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Revelation 9 - The Bride Jerusalem (21:9 - 22:9)

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Related articles

Introduction to the Book of Revelation Four main views of Revelation
1: Prologue (1:1-8) 2: Letters to seven churches (1:9 - 3:22)
3: Seven Seals (4:1 - 8:1) 4: Seven trumpets (8:2 - 11:18)
5: Seven signs (11:19 - 15:4) 6: Seven Bowls (15:5 - 16:21)
7: Prostitute / Babylon (17:1 - 19:10) 8: Seven judgements (19:11 - 21:8)
9: Bride / Jerusalem (21:9 - 22:9) 10: Epilogue (22:10-21)
Virtual Seven Churches Jesus the Lamb
Millennium Rapture and tribulation

Outline: (Seven objects in the city)

Setting (21:9-21): John taken in the Spirit to a great high mountain to see the bride Jerusalem
Object 1 (21:22): No temple, as temple is God and the Lamb
Object 2 (21:23-24): No sun or moon, as glory of God is light
Object 3 (21:25-27): Gates never shut, no night
Object 4 (22:1-2a): River of water of life from throne
Object 5 (22:2b): The tree of life with twelve kinds of fruit
Object 6 (22:3-4): Nothing accursed, saints before throne of God
Object 7 (22:5): No night, no light of lamp or sun, Lord God is light
Conclusion (22:6-9)

Setting (21:9-21): John taken in the Spirit to a great high mountain to see the bride Jerusalem

The previous section of the seven scenes of judgement ended with John seeing the bride Jerusalem descending from heaven to the renewed earth (21:1-4). That was a preview of the more detailed vision that follows in this new section.

This vision is certainly not intended to be taken literally. If we attempt to do that, we create the impossibility of a city which is both a square and a cube (21:16). Instead, this passage records what John actually saw in his vision, but the symbolism of his vision needs to be interpreted carefully. John saw a vision of a great city, but the city is the bride. It is God’s people, the saints, enjoying the presence of God himself, where they see him face to face. It describes the glorious future awaiting the saints in which there is no more suffering, no more sin, and no more death. As we read about the new Jerusalem, we should note that in Christ we already enjoy a foretaste of what is being described. Through the rest of the NT, we will see that the spiritual blessings of the future have been made available to us now in Christ. For example, we can be part of the kingdom of God now, even though we are still waiting for its full consummation. We have received salvation now, but are waiting for that to come in its fullness. This paradox is often described as the 'now, but not yet'. In the same way, we can enjoy the relationship with God described in this passage in our lives today, as a foretaste of the time when that will be even better, when we will live forever, without sin, suffering or death.

Again the new section begins with a setting, in which John is invited to see the bride Jerusalem. The setting also gives a description of his vision and of the city being measured. Then a series of seven statements follows, each describing something which is in the city, or something which is not needed in the city. This is the second invitation John has received from the angel. The first was to see the judgement of the great whore, who was the great city Babylon (17:1). Now he is invited to see the bride, who is also the holy city Jerusalem. We noted before that these two sections are introduced with almost identical wording. This reinforces the contrast between these two women or cities - the contrast between the unbelievers and the saints. Please refer again to the chart at the beginning of chapter seven which shows the parallels between these two sections of the book.

Vision of bride / Jerusalem (21:9-14)

Again John receives an invitation from one of the angels who poured out the seven bowls. He invites John to come and see the bride, who is the wife of the Lamb. This is the fourth time the phrase 'in the Spirit' appears (also 1:10, 4:2, 17:3). Again there is a change of scene, as the angel takes John to a great high mountain to see the bride, who is actually the holy city Jerusalem. The high mountain probably represents the holy mountain of God, Mt. Zion. As seen before (21:2), the city is coming down out of heaven from God. The city is the work of God alone, something he has created, a work of his grace - the church of Jesus Christ. Each member of the church has been saved by his grace. The city has the glory of God, it contains the real presence of God, in contrast to the earthly Jerusalem temple, from which the glory had departed. The city has the radiance of a rare jewel, clear as crystal. It is a source of light, just as the believers shine like stars in a dark world (Phil 2:15).

The most important characteristic of the city is that it belongs to the Lamb. In the description of the city, the Lamb is central, being named seven times (21:9,14,22,23,27, 22:1,3). He is there with his people, where they worship him and his Father enthroned in glory.

