************ Sermon on Revelation 21:9-21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 31, 2010
"The New Jerusalem"
What first comes to mind when I mention San Francisco? Golden Gate bridge, Nob Hill, Pier 39, Gays. What about Chicago? Sears Tower, Lake Michigan, wind. New York City? Empire State building, Wall Street. London? Buckingham Palace, Parliament buildings, Big Ben. Toronto? CN Tower. Seattle? Space Needle, rain. St. Louis? Giant Arch. Washington, D.C.? Jefferson Memorial, Capitol Hill, White House, Lincoln Memorial. Now, what comes to mind when I mention the New Jerusalem? Maybe streets of gold and things like that. In a little while I will reveal to you what should come to mind.
Why should this be important to you? Because, if you are a Christian, this is your future that we are talking about. If you belong to the church of Jesus Christ, you see in Revelation 21 a picture of your future life with Christ.
I want to look at the New Jerusalem this morning under four separate headings: First, the city identified. Second, the city described. Third, the city measured. Fourth, the city valued.
I The City Identified
A Our first point is the city identified. Listen to what John writes in verses 9 & 10:
(Rev 21:9-10) One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." (10) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
You all know, don't you, that John was not literally taken to a "mountain great and high" (Rev 21:10)? As John himself puts it, he was carried away "in the Spirit" (Rev 21:10). Physically, or literally, John was still on the Isle of Patmos. I say this because this sets the stage for most of what we see in our Scripture reading – it is not meant to be taken literally even as John was not taken literally to a mountain.
So, in the Spirit, John was shown the "Holy City, Jerusalem" (Rev 21:10). What is this city? "Come," said the angel, "I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." Did you catch that? The city is the bride of Christ. The city is the bride of Christ.
"Hold it, Pastor. I thought the church was the bride of Christ." Exactly. But, remember, this is apocalyptic literature. In apocalyptic literature, you are allowed to mix up your images and metaphors. So, for instance, in Revelation 5 the Lion of the tribe of Judah is also the Lamb Who has been slain. In Revelation 7, the people of God are identified as 144,000 and we are also told they are a great multitude that no one could count. Today, we are told the bride of Christ is the church and she is the Holy City.
B The picture becomes clearer when we look at the angel mentioned by John:
(Rev 21:9) One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."Does this sound familiar? It should. This is almost word for word the same as Revelation 17:
(Rev 17:1) One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters ..."Hear the similarities? Both times, we see one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls. Both times, the angel says "Come, I will show you ..." Both times, John is shown a city: the first time he is shown Babylon; the second time he is shown the New Jerusalem.
The first city helps us to identify the second city. What did we learn about Babylon? That she was not an actual city. That you could not point out her location on a map or globe. That she represents human society and culture in opposition to God and Christ. That she is a prostitute who tempts and lures people away from God and to the idol gods of the age.
Now here, in Revelation 21, we see the New Jerusalem as the spiritual counterpart to Babylon. She also is not an actual city. You can not point out her location on a map of the new heaven and new earth. Unlike Babylon the prostitute, she is the bride, the virgin bride, of Christ. Remember the description of Revelation 14?
(Rev 14:4) These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.
Do you know what this means? This means the New Jerusalem IS THE CHURCH. If there is only one thing you remember from this sermon, remember this: THE NEW JERUSALEM IS THE CHURCH. In this light, listen to verse 2:
(Rev 21:2) I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.What does John see? JOHN SEES THE CHURCH! Listen, again, to verse 10:
(Rev 21:10) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.What does John see? JOHN SEES THE CHURCH!
Don't be confused about this, my brothers and sisters. The New Jerusalem is NOT a place; it is a people. John already told us about the place: the new heaven and new earth. Now he tells us about the people in that place: the New Jerusalem.
(Rev 21:9-10) "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." (10) And he ... showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.The bride is the church. The New Jerusalem is the church. I can't put it any simpler than this. Which means the song we sing, "Jerusalem the Golden," is not really correct, is it? Because that song describes the New Jerusalem as a place rather than as a people.
