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Revelation 21:1-27
Series:  The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part Eight

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
November 3, 2019

If you would swipe, turn, or tap with me - we are continuing our study of Revelation.  We are at Revelation 21 - starting at verse 1.  This morning - in an effort to use the remainder our time wisely - a little bit of a change for us - we’re going make observations and applications as we move through the text rather than reading the entire text in advance.


Some back-fill to get us all up to speed.


This revelation given through Jesus that is about Jesus begins with a description of Jesus who is God who loves us and is worthy of our trust. 


Then the revelation shows us Jesus in the midst of 7 churches - that were in what is today western Turkey - churches that Jesus intimately knows.  Jesus who appeals to these churches to reject any compromise or caving in to the world with its nations and governments and systems that are deceived by Satan and in rebellion against God.


Point being:  Jesus appealing to His church to choose to faithfully follow Him.  Which means to seeking to live as He lived.  Living in obedience to God and submission to God’s will.  Even if it means death.  Jesus who obeys and is crucified.


And then is resurrected as the conqueror over sin and death.  The means of life with God now and forever.   Jesus who is returning victorious to vanquish His enemies and vindicate His followers.


Which is a hugely important - game changing - revelation for those 7 churches who have just come through being persecuted under Nero and are going through persecution - getting slaughtered under Domitian.  A game changer revelation for the Church at any time in history.  Even us today.  Especially on a day when we’re praying for our persecuted siblings in Jesus.


The way forward through all of that persecution and drama and ungodly crud we wade in even today - the only path that leads to conquering over the world and into the eternity that God has planned for His people is to follow Jesus.


So Jesus’ appeal gives us hope if we choose to faithfully follow Him.


Jumping ahead to where we ended up last Sunday - chapter 20 ends after years of tribulation - Satan on a rampage - mankind in rebellion against God - and God ending all of that - in a history is done because God say’s it’s done moment.


And then judgment takes place before the Throne of God.  Those who have persisted in their sin and rebellion against God - who are without Christ as their Savior and Satan and his minions and followers - they all will be thrown int the Lake Fire - justifiably judged and condemned to eternal punishment.


But - in 20:15 we’re told that those who’s names are written in Jesus the Lamb’s Book of Life - if our name is written there by God’s grace alone through our faith alone in Christ alone who is worthy of our trust - we are not destined for the Lake of Fire but eternity with God.


Because Jesus wins.  We win.  He conquers.  We conquer.  He is victorious.  We are victorious.  He lives.  We live… forever. 


Bottom line:  So choose to faithfully follow Jesus whatever the cost.


Chapter 21 is “what comes next” for God’s people.  Eternity with God.


John begins starting at verse 1:  Then I [John] 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. 


We’re back to Genesis.  God originally created the heaven and the earth - meaning our atmosphere and the dirt under our feet.  God created that to be our home.  And it was good.


But then it wasn’t.  Because sin and death entered in and transformed this world into a place of rebellion and alienation - a place occupied by our Adversary Satan - a place of bondage and corruption.  Thank you Adam.


The sea - to John’s readers - was symbolic of that.  What was mysterious and frightening - dangerous and chaotic - possessing power to kill.  Symbolic of violence and evil and the nations under the influence of Satan.  Evil that’s been lived out in the affairs and actions of mankind since Adam.

But God has been working through history His plan of redemption - of salvation - buying us out of all that - redeeming us - through the work Jesus on the cross.


Here in verse 1, what was is no more.  Its been replaced by God with a new heaven and a new earth.  What is a totally new reality than what came before.  We’re back to “Its all good.”  And it is.


John goes on  - verse 2:  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 


The most important part of a city is its... people.


Heaven is not some all encompassing eternal god consciousness that we all kind of dissolve into or evolve into or somehow we become one with a bunch of dispassionate midi-chlorians.


John sees a city with the life and activity and interests of people.  God’s people.  A city that God has prepared.


The bride is how God - in the Bible - how God describes the Church - the bride of Christ.  Those who’s names are written in the book of life.