As in several other places in the NT, the church is described as a building (1 Cor 3:9), or a temple (1 Cor 3:16), which belongs to God, and in which God dwells. “In him the whole structure is joined together and grows in to a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” (Eph 2:19-20), and “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). John’s vision of the heavenly city alludes back to Ezekiel’s vision of a great city (Ezek 40:1-4), which has several similar characteristics, including being square with three gates on each side named after the twelve tribes of Israel (Ezek 48:16,30-35). John’s vision merges Isaiah’s vision of a new heaven and earth (Is 65:17-25) with Ezekiel’s vision of the temple (Ezek 40-44).

The numbers in the heavenly city are all twelves, or multiples of twelve. Through the rest of the Bible, and in apocalyptic writings, twelve was the number associated with God’s people, his covenant community. The city has twelve gates, with twelve angels guarding them. The gates have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel , God’s OT community. The walls and gates show that the city is secure, being protected from evil, and that access to it is limited.

The wall also has twelve foundations, which are named after the twelve apostles. God’s people from both OT times and NT times are brought together into one people as the bride of the Lamb. Paul said a similar thing when he said that the church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20). The message of the apostles, as the eye-witnesses of the resurrected Jesus, is the foundation on which the church is built.

Measuring the city (21:15-21)

The angel who talked with John measured the city and its walls, just as Ezekiel’s city was measured (Ezek 40:3-5). Measuring was normally for protection and for setting the limits. The city that was square, now appears to be cubic. The length of one side was one thousand five hundred miles, making a huge cube. The measurement in the original Greek is twelve thousand stadia (or furlongs), so it is again a multiple of twelve. Interestingly, if we add up the total length of the sides of the city: twelve thousand time twelve (a cube has six sides, but twelve edges) we get 144,000, the number of the sealed servants of God (7:4), and of the saints with the Lamb on Mt. Zion (14:1).

A cubic square city with a wall is a physical impossibility. To attempt to take this literally as describing a physical city with these exact measurements is to miss the point of what is being communicated. The city is a perfect cube, just like the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and the temple. In Solomon’s temple the Holy of Holies was a cube measuring twenty cubits along each side (1 Kg 6:20). The Holy of Holies was the place in the temple where God dwelt in his glory. No one was allowed to enter, except the high priest on the Day of Atonement. Now we see that the new Jerusalem is a huge Holy of Holies, with enough room for all of God’s people to enjoy his presence. The veil in the temple of Jerusalem was torn open when Jesus died (Mt 27:51), showing that access into the presence of God is now open. Later we will see that the city has no temple, because it is the temple, the place with God meets with his people (21:22).

The wall was 144 cubits (twelve times twelve). We are not told whether that was its height or its thickness. The wall has twelve foundations adorned with jewels. In normal walls the foundations are underground and not visible. The list of jewels is similar to those in the breastplate of the high priest (Ex 28:17). Isaiah predicted that foundations of the new Jerusalem would be jewels and precious stones, with its gates being jewels (Is 54:11-12). Each gate is a single pearl (the pearly-gates), and its street is of pure gold. In this city, gold and precious stones, which have such a high value on earth, are used as basic building materials. The street is gold, but is as transparent as glass, similar to the sea of glass like crystal before the throne of God seen in the original vision of heaven (4:6), and where the saints sang the victory song of Moses (15:2).

There now follows a description of seven objects which are either part of the city, or not needed in the city, because God and the Lamb are there. We will see that once again some aspects of this description can already be enjoyed in part in a believer’s relationship with Christ. It is 'now, but not yet'.

Object 1 (21:22): No temple, as temple is God and the Lamb

John saw no temple in the city, because its temple is the Lord God and the Lamb. The tabernacle and temple in the OT were the places of God’s presence with his people. “I (God) will meet with you from above the mercy seat, from between the cherubim that are on the ark of the covenant” (Ex 25:22). God told Solomon that he will dwell in the temple, among the children of Israel (1 Kg 6:13). The new Jerusalem has no special place for God to dwell, because the whole of it is the dwelling-place of God. To be part of the city is to be with God and to enjoy his presence forever. A foretaste of this truth is part of our experience now, as God’s presence is with us as members of his church, through his Holy Spirit.

Object 2 (21:23-24): No sun or moon, as glory of God is light

The city does not need the sun and moon as its source of light because the glory of God will be its light. Isaiah also predicted that there will be no sun or moon because God will be your light and glory (Is 60:19). Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12). In this life, the church is the light of the world (Mt 5:14-16), which shines in the darkness, and is a light to the nations.

