Her Immovable Foundations (vv. 9-14)
She Comes from God and Shines with His Glory
There is only one command in this long description of the new Jerusalem – come. The seven angels who announced the judgment of the harlot city of Jerusalem (17:1) are now blessed with more joyful tidings – to reveal to John the Lamb’s wife. John – you must come see the future glory of the bride of Christ’s wife! The command to come applies also to us, for the church of Jesus Christ, his bride, is not now what she will one day be (1 John 3:1). Now, she is often overrun with wolves and filled with false branches. She passes through fiery trials and many tribulations. The wheat and tares in the church are growing together. Real Christians often “know not the things that they do.” There is no congregation, denomination, or believer who is more than the faintest reflection of what he shall be.
To see the Lamb’s wife, John was carried away to a “great and high mountain.” “Mountain” is often a symbol of God’s kingdom, in its millennial state in this life and in its perfected state in heaven (Dan. 2:45; Heb. 12:22). “Mountain” is a way of expressing that God’s kingdom is righteous, majestic, and immovable (Ps. 36:6). The Lamb’s bride is also called the new Jerusalem, for the old did not live up to her calling and rejected the Lord of glory. The old Jerusalem from below was destroyed; the new Jerusalem, the heavenly Mount Zion, comes down from heaven. She is God’s work, not man’s. We do not make ourselves into what we shall one day be. God does, by his grace, after the final judgment, with a full renovation not only of heaven and earth but also of every resurrected, purified, perfected child of God. You need to come and see this, struggling believer, to cheer you on your way. The sight of your future beauty and destiny will lift your head and heart a little higher.
John saw this “in the Spirit,” so this is a divine revelation of the church’s future surpassing glory by the glory of God indwelling her. We should not be surprised to see points of connection between our Savior’s present millennial kingdom and the perfected kingdom. It is not, however, that this age will slide into the next. There will be a definitive, noisy, fiery, visible end of this present age. And then the church will be transformed and filled with God’s glory – his weightiness and worthiness, the joy and splendor of his holiness. Like a clear jasper stone – luminous crystal – she will shine as the Lamb’s wife. Our destiny is to be “without spot and blemish” in our Lord’s presence. We will shine as lights in the kingdom God has prepared for us – not because we turn into stars or angels but because our full dignity and creaturely glory as God’s image bearers will be seen. We will see ourselves and one another filled with the light of God’s glory. We shall hardly be able to bear this weight of glory – the glory of grace realized and love consummated and heaven reached.
She Is Built upon God’s Covenant and Truth
Sitting on this great and high mountain, John sees a great and high wall – 216 feet high. It is ridiculously small in comparison with the city, which is 1,500 miles long, broad, and high. God’s perfect city needs no defensive walls. The walls have twelve gates, three on each side. Many gates proclaim absolute security. On those gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The walls also have twelve foundations. On those foundations the names of the twelve apostles are written. The wife of Christ is unified – old and new covenants – there is only one church, one wife, those who receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation. God’s gospel covenant of grace revealed in the Old Testament is the gate to the city; his New Testament Scriptures given through the apostles of Jesus Christ are the city’s foundation. The Bible tells one story. There is one covenant, made with Jesus Christ, our Head and our Husband. It is not the persons of Jacob’s twelve sons or the apostles that are so highly exalted, but the covenant and truth they were chosen to represent. We are being formed to be God’s dwelling place as we are built upon his everlasting covenant and have his word written upon our hearts (Eph. 2:20-22).
Her Perfect Form and Permanence (vv. 15-21)
Nothing Lacking to Her Completion
The city is a perfect cube of colossal dimensions – 1,500 cubic miles. There is nothing esoteric here. It is not meant to make a statement about geometry. These are symbols of the perfection of Christ’s bride. In the heavenly state, we will be complete in Christ and perfectly satisfied with him. We shall lack nothing that will make us happy and holy, at perfect peace with him and with one another. The church in the new heaven and earth will have ample room for every one of God’s redeemed, without unpleasant crowding or traffic, ambition or divisions. God’s city will be well-planned, for all the gifts and grace that Jesus Christ shares with his wife will work together to one common purpose – to glorify and enjoy him, and to love one another. There will be perfect symmetry between all the peoples and gifts of our Savior’s kingdom. Under his present millennial reign, each generation must do its best to add to what came before, pull down the inferior, and continue moving toward perfection. We never achieve it. The church on earth in its best state looks like a crooked house, with uneven walls, an incomplete structure, abandoned additions, neglected grounds, sunken floors. One day, we shall be a beautiful building and bride, without spot or blemish. Here and now, we struggle to do our small part where we are, and the results are often embarrassing. Then and there, we shall be our Lord’s beautiful building. All will fit together and make one harmonious dwelling place for us to enjoy him, and for him to enjoy us. We labor to be that building and wife now, and the Lord accepts our works, for he cleanses them and accepts them as done unto him – even our small cups of water given in his name. But our best works will always bear the weakness and fallenness of this age. Let us walk humbly, not calling our works by our own names or despairing that we cannot build heaven on earth. Let us do all for the name of Christ and know that these are the works of faith and love that will follow us into heaven. They are precious to our Husband, and he will not forget them.