Let’s be clear.  Salvation is a work of God.  Yes?  Ephesians 2:8:  By... grace we’re saved through... faith - through trusting in God’s gracious salvation given to us through Jesus’ work on the cross.  Not our works.  But by His work.


Being that city - the bride - is what God makes us to be.  He is preparing us for that coming eternity - to  be that city.  We will dwell there because we stand in Christ’s holiness not ours.  Because of what God has done for us.


Verse 3:  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.


Those whose names are written in the Book of Life will not carry today’s torments with us into eternity. 


All the crud of this world will have been wiped away.  The baggage of sin that pulls us down each of our lives - that entangles us - that works against us - sin will be no more.  The addictions and hang-ups and habits - gone.


Our relationships will be free of the struggles we have now.  And the relationship we will have - we will enjoy without fear and in purity.  No more abuse and wounding and scaring. 


There’ll be no more death.  When we get to heaven we’re going to get new bodies.  Bodies that aren’t subject to disease - that don’t wear out and break down.  No cancer.  No tumors.  No heart disease.  No diabetes.  None of that.


God Himself will wipe away our tears.  Wipe them away for good.  No more mourning - no crying - no pain - all the physical and emotional and psychological stuff that drags us down - all the those things will have died with this world. 


Let’s be careful.  When we get to heaven we’re still going to be us and we’ll still have our memories.  We’ll still remember and recognize the people that God has used to impact our lives - the lessons we’ve learned about God’s love and grace and mercy and justice - how God used us to move His kingdom forward.


Let’s think:  When we see Jesus face-to-face we will see our Savior.  How, at that moment of rejoicing will we somehow forget His work on the cross for us?  His love and sacrifice for us?


Point being that past sins and sufferings won’t plague us.  But instead we will see clearly and dwell fully upon the faithfulness of God - the actions of God - the plan of God - how He has redeemed us and for what - all to His glory forever and ever.  Only the good remains.


John goes on - verse 5:  And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  Also He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  And he said to me, “It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. 


God declares “It is done!”  Words that pull us back to Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished.”  (John 19:30) 


Jesus’ declaration that the work given to Him by the Father has been accomplished.  Jesus - the Lamb - Who is central to all of what God has been doing since Genesis.  Jesus emphatic declaration that the debt of sin has been canceled - completely satisfied.  The basis of redemption is complete. 


“It is done” translates a Greek verb in the perfect tense meaning that everything that God - who is the Alpha and Omega - the beginning and the end - everything that sovereign God who is using history for His purposes - everything that He has ordained to be done has ben enacted - performed - made to be done.  Period.  The basis of redemption is complete.  The redeemed are home dwelling with God in His glory.   


To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be My son.    


Wealth, fame, pleasures, treasures.  Nothing ever fills the deep thirst of our souls.  We’re always looking for more.  We’re never satisfied.  Even though we know that satisfaction only comes from God - in the day to day drama of where we do life we all struggle with this.


Here is the ending of that thirst.  In that place that God will bring us to - He will satisfy the thirst of the redeemed.  And we will be sons of God - which is generic - sons and daughters - by His grace - in His presence - because of His completed work - fully satisfied by Him forever.


Verse 8 - in contrast:  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”


Verse 8 is a contrast - a list of what it look like to persist in sin and rebellion against God.  Their “heritage” will be judgement and the Lake of Fire.  


Emphasis:  Not so with those who faithfully follow Jesus.


The purpose of the revelation of this city - this new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from God - is to reveal to us what it means to be the people of God dwelling with God - redeemed and restored and renewed and satisfied as sons and daughters of God - by God - forever.


In the Chronicles of Narnia - in the final book, “The Last Battle”, C.S. Lewis gives us a great introduction to what is being shown to us here. 


The children are once again in Narnia and at the end of the book - after their adventure in Narnia - having experienced the joy and wonder of Narnia and being with Aslan - the Lion who is Jesus - the thought of being sent back here again is understandably unbearable. 


C.S. Lewis ends the book and the chronicles with these words - Aslan speaking to the children:


“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly.  “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you call it in the Shadow-lands—dead.  The term is over: the holidays have begun.  The dream is ended: this is the morning.”


