The New Heaven and the New Earth
The New Jerusalem
"For look, I am going to create new heavens and a new earth, and the past will not be remembered and will come no more to mind. Rather be joyful, be glad for ever at what I am creating, for look, I am creating Jerusalem to be 'Joy' and my people to be 'Gladness'. Isaiah 65:17-18 (8th cent. BC)
"I looked to the earth'it was a formless waste; to the heavens, and their light had gone." Jeremiah 4:23 (6th cent. BC)
"So for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see." 2 Corinthians 5:17 (Paul in the 1st cent AD)
"I shall make a Covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them. I shall resettle them and make them grow; I shall set my sanctuary among them for ever. I shall make my home above them; I shall be their God, and they will be my people. And the nations will know that I am Yahweh the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever." Ezekiel 37:26-28
"The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical Body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept." CCC # 799
"The Church is the Bride of Christ: he loved her and handed himself over for her. He has purified her by his blood and made her the fruitful mother of all God's children." CCC# 808
Ezekiel passages: Ezekiel chapter 40: The Future Temple
Please read Rev. 21: 1-8 The New Heaven and the New Earth
Verse 1 "[And I saw] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea."
Chapter 21 begins the longest and the last of John's last 7 Visions each of which have begun with the words Kai eidon. Even though this is the 7th Vision, this is the 8th use of this key phrase.
Question: Contemplating the meaning of verse 1: is it a coincidence that John identifies this particular passage with the number 8 (the 8th use of kai eidon) or is there a deeper symbolic meaning? Give some examples of the importance of the number 8 from the Old and New Testaments. Hint: consult the document: "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture (Gematria)" in the Chart section of this study.
Answer: This does not appear to be a coincidence because John manipulated the text to be able to use kai eidon the 8th time in this vision (he had been identifying each of the 7 Visions by this phrase but in order to make the 7th vision be the 8th use of the phrase he used kai eidon twice in Rev. 20:11 &12 even though it was the same vision). The number 8 is associated with resurrection, regeneration and salvation. A few examples of the use of this number in Scripture are:
In the Old Testament:
-There 8 people in Noah's family are saved from the Great Flood.
-God commanded that all Hebrew Baby boys be circumcised as a blood sacrifice to enter the Covenant of God's holy people on the 8th day of their new lives.
-The celebration of the first three Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant were all within an 8 day period (Passover = day 1, Unleavened Bread = to last 7 days began the day after Passover and Firstfruits took place the day after the Sabbath of that week). See the chart on the 7 Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant.
- The last feast of the Liturgical year (Tabernacles) lasted 8 days.
In the New Testament:
-Jesus was resurrected on the day after the 7th day (Sabbath = Saturday) which in numerical sequence would be the 8th day.
-The gematria for Jesus' name in Greek (the language of the NT) is a trinity of 8s. Iesous = 888. The gematria of a word or name is found by adding the numerical values of the letters (see The Significance of Numbers in Scripture).
In this passage, John is drawing our attention to the number 8 to emphasize his vision of cosmic resurrection and regeneration. The old world dissolved in the presence of Christ the supreme Judge and a new creation has taken its place.
It is also interesting that John uses a different word for "new" instead of the more frequently used Greek word neos, which means "chronological newness". But in this passage he uses the word kainos, which indicates "newness in kind or of superior quality". This is an entirely "new" creation, entirely superior to the past creation because now man and creation is reconciled to God. Look for both 8s and 12s in Chapter 21!
Verse 1 continued: "there was no longer any sea"
Question: What is the negative connotation of "the sea" in Scripture? Hint: See Rev. 13:1; Daniel 7:3; Genesis 1:2 and 8:6-9; Job 7:12; Psalms 78:53; Isaiah 5: 26-30.
Answer: The "sea" can represent chaos and/or the pagan nations that are enemies of God's holy covenant people. In the New Creation there is heaven and earth but there is no "under the earth": there is no Abyss, the realm of demons, there is home for rebellious nations. It is the complete "reconciliation" of the universe to God. It is what St. Paul wrote about in Colossians 1:19-20: "..God wanted all fullness to be found in him and through him to reconcile all things to him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, by making peace through his death on the cross."
Question: Is this vision, seen in John's present, completely from our future?
Answer: Maybe not. As we have seen repeatedly through out this study, what is to unfold in God's plan for eternity is definitively and progressively being fulfilled in our present and has progressively been unfolding in the Church's present down through history. This is what is so timeless about God's unfolding truth and His plan for humanity. Whenever God reconciles a Covenant people to Himself, after judgment unto redemption (as in the case of the return of Judah after the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC), He always speaks in decreation and then recreation terms. The "new creation" passages in the introduction of this lesson from the books of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah were meant for the generation of the return after the Babylonian exile, not for our future. This imagery is also used in the formation of a New Covenant in the case of Noah and Christ. In Noah's time the entire earth was destroyed by water (decreation) but was recreated in a New Covenant with Noah's family as God's Covenant people. St Paul expressed the "new creation" theme in 2 Cor. 5:17: "So for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see." Paul is telling us that God who created all things through Christ has restored his work of creation, which had been deformed by sin, by re-creating His work in Christ. Therefore, we are a "new creation" in the image of Christ because the old creation has passed away. He also expresses this radical newness of the New Covenant in Gal. 6:15 "It is not being circumcised or uncircumcised that matters; but what matters is a new creation." John was a part of the New Creation and the passing away of the Old Order in the 1st century New Israel of the Universal Church, so this passage in Rev. 21 can be referring, in symbolic terms, to the condition of the 1st century Church = a New Creation, as well as a definitive and prophetic look at what will take place in the future when the entire universe will be reconciled to Christ.