Precious Walls, Pearl Gates, Golden Streets
The main idea of the twelve precious stones of colors like a rainbow, is of light, preciousness, and beauty. The Old Testament priests were adorned with these stones on the official breastplate, so there is a point of connection – all God’s people will be priests! Some have looked for the signs of the zodiac in these stones, but here the order is reversed from the standard one – as if to say do not look to astrology for the meaning of these stones. Remember, this is symbolic. All the gems are precious and beautiful, brightly colored, from deepest blue to brightest green. Do these stones adorn the foundation, or are they the foundation? Either way, since the bride of Christ is being described, her beauty and worth in the eyes of her Husband is being emphasized. The doting husband may give his wife a diamond or strand of gold to express his love. Our great husband, Jesus Christ, has made us his precious stones, washed away our filth by his precious blood, and is making us living stones in his temple. Each one of us has a unique light to shine, a special gift to use and adorn the building, and a designed purpose to fulfill. At the heart of these stones are the twelve gates of pearl. The city is entered by the gospel gates. The gospel is the pearl of great price, and each of us enters this city, becomes part of this city in the same way. We have the same gospel story to share, the same divine compassion to confess, the same boast in the cross of our Savior. The golden streets in the perfect cube, layer upon layer, are made of translucent gold. The queen, his bride, stands at his right hand in “gold of Ophir” (Ps. 45:9). We cannot now grasp how precious we are to our Husband, to the Father who gave his Son in love, and to the Spirit who condescends to dwell with us. We are loved, loved, loved. Stand in awe; be humbled; bear hopefully present crosses; be inspired to seek this city.
Her Splendor and Joy (vv. 22-23)
God and the Lamb Are Her Temple
Missing from the New Jerusalem is a physical temple. The life of worship in heaven is not ceremony. God has no delight in these things. He will be worshipped simply and in a friendly way by his creatures, in spirit and truth. In the heavenly Jerusalem, God is the temple. The Lamb is the temple. The whole purpose of the old Jerusalem’s temple was to encourage and require men to worship. Fallen men worship themselves and must have guidelines for worship, or they will immediately run into excess and superstition. In heaven, we shall enjoy free and unfettered access to worship the living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We shall be holy in mind, body, and soul. We shall have God’s word so internalized that we shall be like our Savior was – our every desire being to do the will of our Father (John 8:29). And the worship – the singing and praising, the recounting and celebrating, the angelic choirs, the realization of the purpose of our creation and redemption to praise the Lord (1 Pet. 2:9). We shall have no barriers of sin, fear, or superstition, no burdensome traditions or vain ambitions – God and the Lamb will be our boast, our joy, and our praise.
Lighted by God’s Glory, and the Lamb’s
Already we have seen that the new Jerusalem will be well lighted – the shining gems, the glory of God, and the fiery angels. These all draw their light from God himself. There will be no need for the sun there, or of the moon. Whether or not heavenly counterparts of these shining orbs will continue to exist is beside the point – this is the language of exalted religious symbolism. The glory of God will be the light. The Lamb of God will be the light. God dwells in unapproachable light, but there his light will be our light. Psalm 36:9 will be realized – personally and perfectly, and in ways we as perfected creatures will be able to endure and enjoy. The Shekinah of God will be our light, and we shall be in the light as he is in the light. You may feel like you are walking in darkness now, even as a Christian, perplexed by doubts and confused by life. Come and see what you will one day be, as Jesus Christ has promised and as you believe in his name. Your doubts and confusions will be driven away, your cold heart made perfectly alive and warm to feel and think and relate as you should. Let this be a strong incentive to us to hold fast to Jesus Christ now, the light of the world. One day, he will be our only light, and he will drive away our darkness forever. We shall shine in holiness, peace, praise, and contentedness. God will be the song of our life. There will be no shadow of darkness around the edges of our existence, a shard of fear that all this bliss will end. It will shine more and more.
Her Purity and Peace (vv. 24-27)
All Glory and Honor from All Saved Peoples to Her
Who will come to this place and live in this city, be this city? All saved peoples. By nations we should not think we shall be waving our present national flags in heaven. The thought is absurd and would greatly diminish heaven’s desirability and perfection. We have already heard one of heaven’s grand songs: “You have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). All the saved peoples from every nation will be there walking in the light of the city. Saved is the key word here. Nations, peoples, families need saving – all of them. All are fallen, dead and cursed because of sin, walking in blindness. God commands all men to repent (Acts 17:31). This is always missed when the banners of national and ethnic pride are waving. All the unsaved from every nation, from the most notable families of the earth, will be thrown into the lake of fire. The only thing that makes any difference at all is the saving grace of God (1 Cor. 4:7). Then, families and peoples can bring their glory and honor to God’s city, for they themselves are accepted by the blood of Jesus Christ. Our persons must be accepted before our works are. In him, all that we are will be consecrated to our Husband and be enjoyed by the entire city of God – all the individual, unique gifts, all the talents our Savior’s so graciously disperses, all the gifts of art and science, craft and trade, philosophy and creativity – all will be dedicated to the honor of Jesus Christ. And the gates will be opened to the saved all day – there is no night in heaven, no twilight of fear or sin, nothing of our former darkness and unbelief. If we love our countrymen, as the apostle did, our own peoples and families, then labor to make sure they are in heaven. We must call them to come to Christ, else they and all their works, all their dreams and pride, will be thrown into the lake of fire.
No Defilement, No Abominations, No Lies
For no one will enter heaven who in this life did not repent of his defilements and abominations. The first word means profane, and the second is often connected to idolatry. We cannot enter heaven and have on earth other gods before us – gods of gold, self, or fantasy. All liars have their part in the lake of fire that burns forever (21:8). Politicians beware if your stock and trade is lies and compromise. Be warned, progressive religionists who lie by twisting God’s truth, self-promoters, and influencers on social media. God loves truth, and in his heavenly city, only truth-tellers are citizens. When we see these sins in our lives, do not despair but repent. Do not hide and cover your sins but confess and forsake them. Our Lord gave this description to warn us to flee from the wrath to come. He wants us to come, believe, and be cleansed. He will purge our foulest spots and give us a clean record by his imputed righteousness. As you examine yourself, do not compare yourself to others but to God himself. It is in the light of his purity we are judged. We all have dark corners of profane unholy thoughts and desires. We are all idol worshippers, creature lovers, pleasure seekers, until Jesus Christ comes and burns down the factory of idols in our hearts and begins building his holy city in us. Come to him, and he will begin to form heavenly citizenship in you – holiness, love for truth, grief over unbelief and wickedness, horror at sin, and zeal for the Father’s honor so that you cannot bear to have his name blasphemed, his worship neglected, his law trampled, and his authority ignored. Christ Jesus, the faithful husband, will work this grace in you.
Look upon the Lamb’s Wife, and Believe in the Lamb
I have done a poor job setting forth the beauty of the Lamb’s wife, but please, come and look upon her in God’s word. Study her carefully. Aspire to be this woman, to be a citizen of this city. Only the Lamb can bring you here. No one comes to the Father except through him. Would you know God’s friendly side? Look to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Would you be at peace with God and assured that you will one day take your place in this city? Would you have God’s glory for your light, his smile as your reward, his fellowship as your satisfaction? You must have Jesus Christ for your Husband, for he is the only one who can make you fit for heaven. Stop trying to improve yourself as the way to heaven and peace. Stop trusting the means of grace, unless by them you are seeking Jesus Christ. Many are Bible experts, but strangers to God. Without the love of God and seeking him with your whole heart, proximity to holy things may be your downfall. You must have the love of God in your heart. You must love your husband, Jesus Christ, and desire him above all. Love him. Hold fast to him as your Redeemer. Trust his blood as your only cleansing and his obedience as your only righteousness. Love him as the humble Son of God who took upon him the form of a servant to make you a king or queen in heaven. Love him. Love him for dying for you, for bearing his wife’s curse at Calvary. Love your husband, church of God, wife of the Lamb. Love Jesus Christ. If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus, God’s curse rests upon him (1 Cor. 16:22).