. This manner of explanation is found throughout the Word, as I have indicated above. The objective of God is to bring Himself and His people together. The glory of that accomplishment is the subject of this text, and must not be missed. The people of God will now be told what they will become-their appointed destiny. The intent of the message is to bring more rationality to living by faith and walking in the Spirit.
DESCENDING WITH GLORY
"And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain . . . "
The vision is so lofty, it cannot be perceived on lower plains. Neither, indeed, can John ascend to the place of showing in his own strength. He must be "carried" there in and by the Holy Spirit. Those who imagine the human spirit to be capable of perceiving the things of God by natural means only betray their ignorance of the truth. If John, in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and twice brought up higher, had to be "carried away in the Spirit" (4:2; 17:3) to behold the glorified church, how can we be adequate to behold such things in ourselves? Not only was John himself "carried away in the spirit," he was brought to "a great and high mountain." There are heavenly realities so lofty and transcendent, they can only be revealed in mountainous terrain, far above the plains of this world. Thus the Law was given from a mountain (Exodus 19-20). The glory of Jesus was unveiled in His transfiguration while on "an high mountain apart" (Matt 17:1-8). The secret of comprehending the things of God is not bringing them down to the people, but bringing the people up to them. Those who seek to make the mysteries of God more discernible to men by diluting them with the wisdom of this world, carnal illustrations, and humorous anecdotes, will find themselves hard pressed to justify their approach with Scripture. At some point, the people must be consciously brought into the heavenly realms. That is where both blessings and insight are to be found. The lower you bring the truth, the more diluted and obscure it becomes.
Holy prophets are often described as being "carried" away in the Spirit. Ezekiel had this experience (Ezek 3:14; 8:3; 11:1,24; 40:1-3). Philip the evangelist also experienced this (Acts 8:39). Paul spoke of one occasion when he too was brought into exceedingly high places, of which he could not speak (2 Cor 12:2-4). Such occasions were not frequent, indicating the unusual loftiness of the truths made known in them.
To be carried away in the Spirit is to be dislocated from the natural order. This is necessary in order for spiritual vision to be clear. The closer you are to the world order, the more obscure the things of God become. What we are about to see is NOT the church from an earthly perspective.
There is a certain obscurity to this passage that is required. It cannot be grasped by the carnally minded. It is so phrased that it will not make sense to those with no hunger or thirst for righteousness, and do not seek first the Kingdom of God.
The Great City
" . . . and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem." There can be no doubt about what we are going to behold. It is "the bride, the Lamb's wife." It is the ONLY aggregation of humanity God has ever recognized: "THE great city." This is no small group of people-not a remnant as they were upon the earth. They are too vast to number, and too numerous to count. This is "the GREAT city." Here are a people who are orderly, focused, and perfectly joined. It is "the great CITY."
This is the ONLY true dwelling place God acknowledges: "THE holy Jerusalem." It is a "city" because its people are perfectly united, happily dwelling together in the same place and at the same time. It is "righteous," not by imputation, as it was upon the earth, but in reality. There is absolutely nothing about the people, individually or collectively, that is defiled, weak, or unacceptable. It is "the HOLY Jerusalem." This is the real "Jerusalem," which means tranquil possession," or "city of peace." It is the society of ultimate calm and serenity. No form of agitation or disruption is found among these glorified people. There is not a single agitating or wayward thought among them. No hasty or uninformed word proceeds from any of them. No objections or recalcitrance is found among them, neither murmuring nor discontent. It is the "holy JERUSALEM."
Remember! This is "the bride, the Lamb's wife." It is the redeemed of all ages, all those who have been brought safely from earth to glory, and time to eternity.
OUT OF HEAVEN FROM GOD
" . . . descending out of heaven from God." This is the second time this has been emphasized. The 21st chapter began with these words. "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (21:2). Now John will get a closer look at the glorified church, to which he has already been introduced. He saw her while in the world, oppressed and persecuted. Now he will see her in glory.
The phrase "coming out of heaven from God" must be seen within the context of salvation. The objective of salvation is to bring us into harmony with the Living God. Thus, in redemption, we have been "raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6). By means of regeneration and our faith, Jesus has brought us "to God" (1 Pet 3:18). Right now, our lives are "hid with Christ in God" (Col 3:3). Our fellowship, right now, is with the Father and the Son, who dwell within us by faith (John 14:23; 1 John 1:3). Those who are "absent from the body" are "present with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8).
Upon the removal of the first heaven and the first earth, all temporary conditions and relationships will be brought to a conclusion. This includes the grave and hades, as well as time and trying circumstances. All believers, the body of Christ, who were caught up to be forever with the Lord (1 Thess 4:17), will descend out of heaven to occupy the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Matt 25:34). The time of God's people has come.
The church is preeminently associated with God the Father. That association has been accomplished through the Son, through Whom we come to the Father. That is why the glorified church is said to descend "from God." His purpose brought her into existence, and His Son brought her to God.
THE GLORY OF THE REDEEMED
" . . . having the glory of God." The glory of the church is what she has from God! When we see her in all of her glory, we will not see what she has done, but to Whom she has been conformed. Her achievements will not be the focus. Rather, she herself will be seen to be the achievement of the Almighty. She will have "the glory of God."
In this world, while persecuted and opposed, "the Spirit of glory and of God" rested upon her (1 Pet 4:14). However, it was not recognized, and therefore her enemies were not afraid to oppose and attack her. But now we see her revealed, unveiled in all of her majestic splendor. In this world she became a "partaker of the Divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4). That participation, however, was only introductory. Now we will see the work brought to its culmination.
There will be no question about the association of the redeemed with God. Here, they bore His name. There, they will bear His glory! The similarity will be obvious and beyond all question. Indeed, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col 3:4).
Earlier in Revelation, the heavenly temple was "filled with smoke from the glory of God" (15:8). Now, the people of God themselves have the glory of God, and not as a smoke, obscured by a battlefield and difficult to perceive. It is all apparent-very apparent, with not a jot or tittle to hide it. If an angel could illuminate the earth with his glory (18:1), what will happen when the assembled saved of all ages are seen coming down out of heaven possessing the very glory of God!
When this truth is seen, bringing glory to God in this world makes sense. In fact, it becomes a most joyous activity. Even in this world, the glory of God emanates from the saints. It is not, however, detected as God's glory by all who see it. Of this circumstance the Scriptures say, "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified" (1 Pet 4:14).