Question: Do you see any parallels between this concept of recreation and becoming reconciled to God in the sacrament of Reconciliation? Answer: Paul's passage in 2Cor 5: 18-19 continues: "It is all God's work; he reconciled us to himself through Christ and he gave us the ministry of reconciliation. I mean, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not holding anyone's faults against them, but entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we are cleansed of our sins and become "new" in much the same way we became "new" in our baptism. See CCC# 1468 "...."Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true 'spiritual resurrection.'" Also see #s 1469 & #1470 "In this sacrament, the sinner, placing himself before the merciful judgment of God, anticipates in a certain way the judgment to which he will be subjected at the end of his earthly life. For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death.." ...."In converting to Christ through penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life and 'does not come into judgment.'"
We have seen John's vision of the destruction of the Great City, which we have identified as probably being Jerusalem in 70AD. We have seen the binding of Satan and the establishment of the New Covenant Israel'the Church. Then it was revealed that after a millennial reign (probably a symbolic 1,000 years), Satan would be let loose again which would initiate the final battle which would culminate in the defeat and destruction of Satan and death and mankind would be judged by Christ the King in the final judgment. And now in Chapter 21 we see the creation of the New heaven and New earth....but what seems to be missing?
Question: Is there a major event in Salvation History, which we know must take place, that has not been described to us? Hint: Read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 2Thess. 1:6-10; 1 Corinthians 15:51-13; Matthew 24:30-31. Answer: Some preterest scholars assert that because John has no vision of the 2nd Advent of Christ that His 2nd coming was fulfilled in His coming in judgment on Jerusalem in 70AD. Jospehus does record the testimony of residents of Jerusalem who saw the vision of a mighty army in the clouds just before the destruction of the Temple. In a way they are correct. That event was a parousia of Christ but not The Parousia of Christ. Perhaps we should look at this unique Greek word: parousia (par-oo-see-uh or par-oo-see'-uh). This word means "presence" or "appearance" and its most common use concerned the "presence" or "appearance" or a king or his representative. When a king conquered a people he would establish them under his authority. Then he would leave them with the promise that he would return at some unannounced time to judge if they had remained loyal to his rule. At the time of his return the king would "judge" his subjects. Christ conquered the earth in His resurrection and transformed the Old Covenant. Before His departure He established His earthly authority (the Church) and left His representatives in charge with the intention that His Old Covenant people should establish His authority over the whole earth as the nucleus of the New Covenant Church. Later He did return in judgment in 70AD, found his conquered Old Covenant people in rebellion, and the judgment was the end of the Jews as His Covenant people. In this same way Christ as king comes in judgment down through history to each individual and each nation but if we believe the testimony of the Apostles in the Apostles' Creed "He will come again to judge the living and the dead" when He comes one final time in human history to collect his Bride, the Church.
There is another appropriate parallel use of the word parousia in the 1st century and the Church. According to the marriage customs of the 1st century when a man became betrothed to a woman a marriage covenant was made. The marriage covenant could only be broken by a formal divorce even though the union had not been physically consummated (see Matt. 1:18-19). After the betrothal the Bridegroom returned to his father's house to prepare a home for his bride. He could only go to collect her when the Father told him that all had been prepared. Then a trumpet would be sounded and the Bridegroom and the wedding party would go to fetch the Bride. In the same way Christ will make His parousia and come for His Bride with the sound of the trumpet.
Question: Does John write about the 2nd Advent? Hint: Remember the direction of John's view. Answer: Yes. But John's view is from heaven and he only sees the action taking place there and not from earth looking up. Read Rev. 19: 11-14. This is Christ the Bridegroom leaving heaven with the wedding party to collect the Bride, to bring her "home", and to conquer the wicked and bring an end to the last rebellion. In 20:9 we will see the Bride that the Bridegroom carried home and we will see the "house" He has prepared for her. John 14:2-3 "In my Father's house there are many places to live in; otherwise I would have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you to myself, so that you may be with me where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
Question: There is a third use of the word parousia that pertains to our relationship with Christ at every Eucharistic celebration. Please read Matthew 23:37-39. When do we experience the parousia of Jesus Christ after uttering these words?
Answer: At the Liturgy of the Eucharist we, the sacred assembly, utter these words, the Priest speaks the words of Consecration, the Holy Spirit gives us the miracle of transubstantiation and Christ is present among us!
Verse 2 "I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a Bride dressed for her husband."
