In a book filled with important visions, the final vision depicts the new heaven and the new earth in the form of a temple-city. The book of Revelation was written to provide hope to suffering Christians in the church age and its persecutions. The final and greatest hope for every believer is the eternal glory awaiting us in Christ. A courageous faith will cultivate this hope by knowing the precious blessings awaiting us, anticipating glories that are beyond our present capacity by meditating on them as they are symbolized in Scripture.

The opening sections of this final vision identify the coming city as the glorified church of the Old and New Testaments (vv. 12-14). The city’s shape compares it to the holy of holies inside the tabernacle and temple, a perfect cube that marks the entire city as the inner sanctum of God’s dwelling. The precious gems and pure gold that adorn the city show the preciousness of His people to God and their radiance in reflecting His surpassing glory (vv. 18-21).

Starting in Revelation 21:22, John looks inside to observe life in the eternal city. He makes three statements, each of which is in negative terms: The first of these negative statements notes the absence of a physical sanctuary: “I saw no temple in the city” (v. 22). All ancient cities had a temple or many temples. Here we see there is no temple in the city of God. Temples existed as places where one went to meet with God. The New Jerusalem will need no such place, since “Its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” In the eternal city, God will fill the dwelling of His people so that He is met and known everywhere. It was god’s presence that made the old, physical temple sacred. In the end, God will have so reclaimed the entirety of creation that His glory will equally and fully pervade every square inch and light-year.

Notice that the temple in the eternal city is “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (v. 22). This statement makes clear the equality between Jesus and God; together with “God the Almighty,” Jesus, “the Lamb,” is the temple of His people. Not only do believers gain entry into the eternal glory through faith in Christ’s death for our sins, but He reigns there as our Divine King and Mediator forever. From the moment a sinner puts his or her trust in Jesus and is forgiven of sins, there will never be a single second in all eternity when Christ’s atoning mediation will not ensure our righteous standing before God and God’s covenant favor toward us.

Second, not only is the New Jerusalem a city without a temple, but it also lacks physical lights (v. 23). We are reminded here of the creation story in Genesis 1:14-16. Secularists today insist that light cannot exist without the sun, moon, and stars, but the Bible declares that God is the source of light. Therefore, when His presence fills the eternal city, there is no further need for celestial lights. John’s point is not about the astronomical situation in the renewed universe but to affirm the unsurpassed splendor which radiates from the presence of God and the Lamb.

Here again, the light belongs equally to the Father and the Son: “the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (v. 23). While they are coequal as God, the Son delights to display in His person and works the glory of the Father, as a lamp that reflects a light. When we consider the beauty of natural light, we can only imagine the surpassing glory of the light of God revealed by the lamp of Christ. Since John identifies Jesus as “the Lamb,” we may be sure that God’s end-times revelation of glory will highlight the love that gave His Son so that believers might be forgiven of our sins.

Looking by the light of God into the city, John sees a teeming metropolis of activity. People from over the whole of the globe are gathered for worship and holy commerce: “By its light will the nations walk” (v. 24). The nations will walk by His light, having first seen that light by the countless bold Christians in their witness of the gospel of Jesus. Ancient cities closed their gates at night for security reasons, but in this city there is no need. John notes that “its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there” (v. 25). The imagery speaks of peace and blessing in the city on which God’s glory shines.

John’s third statement regarding the New Jerusalem describes it as a city with no sin: “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” (v. 27). By “unclean” things, John means unregenerate people whose natures remain corrupted by sin. By “what is detestable,” John refers to the perverse evils condemned throughout the Bible as reprehensible to God. These sins are specified in the final chapter: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters” (Rev. 22:15).

In a society as immoral as ours, it is essential that Christians speak the truth about God’s hatred of sins such as adultery and homosexuality, together with the idolatry of greed and thievery. Recent examples show a gross intolerance toward biblical teaching about God’s judgment on these sins, especially when it comes to deviant sexual lifestyles. Christians must nonetheless speak the truth boldly about God’s condemnation of homosexuality, adultery, and other perversions, just as we must speak graciously about forgiveness for all sins that is available in Jesus Christ. The fact that concludes with those who are “false” may indicate God’s special disgust for those who not only practice gross immorality but deny God’s judgment in encouraging others to join in their sin.

Contrasted to the ungodly are those whose names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life” (v. 27), who alone will enter God’s glory. The Book of Life is God’s eternal record of those elected by sovereign grace and called to salvation through faith in the blood of Christ. Whereas divine judgment is by just demerit, salvation is through the mercy of Christ for sinners, received by faith alone.

We are not permitted to look into God’s Book of Life before the final judgment, but we can identify the distinguishing character of those whose names are there. First, they are true penitents. Those destined for the New Jerusalem have felt the condemnation of their sins, have grieved before God for their guilt, and have hated the presence of sin in their lives. Second, they are all believers in Christ Jesus. Those who dwell in the eternal glory are those who trust in the saving work of Christ, especially His atoning work as the Lamb of God who died for their sins. They found salvation nowhere else, but believed in Jesus, received His offered mercy, and continued in faith throughout their lives despite all manner of persecution.

Third, those whose names are written in God’s Book of Life are all born of the Spirit and sanctified. This means that they began in this life, however imperfectly, the holy life they will enjoy perfectly in the age to come. They have been inwardly renewed by the Holy Spirit with a nature that inclines after God. This is how you know that you are destined to enjoy eternity in the glory of God’s presence: not church membership alone, not fleeting spiritual experiences, not money given to the church or good deeds that you think will overcome your sins, but a penitent heart that embraces the Lamb of God in faith and seeks thenceforth to live for the glory and honor of God.

Realizing that the ungodly will never enter God’s holy, eternal city, we should not only warn sinners to repent and believe in Jesus, but first make sure that we ourselves come to Him to be forgiven and cleansed from sin. Have you come to Jesus to deal with your sin and be justified before God? Until you admit your guilt, come to Jesus for forgiveness, and believe His gospel for salvation, there is no more important resolution for you to make. If you do not, you will be barred from God’s eternal city as a rebel and cast into hell for your sin.

The day of judgment has not yet come, and the current age has yet to give way to the eternal glory. How urgent, then, is your need to embrace the opportunity to believe on Jesus Christ and be saved! John urges you to seek the only way of entry into the glorious city to come, through the Lamb of God who takes away our sins: “Blessed are those who wash their robes,…that they may enter the city by the gates” (Rev. 22:14).

Revelation 21:22-27 Study Questions:

Why are the temple, the sun and the moon absent from the New Jerusalem (vv. 22-23)?

In what way did the ancient temple in Jerusalem serve as a signpost to something greater?

How will the nations participate in the life of the New Jerusalem (vv. 24-26)?

Why are the gates of the city never shut (v. 25)?

That which ruins the beauty and holiness of God’s new city is ruled out by definition> What is specifically mentioned here (v. 27)?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *