Jerusalem the Golden

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Revelation 21:9-26 | June 16 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
June 16
Jerusalem the Golden | Revelation 21:9-26
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Father in heaven, give us now ears to hear and the eyes of faith that we may receive all that You have for us in Your Word.  What a good Word it is and what a glorious passage we come to this morning.  So it may not rest upon us lightly but stir up within us great joy and longing and gratitude.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.   

Our text this morning comes from Revelation chapter 21, the last book in the Bible, the second to last chapter.  Revelation 21, verses 9 through 27, the end of the chapter.  Revelation 21, beginning at verse 9.

“Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed — on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.  And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

“And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.  The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width.  And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia.  Its length and width and height are equal.  He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement.  The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.  The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel.  The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.  And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.”

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there.  They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.  But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

If you grew up going to school in this country, I bet at some point as a child you had to read Where the Red Fern Grows.  I definitely remember reading that when I was in school.  I remember thinking to myself, well, this is kind of a fun, sweet story about a couple of dogs and then boom!  I don’t want to ruin it for you but it’s kind of sad ending.  In fact, if you’re ever reading literature that focuses on a dog, you just know something bad is going to happen.  It’s going to be a sad ending.  It’s not going to be happily ever after.

One of my children, though he disputes this, but it seems to our recollection that when he was assigned this book never quite finished it so we have always joked with him that he was going to go throughout life telling people, “Hey, have you read Where the Red Fern Grows?  Man, that’s a great story.  Happy ending.  Isn’t it?” without knowing how the book ends and the two dogs sadly do not make it.

You may go through your whole life confused and confusing people if you don’t know how the story ends.  Imagine reading a story like that or some other piece of literature, especially if it has some twist at the end, “Hey, did you know that Darth Vader was Luke’s father?  Wow.”  If you don’t know the end of the story, you can go through life very confused and confusing to other people.

People sometimes talk, rather foolishly, as if all of the religions of the world teach roughly the same thing.  Well, that’s patently false.  If you look at the religious traditions around the world, they don’t agree on how things start, they don’t agree on what our problem is, they don’t agree on what the solution is, and they don’t agree on how things end.

Now there’s other ways to talk about a worldview, but those are four basic questions:  How did things start?  What’s our problem?  What’s the solution?  How do things end?

They don’t agree on the end of the story. 

In Buddhism, the goal is nirvana, a state of enlightenment where all craving and desire is eliminated.  In some strands of fold Buddhism it is a kind of heaven.  In other strands, you just cease to exist.

In Hinduism, the goal is moksha, to be released from samsara, that is, the cycle of reincarnation.

In Islam, at least part of the reward in heaven is for men to be surrounded with beautiful woman.  Surah 78 in the Quran says, “As for the righteous they shall surely triumph.  Theirs shall be gardens and vineyards and high-bosomed maidens for companions, a truly overflowing cup.”  That’s from the Quran, part of the vision of virgins.

In Scientology, once you are set free from all of your bad memories, you become a “clear” and eventually you can become a supreme being.

In Mormonism, there is a threefold reward – a telestial kingdom, a terrestrial kingdom, and the celestial kingdom.  The celestial kingdom is reserved for those who have been properly baptized in a Mormon temple.  In this kingdom we live forever in God’s presence and we live, Mormon theology says, as gods and goddesses with our forever family, only those who qualify, and we continue to procreate.  Very few attain to this level of heaven and there is then the possibility of having your own planet for your forever family.

In Christianity, however, there is one hell, there is one heaven.  The vision of heaven centers on two realities – God and His people.

You notice in these passages in Revelation 21 and 22, and really throughout the book of Revelation, we don’t have a detailed description of what we will be doing.  Will you be reading books?  Will you be gardening?  Will you be exercising?  Will you continue to learn?  And play the piano?  What will you be doing?  We’re not told much except singing, so get used to it.  I hope you like it.  We’re not told what our relationships will be like except we’re actually told you won’t be married because as good as marriage is supposed to be here on earth, it is just a passing fancy for the greater marriage to come.