John sees the central aspect of this New Creation: the Holy City, the New Jerusalem (as opposed to the Harlot City of the earlier chapters). This is the vision Paul longed to see when he wrote to the Church at Philipi "But our homeland is in heaven and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transfigure the wretched body of ours into the mould of his glorious body, through the working of the power which he has, even to bring all things under his mastery." (Phil 3:20-21).
This final reality of the eschatological (End Times) New Creation is also the progressive reality of the New Jerusalem, the Church down through the New Ages of Salvation. When the Old Jerusalem was excommunicated and executed for her violation of the covenant, the heirs of Christ, the New Israel of the New Covenant Church, became citizens and heirs of the New Jerusalem, a city whose origin is in heaven just as her citizens are themselves "reborn" from above in the image of Christ. The New Jerusalem is not only a Church established definitively by Christ to rule on earth, but it is a kingdom that is progressively fulfilling His will on earth down through time until the day when He will establish it finally in consummate, absolute perfection as the Heavenly Jerusalem, the Bride taking her place beside her Spouse.
"prepared as a Bride dressed for her husband:" Question: Are the Bride and the city separate entities or are they one and the same? Answer: The Bride isn't just in the City; the Bride is the City! This is another demonstration that the City of God is a present reality as well as a future reality. The Kingdom of Christ, the "beloved City" of Rev. 20:9 is the "Bride" of the Eucharistic Wedding Feast in Rev. 19:7-9. We know that we are already citizens of the New Jerusalem now because we are told in the New Testament Book of Hebrews 12:22-23: "But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church of first-born sons, enrolled as citizens of heaven."
Verse 3-4 "Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, 'Look, here God lives among human beings. He will make his home among them; they will be his people, and he will be their God, God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain. The world of the past has gone.'"
This verse is the fulfillment of a prophecy by Ezekiel in the 6 century BC: "I shall make my home above them; I shall be their God, and they will be my people. And the nations will know that I am Yahweh the sanctifier of Israel when my sanctuary is with them forever." ( Ezekiel 37:26-28). This is also one of the promises of the Sinai Covenant in Lev. 26:11-12 "I shall fix my home among you and never reject you. I shall live among you; I shall be your God and you will be my people..."
Question: Is this a future or present reality or is it both? Does God live (tabernacle-dwell) among us? Answer: Both. Yes, we receive Jesus Christ body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist. Our bodies have become the Temple of the Holy Spirit and He truly dwells in us.
Question: What prophesy from the prophet Isaiah is referenced in this passage? Look at the "God-with-them" of verse 3. It is also a promise that Jesus made in Matthew 28:20 when He said "And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time." Hint: What does "God with us" mean in Hebrew?
Answer: Isaiah 7:14 contains the messianic prophecy that "The Lord will give you a sign in any case: It is this: the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel." Immanuel means "God with us!" This prophecy was fulfilled when God the Holy Spirit took possession and indwelled His Church and it is fulfilled in its entirety in John's vision when the Church is united with God in the heavenly sanctuary of the New Jerusalem.
Question: This is the third time John has heard " a loud Voice" coming from the Throne or the Sanctuary where the Throne of God is located. Do you recall 2 other times in earlier chapters when a loud voice called out from the heavenly Sanctuary? Is there a connection to this vision? Hint: see Rev. 15:5-16:1
Answer: As we will see in verse 9, this passage in Rev. 21 is the conclusion of the Chalice section of the prophecy. At the beginning of the Chalice judgments John saw the Sanctuary of the Tabernacle filling with smoke so that "no one was able to enter it" (15:5-8), and then he heard "a loud Voice" from the Sanctuary which ordered the 7 angels to pour out their Chalices of wrath into the Land (16:1). At the outpouring of the last Chalice (#7), John again heard "a loud Voice" from the Sanctuary (where the Throne of God is located) announcing: "It is fulfilled!" and producing a great earthquake in which the cities fell and every mountain and island "fled away" as the vision focused on the destruction of "Babylon," the "False Bride" (16:17-21. Now, as we come to the end of the Chalice section, earth and heaven have "fled away" (20:11; 21:1) and for the third time (the number of Trinity and fullness of completion) John hears "a loud Voice from heaven" announcing that access to the Sanctuary is now in the fullness of perfection since "the Tabernacle of God is among men." Now that the New Creation is complete John will hear the Voice of the One who sits on the Throne announce "It has already happened" or "It is done" or "It is fulfilled!" (v. 6) as the establishment of the True Bride, New Jerusalem is revealed to John. The first 3 revelations of "the Voice" point to this last revelation.
Voice #1 Rev. 16:1
"Then I heard a loud Voice from the sanctuary calling to the 7 angels, 'Go and empty the 7 bowls [Chalices] of God's anger..."
Voice #2 Rev.16:17
"The 7th angel emptied his bowl into the air, and a loud Voice boomed out from the sanctuary, 'The end has come."
Voice #3 Rev. 21: 3
"Then I heard a loud Voice call from the throne, 'Look, here God lives [tabernacles] among human beings."