Object 3 (21:25-27): Gates never shut, no night

The gates of the city are never shut by day, and there is no night, so the gates are always open. In this life we have darkness when the sun sets, but in the heavenly Jerusalem the light of God’s presence will always be there, so it will never become dark. The light of God will not allow any darkness of sin or evil to enter. The gates are currently open for people to enter. While we are still in this life, there is still the opportunity to repent and believe, and to enter God’s presence. However, the only people who can enter are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, the elect - those who trust Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. No one who worships idols or hides from the truth can enter the city.

Interestingly, people will bring into the city the glory and honour of the nations. All that is good and beautiful in the world can be brought in. Ultimately, everything in this world is God’s creation, and can be redeemed by him and used for his glory. When we come to faith, we can bring the good parts of our lives: our skills, abilities and resources to God, allowing him to sanctify them for his service. They will continue to be used in God’s service in the age to come.

Object 4 (22:1-2a): River of water of life from throne

John was then shown the river of the water of life. This was also as bright as crystal. It flowed from the throne of God and the Lamb through the middle of the street in the city. The water of life is used through the Bible as a symbol of eternal life, or of the Holy Spirit. Jesus offered living water to the woman at the well, which will become a spring of water gushing up to eternal life (Jn 4:10-15). He also called the thirsty to come to him to drink, and promised that out the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water, referring to the Holy Spirit (Jn 7:37-39). In his vision, Ezekiel saw a river flowing from the temple (Ezek 47:1), and Zechariah saw living waters flowing out east and west from Jerusalem (Zech 14:8). The holy city Jerusalem is the place where people find eternal life and the full life of the Spirit, which comes only from God the Father and the Lamb, but is something we can already experience as a foretaste in this life.

Object 5 (22:2b): The tree of life with twelve kinds of fruit

On each side of the river is the tree of life. This tree is amazingly fruitful, as it produces twelve kinds of fruit and fruit every month. No tree in this present world can be this fruitful. It gives us a picture of the incredible richness of life in the full blessing of God that we can look forward to. After the fall, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden so they could not eat of the tree of life (Gen 3:22-24). Now the tree of life is available to everyone in the city. The source of life, both spiritual and physical, that was lost by Adam and Eve, will once again be enjoyed by God’s people.

The leaves of the tree of life give healing to the nations. This can be understood either as the comfort and healing that is available to those who have suffered in this life, or that the God-given characteristics of the nations which have been damaged through sin can now be restored to what God intended.

Object 6 (22:3-4): Nothing accursed, saints before throne of God

In the heavenly Jerusalem, there will be nothing accursed. The curses of the fall are broken, and there is no more judgement. Only those who have been redeemed by the death of Jesus can enter the city, as their sin has been forgiven and they have been declared not-guilty before God.

The throne of God will be in the city where his servants will worship him and see his face. As before, it is the throne of both God and the Lamb (22:1). This is again a great declaration of the deity of the Lamb, who can share God’s throne as an equal. His servants will worship him and see his face. In the OT, if a person saw the face of God they would die, being overwhelmed by his glory. God said, “no one shall see me and live” (Ex 33:20). Moses was only permitted to see God’s back, but his face shone with the glory of God after that experience (2 Cor 3:7). Again, the servants of God will have his name written on their foreheads (14:1), showing they belong to him because they worship him. No one who worshipped the beast and received his mark will be in the heavenly city.

Object 7 (22:5): No night, no light of lamp or sun, Lord God is light

Finally it states that there is no night, and there is no need of any light from lamp or sun, as stated previously (21:8,23). This is because the Lord God will be the light to his servants, and they will reign with him forever. The vision of the heavenly city concludes with an great word of encouragement for John’s readers. Even though they are currently being persecuted, the truth is that they will reign with God forever as kings in his heavenly city.

Conclusion (22:6-9)

As noted before, the vision of the bride Jerusalem concludes in the same way as the vision of the whore Babylon. This reinforces the contrast between them. There is a declaration of the truth of the words (22:6), a blessing (22:7), and John falling down to worship the angel (22:8-9). This time the order of the declaration and the blessing have been reversed.