Where do believers spend eternity? In the new heaven and new earth. With whom do believers spend eternity? With God and the church. The new heaven and new earth is a place for a people. The New Jerusalem is the people for the place.
II The City Described
A The city has been identified. Now we look at the city described. In the Greek, verses 10-14 are one large compound sentence made up of seven phrases that describe the city.
The first phrase: "Holy City." Telling us what? That the church is perfect; that she is that community of people who no longer are under sin or the consequences of sin. Not only has her guilt been washed away, but she finally is fully sanctified.
B The second phrase: "coming down out of heaven from God" (Rev 21:10). We see that heaven is the origin of the perfected church. And, God is the originator of the perfected church. The point? The perfected church can only be the achievement of God Himself. I don't achieve perfection on my own; nor can you. It can only come from outside of ourselves. It can only come from God.
C The third phrase: "It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal" (Rev 21:11). Didn't we see something similar in heaven's throne room in Revelation 4?
(Rev 4:3) And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.God's appearance is like jasper. The church's appearance is like jasper. Telling us what? That the church shines with the glory and brilliance of God. Remember how the church is described in verse 2? She is described "as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Rev 21:2). Dressed in what? John tells us in verse 11. She is dressed in the glory of God. This tells us something important about the future beauty of the church. She is not beautiful in and of herself; her beauty is in God and in Christ. Her beauty lies in what God has done for her. Her beauty lies in what Christ has sacrificed for her. The church is the dazzling, beautiful jewel that John describes but only because of Christ and His glory.
D The fourth phrase: "It had a great, high wall ..." (Rev 21:12). What is distinct about today's cities? What distinguishes one city from another in today's world? What distinguishes New York from Toronto or Tokyo or San Francisco or Seattle or London? Isn't it the skyline? Each skyline is distinct. We all recognize Seattle because of the space needle and Toronto because of the CN Tower and San Francisco because of the Golden Gate Bridge. Before 9/11, we all recognized New York because of the twin towers. Do you know what was distinct about the cities of the Ancient World? The wall. The wall that surrounded a great city was what gave it its distinct identity. In fact, a city was not regarded as a complete city until it had a surrounding wall.
The New Jerusalem has a great, high wall. Since the New Jerusalem is not a literal city this cannot be a literal wall. So, what is John saying? Well, let me ask, what do walls represent – even in our community? Walls represent safety and security. The New Jerusalem is safe and secure in her relationship with God and Christ. Nothing can break or damage or injure the intimacy of the church's communion with the Lamb.
E The fifth phrase: "It had ... twelve angels at the gates." (Rev 21:12). Why were there angels stationed at the gates? Well, let me ask another question: Why was there an angel guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden? To ensure that no unworthy person would eat from the tree of life. In this light, skip ahead to verse 27:
(Rev 21:27) Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.The angels guard the entrance into the church triumphant. Meaning what? That never again will this Holy City, God's church, be persecuted by the beast and false prophet and Babylon. Meaning also that if you don't believe in Jesus, you will not be part of the Holy city, the New Jerusalem. That if you do believe in Jesus, this is your future that is being described. Do you see, again, the security of the New Jerusalem: walls, gates, angels?
F The sixth phrase: "It had ... twelve gates ... On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west" (Rev 21:12-13).
Now, why twelve gates? Many Roman cities had three gates but this city has twelve gates, three on each side. This city provides access on all four sides. Meaning what? Meaning that she welcomes people from all four corners of the earth, from every tribe and language and people and nation. Remember how Jesus put this?
(Lk 13:29) People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
G The seventh phrase: "The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (Rev 21:14).
We need to take note of the repetition of the number twelve here. There are twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve foundations, twelve apostles. Further down in our Bible reading we see 12,000 stadia, 144 cubits (which is 12 X 12), twelve precious stones, and twelve pearls.