Stephanie, one of my students in the Thursday night class, suggested that each of these "Loud Voices" proceed from God the Most Holy Trinity: the first Voice is the First Person of the Most Holy Trinity, God the Father, calling down the curses of the Covenant on apostate Israel. The second Voice is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, Jesus the Son of God, calling out as He did on the cross the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. And that the third Voice is the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, God the Holy Spirit for it is He who dwells in each of us as making our bodies a Temple. I think this is an excellent interpretation. In the New Testament we understand 3 as the number of the Trinity. How appropriate that each voice from the Heavenly Sanctuary should come from God in His deepest mystery!
Hint: in Scripture the number 3 or the repetition of a phrase or event 3 times points to an important theological truth or event: ie #1Abram's and Isaac's 3 day journey to Mt. Moriah = the events that unfold on Mt Moriah will be a foreshadow of Christ's passion and sacrifice. #2 Jonah's 3 days in the belly of the great fish are a prophetic foreshadowing of Christ's 3 days in the tomb. #3 Peter, James and John (3) accompany Christ to the Mt. of Transfiguration where they see Moses and Elijah (the Law & the Prophets) where they confer with Jesus about His 'departure' from Jerusalem, an event planned from the beginning of Salvation history. #4 The series of 3 can also span several books or even the Old and New Testaments as in the case of the 3 encounters with women at a well. In the Old Testament Abraham's unnamed servant finds a bride for Isaac at a well (Gen 24:10-27); Jacob meets his bride, Rebecca, at a well (Gen 29:9-20); and Moses meets his bride, Zipporah, at a well (Ex. 2:15-22). This series of 3 tells us that a Bride is courted at a well. It is a sign pointing the way to look for the next meeting between a man and a woman at a well. That happens in John 4: 1-42 when Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman at a well. The other 3 experiences at a well tell us that Jesus the Bridegroom is courting a Bride...not just this individual woman, but Samaria! Look for these patters of 3s as you study Scripture.
"He will wipe away every tear" is a repeat of Rev. 7:17 "because the Lamb who is at the heart of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears from their eyes." It is also a restating of Isaiah 25:8 prophesizing (in the 6th century BC) the conversion of the Gentile nations and a future divine banquet: "Lord Yahweh has wiped away the tears from every cheek; he has taken his people's shame away everywhere on earth, for Yahweh has spoken."
Question: Can the Church's journey on earth toward the Promise Land of heaven be seen as an exile? Answer: Many Fathers of the Church wrote of our faith journey on earth as a time of exile because this earth is not our home; we are citizens of heaven. St. Cyril of Jerusalem based his entire program for converts (our RCIA) on this theme using the exile in Egypt and the wilderness journey to the Promised Land as his program of instruction.
Verses 5"Then the One sitting on the throne spoke. 'Look, I am making the whole of creation new. Write this, 'What I am saying is trustworthy and will come true.'"
The phrase "trustworthy and true" will be repeated in 22:6. But once again we are confronted with the fact that this is true now as well as on the Last Day. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Cor 5:17 "So for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see."
Question: But there is a difference between the subjects of 2Cor 5 and Rev. 21, what is that difference. Hint: think of the differences between the individual judgment of believers at the end of our lives and the general judgment at the end of time.
Answer: The only essential difference is that Paul is speaking of the redeemed individual while God in Rev. 21:5 is speaking to John about the redeemed community. Both the individual believer and the community of believers are recreated, renewed, and restored to Paradise in salvation through Jesus Christ, and this cosmic, universal restoration has already begun through the outpouring of the Gospel. Christianity is in essence the redemption and renovation of the whole earth. The Gospel makes all things new in Christ.
Verse 6-7 " Then he said to me, 'It has already happened. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water from the well of life free to anybody who is thirsty; anyone who proves victorious will inherit these things; and I will be his God and he will be my son.'"
Question: What has already happened? Hint: "it has already happened' is also translated "it is done" or fulfilled or finished. It is the same word that is found in16:17 (ghegonen), and expresses the same statement that Jesus made in John 19:30 when He said in Aramaic teltelestai = "It is fulfilled!"(or finished).
Answer: God's statement is the antithesis of the announcement of "Babylon's" destruction in 16:17 "The 7th angel emptied his bowl into the air, and a loud voice boomed out from the sanctuary, 'The end has come.'" What has already happened is that Christ has won the everlasting defeat of His enemies and the eternal blessing of His people through His act of redemption on the Cross. Since the victory is already ours, in essence for the Church's time on earth we are essentially the "mopping up" operation of a battle whose outcome is already fulfilled.
Question: Notice in verse 6 that the One who sits on the Throne names Himself. How many other times is Christ identified by this name in this book?
Answer: 4 times in total: 3 times as the Alpha and Omega in Rev 1:8; 21:6 and 22:13 and twice as "The beginning and the end" in Rev 21:6 and 22:13 = a total of 5 times. There is also an identification of the title in the letter to the Church at Smyrna in Rev 1:8 "Here is the message of the First and the Last.." Since these passages identify Christ as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end" they help to confirm to us that this is indeed Christ who is sitting on the Great White Throne of judgment. (You will also find this title for God in the O. T in Isa 44:6-8).