But this will not be the case when the glorified church is seen coming down out heaven from God. The glory of God that characterizes her will be unanimously perceived as being that of God. It will be said of them in glory, even as it was said of Israel in Egypt, "But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue" (Ex 11:7).
Let us learn from this that the pinnacle of Christian character is not found in human accomplishments, or even in the keeping of the commandments of God with external precision. Rather, it is found in the glory of God being seen in the people who have embraced His Son. A religion that settles for anything less than this, regardless of its seeming success in this world, will have no part in the world to come. That "form of godliness," together with all embracing it, will be thrust from the presence of the Lord.
It is in this sense that Jesus will be "glorified in His saints" and be "admired among all those who believe" (2 Thess 1:10). Individually and collectively, the saints will bear the Divine image, without flaw.
ONE MORE WORD
Even in this world, the Lord has acquainted us with men having a resemblance to the Living God. The law-giving qualities of God were seen in Moses. The leadership qualities of the Lord were made known in Joshua the captain. Boldness and valor were revealed in Elijah the Prophet. Sensitivity was manifested in David. In Christ, each believer receives a special measure, or facet, of the Divine nature. That measure, activated and sustained by faith, allows the individual to become a "worker together with God" (1 Cor 3:9). This is the point that is made in Romans 12:3 and 1 Peter 4:11. "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith . . . If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
It all starts here--in this world--and will be culminated in the world to come. This world is not our home, our emphasis, or the object of our affection. Rather, it is the place where we are being oriented for glory, and prepared for the world to come. We are to be regularly apprized of these things
.THE LIGHT SHE POSSESSES
"Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal." The last reference to a "jasper stone" was in the fourth chapter. Do you recall it? "And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald" (4:3). That reference is to the glory of the Lord himself. Here, it refers to the glory of the people of God! The wall of "the great city," and its foundations, also include "jasper" (21:18-19). Remember, this is a vision of the glorified church. Glory is not simply upon the redeemed, but is part of them. They themselves have been glorified! It is not light shining upon the city that brings out its glory, but the light of the city itself. It is "HER light." No longer, therefore, is the glory of the people of God hidden beneath the veil of flesh. The day of her glory has come, and she is bursting with the Divine nature! Then the prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled IN the people of God, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee" (Isa 60:1).
A PRECIOUS STONE
Throughout the Scriptures, the people of God are represented as precious to Him. To ransomed Israel He said, "For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life" (Isa 43:3-4). Jeremiah spoke of "The precious sons of Zion, valuable as fine gold" (Lam 4:2). Those genuine and fruitful converts that are built upon the Sure Foundation, Jesus Christ, are referred to as "gold, silver, precious stones" (1 Cor 3:12).
In the days of Malachi the prophet, when there had been a remarkable deterioration within Israel, there remained a holy remnant of people. Even though it was not fashionable to meet together for holy and honorable purposes, these people spoke often with one another. Their words did not go unnoticed. "The LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" (Mal 3:16-17).
But our text affirms the glorified church had the traits of a stone "MOST precious." That is, even among precious stones, it stood out, excelling, as it were, in glory. It is not the inherent worth of the redeemed themselves that gives them such glory. Rather, the Divine nature, in which they have been granted by grace to participate, has produced the glory now beheld.
A JASPER STONE
The jasper stone was sanctified in the tabernacle, which was an image of the glorified church. It was one of the stones in the High Priest's breastplate (Ex 28:15-20; 39:8-13). In his denunciation of Satan, Ezekiel mentions the jasper stone in association with Eden (Ezek 28:13). Thus, the jasper stone speaks to us of the glory of God Himself, the worship and service of the Lord God by selected and ordained personalities, and the perfection and goodness reflected in the creation.
CLEAR AS CRYSTAL
Ordinarily, a jasper stone has a greenish color to it-a picture of freshness and life. But this stone has no shade or shadow whatsoever. It is a picture of perfection and purity-"clear as crystal." Everything is apparent, and nothing is hidden-yet it is saturated with the glory of God.
This should confirm to our hearts the magnitude of our salvation. Although He started with defiled and guilty humanity, the Lord will display the beauty of perfection within these very people. He began by washing us from our sins, cleansing our conscience, and justifying us in His sight. Even though the vestiges of contamination remain in us in this world, it will not always be this way. When we enter into our inheritance, the most precise scrutiny will confirm that not so much as one speck of evil will remain when we are glorified. From a negative point of view, the fulness of glory is nothing less than the absence of every form of defilement, incompleteness, ignorance, and inability. In the world to come there will nothing distracting or distasteful.
What a glorious prospect is before us. Every child of God has good reason to be strong in faith and hope, giving glory to God. The best is up ahead, and it is all in abundance and truth! Joy and unspeakable satisfaction awaits you.
THE WALL AND ITS GATES
A GREAT AND HIGH WALL
"Also she had a great and high wall."
Because the church has known only warfare in this world, time is given to persuade her of coming rest and safety. Keep in mind, the description is not of the place the saved are residing, but of the saved themselves.
More than seven hundred years before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the walls we now behold. "We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks" (Isa 26:1). Again he wrote, "but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation" (Isa 60:18). Prophetically, David spoke of the city of God: "Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following" (Psa 48:12-13). Zechariah also used this figure: "For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her" (Zech 2:5).
The passage does not suggest there are dangers lurking around the city. Rather, this vision is intended to comfort the saints with the prospect of uninterrupted safety and fellowship. While we are in this world, we need to hear such affirmations, for we are continually subjected to hostility and danger. What we are reading is not a technical explanation, but words addressed to the hearts of those subjected to the trials of life. Because we are presently incapable of fully discerning the nature of our future state, it is described in words suitable to our situation.
A "great wall" is one that is impressive and impregnable. A "high wall" is one that cannot be scaled. Thus, we have a picture of absolute safety and security. No more vigilance or armor will be required. What a blessed contemplation.
Satan Gained access to Eden. He will not gain access to the holy city. He penetrated the people of Israel. He will not penetrate there! He found a receptive person among Christ's twelve apostles, he will find none in the holy city!
THE GATES OF THE CITY
We will now behold the glorified church as something that was entered-a body of people with whom affiliation began while yet upon the earth. Remember, "Jerusalem which is above is . . . the mother of us all" (Gal 4:26). That depicts entrance into salvation by means of the new birth. Now we will see that same entrance from the viewpoint of the place of entrance.