When we started our look at the Revelation, I told you that numbers count in this book. They are loaded with symbolism and meaning. So, what is the significance of the number twelve here? Twelve is the number used to speak of the people of God – the full and complete number of the people of God. This number includes the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles. Meaning that God's people are found in the Old Testament and the New Testament. God's people include Old Testament figures like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Elisha, and Isaiah. It includes New Testament figures like Mary, Nicodemus, Stephen, Peter, and Paul. And it includes believers today. Everyone who trusts in God and believes in Jesus is part of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. Not one is missing. Everyone is there.
III The City Measured
A The city has been identified. The city has been described. Now, we look at the city measured:
(Rev 21:15-17) The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. (16) The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. (17) He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man's measurement, which the angel was using.Wow, what a city, if you understand this literally. We are told it is 12,000 stadia (1,400 miles) in length and width and height. How high is earth's highest mountain, Mount Everest? Almost 6 miles. This city is 240 times higher. And its walls are 144 cubits thick (about 72 yards). How can a wall that is only 72 yards thick go up 1,400 miles? That is bad engineering. So, this is not to be taken literally.
B What are we being told by these measurements? Do you know what 12,000 stadia is? That is the distance from Jerusalem to Rome. In other words, the New Jerusalem encompasses most of the Roman Empire, most of the then known world. At the time John is writing, it may be Rome that seems to have the upper hand but at the end of the age it is the New Jerusalem, the church, that will prevail.
But there is more here. Notice the city is not only a square but she is also a cube: 12,000 stadia in length and width and height. Do you know what the cube represents in the Ancient World? The cube represents perfection. The cube is the perfect shape. The cube represents the New Jerusalem, the church, in all her perfection.
But there is still more here. Where else in the Bible is a perfect cube described for us? There is only one other cube in all of the Bible. Do you know what it is? The Holy of Holies. The place of God's presence and God's glory among His people. Telling us what? Telling us that God is present with His people, that the dwelling of God is with men and He will live with them (Rev 21:3).
In this light, I want you to consider the New Jerusalem as the "bride" of Christ. I thought about that last weekend at the wedding of Ben & Katrina. I was asked to speak on Ephesians 5. In that passage, Paul says "a man will leaves his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh" (Eph 5:31). Paul calls this a "profound mystery" (Eph 5:32). And then he goes on to say "I am talking about Christ and the church" (Eph 5:32).
Did you hear that? Marriage, which is the greatest and best union on this earth, is the pattern for an even greater union. The relationship between a husband and a wife is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. And, the relationship of Christ and the church is a picture of what a marriage relationship should be like.
In Revelation 21, we see that John – like Paul – compares the relationship between Christ and His church to the relationship between a husband and wife. Like a marriage, the relationship is intimate, the relationship is united, the relationship is loving, and the relationship is exclusive. That's why the angel can say, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
IV The City Valued
The city has been identified. The city has been described. The city has been measured. Now we look at the city valued.
Look at the materials used in her construction. The wall was made of jasper. The city was made of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations were decorated with twelve kinds of precious stones. The twelve gates were twelve pearls. The great street of the city was of pure gold.
None of this is literal, so what does this mean? All of this screams one thing to us: the Holy City is valued. She is precious. You cannot begin to calculate her value and worth. Valued to whom or by whom? God, of course. The Lamb, of course. This is His bride that is being described. A bride, don't forget, who is beautifully dressed for her husband (Rev 21:2). She is valued because of the blood of the Lamb!
The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, has been identified – she is the church, the bride of Christ. The city has been described – she is absolutely glorious. The city has been measured – she is the church triumphant, the church perfected, the church indwelt by God. The city has been valued – she is the bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
Doesn't all this fill you with amazement? Think of the church on earth – filled with sin and sinners, imperfect, persecuted, inconsistent, flawed, always creeping towards idolatry, always tempted to be like the culture. This church will someday be raised to the place of honor as the bride of Christ.
Do you also see how the Lamb loves His bride? He has chosen her, glorified her, perfected her, values her. She is precious in His sight.
So, what is the first thing you should think of when you think of the New Jerusalem? The first thing you should think of is the church!
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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