We aren’t told a lot about our surroundings.  These pictures here in Revelation 21 are not meant to be taken literally.  You would get very confused if you started to think of a literal picture.  Okay, it’s a bride, so you’ve got one picture a bride, but it’s a bride who’s a city and it’s a city that’s a cube with 1400 miles high into the atmosphere. 

No, this is not so much a picture of what we will be doing, or what heaven will be like, it is rather a picture of what we will be like.  That’s what God wants to tell us.  What will you, if you belong to Christ, be like?  What will we collectively be like in the new heavens and new earth?

The imagery is fluid, it’s overlapping, it’s repeating.  It’s not literal.  The Church is like a bride, there’s that image.  And then it’s like a city.  The Bible describes heaven by describing what we are like in heaven, what God is like, and what God and His people are like together.

So I want you to notice four things about heaven from this passage.  This is the new heavens and the new earth at the end of the age.  Four things:  Heaven is beautiful, safe, holy, and glorious.

Number one.  Heaven is beautiful.

We are meant very deliberately to draw a contrast between the picture of this woman and the woman who came earlier, that is the prostitute Babylon.  So keep a finger there in chapter 21.  Turn back to chapter 17.  Once you see this, you won’t be able to un-see it because the comparison is very obvious.  You read in chapter 17, “then one of the seen angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’  So one of the seven angels with the seven bowls comes and says, “Come with me, I’m going to show you a vision of this woman.” 

Then look at verse 3.  ” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness,” and look at this woman.  “I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, had seven heads and ten horns.  The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls.”  So there is something about this woman, this prostitute Babylon, who is alluring but look at what she’s really like:  “Holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.”

This vision really goes from chapter 17, chapter 18, into the chapter 19, and look at how it ends.  Turn the page, chapter 19 verse 9.  This whole vision runs together and then 19:9, “the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said, “These are the true words of God.””

Then verse 10:  “I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, “You must not do that!  I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.””

So notice the outline of this vision of Babylon.  One of the seven angels with the seven bowls says, “Come,” and then in the Spirit led away to a lookout point where John sees this woman, and at the end of the vision the word are affirmed by saying, “yes, truly,” and then John kneels to worship at the sight of this angel and is rebuked, saying, “Don’t worship me.” 

We see the exact same outline here in chapter 21.  So now go back to 21.  Having just seen that with the prostitute, now look at the bride.  Verse 9 again:  “Then came one of the seven angels,” same exact introduction, “who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you,” but not the prostitute here, but “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.””

And, just like with Babylon, he’s carried away.  Verse 10:  “And he carried me away in the Spirit,” to a lookout point, “a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem.”

Now the ending of this vision comes in chapter 22.  We didn’t read it, but look at it there in chapter 22, verse 6, because it ends in the very same way that the vision of the prostitute ended.  22:6:  “He said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true.””  Well, that’s exactly what he said at the end of the previous vision.

Then look at verse 8:  “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things.  And when I heard and saw them,” same ending, “I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.””

Exactly the same outline.  Last angel comes in the Spirit, come with me to a high place, I’ll show you this woman, a prostitute.  Now I’ll show you this woman, the bride.

Four times in Revelation, only four times, John is said to be in the Spirit.  The first time in chapter 1, he is shown Christ.  Then in chapter 4 he is shown God.  Then in chapter 17 he is shown Babylon, the anti-Church.  And now in chapter 21 he is shown the New Jerusalem, the bride, the real woman.

You see how we’re supposed to make this comparison.  The New Jerusalem, the wife ready for her husband Christ, is a beautiful bride.

Now notice something here.  The prostitute Babylon had some of the same refineries, she had some of the same deliberate clothing and luxurious look about her, but she was not beautiful.  Here’s a little application for all of you – there is a difference between dressing in a way that is alluring, attractive, tempting, and in a way that is beautiful.  To be beautiful is good.  Scripture looks up to beauty all throughout its pages.  But the prostitute had a certain enticement.  It got peoples’ attention but when you got closer and you saw what was really there, it was full of abominations.  It was not pure.  It was defiled.  Only this woman is truly beautiful.

There is with the bride, the city, a dissimilarity to Babylon but a likeness to God.  You see there in chapter 21, verse 11, “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a Jasper.”  If there is any sort of description of God in just one word throughout Revelation, strangely enough it’s that word.  How often that God is compared to a jasper.  It’s not something we talk about often.  You can look it up and see what it’s like.

