Studies In The Book of Revelation
Chapter Twenty One
By Jonathan Mitchell
1. Then I saw “a new (new in nature; different from the usual; better than the old; superior in value and attraction; new in quality) atmosphere (or: sky; or: heaven) and a new Land (or: earth)” [Isa. 65:17; 66:22], for the first (former; preceding; earlier) atmosphere (or: heaven) and the first (former, preceding) Land (or: earth) went away (or: pass away), and the sea does not exist any longer.
2. And I saw the set-apart (or: holy) city, a new Jerusalem, continuously (or: progressively) descending from out of the atmosphere (or: heaven), from God, being prepared (having been made ready) as a bride, being arranged (having been set in order; adorned; decorated) for (or: by) her man (husband; a male person of full age and stature).
3. And I heard a great voice from out of the throne [other MSS: atmosphere; heaven] saying, "Consider! God’s tent (the Tabernacle of God) [is] with mankind (the humans), and He will live in a tent (dwell in a Tabernacle) with them, and they will be (will exist being) His people, and God Himself will be with them [some MSS add: their God].’ [Lev. 26:11-12; Isa. 7:14; 8:8, 10; Jer. 31:33; Ezk. 37:27; 2 Chr. 6:18]
4. "And He will anoint (smear; wipe away) every tear from their eyes. And death will no longer exist (or: the death shall be no more) – neither will mourning (sadness; grief), nor an outcry, nor hard work (painful toil; misery) exist any longer ([they] will be no more), because the FIRST THINGS went (passed) away."
5. And the One (or: He [who is]) continuously sitting upon the throne said, "Consider this! I am presently making all things new (or: habitually creating everything [to be] new and fresh; progressively forming the whole anew)!" Next He is saying [to me], "Write, because these words are faithful ones (ones full of faith) and true ones."
6. Then He said to me, “They have come into being (been born; come to be) and stand accomplished (are produced) [Concordant Gr. Text reads, with Sinaiticus: I have become (been born)!; Griesbach reads "gegone": It has been done; Rotherham simply says: Accomplished; Barclay, Young, Beck, NASB, NKJV, Amplified all read w/Griesbach; Weymouth, Williams, Wuest, Robertson & Vincent read w/the Nestle-Aland & Metzger Text, "gegonan" (3rd. per. pl.)]. I am the Alpha and the Omega: The Beginning (Origin) and The End (The Goal; Consummation; The Finished Product). “To him who is continuously thirsty, I will give from out of the spring (fountain) of the Water of the Life, as an undeserved (free) gift (or: I will freely give...).
7. “The one habitually overcoming will inherit (acquire by lot) these things, and I will be a God for him (in him; to him) and he will be a son [Griesbach reads: the son] for Me (in Me; to Me).
8. “But for the timid (cowardly) folks and for faithless ones (unbelieving people) and for abominable folks (detestable ones) and for murderers, and for prostitutes and for sorcerers (enchanters; users of drugs) and for idolaters and for all the liars (the false ones): their portion [of the inheritance?] [is] within the lake continuously burning with Fire and Deity, which is the Second Death.”
J.S. Russell approaches ch. 21:1-22:5 with the following words, "This vision is the last of the series, and completes the mystic number 'seven.' It is the grand finale of the whole drama, the triumphant consummation and climax of the apocalyptic visions. It stands in striking antithesis to the vision of the harlot city; it is new Jerusalem in contrast to the old; the bride, the Lamb's wife, in contrast with the... adulteress whose judgment has passed before our eyes....
"We now find ourselves surrounded by scenery so novel and so wonderful that it is not surprising that we should be in doubt where we are. Is this earth, or is it heaven? Every familiar landmark has disappeared; the old has vanished, and given place to the new: it is a new heaven above us; it is a new earth beneath us. New conditions of life must exist, for 'there is no more sea.' Plainly we have here a representation in which symbolism is carried to its utmost limits..." (The Parousia)
Barclay calls to mind Isa. 65:17, "I create new havens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, or come to mind..." Of the description of the new Jerusalem he cites Isa. 54:11-12, "O afflicted one... I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles, and all your wall of precious stones."
