Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bride of Christ

1 Then I (John) saw a new heaven (sky) and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud (mighty) shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home (tabernacle, dwelling, or abode) is now among His people! He will live (tabernacle) with them, and they will be His people. God Himself (personally) will be with them. 4 He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these (former) things are gone forever.” 5 And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then He said to me (John), “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy (faithful) and true (genuine).” 6 And He also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. 7 All who are victorious (overcome, conquer) will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be My children. 8 But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt (vile), murderers, the immoral (adulterous, fornicators), those who practice witchcraft (magic arts, sorcerers), idol worshipers (idolaters), and all liars (false ones)—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

9 Then one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 So he (angel) took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. 11 It shone (clothed) with the glory of God and sparkled (radiance) like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal. 12 The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. 13 There were three gates on each side—east, north, south, and west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 The angel who talked to me held in his hand a gold measuring stick (rod) to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 When he measured it, he found it was a square (foursquare), as wide as it was long. In fact, its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles. 17 Then he (angel) measured the walls and found them to be 216 feet thick (according to the human standard used by the angel). 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. 19 The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid (adorned) with twelve precious stones: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass. 22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. 25 Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. 26 And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. 27 Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty (falsehood)—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Revelation 21:1-27 (NLT)

Revelation 21 begins the final section of the book and returns God’s faithful people back to Eden! Chapters 21 and 22 provide a magnificent climax of Revelation. In Revelation chapters 21 and 22, John gives details on the promise God had long before given the Old Testament prophet Isaiah that He would “create new heavens and a new earth” (see Isaiah 65:17), which would endure forever (see Isaiah 66:22). Even more, chapters 21 and 22 describes the New Jerusalem also described in the Old Testament by the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapters 40 through 48. In these final chapters, the true and living God makes all things new, and He comes to make His home with His faithful people (church) (Revelation 21:3, 5; see also Matthew 19:28-29; Romans 8:19-25)!

Revelation 21 begins with John, the human author of Revelation, seeing a new earth (with no oceans or seas) and a new heaven or sky, for the present earth and heaven had disappeared or dissolved (Revelation 21:1, see also Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:10-13). Interestingly, John tells us that there are no more seas or oceans (Revelation 21:1). For the Jewish people, the seas or oceans symbolized separation, chaos, restlessness, evil, and storms (see e.g., Job 38:8-11; Psalm 89:9; Isaiah 57:20). Moreover, Revelation 13 reveals the sea bringing forth the beast that embodies enmity and opposition against God and His holy people (see Revelation 13:1, 6-7).

At that point, John saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven (Revelation 21:2, 10). The New Jerusalem was a glorious sight, beautiful as a bride at her wedding (Revelation 21:2; see also Revelation 19:7). Truly, this city is beautiful beyond all comparison, and Revelation 21:11-21 gives in detail the city’s beautification. Revelation 19:7 presents God’s faithful people as a bride (church). In the New Testament, it is “the Jerusalem that is above” (Galatians 4:26), whose “architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10, 13-16; see also Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 13:14; Philippians 3:20). Scholars differ as to whether this “new earth” is entirely new (newly created) or is the old earth transformed in a new way analogous to the transformation of believers’ resurrection bodies (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-49; Philippians 3:21).

Then, John heard a mighty and loud shout from the throne saying: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making His home with men and women! They are His people, He is their God.” (Revelation 21:3, MSG; see also Leviticus 26:11-12; Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 37:27; Zechariah 8:8). John describes the true and living God personally living (tabernacle) among His people like the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve’s disobedience (Revelation 21:3; see also Genesis 3:8-10). Now, God’s holy people will see the true and living God’s face, and His name will be written on their foreheads (Revelation 22:4; see also Matthew 5:18; Hebrews 12:14). Even more, John describes the benefits that come to God’s people when He takes up His eternal dwelling in their midst (Revelation 21:4). God will wipe away ALL tears from His people’s eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain (Revelation 21:4; see also Genesis 3:17-19; Isaiah 65:17-19). Abolished forever are the debilitating effects of sin. Sadly, death and suffering entered the world as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God (see Genesis 3; Romans 5:12). Revelation chapters 21 and 22 reveal God’s reversal of the original curse from the Great Fall of Genesis 3. Amazingly, during Jesus’ public ministry on earth, Jesus gave ALL WHO BELIEVED a taste of heaven (see e.g., Matthew 8:13, 16-17; Matthew 9:35; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:42-44; Luke 5:20; John 4:49-50). Matthew’s Gospel said,