But here, the city, because it has a similarity to God, is described like that precious jewel, a jasper clear as crystal.

We saw that back in chapter 4, the One who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and before it, before him, there was a sea of glass, clear as crystal.  So this is the description that we encountered in chapter 4 of God Almighty and now what God looks like, the Church looks like.  The Church is so full of God that she radiates His beauty.  That’s what we will be like.  That’s what we are meant to be like here on earth, to spend so much time, to be so much in the presence of God that we cannot help radiate the beauty of God.

Remember Moses when he went up on the mountain?  His face was all aglow because he had been with God face-to-face and he could not help but reflect something of the beauty and the radiance of God Himself.

Have you ever gone to the store and you get a Frisbee and you get one of those glow-in-the-dark Frisbees?  But when you get a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee, it doesn’t do much for light.  I remember as a kid getting those and you’ve got to put it on top of a lamp, and your mom says you’re going to set the house on fire, and you say okay, I’ll watch it, and then you’ve got to let that glow-in-the-dark object sit on the lamp.  You’re impatient and you do it for a minute and then you go into the closet and it barely flickers.  But if you leave it there for an hour and you don’t burn down the house, and then you go and you take that thing in the middle of the night, it is a glow.  Why?  Because it has spent time with the light and it radiates the glory and the beauty.  You didn’t know that Frisbees worked into this message about heaven.

We reflect the things we are around.  We are, you’ve heard this many times before, we become what we behold.  Okay, that’s a good line, sounds very spiritual.  Let me put it a little different way – we are what we pay attention to.  What are you paying attention to?  Because that will shape.  You don’t have to tell yourself.  You will become what you pay attention to. 

Which is the great danger of those devices that we have in our pockets?  Not only that it has some content that’s bad, but it just has lots of content that’s trivial, ephemeral.  We only have so much attention and you and I will become and reflect what we pay attention to.  This Church has become beautiful because it reflects and radiates the God in whose presence she dwells.     

So number one, heaven is beautiful.

Number two – heaven is safe.

There are walls.  That’s what the imagery of walls are.  Walls keep a city safe.  In the ancient world, in particular, you don’t have planes, you don’t have bombs, you don’t have missile defense systems.  That’s why we read all the successful kings built fortified cities.  That’s why Nehemiah was about what?  He was rebuilding the wall.  Because especially in the ancient world you’re not safe if you don’t have a wall.

So the angel comes and he’s got a golden measuring rod to measure the city.  The imagery of measuring it is to say it’s done.  It’s like that vision of the temple in Zechariah with the plumb line, that you get out and you stand back and the work is complete and now it’s sort of the safety inspector ready to sign off and you can inhabit this.  So the golden measuring stick measures it out, it’s all complete.  They’re finished, they’re certified, they’re established.  It’s length, you see verse 16, and width and height are equal.  It has great, massive walls to keep us safe.

One of the things that occurred to me in working on this is Ephesians 3:18, “that you might know the height and the width and the depth and the length of the love of God that He has for you.”  These walls are one way of measuring God’s love for you.

When you read that passage, the height, the width, the length.  These walls are the literal visionary fulfillment of the love of God.  It is so long and so high and so wide and so deep that nothing can come and disturb God’s people in this heaven.

Now it may seem strange at first.  You have this depiction of these walls which go all the way up into the atmosphere.  These are massive walls, massively thick, and then they have gates and there’s a great description of the gates, but the gates are never shut.  Well, why’d you build the walls if you keep the gates open?  Well, the imagery is trying to tell us two things at the same time, really the same thing.  You have these massive walls because all is secure and yet you keep the gates open because there is nothing out in the possible realm of God’s created world that can ever disturb those who are in heaven.  There are no threats.

A whole lot of people whose lives depend upon people not being trustworthy.  That is good.  Thankful for all of our police officers, thankful for people who work in cybersecurity, thankful for people who make the Ring camera outside.  All of the things that we have to do because we know in this world we are not totally secure.  We are not 100% safe.  There are enemies, there are intruders, they are in opposition.