And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. (1)


For those of us who will be there in that city - redeemed and released from the drama and death and sinful excrement of this world - we will have all of eternity to explore the unbounded joy of real life with God and the unfathomable depths of Who God is.


What comes next - starting at verse 9 - John is given a description of the new Jerusalem.  And as we move through the description one of the questions that - understandably - we might ask is:  “Is this a place or a picture?”  Is this about a literal city or symbolic of something else?


The answer is most probably… yes.  John is trying to describe what is indescribable and so he uses a lot of symbols in his description.  As we go through this, the literal is pretty evident.  Gold is gold.  The symbolic is more obscure.

Most probably this is a blending of what’s literally coming and also what is symbolically coming.  Is that blend 50 - 50 or 70 - 30?  Ask me when we get there and I’ll give you the answer.


Keep in mind also - that the most important part of a city is its… people. 


Walls and buildings and streets and gates - symbolic or literal - those all are merely the ends to provide the means for the people of the city.  Ultimately this is about us and God.


Verse 9:  Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,  having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.    


One of the seven angels holding one of the seven bowls from the Great Tribulation - what we looked at two Sundays ago - one of the angels approaches John and invites him to come and see the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.


John tells us that the bride is breath taking.  Stunning.  Shimmering.  Radiant like a most rare jewel.  Comparable to jewels of exquisite color and brightness.


In my mind - 31 plus years later - I can still see Karen coming through the doors at the head of aisle - dressed in white - radiant - stunning.  We husbands should never let go of that vision.

John - high on the mountain sees the Bride of the Lamb - the church prepared by God for her groom - Jesus.  Welcome to the marriage of heaven and earth.


In verse 12 John moves to a description of the structure of the city:  It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.  And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.


Walls provide security and seclusion.  High walls describe impenetrable security and seclusion.  What may touch on God’s desire to have His people to Himself and for us to enjoy a deep intimate pure relationship with Him.


Gates describe access to the city.  Gates that are guarded by angels and named for the twelve tribes of Israel.  Which may indicate God’s fulfilling of His promises to Israel - spiritual Israel having entrance into the city.  Twelve foundations named for the twelve apostles moves us into the New Testament and the church.


These are foundation stones they’ve excavated in Jerusalem.  They’re massive.  Five feet wide.  Four feet high.  Thirty feet long.  Weighting 80 to 100 tons each and going down some 14 to 19 layers into the ground.  These date from the time of Herod.  That’s the corner of the Temple mount - the corner stone.


The city with its massive walls rests on the these massive foundation stones upon which are twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. 


Point being:  This is the dwelling place of God’s people - Old and New Testament believers who’s salvation rests on the completed work of Jesus Christ - the Lamb.


In verse 15 John goes on to the measurements of the city:  And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.  The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width.  And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia.  Its length and width the height are equal.  He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 


“stadia” or the singular “stadion” is where we get our English word... “stadium.”  It’s what the Greeks used to measure the circumference of their typical sports stadium.  It works out to about 607 feet.  Meaning the length, width, and height of the city is about 1,500 miles - squared.


Which is one amazingly large cube.  Something larger than the Death Star built to look like a Borg cube.


Dropping that on the earth would something like this. 


The people that study these things figure you could comfortably put about 20 billion people in that cube with lots of space left over.


A cubit is about 18 inches.  Meaning the wall is about 216 feet tall or about the height of a 20 story building.  Symbolically - a wall that is so high and so thick that it cannot be breached or scaled.


The ridiculous size of the city and the wall isn’t the point.  The measurements are perfect - symbolically the perfect cube.  A city with an impregnable wall.


Point being:  The perfect place to dwell with God in absolute security and safety.


In verse 18 John goes on to describe the materials of the city:  The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel.  The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.  And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.


If we were to do a study of each one of these building materials - the stones - the clear gold - the settings that are described.  The bottom line is that these materials - strategically placed - are rare and expensive and dazzling.  The wall and the city are indescribably beautiful.


Symbols that describe - in a limited way - the perfection of God’s new creation - the purity and exalted state of God’s people - and ultimately what reflects the glory and splendor of God Himself.