The wall is too high to be scaled, so entrance must be gained through an appointed means-gates. Jesus spoke of the same view when He said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber" (John 10:1). The idea here is that abundant and complete provision has been made for entering into favor with God. No stone has been left unturned in providing salvation for humanity.
Their Number and Guardians
" . . . with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates . . . " This imagery is taken from the 48th chapter of Ezekiel. There each gate is associated with one of the tribes of Israel. The three Northward gates bore the names of Reuben, Judah, and Levi (48:31). The Eastward gates had on them the names of Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan (48:32). The Westward gates were named Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun (48:33). The Southward gates bore the names of Gad, Asher, and Naphtali. Ezekiel's vision declared a full provision for all of the tribes of Israel.
Twelve is the number of perfection or completeness. It is used twenty-two times in the Revelation (7:5,6,7,8; 12:1; 21:12,14,16,21; 22:2). In every case, a description is given of either Divine activity or Divine provision. The vision of Revelation will confirm to us that an "abundant entrance" has been provided for all men.
Each gate is attended by an angel, a guardian, as it were, of the point of entrance. Elsewhere we are taught that angels are specifically "sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Heb 1:14). Not only are they instrumental in protecting and delivering the saints (Acts 5:19; 12:7-11; 27:23), they are also involved in bringing people to a point of entering into the Kingdom of God. Thus an angel directed Philip to go down to the road of Gaza, in order to minister to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26). An angel directed Peter to go to the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:3-7). An angel also directed Cornelius to call for Peter (Acts 10:22). How extensively the holy angels are involved in our entrance into the Kingdom is not known. However, it is clear they play a vital role. Each gate had an angel. That is, at every point of entrance into salvation, angelic hosts are involved.
The Names on the gates
" . . . and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel . . . " We now come to another section of Revelation that is highly disruptive of much theology. The Lord does not let us proceed very far in this book without mentioning the ancient people-Israel, or the Jews (Rev 7:4-8; 14:1-3). Now, we find them mentioned again.
Their names are upon the gates of the city. Entrance into salvation is directly related to the Jews, even though this is very difficult for some to receive. It was our Lord Jesus Himself who said, "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). They are the ones who received all the promises (Rom 9:4-5). The power unto salvation is "to the Jew first" (Rom 1:16).
Elaborating on this facet of salvation, the Spirit argues, "For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee" (Rom 11:16-18).
How much we owe to the ancient people! Never should the people of God be encouraged to think less of the tree into which they have been grafted. Israel prepared the way for the Messiah to come, and for the world to benefit from Him. In the world to come, there will be a high regard for Israel, and we do well to begin now to prepare for that. The names found upon the twelve gates are NOT those of worldly philosophers or politicians, but of the twelve tribes of Israel. Our entrance into Christ cannot be disassociated from the Jews. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob received the initial promises in which we now participate. The Law that was given to Israel proved to be a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. It is their Prophets that still minister to us concerning the magnitude of this salvation. John the Baptist, who introduced the Savior, came from that nation. The twelve Apostles were chosen from this tree. And Jesus Himself sprang out of this nation. Truly, salvation is of the Jews! Eternity will not let us forget these things.
The Location of the Gates
" . . . three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west." There are entry points on every side: North, East, South, and West. When the redeemed are seen in the aggregate, we will behold how they came from "the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south" to "sit down in the kingdom of God" (Lk 13:29). Israel was provincial, but the church is not. Together they shall lift their voices in mighty chorus, "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev 5:9).
In the end, the holy angels will gather together the elect "from the uttermost part of the earth" (Mk 13:27). No part of this world shall be without representatives. We will see that a gate was made available for all peoples to enter into glory, and participate in the marriage supper of the Lord. The knowledge of this is most refreshing to the soul. What a large salvation has been made available to every quadrant of humanity.
THE WALL HAS TWELVE FOUNDATIONS
"Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." Remember, we are seeing the glorified church-"the bride, the Lamb's wife." We must discipline ourselves to think of the people of God themselves, not a place where they will reside. It is not that they will have no place to abide. We are beholding the glorified church "coming down out of heaven from God." She will surely inhabit a place-a realm characterized by unspeakable benefits. But first we must see the church itself in the glorified state. It is primarily a place for God to reside, and thus we speak of its glory. Entrance into salvation is related to the Jews. Now we will see that stability and illumination are associated with the Apostles of the Lamb. No individual can claim to have personally discovered salvation: everyone entered through a gate with a Jewish name upon it. Too, no person can boast of having made himself firm in the Lord. The salvation which they experienced had foundations named after the Apostles.
The Word of God associates the foundation of the church with the Apostles. "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Eph 2:19-20). It is through the Apostles that we came to know more precisely of God's great salvation. Both Peter and Jude exhort us to be mindful of what was said by the Apostles (2 Pet 3:2; Jude 17). They are the "first" in order or priority within the church (1 Cor 12:28). Things relevant to salvation have been "revealed unto his holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit" (Eph 3:5).
There is a vital truth to be seen here. We are beholding the glorified church. We are not seeing the church in its inception or preparation for glory. The salvation that surrounds her is seen from an eternal perspective. The chief ministry of the Apostles was not their directives concerning moral and spiritual responsibilities, as important as those things are in this world. Their foundational work related to the clarifying of salvation in which we participate. They revealed its basis, effectiveness, and conclusion. They gave our faith something in which to anchor.
The world to come will not find us contemplating or speaking of moral and social responsibilities. There are, indeed, occasions when such matters must be addressed in this world. But we do well to deal with them from a foundational viewpoint, much like Paul dealt with moral purity in First Corinthians 6:18-20. "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
Foundational perspectives are not common in the average church. That condition, however, is not due to any deficiency of revelation on the matter. The names of the "twelve Apostles of the Lamb" are on the twelve foundations of the glorified city because of their message. They clarified redemption in Christ Jesus. They were given Divine expositions of justification, and faithfully communicated them. They elaborated upon the truth introduced by the Prophets and our blessed Lord. They also interpreted the nature of the Kingdom of God, acquainting us with its manners.