So when Revelation says, Here’s the picture of heaven.  The gates, they’re never shut by day, verse 25, and there’s no night.  That’s a way of saying you don’t need locks in heaven.  You don’t need metal detectors.  You don’t need TSA pre.  You don’t need it.  The gates are always open.  All is safe in the world. 

Now I promise you, I will not tell you about our chickens every week.  I can’t even remember why I mentioned our seven chickens last week, but I have to sadly inform you that we have six chickens this week.  I promise we did not plan this because of this text, but I could not help but mention that at night we left the gate open and some animal, a fox or something, went in and yes, one of the chickens was strewn about with feathers.  So we are not yet in the new heavens and the new earth where you can leave.  We even built a fence.  We were trying to live out Revelation 21 and we had some over-realized eschatology.  There was some not yet, not as much already.

But in heaven you leave the gates open.  There’s no intruders, there’s no foxes to get your chickens.  All is safe, all is secure.  Have you ever been in a place where you felt that?  Hopefully some of you have had the blessing of having a home like that, or maybe you’ve been in a place where there was great social cohesion and peace and safety.

I remember our first place where we lived in Orange City, Iowa, a little town in the Dutch buckle of the Bible belt up there.  I hope it’s still like this, but very, very safe and people know each other.  It was not uncommon, especially in the cold Iowa winter, you would leave your car running when you went into the grocery store.  So you just, it’s cold, you don’t want your car to get cold, so you just leave it running with the heat on and you go to the little grocery store in town, not the bigger town, but in town, and you pull up, no one’s in it, all the cars are running.  I mentioned that one time in a sermon and a police officer in our church rightly said, “Well, Kevin, you just made yourself an easy target.  Everyone knows that you leave your car running at the grocery store.”  But nothing ever happened.  Not that they don’t have crime, certainly have sinners there.

But I remember when we first moved there and somebody came up to us later the next week or two and said, “Pastor, we stopped by your house and all the doors were locked.”  I said, “I know.  None of us were there.”  He said, “What are you doing?  How are we supposed to bring you things if you leave your doors locked?”  He said, “Are you sure?  Nobody locks our doors.”  So sure enough, we left our doors unlocked, the next say we had a washer and dryer.  Just let us know when we should leave our doors unlocked, when you’re all stopping by with things.  It was that kind of place.

Now there’s sin and there’s things that weren’t safe, and yes, they still had police officers, but a little picture.  Don’t you want a place where you don’t have to worry about locks?  You don’t have to worry about bad guys on the streets?

We don’t have that guarantee here on earth.  We have to take risks.  We will suffer.  But in the world to come, no tears, we saw that, no sea, no night, no gates to be shut, to be barred, because all is safe in the presence of God.  Jesus is what?  He is the Prince of Peace, after all, and this is a place of great peace.

Heaven is also, number three, holy. 

Holy, as you’ve heard before, means set apart.  We don’t do so well with this in our culture of having things set apart.  Maybe some of you still, especially if you’re older, you have a china cabinet and you have your fine china.  We have it.  We never, ever, ever use it.  Maybe you have a fancy dress, a suit.  We don’t have many holy artifacts.  We don’t have very many things set apart.  We live in a time that’s very informal.

But in the Old Testament, there was lots of imagery to rely on, to convey this idea of holiness, that this is something not profane, not ordinary, but set apart.

One of the things in this text is the number 12.  Number 12 is not so much a symbol of holiness but it is a numerical symbol for God’s holy people.  We’ve seen this before – 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of the Lamb.  In chapter 24 and elsewhere we’ve seen 24 elders around the throne, because that’s 12 plus 12.

Notice in this passage there are 12 stones, 12 foundations, 12 gates.  The length of the wall 12,000 stadia, or rather the measuring of the city 12,000 stadia.  In fact, by one count, there are 12 12’s in this passage; if you count 144 cubits as 12 times 12, then there are 12 12’s.  All of these.  The city, in fact, is built as a cube.