The angel affirms to John that the words of the vision are trustworthy and true because he has been sent by the Lord, the same God who inspired the words of the prophets. He was sent to show God’s servants what must soon take place, giving the same sense of imminence as noted at the beginning of the book (1:1). As noted before, this can either refer to the imminence of the coming of Jesus, or to the persecution that is expected to come soon. Here, Jesus affirms that he is coming soon, repeating it three times in the next few verses (22:12,20). The immediacy of his coming is emphasised throughout the NT, giving an urgency to his call to repent and believe the Gospel. The blessing is to those who keep the words of the prophecy, meaning to obey the words in this book. The readers are called to maintain their faithful witness to Jesus, and to resist the pressure to worship the beast. If they do this, they will receive the wonderful blessing of a place in the heavenly city Jerusalem.

John also gives a testimony to the truth of the words of the book. He is the one who saw the visions and recorded them in the Book of Revelation, in obedience to the words of Jesus (1:2,9-10). John included a similar testimony to the truth of his writing at the end of his gospel (Jn 21:24). As with the vision of the whore Babylon (19:10), the vision ends with John falling down and worshipping the angel, being rebuked and told to worship God. He was wrong to worship the angel, who is merely a fellow servant of those are called to keep the words of this book (Heb 1:14).

Genesis and Revelation - the beginning and the end

The vision of the heavenly Jerusalem uses very similar language to the first three chapters of Genesis. The whole story of the Bible reaches its climax and conclusion in this vision. The Bible began with the account of creation, with mankind enjoying uninterrupted fellowship with their Creator. Now we see that the Bible concludes with the redeemed, the saints, once again enjoying being in the presence of God. The paradise that was lost at the beginning of Genesis will be regained at the end of Revelation. Genesis begins with Adam and Eve in a garden prepared by God, and Revelation finishes with the saints living in a garden in a city, Jerusalem. The central person in this wonderful story is Jesus the Lamb, who was sacrificed so that we the believers could be declared righteous before God, and enjoy eternal blessings in glory. This first table shows that the paradise described in Genesis which was lost in the fall is regained in the vision of the heavenly city Jerusalem.

Paradise lost - Genesis Paradise regained - Revelation
Heaven and earth (1:1) New heaven & new earth (21:1)
Division of light and darkness (1:5) No night there (21:25)
Division of land and sea (1:10) No more sea (21:1)
Sun and moon created (1:16) No need of sun or moon (21:25, 22:5)
Man in a prepared Garden (2:8-9) Man in a prepared city (21:2)
River flowing out of Eden (2:10) River flowing from God's throne (22:1)
Gold in the land (2:12) Gold in the city (21:21)
Tree of life in midst of Garden (2:9) Tree of life in the city (22:2)
Bdellium and onyx stone (2:12) Adorned with every jewel (21:19)
God walking in the Garden (3:8) God dwelling with his people (21:3)

Following the disobedience and rebellion of Adam and Eve, the world came under a curse. Sin caused a barrier between mankind and God. Sin and suffering spread around the world, and mankind came under the influence of the serpent (Satan). The last vision of Revelation shows that following the final judgement and the punishment of God’s enemies, this curse will finally be removed. This second table shows the effects of the curse on the world at the fall which will be removed in the renewed heaven and earth.

World under curse - Genesis Curse removed - Revelation
Death because of disobedience (2:17) No more death (21:4)
Serpent the deceiver (3:1) Devil thrown into lake of fire (20:10)
Sin enters in garden (3:6-7) Nothing unclean (21:27)
Pain multiplied (3:16) No more pain (21:4)
Cursed ground (3:17) No more curse (22:3)
Daily sorrow (3:17) No more sorrow (21:4)
Death - returning to dust (3:19) Death destroyed (20:14)
Sweat on face (3:19) Tears wiped away (21:4)
Coats of skins (3:21) Fine linen, white and clean (19:14)
Driven out of garden (3:23) Free entry to city (22:14)
Tree of life guarded (3:24) Access to tree of life (22:2)

Related articles

Introduction to the Book of Revelation Four main views of Revelation
1: Prologue (1:1-8) 2: Letters to seven churches (1:9 - 3:22)
3: Seven Seals (4:1 - 8:1) 4: Seven trumpets (8:2 - 11:18)
5: Seven signs (11:19 - 15:4) 6: Seven Bowls (15:5 - 16:21)
7: Prostitute / Babylon (17:1 - 19:10) 8: Seven judgements (19:11 - 21:8)
9: Bride / Jerusalem (21:9 - 22:9) 10: Epilogue (22:10-21)
Virtual Seven Churches Jesus the Lamb
Millennium Rapture and tribulation