This title of Christ as the "Beginning and the End" and His announcement that "It has already happened" or "It is fulfilled" is said here in order to confirm what is to follow: Christ's promise of the Most Holy Eucharist!
Question: We have already mentioned the connection between this announcement and Jesus' last words on the cross. What happened after Jesus cried out "It is fulfilled" and gave up His spirit? Hint: see John 19:34
Answer: When the Roman soldier pierces His side "and immediately there came out blood and water."
Question: In creation God took Eve, the Bride, from the side of Adam, what is it that was created from the side of Christ as symbolized by blood and water? Answer: The Church, the Bride of Christ born from Baptism and the Most Holy Eucharist.
St. John Chrysostom in a homily from the late 4th century said: "Not without a purpose, or by chance, did these founts come forth, but because the Church was formed out of them both: The initiated are reborn by water, and are nourished by the Blood and the Flesh. Here is the origin of the Sacraments; that when you approach that awful cup, you may so approach as if drinking from the very side [of Christ]." (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on St John, 1xxxv.
This is why Christ says: "I will give water from the well of life free to anybody who is thirsty.."
Question: Why is this precious gift given to us free, without cost? Answer: Because the fountain of eternal Life flows from His own flesh and He has paid the price as St Peter tells us in 1Pet 1:18-21 "For you know that the price of your ransom from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors was paid, not in anything perishable like silver or gold, but in precious blood as of a blameless and spotless lamb, Christ. He was marked out before the world was made, and was revealed at the final point of time for your sake. Through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory for this very purpose'that your faith and hope should be in God."
Question: To whom did Jesus speak about this "spring of water welling up for eternal life" in the Gospel of John chapter 4? Answer: the Samaritan woman.
This precious water of eternal life feeds us freely in the Most Holy Eucharist, springing up in us and then flowing out from us to give Life to the whole world! See John 4:14 and 7:37-39.
Verse 7 continued: "anyone who proves victorious will inherit these things"
Question: Where has this phrase been repeated previously in Revelation? Answer: to the 7 Churches in the first part of the book. This was in essence the theme of the Sever Letters and it is now being repeated to us. Do you see how John's prophecy has now come full circle?
Question: In verse 7 what is the promise that is made to us if we prove victorious? Answer: God assures us of His faithfulness to His covenantal promise of salvation: "I will be his God and he shall be My son." (see Gen 17:7-8; 2 Cor 6:16-18).
In other words, we are promised the fullest and most perfect enjoyment of Communion with God will take place in the heavenly kingdom for all eternity. What a promise!
Verse 8 "'But the legacy for cowards, for those who break their word, or worship obscenities, for murderers and the sexually immoral, and for sorcerers, worshippers of false gods, or any other sort of liars, is the second death in the burning lake of sulfur.'"
Once again we have the defeat of any possibility of a universalistic interpretation of the Final Judgment (we discussed the heresy of Universalism in the last chapter).
Question: What one word characterizes unbelievers in contrast to the faithful who are victorious? Answer: they are cowards.
Question: In your faith journey how has it taken courage to remain faithful to Christ and His plan for your life?
Question: How are those who are condemned to final perdition listed? Answer: (New Jerusalem translation):
reconciled to God through the blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation);
-those who break their word (this could refer to those who are freely admitted into the New Covenant in Christ and then fall away)
-those who worship obscenities (perhaps demon worship or immorality)
-murders (the killing of the innocent without mercy);
-the sexually immoral (we are all held to a standing of sexual purity in a gift that is shared in a covenantal union between a man and a women);
-sorcerers (those who attempt to achieve influence in a sphere outside of God in the realm of demons);
-worshippers of false gods (this could be self-worship when one has no place for God in one's life or even the "worship" of an activity that is more important than worshiping God, ie golf. Idol worship is anything that comes before God in one's life)
-any liars (we are called to be sons and daughters of the light and of truth as we imitate Christ).
Note: Sorcerers in Greek is pharmakoi, (a word meaning from which we get our word pharmacy) which means in Greek "poisonous magicians" (one who takes drugs) or "abortionists."
Verse 8 continued: "the Second death" The first death, as we have already mentioned, is physical and temporary. The second death is spiritual and eternal. Covenant believers who have proved victorious will never experience the Second Death. It has been said: "Born twice, die once; born once, die twice!" A true statement!
Please read Rev. 21:9-27 The New Jerusalem
Verse 9 "One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls full of the seven final plagues came to speak to me and said, 'Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married.'"
This verse ties together chapters 15-22. It was "one of the 7 angels" who had the 7 chalices (bowls) who had shown John the vision of Babylon (17:1) and now one of the 7 chalice angels not only reveals to John the heavenly Jerusalem (21:10) but Jerusalem as the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb.
Question: The revelation of the New Jerusalem the Bride is in contrast to what other revelation the chalice angel revealed to John in Rev. 17:1-5? Answer: The New Jerusalem the Bride is in contrast to "Babylon" the great Harlot, the unfaithful wife. I believe this is the New Covenant Church as Jerusalem in contrast to the Old Covenant Church of the old earthly Jerusalem. I do not see how the Harlot city as Rome can adequately complete this contrast. The contrast does not fit unless it is the Old verses the New.