He also refers to Isa. 60:10-20, where it says, "... Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut.... you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. The sun shall be no more our light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.... and your days of mourning shall be ended."
Here, in ch. 21, we see that John is once again carried away, in spirit, upon a great and high mountain. This is an echo of Ezk. 40:2, where the hand of Yahweh brought Ezekiel, in vision, to "... a very high mountain on which there seemed to be the outline of a city..." In Ezk. 48:30-35 the gates of the city are listed, each one corresponding to one of the tribes of Israel (a clear echo of the picture we have here, in 21:14). Vs. 35 ends, "And the name of the city from that day on shall be 'Yahweh Is There'" (corresponding to 21:3). This is also seen in Ezk. 37:27, "My dwelling-place shall be with them..."
Paul quotes Lev. 26:11-12 in 2 Cor. 6:16, applying it to the called-out community, "... For WE ARE a temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will dwell with them, and will walk about within them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people.'"
More references to the OT could be listed, but it is clear that this vision has its roots in the prophesies of the OT. But for now, let us consider the verses themselves.
In vs. 1 John saw a whole new world. Was the meaning literal, or figurative? Paul says, "Consequently, since someone [is] within Christ (or: if anyone [is] in union with [the] Anointed One), [there is] a new creation (or: [it is] a framing and founding of a different kind; [he or she is] an act of creation having a fresh character and a new quality): the original things (the beginning [situations]; the archaic and primitive [arrangements]) passed by (or: went to the side). Consider! New things have come into existence (have been birthed; or: It has become new things; or: He has been birthed and now exists being ones of a different kind, character and quality)." (2 Cor. 5:17)
Having seen that this is a book of signs and symbols, we should not start putting a literal interpretation on this vision. The figure of "the sea does not exist any longer" should be an immediate clue. What this is saying is that there is no longer a distinction between God's people and the great "sea of humanity" which had been the non-Israelites, or Gentiles. He has broken down the "middle wall" and made of the two "one new humanity" thus give peace to the tossing waves of the sea (Eph. 2:14, 15). As all humanity was included in the first man, Adam, so all humanity is included in the Last Adam, the Second Man, the Lord from heaven (1 Cor. 15:45-47).
As to vs. 2, we see that what John saw was what Paul referred to in Gal. 4:26, "the Jerusalem which is above." John saw a figure of the new covenant, the children of promise (Gal. 4:23, 24, 28). That it is constantly descending speaks to us of the character of the called-out communities: although seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6), this company takes the form of a servant, as does our Lord, and descends to minister to those living in the earth realm, to bring life to the dead, healing to the sick, freedom to the prisoners, and inclusion to the outcasts. Although adorned as a bride (vs. 2), she is God's tent (vs. 3; a habitation of God, Eph. 2:22), or body, and through her God lives among humanity, and now all humanity is God's people – and He is their God. What a picture!
Vs. 4 presents a challenge to our understanding: is this view a literal statement amidst all the symbols of these visions? Or is this also a figure?
The clue is in the last clause, "the FIRST THINGS went away." This is the echo of 2 Cor. 5:17, quoted above. What went away was the 1st covenant, together with the Law, the Aaronic priesthood, the sacrifices, the worship in religious activities, the "holiness laws" of "clean and unclean," the separation of a chosen people-group from the rest of humanity, the observance of days or weeks, circumcision and ritual purity, etc., etc. For freedom Christ has set us free (John 8:36; Gal. 5:1) from the bondage to ritual and religion. In Christ, in the realm of spirit, God wipes away tears (figure of sorrow and grief), for we now have joy and expectation. In Him, joined to the Lord, death ceases to exist: John 11:26, "And further, everyone (or: all mankind) presently or continuing in living and trusting (or: progressively believing; regularly exercising faith) into Me can by no means (or: may under no circumstances) die-off on into the Age." And there is no more mourning for we see in Lu. 4:18 that He came to "heal the brokenhearted."