THE CITY FOURSQUARE
"And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 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." The imagery is again taken from the books of Ezekiel and Zechariah (Ezek 41:1-5; Zech 2:1). Also, John had earlier been exposed to Divine measurement (11:1-2). All of these precious measurements portrayed the assessment of God's people in time-in this world. The measurements of Ezekiel and Zechariah were anticipatory, in which the true worship of God in Christ Jesus was foretold. Although there are some difficulties related with their visions, they seem to ultimately point to the worship of God in Spirit and in truth. The measurement that occurred earlier in Revelation was one of judgment, in which the church was found faulty. All three measurements related to time, when flaw and imperfection were present. The comparative smallness of the measurements confirms this to be the case. Ezekiel mentions 2,3,5,6,10,20,70, and 100 cubit measurements, all confined to the temple itself. Zechariah's measurement was of Jerusalem (2:2), yet, as with the measuring in Revelation 11, no actual measurements are given.
But notice the measurements given in this twenty-first chapter. The city is a perfect cube. Each side measure 12,000 furlongs, or 1,500 miles. A furlong is equal to 660 feet. We have, then, a perfect cube with sides of approximately 7,920,000 feet--1,500 miles. How does that compare with 100 cubits, which is 150 feet? That is an appropriate comparison between earth and heaven, conflict and rest, flesh and glory!
The glorified church is to the militant church what 150 feet is to 1,500 miles! There simply is no adequate comparison.
Remember, we are NOT beholding a city in which the people of God will reside, but the glorified church in which the Lord Himself will reside!
An absolute cube, with no varying measurements, signifies perfection in the purest sense of the word. There is no inequality, shortcomings, or disparity. Contradiction and variance will be totally absent in the glorified church. No matter how you look at the glorified saints, they will be perfect and without flaw. All of this was prefigured in the Holy of Holies, which was also a perfect cube (Ex 26). There, in the Holy of Holies, the Presence of the Lord was found. (Ex 25:22). That imagery teaches us the Lord dwells in the midst of perfection. Only when the church is glorified will the Lord Himself fully dwell in her.
In this world, the church is scattered, being dispersed in both time and circumstance. But that will not be the case in glory. There, God brings together "the whole family in heaven and earth" (Eph 3:15), gathering "together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; in Him" (Eph 1:10). There will no longer be a "greater part" absent from the body, while a struggling remnant remains upon the earth. No longer will discontented souls be seen under the altar or suffering ones upon the earth. Individual believers will not find "another law" in their members, warring against the law of their minds. All imperfection will be dismissed, and "we shall know even as we are known." We will be a city foursquare: no unequal parts or separated members, only total perfection. What a marvelous picture of coming glory!
THE NATURE OF THE WALL
"Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 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, 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. At once we see a significant difference between the wall and the city itself. The redeemed are pictured as a city 1,500 miles high. The wall about it is 144 cubits, or a little over 1,200 feet tall, less than 1/5 of a mile. We will soon see that BEAUTY is the accent of the wall, and not protection. Once again, this emphasizes there will be no need for sanctuary for there will be no enemies. At last, we will be within the safety zone, where variance has no presence nor place.
" . . . the city was pure gold, like clear glass." As we might expect, there is nothing on earth to parallel this vision. In this world, cities have some buildings that have some gold on some parts of some structures. Even the relatively small tabernacle was not of pure gold. Some of its furniture was overlaid with pure gold, but the tabernacle itself was anything but pure gold. Wood, stone, tapestry, and even badger skins were also found in the tabernacle. The temple as well had gold, but was not pure gold. There were bronze, granite stones and cedars of Lebanon in the temple also.
But behold, there are no inferior materials in "the city!" Nothing about it is not comely, subject to decay, or to be covered with something else. It is not just gold, but "pure gold." But it is not gold as we have in this world. It is gold that is "like clear glass."
Remember, we are speaking about "the bride, the Lamb's wife." We are not beholding where she will dwell, but the bride herself, where God and Christ will dwell. She is pure and transparent. Ah, it was not so while she was upon the earth. There were ignoble vessels within her (2 Tim 2:20), foolish virgins (Matt 25:1-10), and fish to ultimately be cast away (Matt 13:47-48). Within her number were found Ananias, Saphirra, Demas and Diotrephes. There were dead churches like Sardis, tolerant ones like Thyatira, and lukewarm ones like Laodicea. In the world, churches like Corinth and Galatia had to be rebuked. Some professed believers had to be delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. The church was anything but "pure gold" when in the world.
But it is another story after the first heaven and the first earth are passed away. No more refining fire is needed: the people of God will be "pure gold." No more hidden counsels of the heart: the saints will be "clear as glass." Is it not a pleasant thing to contemplate? And contemplate it we must, for that is our appointed destiny.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE WALL
"The construction of its wall was of jasper." Most walls were built of crude materials, because they were subject to attack. Nehemiah and his builders constructed a wall of stone (Neh 4:3). Solomon spoke of a "stone wall" (Prov 24:31). That is the manner of earth. But we are destined for a great change-a glorious change. The beauty and value of the people of God in the world to come will be as gems of jasper compared to roughly hewn stones.
The identity of a jasper stone is not altogether clear. We know it is precious. Some have suggested that the qualities ascribed to this stone of purity and clearness make it more like the diamond of our day. This stone was the last one in the breastplate of the High priest (Ex 28:17). The High Priest himself, however, did not have the glow of a jasper stone. It is also used to describe the glory of God Himself seated upon the throne (4:3).
What is here depicted is the people of God possessing the glory of God. This is something for which Jesus prayed "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:22-24).
The glory of which Jesus spoke was, in a sense, a borrowed glory. It was designed to confirm to the world that God sent Jesus to save it. But that is not the purpose for the glory we now behold. This glory is inherent, or part of the nature of the church. They have been brought through trials to the place of perfection, and now they themselves shine with the glory of God. They have been "conformed" to the Image of God's Son. That glory will be as plain in them as a diamond wall surrounding a city of pure gold.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE WALL
"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, 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."
Everything about the glorified saints is beautiful and precious. Remember, the wall is a picture of salvation which surrounds the glorified saints. The foundations of that wall are decorated and embellished with all kinds of precious stones-set, as it were, within the diamond foundations. The stones mentioned are representative of multifaceted beauty. Each stone is characterized by a unique color and other characteristics. Jasper is clear. Sapphire was of a clear blue color, and very precious (Ex 24:10; Job 28:16). Chalcedony is thought to be a green carbonate of copper. The emerald is a precious green gem. The sardonyx was a kind of onyx, noted for its value in engraving. The sardius was a precious stone, yellow in color. Chrysolytre was yellow in color, and identical with the modern jacinth or amber. The beryl was a variety of emerald. Topaz is thought to be a variety of the chrysolite, and was yellowish-green. The chrysoprasus was much like the beryle, or aqaua-marine gems. The jacinth was a red variety of the zircon, and came in a variety of colors. The amethyst was a purple stone. The point to be seen is the beauty and variety of these stones. The glory of the redeemed is truly multifaceted, having many different sides.