Verses 10-11 "In the Spirit he carried me to the top of a very high mountain, and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God. It had all the glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond."
Question: Where does the chalice angel carry John and what is the contrast to Rev. 17:3? Answer: One of the chalice angels now carries John away to a high mountain in contrast to the wilderness where he saw the Harlot in 17:3. Ezekiel had the same experience in Ezekiel chapter 40:1-2 when "the hand of Yahweh was on me. He carried me away: in divine visions, he carried me away to the land of Israel and put me down on a very high mountain, on the south of which there seemed to be built a city."
In chapter 14 we talked about how the mountain imagery speaks of the Paradise of Eden which was located on a high plateau from which the water of life flowed out to the whole world (also see 22:1-2) as well as the Temple on Mt Moriah symbolizing God's Covenant people and God's grace flowing from the Temple to the world.
Question: In Ezekiel 10:18-19 and 11:22-23, the 6th century BC prophet sees the Glory-Cloud leaving from the Temple in Jerusalem and traveling east to the Mount of Olives just prior to its destruction on 586/7BC. Later, in another vision, he sees the Glory-Cloud returning to dwell in the new idealized Temple, the Church in 43:1-5. This was fulfilled when Christ, the incarnate Glory of God, ascended to His father in the Glory-Cloud from the Mount of Olives (Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1) and then God the Holy Spirit returned to fill the Church at Pentecost. The Jewish historian Josephus also reports the transfer of God's Glory from the Temple at the Feast of Pentecost in 66AD as the priests in the Temple were going about their proscribed duties there was heard "a violent commotion and din" and then "a voice as of a host crying, 'We are departing hence!'" (The Jewish War 6.5.3). This event recorded by Josephus took place exactly 36 years (to the very day) after God the Holy Spirit took possession of the New Covenant Church. The Jews also record in the Midrash (Lam. 2:11) that the Shekinah glory of God left the Temple at this time and remained over the Mount of Olives for 3 ½ years until the destruction of 70AD and during this time a voice was heard to come from the Mount of Olives asking the Jews to repent of their sins.
John now records in this passage that the Shekinah (Hebrew), the Glory of God, now resides on the true Holy Temple/City of God, the eternal Paradise'the spotless and pure Bride of Christ. John also describes the Holy City as possessing a light or luminescence. This description parallels the passage in Rev. 12:1 where the Woman is clothed with the sun. The Bride of Christ is illuminated with the glory of God Himself "And the One who was sitting on the throne ...looked like a diamond and a ruby."(4:2-3). Another image that strikes me from this passage is that the light from a diamond and a rube would be streams of white and red light. This reminds me of the Divine Mercy image of Christ with the rays of white and red light (the water and the blood) streaming from the heart of the Savior!
Verse 12-14 "Its wall was of great height and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; on the east there were three gates. On the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."
You will notice that vss 12-20 are full of 12s.
Question: What does the number 12 represent in Scripture? See the document The Significance of Numbers in Scripture.
Answer: 12 is one of the "perfect" numbers (3,7,10 & 12) and represents perfection of government and authority. The number12 also is the symbolic number for Israel.
Question: How many 12s do you find in chapter 21:vs 12-21? Notice the interesting reversal of numbers in the verses. Answer: 8 times. Remember I told you this chapter was full of 12s and 8s. Three times in vs 12 alone. 7 is the number of spiritual perfection and fullness but 8 is the number of redemption, salvation, and regeneration!
#1. Rev. 21:12
"It had a great high wall with 12 gates,"
#2. Rev. 21:12
"and with 12 angels at the gates"
#3. Rev. 21:12
"the names of the 12 tribes of Israel"
#4. Rev. 21:14
"The wall of the city had 12 foundation stones"
#5. Rev. 21:14
"on them were the names of the 12 Apostles"
#6. Rev. 21:16
"He measured the city...it was 12 thousand furlongs"
#7. Rev. 21: 21
"The 12 gates were twelve pearls"
#8. Rev. 21: 21
"The twelve gates were 12 pearls
The repetition in the use of the number 12 indicates that the description of the Heavenly Jerusalem is symbolic and represents the perfection of her place as God's authority.
For an interesting comparison read Ezekiel's vision of the heavenly Temple in Ez. 48.
Question: The visions are similar but not the same. What are some of the similarities? Answer: There is measuring involved in both visions indicating the Temple/City's sanctity and protection. It is implied in Ezekiel's vision that the City has great, high walls because the gates about which the prophet speaks are the gatehouses, porches or gate towers that constitute a city wall. [Ez 48:31-34]. The 12 gates in John's vision are inscribed with the names of the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel which is another feature in common with Ezekiel's vision [Ex 48:31-14].
But there are also many differences:
Question: for 1st century Christians the common standing emblem for a prosperous city was the figure of a woman crowned with the battlement of her city walls. This female personification of a city is found on many ancient coins. What connection do you see between this symbolism from John's time in connection with the Woman of 12:1 and the Heavenly Jerusalem?