"God has wiped away our tears, for we are partakers of His First Resurrection. One striking evidence of this is the obvious difference between Christian and pagan funerals: We grieve, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13). God has taken away the sting of death (1 Cor. 15:55-58)" (Chilton).
Being seated with Him in the heavenlies there are no more outcries, and no more religious works, painful toil to try to please God, or misery due to our failures and mistakes: Matt. 11:28, "So everyone come here, toward Me! – all those constantly weary and exhausted from toil and labor, as well as folks having been caused to carry a load, and continuing burdened down – and I, Myself, will refresh you and cause you folks to rest." These conditions exist now, in Christ, but we need to see that all this is true in the context of the City (vs. 2), and apply at this point to God's people (vs. 3), and the overcomer (vs. 7). Vs. 8 points out those who yet need the work of the baptism in the Spirit and Fire (the second death), and ch. 22:15 tells us that these folks are outside the City (New Jerusalem).
In Him, the "first things" have gone away. Later in this chapter we see that this community gives Light to the world (vs. 23-24) and is inclusive, allowing the multitudes of the ethnic groups (and religions?) enter into the city (vs. 24-26) to participate in all that she is, and be transformed. This is heaven, the realm of spirit, being brought to earth and being made available – through the Spirit of Christ – to all humanity.
Notice the Greek present tense in vs. 5: it is an ongoing and progressive work of Christ. But then look at the verb tenses in vs. 6, "They have come into being (been born; come to be) and stand accomplished (are produced)!" Here we have the perfect tense; in Christ it stands a completed work, referring to His people. The various other MSS read the verb is different persons (1st and 3rd), but they are all in the perfect tense. This does not refer to a future event.
Regard vs. 5, Metzger points out, "... the present tense also suggests that God is continually making things new here and now (compare 2 Cor. 3:8; 4:16-18; Col. 3:1-4)" (Breaking the Code).
God reminds John to write these words down, because they are faithful words, and true words. He is constantly (or: repeatedly) making ALL THINGS new in kind, new in quality. What is left outside of this statement?
In vs. 6 we have three variant readings, each one well attested in different manuscripts. Since we have no way of knowing which one represents the original, let's consider each one:
a. 1st person singular: "I have become," or, "I have been born." The CLNT reads, "I have become the Alpha and the Omega, the Origin and the Consummation." If we see here the terms "Alpha and Omega" as referring to the whole plan of the ages – all of that which is "from out of Him and through Him and [back] into Him," (Rom. 11:36) – then we can see this as a statement of Him being "All in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
b. 3rd pers. singular: "It has become (come to be; been done; been birthed)." This could refer to the completion of His plan ("Accomplished," as Rotherham reads), similar to the statement of Jesus on the cross, "It is finished." Here, then, we would be seeing the "goal" from God's point of view – it is a finished work! Or, it could read "He has been born," referring to the Messiah – implying the work of Christ.
c. 3rd pers. plural: "They have come into being (been born; come to be)." This is the preferred reading of the more recent critical texts. This phrase could have as its antecedent the last sentence of vs. 5, and thus it is the faithful and true words that have "come to pass." Or perhaps, that the "first things passed away [and]... all things [have become] new!" This could then refer to the arrival of the New Order. Yet another interpretation would come from rendering this phrase "they have been born." I would then see this as parallel to ch. 12:1-5, referring to the birth of the "corporate manchild" and their ascension to the throne.
Now let's look at the final statement of vs. 6. Robertson says, "God is the bountiful Giver (James 1:5, 17) of the Water of Life. See ch. 7:17; 22:1, 17 for this metaphor, which is based on Isa. 55:1. It is God's promise... 'I will give.'" From ch. 22:1, we see that this water of the life flows forth from out of God's throne. But Jesus has prophesied that "The one believing into Me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow forth from out of his innermost being!" (John 7:38). Seeing these two verses together shows us that 1) God's throne (as well as His kingdom) is within our innermost being; and, 2) we, being the City, are the channel through which this Life flows out to others.
