The New Jerusalem – some features (Rev. 21:9-23)

John is given an expanded description of the church which was briefly given to him by the angel 1n 21:2. There he was told that the church was both a bride and a city, a reminder that she has a loving relationship with Jesus and is also a dwelling place with structures.

John has a similar experience to that of the prophet Ezekiel when he was taken to a high mountain to see what God was doing with his people (Ezek. 40:2). We will see the need for a very high mountain for John when we are told the size of the divine city – one would need a special viewpoint from which to see it. The dimensions here make those seen by Ezekiel seem small.
The first detail we are told about the church is its origin – it comes down from God in heaven, although we are not told to where. Probably, we are to assume that it descends on to the new earth. Moreover, it is described as very bright because it possesses the glory of God (21:10-11). What this means will be revealed later in the description.
We are then told that the city had a high wall with twelve gates (21:12-14). Usually a wall was built for defence purposes, so maybe John is being reminded that the city of God has a secure defence. In addition, each of the gates has an angel standing at it, and I suppose we could deduce that he is there to keep out those who should not get in. This does not mean that any enemy will try and do so. Rather it is an illustration of permanent safety.

The gates are named after the twelve tribes and the foundations of the wall are named after the twelve apostles, and this could be a reminder that God’s people from all dispensations are one. Moreover, the geography of the city indicates that the church is central to whatever plans God has in the world to come – it equally faces all directions. His people will be involved in the outworking of his eternal purpose. We are not told what we will be doing, although earlier in the book we are told that the church will be following the Lamb wherever he goes. Because he is central, his people will be central with him.

The gates and the foundations of the wall, the wall itself and the street of the city are likened to precious jewels (21:18-21). Each gate is a pearl and each foundation stone is linked to a jewel. This probably points to the inestimable value of the people of God as well as to the brightness connected to their glorification. One Old Testament verse that comes to mind is from Malachi where the prophet speaks about the Lord collecting his jewels on the day that he returns the second time.

The measurements of the city indicate that it is very large (21:15-22). Twelve thousand stadia is about fourteen hundred miles. Its length, width and height are the same. On our earth, such a city extends beyond our atmosphere. What can we deduce from such dimensions? Obviously, a large number of people can live in it. The fact that it is a cube reminds us of another important cube in the Bible, which is the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was where God dwelt in the midst of his people in the temple. Now the whole city, the church, is the temple and God Almighty and the Lamb (the Father and the Son) dwells within the church. The bigness of the city surely points to the bigness of God.
John is reminded that the church is not a physical creation dependant on natural light (21:23). I don’t think verse 23 is stating that the sun and moon will not exist after the renewal of all things, although they may not be in the new universe. Instead we are reminded that the light found in the church is different from physical light. Rather the light that God’s people will experience comes from their union with God

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