Answer: The Woman (Mary as the Church) wore a crown of 12 stars which probably symbolized the 12 tribes of Israel since Mary was a daughter of the Old Covenant but the Mother of the New. The crown of the New Jerusalem is jeweled walls (see vs 18).
We can also make a comparison to the 24 elders around the Throne of God (4:3) where the throne is ringed with two 12s. We have already mentioned that the 24 elders are probably the 12 Patriarchs of the Old Covenant and the 12 Apostles of the New united in Christ. The identity of the 24 elders may be explained in this passage because now the Bride-City is crowned with a double 12 as well: the Patriarchs and the Apostles from the gates which are inscribed with the 12 names of the Patriarchs (tribes of Israel vs 12) and the foundation stones of the walls which have the names of the 12 Apostles of the Lamb (vs 14). It is obvious that the City of God, the Church, has both Old and New Covenant believers within her walls. As the Church has always recognized, there is only one way of salvation and one Covenant of Grace. Please see CCC#s 839-40 for more on the relationship between the people of the Old and New Covenants.
The 12 gates of the City are guarded by 12 angels which remind me of the fierce cherubim who guarded Eden's gate in Genesis 3:24.
Verses 15-17 "The angel that was speaking to me was carrying a gold measuring rod to measure the city and its gates and wall. The plan of the city is perfectly square, its length the same as its breadth. He measured the city with his rod and it was twelve thousand furlongs, equal in length and in breadth, and equal in height. He measured its wall, and this was a hundred and forty-four cubits high'by human measurements."
The prophet Ezekiel also has a vision of the measuring of the Heavenly Jerusalem. This vision occurs 14 years after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586/7BC. Please read Ezekiel 40-42.
The most interesting statement about the City in Rev 21:16 is that the City "is perfectly square, its length the same as its breadth".
Question: If the length and the breath are the same it can be assumed that the height and the width are also the same, and we are told, "the plan of the City is a perfectly square." What geometric shape is the city? Answer: the City is a cube!
Question: What feature of the Tabernacle in the desert and later, the Temple in Jerusalem was a perfect cube? Hint: see 1Kings 6:20 Answer: The Holy of Holies.
There is a wonderful passage in Ephesians that is related to this passage in Revelation. Paul's theme in Ephesians is the Church as the Body of Christ. Please turn to Ephesians chapter 3. Please read Ephesians 3:1-6.
Paul begins this passage by talking about "The Mystery of Christ" that was unknown in previous generations. This is the same "mystery" or secret that the prophet Daniel was told to "seal up" not reveal until the end of time (the end of the Old Covenant) in Daniel 12:9.
Question: What is the mystery? Hint: see vs. 5. Answer: "that the gentiles now have the same inheritance and form the same Body and enjoy the same promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
Now read Ephesians 3:14-19.
Question: Paul prays in vs.18-19 "..with all God's holy people you will have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; so that knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge.." In this verse Paul seems to not be finishing his sentence: the "breath, length, heights, and depth of what? Hint: what is Paul's theme in this book? Answer: The Church. In this verse Paul is revealing the Church, the Body of Christ, as the Holy of Holies. In the resurrection Christ's resurrected body became the Temple of God and when we receive Him in the sacrament of the Eucharist we become the Body of Christ in the fullest sense and with Christ's presence living in the Church, the Church becomes the Holy of Holies = the indwelling presence of God.
In John's vision the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of the presence of God, is the City -- a divine place where God and man will commune. It is more perfect than the Old Covenant earthly Holy of Holies because there is no veil of separation. There is also no veil of separation between God and the New Covenant Temple, our bodies when we have Christ living in us.
Continuing with verse 17: The dimensions of each side of the city measure "12 thousand furlongs [stadia]" and its wall is "144 cubits high." If your translation has equated these numbers into modern tables of measurements please record the literal figures. These numbers are obviously symbolic and they lose their significance if they are transcribed into feet and inches. They are all multiples of 12 and indicate the majesty and perfection of the Church (144= 12 x 12). Literalists who insist on manipulating these numbers ironically replace God's Word with meaningless symbols.
The New Jerusalem translation has a serious omission. The New J reads " and 144 cubits high --by human measurements". The New American translation reads "144 cubits in height by the unit of measurement the angel used." But the literal Greek reads "144 cubits measure a man's which is angel's." Therefore, the translation should read: "144 cubits as man measures and as the angels measure" (or perhaps: "as man's measurements and as angel's measurements"). This is not as mysterious as it appears. John is simply stating that the angelic activity seen in Revelation is a pattern for our own activity. As we see God's will being carried out in heaven we here on earth are to image that activity. As Biblical scholar David Chilton expresses this imaging in this way: "Heaven is the pattern for earth, the Temple is the pattern for the City, the angel is the model for man." (Chilton, Days of Vengeance p. 557).
Verses 18-21 "The wall was built of diamond, and the city of pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the city wall were faced with all kinds of precious stone: the first with diamond, the second with lapis lazuli, the third turquoise, the fourth crystal, the fifth agate, the sixth ruby, the seventh gold quartz, the eighth malachite, the ninth topaz, at he tenth emerald, the eleventh sapphire and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate being made of a single pearl, and the main street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass."