The temple which Ezk. saw is the Temple which is the body of Christ. In Ezk. 47 he saw waters which issued out from this Temple and became a river (vs. 5). Actually, vs. 9, in the Heb., tells us that it became "two rivers," figuring the "two witnesses" that are His body: "And it shall come to pass, that EVERY LIVING SOUL that swarmeth whithersoever the rivers shall come SHALL LIVE, and the fish [= people] shall become a great multitude; for these waters have come thither that THEY may be healed, so shall EVERYTHING LIVE whithersoever the river cometh." (Rotherham)
Note that 47:8 tells us that "These waters are going forth unto the region toward the east, and shall go down unto the WASTE PLAIN, and shall enter the sea [the Tanakh reads "the sea of foul waters (i.e., the Dead Sea)], unto the sea being led forth, then shall the waters [i.e., the Dead Sea] be healed" (Rotherham; my additions). So now we see where the river of life is going (to the dead), and what it will do (give life)! And EVERYTHING will LIVE, as a result of God's free GIFT: His grace; His Life! What a picture of life from death.
The Greek word "dorean" is both the accusative singular, and means "a free gift," and also the adverb form, meaning "freely." From the syntax I went with the former (as does Wuest), but many render it as the latter. Christ is her doing what He told His disciples to do: "Freely you received; freely give" (Matt. 10:8).
Recall Jesus with the Samaritan woman (one considered "unclean" in that time): "If you were aware of the free gift (dorean) of God, and Who is the One saying to you, 'Give to Me to drink,' you would as Him, and He would give you living water" (John 4:10). This same word is used by Paul in Rom. 3:34, "Being justified freely (or: as a free gift) by His grace, through the redemption which is within Christ Jesus."
Here in the Unveiling, a second witness is given when this offer made in 21:6 is repeated in 22:17. The call is made to all – even to those in the "Dead Sea" (a figure of the grave – this is where the "life" of the Jordan River ended in dead waters). The picture is clear: Life is offered to those who are without life – dead.
Vs. 7 recalls the promises at the close of each of the seven letters in ch's. 2 and 3. This obviously identifies this passage as pertaining to the church. It is another message to "the overcomer." Robertson points out that "I will be a God for him" repeats an OT promise made to Abraham (Gen. 17:7f). "He will be a son for Me" was made "first of Solomon (2 Sam. 7:14) and applied to David later in Ps. 89:26f" (Robertson). Here we see another confirmation of the continuity between the old and new covenants.
Vs. 8 is an antithesis of vs. 7. There are two inheritances here: one is blessing (vs. 7), the other is judgment (vs. 8). The indictments of vs. 8 are stronger, but the comparison of these two verses to the scene described in Matt. 25:31-46 is, to me, obvious. Those described in vs. 8 receive the same penalty as those of Matt. 25:41 & 46a. Yet the "crimes" of those in Matt. 25, at first glance, seem much less serious – they are crimes of "omission." The kids failed to show love to Christ's family members.
These in vs. 8, however, are cowards, unbelievers, murderers, etc. Those in Matt. 25 were just immature and unaware. Do both "groups" receive the same judgment? Both are cast into Fire. But the nature of the judgment in Matt. 25:46 is "kolasin aionion," age-lasting pruning; pruning and correction of growth for an unspecified period of time. And what have we seen to be the nature of fire? It transforms, purifies and causes to ascend.
As here in ch. 21:7-8, so in Matt. 25: one group inherits the kingdom; the other inherits chastisement. And since both the kids and the sheep were part of the Shepherd's herd in Matt. 25, I suggest that vs. 8 here is a description of the Jews of the 1st century. Fire and Deity rained down upon them in AD 70. They were "children of Gehenna." Chilton quotes J.P.M. Sweet in regard to vs. 8, "'the list belongs, like similar lists in the epistles, to the context of baptism, the putting off of the "old man" and putting on of the new.' (cf. Gal. 5:19-26; Eph. 4:17-5:7; Col. 3:5-10; Tit. 3:3-8)." That is what this baptism of Fire is all about!