Finally John describes the presence of God in that city - the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb - verse 22: 
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 


Which is a surprise.  Thinking historically - at the center of Jerusalem we’d expect to find a Temple.  And in the new Jerusalem - a Temple that would be prominent and indescribable in splendor and awe inspiring overpowering magnificence - beyond any previous temple.  But not here.


People trend towards associating impressive structures with religious activity.  The ornate structures of the Vatican in Rome.  Even here with a slightly less ornate structure - we can see this sanctuary as a sacred - unique - place where we gather to worship God.  But in the new Jerusalem there will be no special building set aside for worship or sacrifice or offerings.


Because God Himself dwells with His people.  The Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  By His very nature - the Lamb - Jesus - is fully God.  And His people - with all of creation - we will worship Him - serve Him - intimately - forever.


Verse 23:  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.


That doesn’t mean that there won’t be a sun or moon or stars.  Most probably there will be.


But the light of the city that streams undimmed - brilliant - fully sufficient - radiant light - that light is the light of God’s glory as He dwells with His people.


Verse 24:  By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it - which is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy  - the wealth of the nations - everything that is good and beautiful will be there in Jerusalem.


Verse 25:  and its gates will never be shut by day... meaning there are no enemies on the outside.  They’re all confined to the Lake of Fire.  ...and there will be no night there.  Meaning no evil.  Evil is completely absent in the new creation.


There is nothing that can remove or interrupt the peace and security and goodness of those who dwell in that city - because the glory of God and the lamp of the Lamb light the city with unending light.


Verse 26:  They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.


Nothing that is good or delightful will be lacking.  What is glorious and honorable will be there in abundance.


Verse 27:  But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.


Emphasis:  Only what is good will be in the city.  Only those who have their names written on the Lamb’s Book of Life will enter the city.

Bottom line:  The description of the city - the most important feature of the new heaven and the new earth - this city where God’s people - the Bride of the Lamb - where we will dwell.  The most important feature is not the indescribable splendor or what we’ll do there - or who we’ll be with - or even us.


The most important feature - to focus of all of this - is God.  The indescribable joy of being in His presence forever.


Processing all that - what all that can mean for us as we head out of here into the drama of our lives.


If we ever wonder if trusting Jesus and faithfully following Him is worth it - John reminds us that the new creation is coming.  That what we look forward to is indescribably greater than the drama and destruction and distractions that we trend towards today.


And so, what is here is an invitation to follow and to hope.  To press deeper into God today and to live with hope of being with Him forever.


The familiar and sobering quote from C.S. Lewis [we’re quoting Lewis today] C.S. Lewis, from his sermon “The Weight of Glory”:  If we consider the unblushing promises of rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea.  We are far to easily pleased. (2)


Question:  These days, are you too easily pleased?


What’s around us can easily get us thinking that this world is it.  As miserable and as hopeless and messed up as this life is - somehow we cling to it like it’s the destination not the road to the destination.


Scripture is pretty clear that the one central issue of our lives today is preparing for eternity.


If we see our lives in light of that - even the little choices we make - no matter how mundane or routine they may be - changing diapers - taking out the trash - honesty at work - purity in our time alone - all those choices become tremendously important.


Reading our Bibles, praying, gathering for worship, sharing our faith, giving our time and wealth to further God’s kingdom - all those choices have eternal consequences for us and for others.


So, imagine a time line.  Stretching from here to forever that way.  Your life.  My life.  Is right here.  A small little dot on that line.  You and I are living in that dot.


Question:  These days, what are you living for?  Are you living for the dot or the line?  Are you living focused on today?  Or forever?  What informs and shapes and prioritizes how you live your life?


Following Jesus - living as Jesus lived - means centering our lives on God who is eternal.  On His word that’s eternal.  On our hope that is eternal.  On where we will dwell with God which is eternal.



1. C.S.Lewis, The Last Battle (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1971), 183 - see also Randy Alcorn, In Light of Eternity (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 1999), 80,81

2. Lyle W. Dorsett, ed., The Essential C.S. Lewis (New York, NY: Collier Books, 1988), 362


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.