But there is something else to be seen here. Set within salvation are various gems of truth-Divine nuggets that cause the wall of salvation to sparkle with glory. Think of the jewels of the love and righteousness of God. The gems of justification and sanctification, and the precious stones of eternal purpose and manifold wisdom. They all adorn the wall of salvation that encompasses the glorified saints. How they sparkle and glow in the bright light of Divine glory! When fully seen, salvation will provide a rich commentary and display of the Person and character God and Christ. All of this will cause the church to shine more brightly, bringing more glory to our Lord.
EVERY GATE WAS ONE PEARL
"The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl." We are viewing the glorified church, "the bride, the Lamb's wife." With beauty, she is adorned as a wife prepared for her husband. This is the redeemed, standing before their Lord "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph 5:27). They are "faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). Now, we focus upon the points of ENTRANCE into the city. Our text does not say the gates were made of pearl, but that each gate was itself one pearl. In this world, a pearl is the result of a lot of activity. They are very valuable, and are so identified in Scripture. Jesus said the Kingdom was like a man seeking fine pearls. Finding "one pearl" of great price, or value, he sold all he had to possess it (Matt 13:46). Now, we behold the twelve points of entrance into the church as individual pearls-rare and valuable pears.
Thus our entrance into the Kingdom of heaven is seen as exceeding precious. Whether we entered from the North, East, South, or West, the entrance itself is to be valued. Do not doubt the validity of this concept. Our entrance is precious because it speaks of Divine provision and activity.
Our entrance is described in various ways. It is seen as believing the Gospel and being baptized (Mk 16:16). It is also represented as repenting and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38). The Spirit refers to our entrance as receiving the Lord Jesus (John 1:12). It is also seen as being washed, justified, and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:11). Ephesians 1:13 declares it to be trusting in the Lord Jesus after hearing the Gospel of our salvation, then being sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Romans 6 refers to it as being buried by baptism into the death of Christ, then being raised by the Father to walk in the newness of life (6:4-6). John 3:3-5 records Jesus speaking of perceiving and entering the Kingdom of God by means of the new birth. Acts 3:19 refers to it as being "converted." In a marvelous declaration of Divine involvements in our salvation, Acts 26:18 speaks of having our eyes opened, being turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, receiving the forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by faith. Jesus spoke of it as being converted and becoming as little children (Matt 18:2). The entrance of the Thessalonian brethren was referred to as receiving the Word of God, not as the word of men, "but as it is in truth, the Word of God" (1 Thess 2:13).
From whatever perspective you approach our entrance into the New Jerusalem, it is precious-like an individual pearl. That is how it will be seen in the world to come. We will see the whole matter of our salvation was of the Lord. No one will have any difficulty singing with understanding, "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb" (Rev 7:10). And again, "Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God" (Rev 19:1). With joyful and insightful recollection, they will sing, "For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God" (Rev 5:9-10.
This is the reality of the case: our entrance into Divine acceptance was precious! It involved the planning of the Father and the sending of the Son. An atonement was made by Jesus and presented in heaven to a satisfied God. The Holy Spirit, working through the Gospel, convinced us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. We "obtained like precious faith," believing "through grace" (2 Pet 1:1; Acts 18:27). We were drawn by the Father to Jesus, and brought by Jesus to God (John 6:44; 1 Pet 3:18).
What a blessed day it was when we entered into the Kingdom of God! Our names were written in heaven, and we are come unto a great heavenly host (Heb 12:22-24). Indeed, ever gate is made of one pearl. It is precious, and throughout all eternity will be so perceived. Nothing about our entrance was average or mediocre! May we see it that way now. The consideration will impart both strength and joy to our hearts. It will cause the saints to be closer together, or more sensitive of the Lord Who bought them.
THE STREET OF THE CITY
"And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass." You have no doubt heard of "streets of gold." No such reference is found in Scripture. Just as the glorified church has only one river, or source of life (Rev 22:1-2), so it has only one street, or means of communication. Again, we must remember we are seeing the glorified church-"the bride, the Lamb's wife." In the earth, the people of God often dwelt where there were deceit and guile in the streets (Psa 55:11). Often wisdom cried out in the streets, only to be spurned and rejected (Prov 1:20). The streets were often the place where the sick, halt, blind, and maimed were brought for mercy (Lk 14:21; Acts 5:15). Such streets were anything but pure gold! Here is a marvelous picture of unity-of minding and speaking "the same thing" (1 Cor 1:10). No variant or defiled communication, no bypaths that take people away from the main thing, no distracting tributaries of thought or speech. The street is "pure gold." It is not yellow gold, but gold "transparent as glass." There is no gold like this in the earth. It speaks of communication that is obvious, plain, and understood by all. The figure of speech declares there will be no more parabolic teaching, no more hidden sayings, no more occasions where "hard sayings" will be uttered. Every word, every movement, every bit of communication will be pure, uncontaminated, and of great value. There will be no more vain words, pointless words, or empty speeches. Because we ourselves will be pure, the means of communication will also be pure.
In this world, there is need to have our feet washed. That is one of the lessons learned during our Lord's last evening with His disciples. As He washed His disciples feet He said, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean" (John 13:10). The part of us that touches the earth becomes defiled, and we need to have that part cleansed. Jesus was speaking of more than bodily hygiene. There is spiritual defilement that comes from commerce in this world. However minor it may be, we must attend to it. Our minds must be "renewed" (Rom 12:2). Our souls must be awakened and refurbished. There are moral streets upon which men must traffic that are contaminating. Our jobs and our business, our neighborhoods and our pleasures, all have contaminated streets between them. Our souls become soiled, and our thoughts diverted during movement between them. The sensitive soul is painfully aware of these things.
But in the world to come, there will be no such experience. "And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass." There will be no desert to traverse, no type of activity, and no means of communicating that is not perfect. Never again will we touch anything corrupt-at any time, or in any sense. What a refreshing consideration!