9. And one of the seven agents – the ones holding (having) the seven shallow bowls: the ones being continuously full of (or: brimming with) the seven plagues – came and spoke with me, saying, Come here! I will show you the Bride, the Wife of the little Lamb.”
10. Next he carried (or: carries) me away, in spirit (or: in the midst of a Breath-effect), upon a great and high mountain, and showed (points out to) me the set-apart (or: holy) city, Jerusalem, progressively (or: habitually; or: presently) descending out of the atmosphere (or: heaven), from God –
11. continuously having (holding; or: = bringing with it) the glory of God (God’s glory; God’s reputation; or: God’s appearance; or: the opinion from God), her illuminator (that which gives her light; the cause of her light) – like a most precious stone, as a jasper stone being continuously crystal-clear,
12. continuously having a great and high wall, having twelve gates, and upon the gates twelve agents, and names [Sinaiticus adds: of them] having been inscribed (engraved; imprinted) upon [them], which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel:
13. from the east (a rising) three gates; from the north three gates; from the south three gates; from the west (a sinking) three gates.
14. And the wall of the City continuously has twelve foundations, and upon them twelve names of the twelve emissaries of the little Lamb.
15. And he who is speaking with me was holding and continues having a measure, a golden reed, so that he may measure the City – even her gates and her walls.
16. And the City is lying (or: is continually being laid) square (four-angled; four-cornered), and her length [is] even as much as the width. And he measured (or: measures) the City with the reed upon twelve thousand race-courses (stadiums; fixed standards of measure): her length and width and height are equal.
17. And he measured her wall: one hundred forty four cubits – (a) human’s measure, which is an agents [measure].
18. And that which was built within her wall is jasper, and the City [is] pure (clear; clean; cleansed) gold like pure (clear, clean) crystal (or: glass),
19. and the foundations of the wall of the city are ones having been set in order (made a system, a world; adorned) with every precious stone. The first foundation: jasper; the second, sapphire (or: lapis lazuli); the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald;
20. the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius (or: carnelian); the seventh, chrysolite (or: topaz); the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz (or: peridot); the tenth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, hyacinth (jacinth); the twelfth, amethyst.
21. And the twelve gates [are] twelve pearls – each one of the several gates was [made] out of one pearl. And the broad place (street; plaza; square) of the City [is] pure (clean, clear; cleansed) gold, as a translucent crystal (or: transparent glass).
22. And I did not see an inner sanctuary [= the holy place, or places, of the Temple] within her, for the Lord [=Yahweh], Almighty (All-Strong) God, even the little Lamb, is her inner sanctuary (or: dwelling place).
23. And the City continually has no need of the sun nor of the moon, to the end that they may (should) continually shine for her, for the Glory of God illuminates (enlightens; gives light to) her, and her lamp [is] the little Lamb.
24. And the multitudes (nations; people groups; ethnic groups; or: non-Jews) will walk about (i.e., live their lives) by means of her Light. And the kings of the Land (or: earth) continually carry (bring; bear) their glory [Codex Vaticanus adds: and honor] into her.
25. And her gates shall by no means be closed (or: locked) [by] day, for night will not be in that place (or: for there will not be night there).
26. And they will carry (or: bring) the glory and the honor of the multitudes (nations; non-Jews; ethnic groups) into her.
27. And under no circumstances may anything common (profane; ceremonially unclean) – even the one continuously making an abomination and a lie – enter into her, except the ones having been written (or: being engraved) within the scroll of “The Life of the little Lamb” (or: the little Lamb’s scroll of “The Life”).