I know some of you, in a sermon, because I do this in sermons, you doodle on your page, and my go-to doodle was always to draw a cube once I learned how to do that.  You do one square like this, you do another square in the bottom corner, you connect the lines, and it’s a 3-dimensional cube.  How many edges are on a cube?  12 edges on a cube, and each edge is 12,000 stadia.  12 times 12,000, 144,000.  We’ve seen that number before, which is the number for the totality of God’s people.  So the 12’s indicate God’s holy people.

Then we have these precious stones, verses 19 through 21.  In Ezekiel 28 the text compares the glory of Tyre to Eden.  You were in Eden, the garden of God, every precious stone adored you, ruby, topaz, emerald, chrysolite, onyx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise, beryl.  So these are the same stones that were said to adorn the beauty of the garden of Eden.

And, even more importantly, these are the same stones that were arrayed, 12 of them, in the breastplate of the high priest, in Exodus 28.  There we read that the high priest on this breastplate had four rows of three stones.  The first row, sardius, topaz, carbuncle.  The second row, emerald, sapphire, diamond.  The third, jacinth, agate, amethyst.  The fourth, beryl, onyx, again jasper.

Now it’s hard to translate in both Hebrew and Greek and know exactly what’s the best English word for these stones, so in your English Bible they don’t all match up exactly.  Eight of them do and I think four of them are a little bit different, but that may just be a translation issue. 

Obviously, we are meant to detect with these 12 precious stones the 12 stones that would be in the breastplate of the high priest because heaven is depicted as holy, like God’s holy people, the 12’s, like God’s holy high priests with the stones, and most obviously, by the temple itself.

Now what is a temple?  A temple is the place where God dwells.

Now the Bible says unlike the pagan religions, God didn’t actually dwell there.  He doesn’t actually need a building made with human hands, but it was still a symbolic representation.

1 Kings 6:13 – the Lord says, I will meet you there at the construction of the temple.   So there the ark of the covenant was the glory seat where the cloud would descend and God was said to dwell in the temple.

The tabernacle in Leviticus was there in the middle of the camp because God dwelt there and everyone needed to be holy because how can unholy people dwell in the midst of a holy God.  This imagery, tabernacle, temple, means God lives there.

So of course it’s wonderfully striking, verse 22 – this heavenly city, no temple.

Now you might say at first, well, I would like to go and visit God’s presence in the temple, but of course that’s the point.  You don’t need a temple in the New Jerusalem because God’s presence is in all and all in all.  Everywhere.  There is no place that you can just say, well, there is the special place of God’s dwelling.  No, this whole heaven has become the special place of God’s dwelling.

Hebrews 8 says the high priest serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.  See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.

We miss that sometimes, that the tabernacle was meant to be a copy of what is in heaven.

Now, again, we’re dealing with visions and so don’t get too spatial, but there’s this picture of this heavenly reality and the tabernacle was meant to be that sort of blueprint.  Okay, I’m seeing this, this is a copy.  Well, once you have the reality, you don’t need the copy.  Once you have the structure built, then you don’t need the blueprints anymore.

So there’s no temple.

Remember the covenant promise?  I will be your God and you will be My people.  Well, we are looking forward to a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God.  The New Jerusalem does not have a temple because God is the temple.  In fact, God’s people are the temple so that all of this heavenly reality is living in the temple of God’s presence. 

Perhaps you’ve noticed this before, that the dimensions of the new Jerusalem, a cube, 12,000 stadia on every side.  That works out to be about 1400 miles.  So again not to be taken literally, but you think this city, it’s a very big city.  It’s about halfway across the continental United States, maybe from top to bottom of the United States, and then you’ve got 1400 miles up in the orbiting path of some manmade satellite.  So this is a ginormous cube, is what the Greek would say. 

The walls are 144 cubits, 216 feet, which probably is a measure of their thickness, 216 feet.  This is a very high, very thick wall.  But it is a cube, 12,000 by 12,000 by 12,000.  As you probably remember, there is only one other cubic dimension given in the whole Bible, only one other structure, that is measured as a cube, the same with its height and its width and its length.  1 Kings 6:20, the inner sanctuary, that is the holy of holies, was 20 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, 20 cubits high.  The only other cube in the Bible is the holy of holies.