Our new bodies will clarify the truth rather than obscure it. Our speech will be precise, totally void of any clumsiness or other aspect of inadequacy. Motives will all be pure. All commerce, of whatever sort, will be noble, holy, and profitable. How glorious to contemplate the glorified church-the bride, the Lamb's wife. How comely she will be in all of her attributes and expressions.
NO TEMPLE IS THERE
"But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." In this world, there are times and places when we focus upon the Lord. When God gave the Law, He brought the people to Mount Sinai, isolating them from the rest of the world. When He revealed Himself to Moses, the Lord hid him a cleft of the rock, away from the mundane and ordinary. The Israelites had a tabernacle in the desert, and a temple in the holy city. For the ancient people, the Presence of the Lord was associated with a special place and special times.
Involvement with God generally required withdrawal to a special place. John the Baptist did not prepare for his short ministry on the streets of the city, but "was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel" (Lk 1:80). Often, Jesus would retire from the multitudes to a solitary place for communion with God (Matt 12:15; John 18:2). Early in the history of the church, believers gathered together in homes and in the temple, coming apart from the course of this world (Acts 2:46). Peter and John went up to the Temple at the hour of prayer (Acts 3:1). Believers have always sensed a conflict between life in this world and fellowship with God. That is why they assemble together, forming an environment in which the Lord promised He would be present (Matt 18:20). Those who approach the gathering of saints as a law betray their own hearts. Even in old time, "those who feared the LORD spoke to one another" (Mal 3:16). Whether then or now, such gatherings are not informal get-togethers, where we exchange personal views and provide community updates. These are times when we become more acutely aware of the Lord-when collectively we become a temple of the Lord. Edification flows during such times, as the Head ministers "nourishment" to His body by its "joints and bands" (Col 2:19). It is possible for one unacquainted with the ways of the Lord to enter such an environment and be "convicted by all." As words from the Lord are spoken, the secrets of such a person's heart are revealed, and "falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth" (1 Cor 14:25). Like it or not, in this world, there are places and times when the Lord is more evident, and people are more alert in spirit.
While God does not dwell in temples made with hands, He does dwell in a temple. As long as we are in this world, it is ever true, "But the LORD is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him" (Hab 2:20). At some point, in our spirits, we must make our way to His abode, drawing near to Him with a true heart and in the full assurance of faith (Heb 10:22).
NO TEMPLE IN IT
In the glorified church, there will be no central place where the Lord resides-no temple. There will be no outskirts of the camp, so to speak, where His presence is not known. There will be no Temple with special furniture and special utensils used only for Divine service-no place where we will leave other things behind.
There will be an acute consciousness of the Person and favor of God everywhere. No longer will saints assemble with a "mixed multitude" where some are spiritually obtuse. No more will people be among us whose minds wander from the things of God-whose hearts are dead and cold.
Lay hold on this picture that is before us. It is glorious! In this world, the church is the temple of God. As it is written, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1 Cor 3:16-17). In fulfillment of our Lord's promise, Deity makes its abode in us (John 14:23). Yet, there are vast segments of the church and our persons where God is not found. His presence pervades neither body nor mind. Being "filled with all the fulness of God" is an objective from which we admit we fall short (Eph 3:19).
In the world to come, there will be "NO temple." Notice the precision with which the Spirit speaks. "For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." Rather than men having a sanctuary for God, God Himself is now the sanctuary! By faith, our lives are now "hid with Christ in God" (Col 3:3). But that is only introductory to what is coming. O, the depths of the expression, "heirs of God" (Rom 8:17). Who is able to plumb the profoundness of God Himself being our "exceeding great Reward" (Gen 15:1).
By saying "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple," the Spirit is affirming the Presence of the Lord will pervade the people of God. It is another way of saying ALL temple. There will be no corners or peripheral areas where the Lord is not joyfully obvious! In this world, it is difficult to have a single hour of religious service without times when it is apparent the Lord is either at a distance, or not obvious to the heart. There are distractions in church, as well as in the world. Disinterest, controversy, and carnality often surface during gatherings of believers-things and attitudes the Lord does not inhabit.
But that will not be case with the glorified church! There will be no need to ward off incongruous thoughts, and focus on the Lord. "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." We will not have to sort through what we see and hear, discarding unprofitable things, and matters that do not make for edification. "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." In every sense, and in every way, we will be swallowed up of life. Every part of our persons will pulsate with Divine life. Never again will the Lord "hide Himself" from us, chasten us, or allow us to be tempted. "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple."
This is what the Lord desires! This is why He purposed to bring a people to Himself through His Son. He is not seeking to merely surround Himself with personalities who worship and adore Him-although that is certainly prominent both now and in the world to come. By saying "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple," a marvelous condition is being heralded. The Lord and His people will be totally one-perfectly joined together. Jesus prayed for this. "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:10-21). There is a unity and consolidation of spirits so marvelous we are only able to touch the border of its truth.
In this world, the objective of that glorious merger is "that the world may believe" God sent Christ. But there is more to come. When "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple," They will be able to perfectly express themselves through the redeemed. Reigning with Christ will not be a response of obedience, but the result of a thorough and effective blending of the redeemed with their Redeemer. There will be no place or time when we do not worship and serve our God and the Lamb. Such expressions will be spontaneous and continuous, effective and glorious. Such thoughts both ravish and challenge the heart. The anticipation of these things will buoy up our spirits, and keep us running the race. How we need to hear of the coming glory! The news of the world to come makes life more tolerable.
NO NEED FOR THE SUN OR MOON
"The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light." Do not tire of hearing me say this. We are NOT viewing the dwelling place of the righteous, but the glorified church being the dwelling place of God Almighty and the Lamb. The real issue is not whether we dwell with God, but if He dwells with us. The promise is "I will dwell in them, and walk in them" (1 Cor 6:16). In redemption, we come to God. In glorification, God comes to us! Salvation is all about preparing us to be the habitation of God-a habitation without restriction or flaw. "The city" is the glorified church-the people of God completely divested of the curse. NO NEED OF SUN OR MOON
This is symbolic language-words that describe the glorification of the people of God. He uses terms of nature, but is speaking of more lofty things. There will be no need for illumination! From the very beginning of creation, illumination was required. It was required in nature, then in Law, and finally in grace. The darkness that covered the natural creation was dispersed by the creation of light. The spiritual darkness that covered humanity was lightened by the moonlight of the Law. The prevailing ignorance of God that covers the earth is shattered by the "light of the glory of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus" (2 Cor 4:6).