Now the scene changes. John is approached by one of the agents who had the bowls. He comes to show John the Bride, the Lamb's Wife. In vs. 10 John is brought, in spirit, to a great and high mountain. This picture is an echo of Ezk. 40:1-2 where he is brought into Israel in "visions of God," and is "set down upon a very high mountain." This mountain would be "Mt. Zion... the city of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22).
In vs. 11 we see that the Bride – the set-apart, heavenly Jerusalem – continuously has, or holds, "the glory of God." This is a statement of present fact and reality. We are containers of God's glory – for "we presently and continuously hold (have and possess) this treasure within containers (jars; pots; vessels; equipment) made of baked clay (e.g., pottery; bone ware)" – 2 Cor. 4:7. "[This is] the One who shines forth within the midst of our hearts, with a view to illumination of the intimate and experiential knowledge of God's glory – in a face of Christ, (or: [is] He Who gives light in union with our hearts, [while] facing toward an effulgence and a shining forth which is an intimate knowing of the praise-inducing manifestation whose source and origin is God, and which is God, [while] in union with face to face presence of Christ)." (2 Cor. 4:6).
Many seek to see His glory as though it is something separate from Himself, and they seem to be unaware that He has given His glory (Christ – the "Man" of 1 Cor. 11:7) to His called-out community. It is we who should be showing forth the shining forth of Him from within our hearts. He is the ultimate manifestation of God's glory.
In John 17:22-23 Jesus said, "And I have given to THEM the glory which You have given to Me..."
God's glory, like Christ, was often hidden in the OT, appearing in shadows. In Ex. 16:10 it appeared in "the cloud" in the wilderness, and in Ex. 24:16-17 we find that "the glory of Yahweh tabernacled over Mt. Sinai.... Now the appearance of the glory of Yahweh was like a devouring fire..." Later it "filled the Tabernacle (figure of the body of Christ)" as the cloud covered the "tent of the congregation" (Ex. 40:34-35). We have seen that devouring fire here in the Unveiling.
In Ezk's. vision of the Living Ones in ch. 1 we see "an atmosphere, as sparkling ice [terrible crystal – Rotherham; see Rev. 21:11, above] in appearance, stretched out over their heads, upward" (vs. 22); and "above the atmosphere, which is over their head, as the appearance of a sapphire stone, is the likeness of a throne. And on the likeness of the throne is a likeness of a human (figure of Christ) on it, upward" (vs. 26); "It is the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Yahweh" (vs. 28, CVOT).
In Ezk. 43:2-5 the glory is personified, ".... And His voice is as the sound of many waters [sound familiar?]. And the earth is enlightened by His glory [Rev. 18:1].... And the glory of Yahweh comes to the house... And behold! full of the glory of Yahweh is the house" (CVOT). This sounds like scenes from the Unveiling, and the Bride is His house. So the glory of God is Christ, the presence of God Himself.
Vs. 12-23 give symbolic descriptions of the Bride, the heavenly Jerusalem. We see again the symbolic number 12: in the gates, figuring "the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel" (thus showing the continuity of God's people from old and new covenants); in the foundations it figures the "emissaries of the little Lamb" (vs. 14). We see reference to this in Eph. 2:19-22 where the foundation of the called-out communities are "the emissaries (representatives) AND the prophets.
The four sides and four directions noted in vs. 13 speak figuratively of the layout of camp of Israel in the wilderness, and has reference to both "the four quarters of the world" (Matthew Henry), and the four living ones before the throne, seen in ch. 4.
As to its shape and size, Metzger says, "The city measures fifteen hundred miles in length, in breadth, and in height (21:16). But how can a city be a cube? The description is architecturally preposterous, and must not be taken with flat-footed literalism. In ancient times the cube was held to be the most perfect of all geometric forms.... There is not temple or sanctuary in the holy city, for in one respect, the city itself is all sanctuary. Its dimensions, being in the form of a cube, are like the Holy of Holies in the Mosaic tabernacle of old. The immediate presence of God is no longer in a reserved place... God is now accessible to all. The assurance that the city's 'gates will never be shut by day' (21:25) conveys the sense of perfect freedom of access and fellowship with God." (Breaking the Code).