The news about Jesus spread all over Syria, and people brought all the sick to Him. They were suffering from different kinds of diseases. Some were in great pain, some had demons, some were epileptics, and some were paralyzed. Jesus healed all of them. Matthew 4:24 (NCV)

Then for only the second time in Revelation, the true and living God breaks His silence (see also Revelation 1:8). The One sitting on the throne declared, “See, I am making all things new!” (Revelation 21:5, TLB; see also 2 Corinthians 5:17). Then, Almighty God declared to John:

“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty, I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers (overcomes) will have this heritage, and I will be His God and he will be My son (daughter). But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable (corrupt), as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:6-8 (ESV)

Very appropriately, God’s divine name is mentioned to underscore the completion of everything that God began: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 21:6). In Revelation chapter 22, John once again reveals God the Father and Jesus the Lamb’s unity and oneness by declaring that Jesus is also “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13, NIV; see also Deuteronomy 6:4; John 10:30; John 14:9; John 17:11, 22). As the Beginning and the End, the true and living God promised to give to the thirsty the springs of the Water of Life—as a free gift (Revelation 21:6, see also Isaiah 55:1). Here, John describes God’s beautiful salvation by the symbolism of a spring and river (see also Revelation 22:1; see also John 4:10, 14; John 7:38-39). God loves the world (see John 3:16), and He offers everyone salvation and eternal life through faith and obedience to Him and His Son, Jesus the Lamb (see John 3:17, 36; John 14:1-7).

Interestingly, the citizens of the new heavens and new earth are overcoming people as God’s sons and daughters (Revelation 21:7-8; see also John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 3:26). “To him who overcomes” is a key phrase in Revelation (see e.g., Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; Revelation 3:5, 12, 21; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 12:11; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 21:7). As John pointed out in his first epistle, all true believers are overcomers (see 1 John 5:4-5). These faithful overcomers will inherit God’s eternal blessings (see also Matthew 5:1-12). In contrast to the overcomers, God reaffirms that no “cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” will be present in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:8, RSV). These evil and faithless offenders will go into the lake of eternal fire, which is the second and final death (Revelation 21:6-8; see also; Romans 1:29-32; Revelation 20:11-15). God’s redeemed people do not participate in the second death awaiting those who renounced their faith in God because of their cowardice and compromise with idolatry, sexual immorality, and sorcery.

Thus in the new heaven and earth, sin, suffering, and death are forever banished. The true and living God will reverse the curse that entered the world through Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3). The old heaven and earth are in “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21), “groaning . . . in pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22). All of creation is waiting the day when God will set “the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. . . . Looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness (2 Peter 3:12-13, NLT). The new heaven and earth represent the specific fulfillment of the prophecy given to Isaiah (see Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22).

Then, one of the seven angels who had emptied the bowls containing the seven last destructive plagues in Revelation 16 came and said to John, “Come with me and I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21:9, TLB). In a vision, the angel took John to a towering mountain peak, and from the mountain John watched that wondrous city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of the skies from God (Revelation 21:10, see also Ezekiel 40:2). God’s beloved is both the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:9) and the magnificent city (Revelation 21:10-14). The holy city is not only the home of the bride; it is the bride of Christ! Also, John draws attention to the contrast between the wicked woman (also called Babylon) and the bride of Christ (also called New Jerusalem). The wicked woman is of the earth, symbolizing evil, and the bride of Christ descends from heaven, the epitome of all that is holy and beautiful.