Question: Verse 18 tells us that the city was "of pure gold." How is this description another link to the earthly Holy of Holies? Hint: see Exodus 25:10-22; 30:1-6; Hebrews 9:3-5. Everything associated with the Holy of Holies had to be pure gold.
The New American translates the description of the wall as: "The wall was constructed of jasper; the city was of pure gold, crystal-clear. The foundation of the city wall was ornate with precious stones of every sort: the first course of stones was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, and the twelfth amethyst."
I have underlined the differences between the translations. As you can see only the 9th: topaz and the 12th amethyst agree! The truth it is extremely difficult to translate the stone named into modern equivalents that would be familiar to us. We simply don't know which stones are meant to be represented.
The city is now described in terms of precious and semiprecious gems. The most obvious connection is to the precious gems in the breastplate of the High Priest which was four rows of three gems each representing the 12 tribes of Israel (Ex. 28:15-21):
Breastplate of the High Priest
Sard, topaz, emerald
Garnet, sapphire, diamond
Hyacinth, ruby, amethyst
Beryl, cornelian, jasper
As I mentioned it is difficult to translate the names of these stones into the names of stones that would be familiar to us. The first "diamond" is listed as "jaspar" in some translations. Although the pattern is the same as the High Priest's breastplate, the names do not match up. Perhaps they are different because these stones, instead of representing the 12 tribes of Israel, now represent the 12 Apostles as the new authority of the New Israel.
The mention of "jasper" or as in our New Jerusalem translation, "diamond", is interesting (the Greek word is jaspis). This stone is associated in Scripture with divine glory'in this case Christ who is the cornerstone of the New Temple. The meaning is that by being founded on Christ, "the cornerstone," the whole city/Church acquires divine glory.
In verse 21 the "gates of pearl" and the "main street of the City is pure gold" reflect the blessings and glory of the heavenly City.
Question: What is the contrast between the way this City as the Bride is adorned and the adornment of the Harlot in Rev 17:4?
Answer: The Harlot/Babylon was also adorned with jewels and she perished with them; the City/Bride is adorned with jewels because of her Covenantal union with Christ the Bridegroom, and she lives!
Verses 22-23 "I could not see any temple in the city since the Lord God almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple, and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since it was lit by the radiant glory of God, and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it."
Question: Where is the Temple? Answer: The entire city is the Temple. God the Almighty and the Lamb are the Sanctuary. The entire City/Temple is the Holy of Holies. Christ's blessing in Rev. 3:12 makes sense now: "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, and he will not go out from it anymore." And His promise in 7:15: "For this reason, they are before the Throne of God; and He who sits on the Throne shall spread His Tabernacle over them." There is no separation between God and man-- no building, no distance in time or space.
Question: Why doesn't the city need any light? Hint: see Isaiah 60:1-3 and 19-21. Answer: The Holy City shines with the original, uncreated Light of God the Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Verses 24-27 The nations will come to its light and the kings of the earth will bring it their treasures. Its gates will never be closed by day'and there will be no night there'and the nations will come, bringing their treasure and their wealth. Nothing unclean may come into it: no one who does what is loathsome or false, but only those who are listed in the Lamb's book of life."
John applies the prophecy of Isaiah 60:1-6, 9, &11 to the New Jerusalem: "(1) ...shine out, for your light has come, and the glory of Yahweh has risen on you.... (2)...the nations will come to your light and kings to you dawning brightness.....(5) the wealth of the nations come to you;....(11) Your gates will always be open, never closed, ..for the riches of the nations to be brought you and their kings to be let in."
Question: Is John prophesizing from our future for from his present or from someplace in-between? Answer: The key is the fact that nations are coming to the "light" of the City as well as "kings of the earth." This cannot be the Heavenly Jerusalem of the End Times because at that time there are no longer any nations or kings. Instead, this is what Jesus commanded His Church to be: the City on the Hill of Matthew 5:14-16 "You are a light for the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in people's sight, so that, seeing you good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven." In this part of John's vision the nations still exist as nations but they are all converted and flowing into the City/Church and bringing their treasures and talents into it. Notice that there are no restrictions: Gentile and Jew, Greek and slave, all are welcomed in Christ's kingdom. As the light of the Gospel shines through the Church to the world, the world is converted. This is the Church, the sinless Bride embracing saint and sinner alike. This is our mission, our goal and our future until Christ comes in His glory.
Verse 27 "Nothing unclean may come into it: no one who does what is loathsome or false, but only those who are listed in the Lamb's Book of Life."
Question: How is verse contrasted with Rev. 17:8 and 18:2? Answer: Rev. 17:8 mentions the "people of the world whose names have not been written since the beginning of the world in the Book of Life.." and 18:2 speaks about "Babylon" being the dwelling of devils and the stronghold of everything foul and unclean. This is in contrast with the Holy New City, which holds only those names which are found in the "Book of Life" and in which nothing unclean is found. All those within her walls have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb!
Next: our last Chapter! Paradise Restored: The River Of Life, and the new cry of the Saints: "Come, Lord Jesus!"
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.