In vs. 15 we see an agent with a golden reed to measure the city. Gold being a figure for the attributes of God, Witness Lee sees this as being "measured according to the divine nature." There is no mention or figure of her being "found wanting" in this picture. It calls to mind what Paul spoke of in Eph. 4:13 of coming "into (or: unto) [the] measure of [the] stature (full age; prime of life) of the entire content (of that which is full; of the fullness; of the complement; of the full number; of the completing; of the results of the filling) which comprises the Anointed One (or: which pertains to the Christ; which is the Christ) –"
Vs. 16 speaks of "12,000 race-courses," which to me speaks of the fact that this city is built of individual races run (or: lives lived): "Do you not know that those running in a race-course (or: stadium) all indeed run... thus run, that you may obtain" (1 Cor. 9:24, Diaglott). Then there is Heb. 12:1, "... we should run the course being laid out for us." And, of course, there is Paul in Phil. 3:14-15, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the upward calling from God, in union with Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are mature, be thus minded..." Another thing that we can note from these measurements is the aspect of equality. No member is higher than another.
Then vs. 17 brings the number 12 again in the 144K (see ch. 14). Note that the agent's measure is also a human's measure. In this I see another hint of the one equaling the other. What is on earth is a reflection of what is in heaven, and agents in heaven may have once been human (see ch. 19:10 and 22:9).
Vs. 18-20 list the gemstones and jewels out of which the city is built. This calls to mind Mal. 3:17, "... in that day when I publicly recognize [and] openly declare them to be My jewels..." (Amplified)
Precious stones start out as ordinary minerals, until heat and pressure turn them into jewels. The breastplate of the high priest had 12 jewels, each one engraved with one of the names of the 12 tribes (Ex. 28:15-30). The city itself (into which the precious stones were set) is "pure gold." This figure says that it is God Himself who holds these stones together and gives them form and structure. They dwell in Him.
"And that which was built within her wall is jasper" (vs. 18). We saw in ch. 4:3 that God's appearance is like jasper. The New Jerusalem bears the appearance of God. Witness Lee observes that with the city being of gold that is like clear glass, it would be transparent, and he refers us to 2 Cor. 3:2 that we are letters that are being read by everyone.
Metzger connects all these gems with the description of the king of Tyre in Ezk. 28:12-19. Note there that this figure was "in Eden, the garden of God... of every precious stone was your covering.... until perversity was found in you... [and] I cast you upon the earth.... unto times age-abiding." Here in ch. 21 we have a picture of humanity restored to Eden. Note that in ch. 22:1-3 we have mention of a tree of life, a river, and the curse. We see here the omega, while the Gen. account gives us the alpha.
Vs. 21 tells us that the gates are pearls, and vs. 12 told us that there is an agent upon each gate. Does this correspond to ch. 1:20 where each church has an agent? With each gate inscribed with the name of one of the 12 tribes, I suggest that entry into this City requires being grafted into the olive tree (Rom. 11:16-17).
The pearl is formed when a painful grain of sand enters into the oyster. Entrance into the city is through pain and irritation being covered by His sufficient grace (2 Cor. 2:7), or through much pressures and tribulations (Acts 14:22). Lee comments, "Pearls are produced by oysters in the waters of death.... This depicts Christ as the living One coming into the death waters, being wounded by us, and secreting His life over us to make us into precious pearls for the building of God's eternal expression. That the twelve gates of the city are twelve pearls signifies that regeneration through the death-overcoming and life-secreting Christ is the entrance into the city."
The broad place (or, street, plaza) being clear gold speaks of a Godly walk (a walk which is composed of God, or lived by God in us) in which we are transparent – so that God can be seen in our lives, "... to unveil His Son in me..." (Gal. 1:16). Lee says of the life of the saints, "The divine nature of God is their pathway."