The holy city was clothed with God’s glory and glowed like a precious gem, crystal clear like jasper (Revelation 21:11; see also Isaiah 60:1-2, 19). The holy Jerusalem’s walls were broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels (Revelation 21:12). Moreover, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates (Revelation 21:12, see also Exodus 28:21; Ezekiel 48:30-35). There were three gates on each side—north, south, east, and west (Revelation 21:13). Furthermore, the holy Jerusalem’s walls had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of Jesus the Lamb (Revelation 21:14). In the holy Jerusalem, united will be the saints of the Old Covenant (twelve tribes of Israel) and the New Covenant (twelve apostles of Jesus) indicating a continuity of God’s faithful people – the New Testament church and the Old Testament people of God (see also Ephesians 2:19-22).

Then, the angel held in his hand a golden measuring rod to measure the city and its gates and walls (Revelation 21:15). When the angel measured the city and its gates and walls, the angel found it was a square as wide as it was long. In fact, the holy city was in the form of a cube (foursquare), for its height was exactly the same as its other dimensions—1,500 miles each way (Revelation 21:16). Amazingly, the city’s equality on all sides indicates the perfection of God’s eternal city–nothing is out of order or balance. Moreover, the holy city with the dimensions of a perfect cube is like the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament Mosaic tabernacle (see Exodus 26:33-34) and the Most Holy Place of the Temple (see 1 Kings 6:16-22). At that moment, the angel measured the thickness of the walls and found them to be 216 feet across (Revelation 21:17).

The holy Jerusalem itself was pure, transparent gold like glass and its wall was made of jasper (Revelation 21:18)! Even more, the holy Jerusalem was built on twelve layers of foundation stones adorned with every kind of jewel (gems) (Revelation 21:19). The first layer with 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, and the twelfth amethyst (Revelation 21:19-20). The twelve stones generally correspond to the twelve gems set into the breastplate of the high priest which suggests that the privileges reserved for the high priest alone under the Old Covenant are now freely given to all God’s faithful people (see Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 28:17-20; 1 Peter 2:5, 9-10). The city’s twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single huge pearl, and the main street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass (Revelation 21:21). The pure beauty of the bride of Christ (holy city) puts to shame the prostitute’s tawdry and cheap ornaments (see Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:16).

Most importantly, the holy Jerusalem had no temple or sanctuary because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and Jesus the Lamb (Revelation 21:22; see also John 4:21-24). Unlike the Old Testament book of Ezekiel who spends four chapters in a detailed description of the new temple, John says, “I saw no temple in the city” (Revelation 21:22; see also Ezekiel chapters 40 through 43). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul declared that God’s faithful people were in fact the temple of the living God (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:5). The immediate presence of God is no longer in a reserved place, entered only by the high priest once a year because now God is available to ALL saints for continual fellowship in the holy city. In the holy city, there is no separation or barriers between God and His faithful people. God the Father and the Jesus the Lamb are always present with their people.

Finally, the holy city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for God’s glory gives it light, and its lamp is Jesus the Lamb (Revelation 21:23; see also Isaiah 60:19-20; Matthew 4:16; John 1:9; John 8:12). By its light, the people of the world will walk, and the kings (rulers) of the earth will bring their glory into it (Revelation 21:24). The holy city’s gates never close as they stay open all day long—and there is no night (Revelation 21:25)! There will be no wickedness or night to assist hostile invaders. The glory and honor of all the nations are brought into the city (Revelation 21:26). Once again, John reaffirms that nothing evil will be permitted into the holy city—no sin, wickedness, or dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27; see also 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 22:14-15). In the holy city, God welcomes all faithful people and nations as there is no separation of people.

God’s ultimate purpose in redemptive history has been to create a people to have a close fellowship with Him, glorifying, and enjoying Him forever. Amazingly, the Holy Scriptures reveal God has repeatedly sought a close and obedient relationship with humanity – first with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, then the ancient Israelites at Mount Sinai and the Promised Land, and by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus. The Holy Scriptures begin with God’s fellowship with Adam and Eve (see Genesis chapters 1 through 3) and ends with God’s faithful believers in eternal fellowship with Him (see Revelation chapters 21 and 22).

ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Dr. Loyd Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Metzger, Bruce. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

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