It could not be any more obvious.  There is no temple in heaven because we are all living in the temple.  Not only has the curtain been torn, but now all of our lived reality is as holy as if we were the high priest and only the high priest could come and only but once a year and only with the proper washing and attire to enter into the holiest place, that cube.  Now that reality is forever and ever the reality of heaven.  Not just that we have entered the holy of holies but we have become the holy of holies.

Zechariah chapter 14.  I love how it ends.  It’s another apocalyptic vision and it looks forward to the end of the age and it says, “And on that day,” thinking about a heavenly reality, “on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, ‘Holy to the Lord.'”

You think, well, what’s so great about that passage.  The bells of the horses.  Holy to the Lord is what was inscribed on the holy artifacts that were used in the temple, the certain utensils that only the priests, or only the high priests, could do.  There were certain things.  All the rest are your paper plates and your plastic silverware and this was the fine China, but to bring out only once a year, that’s holy.  And now Zechariah says, “You want to know what it’s like in the new heavens and the new earth?  The bells on the horses say, ‘Holy to the Lord.'”  Everything is holy unto the Lord.

How might we say it?  You will be in heaven a tuxedo.  Okay, you don’t like wearing a tuxedo.  You’ll be a diamond ring, a crystal vase, fine China, a wedding dress.  There will be nothing plain or ordinary about you.  You and all of us, whatever our imperfections now, will be made pure and we will be as a holy of holies, the holiest place, and all that exists in this heaven will be holy.  We ourselves will be that sanctuary.

Finally, we see that heaven is glorious.

You see this all throughout the passage.  We already saw it.  Verse 11, having the glory of God.  We see it here in this last paragraph, verses 22 through 27.  There is no need for a sun or moon.

Remember when God created in Genesis 1 the greater light to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night so that there is a sun to illumine the day and even some radiance of light to illumine the night.  No need for sun or moon to shine on it.

Now perhaps there still will be literally a sun and a moon.  What this is simply saying is there is no need for it.  In this vision, metaphorically, you don’t need it, you don’t need these created things in order to give light because the uncreated God of the universe shines.  The Father is the light, the Lamb is the lamp.

So you can think about it in a way.  The sun.  Now it’s been hot this week.  You go out and you want some shade and it’s a blistering sun.  It’ll only get hotter throughout the summer.  You think about that sun and all of its intensity and all of its brilliance.  At noon you wouldn’t dare to look straight into the sun.  That sun is simply biding its time, preparing the way when its work will be done and a brighter light shining with greater glory will illumine for all time.  That is God and the Lamb and the Church, like the moon radiates the light of the sun, the Church will radiate the glory and the brilliance of God Himself.

Notice verses 24 and 26.  These may be verses we haven’t considered much before.  Have you noticed them?  By its light will the nations walk and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.  We read the same thing in verse 26 – they will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations. 

If you’ve been paying attention, you realize that almost every time kings have been mentioned so far, they are judged.  The kings of the earth mount a resistance against God and the Lamb.  And while we’ve seen that there are many nations around the throne, we’ve also seen the nations gather to attack God at the battle of Gog and Magog, or Armageddon, or the Euphrates River.  It goes by many different names here.  The kings and the nations are often in rebellion against God.

But here we see that not all will be.  It’s one of the reasons why I don’t think we should think that everything just gets worse, worse, worse, nor do I think we have a post-millennial kind of vision where at the end of the age the world is so Christianized that there’s hardly any opposition to Him.  No, what have we seen here time and again?  That there are those who have mounted up in resistance to God at the end of the age, the nations and the kings, but yet here we see the nations, I think it means certainly those of the nations, those of tribes and tongues and languages and peoples, and also some of the kings bring their glory into the new Jerusalem.

Here’s how Tom Schreiner puts it in his commentary:  John’s point, listen to this, is that everything beautiful and lovely from the old creation is in the new creation.  There is nothing from this world that brings delight and joy that will not be in the future world.  I might put a parentheses there – whatever is truly of God, there are things we delight in that we shouldn’t, but things that are truly of God but all things will be transformed and escalated.  Every beautiful thing from the old world is given to God and brings Him praise.