In vs. 22 we see that Yahweh, figured here as "the little Lamb," is her inner sanctuary, her temple, her dwelling place. This, of course, takes us back to John 17:21-23, our being one in the Father and in the Son; or, to John 15:1-10, the disciple abiding in the Vine. As we are a dwelling place for God, so is He a dwelling place for us (Acts 17:28). It should also be evident, here, that the Lamb is the husband of the Bride, and in this picture they are joined – One: "the one being continuously joined to the Lord continuously exists being one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17). This is true marriage. The little Lamb together with His sheep. This city symbolizes the kingdom which it was the Father's good pleasure to give to His little flock (Lu. 12:32). He is the Head, and they are His body.
Vs. 23 equates the little Lamb (Christ) with the glory of God, once again, for He is what illuminates her – she no longer needs light from something (or, from some religious system) outside of her.
Vs. 24 gives a picture which can be seen from the beginning of the church to our day. The multitudes – the nations, all ethnic groups, the non-Israelites – walk about (= live their lives) by means of her LIGHT. This light is The Truth; this light is The Way; this light is The Life; this light is Christ. He is "The True Light, which, upon coming into the world, enlightens every person" (John 1:9).
What about the second part of vs. 24, through vs. 27? How do the kings of the land/earth bring their glory into the Bride, the called-out communities? This is an echo of Isa. 60. The New Geneva Study Bible has the following comments on this chapter: 60:3 "Gentiles shall come": The prophecy has been fulfilled day by day since the coming of the gospel (Acts 9:15; 11:18) "kings to thy brightness": They come to Christ 60:5: "wealth... shall come": The prophecy began to be fulfilled with Darius's contribution to the temple (Ezra 6:8, 9). It has a much greater fulfillment through the ascended Christ, who rules in the hearts of people 60:9 "ships of Tarshish": The resumption of maritime trade is another way the glory of the new age is described in terms of Solomon's splendor 60:10 "foreigners": As Hiram, king of Tyre, helped build the first temple, and Cyrus and Darius, kings of Persia, the second, so also today people of many nations are building up the church, the temple of the Lord.
I find it interesting that the very next chapter, Isa. 61, is what Jesus quoted in Lu. 4:19-20 and applied to Himself and that time.
Barclay calls these vs. in ch. 21 "a picture of universal salvation," and refers to Isa. 2:2-4; 11:12; 45:22; 49:6; and 66:19: nations will come to Zion to learn God's ways; God sets an ensign (Christ) to which they will assemble; Israel gives light to the nations; she declares God's glory (Christ) among the non-Israelites; the ends of the earth are invited to look to God and be saved.
In vs. 25, since the gates are never closed by day, and there will be no night there, we can conclude that there will always be access to God's presence; always access to enter (= become a part of) the Bride. Night is caused by the earth turning away from the light. In this realm, there will no longer be a turning away; no longer a vacillating between light and darkness. There is also no longer any dependence upon creation (in this case, the sun) for life. Here God is the source for everything.
Just what is "the glory and honor of the multitudes (nations; ethnic groups)" that these multitudes will carry into the city (vs. 26)? Gifts from the east were presented to Jesus when He was a young boy. What are the gold and spices that could be brought into this city? We can see in the types, as noted in Isa. 60, above, and of what the queen of Sheba brought to Solomon – and even how Israel took the gold of Egypt. But what do these foreshadow? It would seem that God has placed glory and honor within all nations and ethnic groups. He placed things of value within them, and it is these things (as well as themselves) which they will contribute to the City, as they come into the Light.
Vs. 27 provides a clarification: only those having been written with the scroll of the Life of the little Lamb are able to enter her. It would seem then that prior to the multitudes of Gentiles entering in with their glory and honor, that their names will have been written into this scroll. I suggest that this scroll has names added to it on throughout the ages to come. Ch. 3:5 connects those whose names are enrolled here with the called-out community, and the overcomers:
"And I will by no means blot out his name from the scroll of The Life (= participation in the Christ, Who is the Life)."
And furthermore, this City will no longer have satan's throne within it. The description of this City continues in the next chapter.