Conversion itself is referred to as being "enlightened" and "illuminated" (Heb 6:4; 10:32). Even after we come into Christ, further enlightenment is needed. We sorely need "the eyes of our understanding . . . enlightened; that we may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe" (Eph 1:18-19). What a great requirement this is!
Often, those in Christ begin reverting back to a state of darkness. They must then be exhorted, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" (Eph 5:14). With the Psalmist we often confess in anticipation, "the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness" (Psa 18:28). Now it requires effort to "walk in the light" - we must come to it and stay in it (John 3:20-21; 1 John 1:7). The hymn writer correctly said, "Days of darkness still come o'er me." There are times when the path is not as clear as we desire, and mystery covers our minds like a shroud. It is the peculiar prerogative of faith to effectively steer us through such times.
But in the world to come, no such occasions will occur. Darkness in any form will not exist. There will be no form of ignorance, and no presence of slowness or obtuseness. Everything will be clear, and we will "know, even as we are known" (1 Cor 13:12). There will be"no need of the sun or of the moon to shine" upon us. We will not "see through a glass darkly," or "know in part." No one will ever say, "this is a hard saying" (John 6:60), or "Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not" (Gen 28:16). Never again will a righteous man say, "how little a portion is heard of Him" (Job 26:14).
We will not have to wait for light, as we do in this world. Now, we must give earnest heed to the Word of prophecy "as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" (2 Pet 1:19). However, no such experience will take place in the world to come!
The reason for the removal of the need for light is vividly described: "for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." The Divine Presence will dispel all forms of ignorance . Even now, we taste the first fruits of this experience. As we become more aware of the Lord, and more knowledgeable of Him, other matters are more clearly understood. Thus it is written, "in Thy light shall we see light" (Psa 36:9).
When God Himself is with us, we will experience a sufficiency never before known. Nothing will be dark. Nothing will not be understood. There will be no mystery, nor will there be any fear that attends such mystery. God and the Lamb Themselves will illuminate everything else.
Among other things, salvation is designed to so acquaint us with the Lord that everything else is better comprehended. Living for the Lord demands a certain clarity of life-s state where things are seen more clearly. A religion that leaves the people ignorant of God is a most dangerous one. It neither equips people to live in this world, nor prepares them to live in the world to come. In such a condition, falls are inevitable. I find this to be a most arresting consideration.
THE NATIONS AND THE KINGS
"And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it . . . And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it." Do you not find this expression intriguing: "the nations of those who are saved." Is it possible that while the people of God are gloriously one, yet there is some form of distinction among them? Indeed, it is so. The Father, Son, and Spirit are one, yet there are distinctions among Them. Why should it be thought incredible that distinctions will also be found among the people of God? They will not be differences that divide or distract from the Lord. The fact that we will be one does not indicate no one will stand out, as it were. We have already read of "the twelve tribes of Israel" having their names on the gates, the "twelve Apostles of the Lamb" being uniquely identified with the foundation stones. Jesus once said to recalcitrant Jews, "ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God" (Lk 13:28).
The phraseology used here is another way of saying the redeemed are "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev 5:9). There will be generations who were faithful before the Law, like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. There will be generations from the time of Law, like Moses, Joshua, Caleb, and those mighty souls who all died in the faith. There will be the wise men who came from afar to worship Jesus, and the queen of Sheba who traveled to hear the wisdom of Solomon-the city of Nineveh that repented at the preaching of Jonah, and Gentiles like Rahab and Ruth who believed. Those receiving Christ when the New Covenant was inaugurated at Pentecost, and Gentiles like Cornelius will be there. Generations during the Reformation, and other great awakenings will be present. Kings of the earth who used their position to honor God and relieve His people will be there. All of them will bring their glory and honor into the glorified church. Not their persons, but their glory, or the effects of their influence, will be brought together. It is another way of saying they will cast "their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev 4:10). Any differences that existed will be confessed to be of God, and not of self. It will then be clearly seen that God alone made us to "differ from one another," and we had nothing of value that we did not "receive" (1 Cor 4:7). The glory of the parts will contribute to the glory of the whole. The, in the fullest sense, we will be builded together for a habitation of God!
HER GATES ARE ALWAYS OPEN
"Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there)." This is the language of permanence. How sorely we need to hear of the time when we will "go no more out" (Rev 3:12). Moses, after speaking with God face to face, had to come down the mountain, into the realm of conflict and sin (Ex 19:21; 34:29). After wrestling with a heavenly representative, Jacob had to return to the mundane, limping as he went (Gen 32:31). After witnessing the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus, Peter, James, and John, had to come back down the mountain to face the trials of life (Matt 17:9ff). A season of unusual spiritual productivity at Ephesus was brought to an end as Paul left that area (Acts 20:38). The best of times come to an end in this world. The dearest of human ties are broken, and the seasons of greatest spiritual joy suspended for a time. This is a harsh reality of life in this world with which we must contend. The world to come, however, will find a total absence of such experiences. The gates are never shut, and are always open. Remember, we are not talking about the dwelling place of the righteous, but of the righteous glorified and made suitable for the permanent presence of the Lord. Not only will the righteous never leave, God will never leave or recede into the background, hiding Himself for a season.
Our life will not be seasonal nor cyclical. Abundant access will be consistent and uninterrupted. Heavenly insights will not have an adverse effect upon us like they did upon Daniel (Dan 8:27). We will never respond to the light in an inappropriate manner, like John did on Patmos (Rev 19:10; 22:8). There will be no bitterness in the belly after there is sweetness in the mouth (Rev 10:9-10). Forever we will dwell in an enlightened and open realm, with no diminishment of our glory, and no exit from the Lord's presence in any sense.
Too, there will be no danger, so there will be no need to close the gates. When Nehemiah and his workers were building, there came a time when they had to "shut the doors" and appoint watchmen to be alert for enemies (Neh 7:3). So it is with the life of faith. We must ever be alert and vigilant in this world, for our adversary the devil is prowling about, seeking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8-9). Even when we pray, we must enter our closet and shut the door (Matt 6:6). But no such experience will ever be known either individually or collectively in glory! The body of Christ will never again knock on the door for entrance, as Peter did following his miraculous release from prison (Acts 12:13).