Something of the glory of the United States of America, I don’t know what that is.  A building, a piece of literature, a piece of art, a piece of music, some legacy, but the glory of the nations, whatever, as Schreiner say, is beautiful and delightful and joyful, the kings bring to the new Jerusalem.

You know where else this happens?  This is at the second Advent, but of course we know this happened at the first Advent, when the magi, the wise men from the East, came.  What did they bring unto the King of kings?  There into Bethlehem but they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the glory of the kings and of the nations.  They were anticipating what was to come as they recognized barely even understanding themselves, who this little child would be.

Well, now at the end of the age, when He returns, the kings and the nations will bring their glory into it.

Notice this picture is of a great and glorious Church.  Not just compared with Babylon.  We’ve seen that.  But think about.  Compared to as she is on earth, Revelation is so wise because on the one hand Revelation tells us what we’re really like here on earth.  Think about the churches in Revelation 2 and 3.  Those churches have all sorts of problems, some of them are loveless, some of them are over tolerant, some of them have good doctrine and they don’t care for people, some of them are really warm and inviting and they have bad doctrine.  So Revelation is not unrealistic about how the Church has sin and struggle here on earth.

But do you see this glorious picture of the Church?  Some people seem to make a living today simply telling non-Christians how bad the Church is, but if you have the eyes of faith, and if you are willing to look and be humble enough, you will see amazing things.  Yes, amazing things to come, but even amazing things in the Church today.

Perhaps you’ve encountered this from C.S. Lewis before.  He was reflecting on his conversion and how at first he thought to himself, “I don’t knee the Church,” he thought, “I can follow God by reading good books and thinking to myself.”  In fact, he found church sort of distasteful and he was kind of annoyed with the people in church, an experience none of us have ever had.

Here’s what he writes, this has always been moving to me.  He’s talking about going to church:  “I disliked very much their hymns,” they didn’t have a Nathan George yet, “which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music.  But as I went on I saw the great merit of it.  I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off.  I realized that the hymns (which were sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize  you aren’t fit to clean those boots.  It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”

It’s the eyes of faith, it’s the eyes of humility.  There are, no doubt, people in this church who may not be your equal in status or education or worldly attainment and yet you’re not fit to clean their very boots as they sing and live with such faith and worship.

Remember, this picture, which I’ve been calling heaven, is actually a picture not so much of a place but of a people.  It’s a picture of us.

Do you see the final warning in verse 27?  Again, Revelation wants to bring us to a point of decision.  Which city will you live in?  Which woman will you be?  There is in this new Jerusalem nothing unclean, nothing detestable, nothing false.  Only those washed by the blood of the Lamb, whose names are in this book, will be in this city.

In Joel Beeke’s commentary, he mentions this illustration.  He says in the little village of Domremy, to my French speakers I apologize, it’s the birth place of Joan of Arc.  For centuries this little village did not pay any taxes because in 1429 Charles VII asked Joan of Arc what he could do to show appreciation for her support and for her fighting against the English, and her request she said she wanted her hometown exempt from taxes forever.  So for many years there was a notation in the tax books, la Pucelle, the Maid, because Joan of Arc was often called the “The Maid of Orleans.”  For her sake, la Pucelle, written on the record, the payments were remitted.  It was said upon her request that they would be remitted forever. 

But here’s the sad twist in the story, because I looked it up.  During the French Revolution 350 years later, the village was made to pay taxes again and does so to this day.  With the government, sometimes forever is not forever.  So they have death and taxes.

But there’s only forever here in this book, in this place, in this village to go throughout the book.  It won’t say the Maid, of course, but perhaps it says in Latin, Agnus Dei, Agnus Dei, Agnus Dei, Lamb of God.  And all that you pay, all that you ought to pay in your sins, all the punishment and the penalties we deserve, Agnus Dei, paid up in full.  Not for 350 years, but for age upon age and forever.

Does it say that by your name?  Let us live now for the bride we will be later. 

Let’s pray.  Heavenly Father, we give thanks for Your Word, for all Your promises yes and amen in Christ.  As these things will be of us in the age to come, may we aspire to them now and give us the eyes of faith that we may see them in one another.  Forgive us for our sins; they are many.  Make us to be beautiful, secure in Your love, holy in Your presence, glorious in Your radiance.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.