God will always be at home among His people -the gates shall not at all be shut. Free access to the Lord will never be interrupted -the gates shall not at all be shut. It will always be in order to enter His courts with praise -the gates shall not at all be shut.
NO NIGHT THERE
Our hearts can scarcely conceive such a condition: no night! No obscurity, vagueness, or lack of clarity. We will never again have to navigate through difficult and unclear waters by faith. Perfect clearness, clarity of understanding, and uncluttered awareness will characterize the saints.
"Night" and "darkness" are associated with evil (1 John 1:6), sorrow (Isa 21:11), ignorance (1 Thess 5:4-5), sin (Eph 5:8), death (John 9:4), and the influence of Satan (Col 1:13). All of these in all of their forms will be forever behind us in the world to come! No evil will be lurking around us. There will not be "another law" of wickedness in our members. Sorrow will never again be mingled in the cup of life. The darkness of ignorance and sin will be foreign to us, and will not even come into our minds. Death will have been swallowed up of life, and the devil cast into the lake of fire. How refreshing to think of these things.
There will be "NO night" in all of the glorified church! Even nature itself will be relieved of night, as it comes into the "glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom 8:21). From the beginning of creation, there has always been night. But after the passing of the first heaven and the first earth, the only darkness will be where the devil and the damned reside. For the glorified church, in every way and in every place, there will be no night! No passing of the light. No diminishing of the glory. No fading of the refreshment of knowing as we are known! There shall be no night THERE! No wonder faith moves us to look forward.
NOTHING DEFILING WILL ENTER
"But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life." The Spirit is securing to our hearts the certainty of God's promises. In this world, there is hardly a moment of time when we do not confront defiling influences. Whether it is a sight, a person, or a fleeting thought, we most assuredly are in a defiling realm. Thinking is defiled. Vision is defiled. Human associations are defiled. It is all around us. A Simon may be found among believers (Acts 8:9-24). A Demas may break the heart of an Apostle (2 Tim 4:10). An Ananias or Sapphira may surface among the faithful (Acts 5:1ff), or a fornicator be revealed in the church at Corinth (1 Cor 5:1). A false prophetess can be found in Thyatira (Rev 2:20), and those who embrace the damnable doctrine of the Nicolaitanes be found in Pergamos (Rev 2:15). In the most devoted of believers, a defiling and corrupting law is found that must be rejected and put off (Rom 7:23; Eph 4:22-24). Daily we must flee to the throne of all grace, confessing defilements, and appropriating forgiveness (1 John 1:7-9). We cannot go a single day without the intercession of Christ, which is saving us (Heb 7:25). Indeed, we are in the land of defilement.
But when the saints are glorified, such things will never again occur. There will not be a single wayward thought or imagination come into our minds. Never again will a tare be found among the wheat, or small and unsuitable fish in the Kingdom net. Do you not long for this?
The root of evil, or "the vine of the earth" (Rev 14:18-19) will have been removed. As it is written, "anything that defiles, or CAUSES an abomination or a lie" will never enter, or intrude into glory. What a refreshing thought! In this world, we can hardly go a single minute without confronting defiling influences. There, we will never again encounter such things.
There are people and things than cannot enter the eternal kingdom-the glorified church. The people of God must be reminded of this, else they may become complacent concerning this reality. Unbelief, for example, disqualifies for glory (Mark 16:16; Heb 3:19). Those who are not born again cannot enter (John 3:3-6). The unrighteous will not enter (1 Cor 6:9-10). Those indulging in the works of the flesh are ruled out (Gal 5:19-21). Those involved in immorality cannot participate (Eph 5:5-6). Flesh and blood are disqualified (1 Cor 15:50). Unless our righteousness goes beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way to enter (Matt 5:20). Those who here defile the temple of God will be destroyed by Him (1 Cor 3:17).
Even though these things have been revealed with unusual clarity, there remains an astounding amount of wickedness within the professed church. The condition even existed in five of the seven churches to whom John was directed to write this book. Thus, to make firm in our minds the certainty of these things, we are reminded that "by no means" will any corrupting influence enter the glorified church.
Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will be admitted. Only those "alive unto God," who have reckoned themselves to be "dead indeed unto sin" (Rom 6:11), will be there.
And what is the point of this verse? Simply this: if we are going to deal with defilement, it will have to be in this world, before we pass from it. Separation from sin and the possession of new life must take place, and be sustained, before the Lord comes. He has already told us there is not place for deficiency in any form in glory. Now, in this world, and by the grace of God, an appetite for these realities must be developed and nurtured. Salvation is the appointed means of accomplishing this requirement. As it is fueled by the Gospel and God's precious promises, it will do so effectively, creating and long for, and anticipation of glory.
The benefit of this section is apparent to faith. Believing the Gospel brings light into the heart that causes these things to make perfect sense. Even though we cannot see the whole of the vision, enough can be seen to whet our appetites for glory. That anticipation will cause the world to lose its attractiveness. Its baubles and novelties will be seen as cheap and tawdry, unworthy of our affection or quest. From this perspective, the purpose of salvation is to uproot us from the condemned order, and make a place for us in the redeemed order. It accomplishes this by effectively dealing with our past, and securing our future. The past is dealt with in the remission of our sins, the circumcision of the whole body of the sins of the flesh from us, and the procurement of the righteousness of God Himself. The future is secured to our hearts by means of the new birth and the precious promises of God. In Christ, life is lived in hope of the future, not in the recollection of the past.
I have said this before, but want to emphasize it again. The people of God must hear this message in order to overcome the world. They do not need a lot of theological speculation or religious philosophy. The delineation of duty will not suffice as an adequate preparation for the world to come. We must hear about where we are going and what we will be. We need to hear about the coming absence of difficulty and warfare. When these things are not spoken, this present evil world swells to a disproportionate size. Its difficulties are accentuated, and the wisdom of men suddenly appears to be something other than foolishness. The average church is being deprived of these things by a professionalized clergy. Supposed leaders of local congregations spend more time speaking about difficulties and the mundane than about promises and the heavenlies. Some boast of being family-oriented, but few in being oriented for heaven. It is a most serious situation-just as serious as it was in the first century, when this book was written.
The book of Revelation is used properly when it develops within the believer a hearty appetite for glory, and a certain revulsion for the things of this world. Those two things confirm the book has been understood.