Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Revelation 21:11-20
Pastor Steve Schell
Revelation 21:11
Verse 11: The city is so filled with the glory of God it radiates light making it shine like a diamond. But of course, its brilliance is more than mere light, it’s the visible presence of God. Though the Bible gives no explanation as to why God’s presence emits light, when it reports humans being given a glimpse into heaven, this light is seen. Obviously there is a quality connected with His holiness that causes His very presence to radiate light. This light is often called His “glory,” and as we’ve seen, when it is unrestrained it contains such energy (life?) it consumes, as though it were fire, anything which has not been lifted to a higher level of being (Rev 20:11; 1Co 15:50; 2Pe 3:10, 12). So, the fact that this city glistens with the glory of God tells us it and the inhabitants within are made of imperishable materials (1Co 15:50).

Revelation 21:12, 13
Verse 12: It’s surprising to me that John sees a “great and high wall” around the city because walls are placed around cities for one of two possible reasons and those are to keep something or someone in or out, and I would have assumed there could be no need to keep anyone out in the new earth. Yet John describes the wall in detail telling us about its gates, its foundation stones and its size. He even tells us an angel is posted at each gate, which must mean they are there to stand guard. So a mysterious aspect of this picture emerges: the new Jerusalem has a wall with gates and guards. Verses 12, 13: When the angel told John he would show him “the bride, the wife of the Lamb,” he proceeds to show him the place where the people of God would live. But the description of that place reveals who will live there. First of all, there are twelve gates and each is named for one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Three gates are placed on each side of the square-shaped city. John sees them in progressive order beginning at the eastern wall, then to the northern wall, then the southern and finally to the western wall.

Revelation 21:12, 13
Verses 12, 13 (continued): The gates John sees are very similar to those Ezekiel saw in a vision of Jerusalem as it will exist during the Messianic Age. Ezekiel even specified which gates would be located on which walls. The eastern wall would have the three gates of Joseph, Benjamin and Dan. The northern wall would have Reuben, Judah and Levi. The southern wall would have Simeon, Issachar and Zebulun. And the western wall would have Gad, Asher and Naphtali (Eze 48:30-34). But the real significance of these gates is to declare that Old Testament saints are unmistakably included in the redeemed family of God. All the men and women, beginning with Adam and Eve, who repented and had faith that God would mercifully forgive their sin are citizens of this city. These gates affirm that the story of salvation did not begin with the Christian church. God has always been saving people, and clearly enormous numbers of Jews will be present in the new Jerusalem, many being added by God’s miraculous evangelization during the great tribulation (Rev 7:3-8; 11:1-12:17). They will be there not because of their ethnicity as physical descedents of Abraham, but by having in their hearts the faith of Abraham (Ro 9:6-8; Gal 3:6-9). Long before Jesus came God was able to save using only “shadows” and “types” of Christ (Col 2:17; Heb 8:5; 10:1).

Revelation 21:14
Verse 14: John sees the foundation stones that support the city wall. There are twelve of these great stones each named for one of Jesus’ twelve apostles, certainly Judas Iscariot is not among them, but whether Matthias (Ac 1:26) or Paul (2Co 11:5; Gal 1:1) or another is named in his place, we’re not told. These stones declare there are another group of citizens present in this city: those who believed the apostle’s message about Jesus Christ. These will be true believers, not those who merely called themselves “Christians” or attended churches. They will have repented and trusted that the cross of Jesus Christ has paid for their sins. Together with the Old Testament saints, these New Testament saints will comprise a new community of God’s people (Eph 2:14-22). And all citizens of this city will be called “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” because it is His death and resurrection alone that has made it possible for both Old and New Testament saints to be here.

Revelation 21:15, 16
Verses 15, 16: The angel who is showing John this vision takes a gold measuring rod and uses it to measure the city along with its gates and wall. The dimensions he announces are enormous which may give us some hint as to the number of redeemed people who will finally inhabit the new Jerusalem. It is laid out as a perfect square with each of its four sides being “12,000 stadia” (202 yards per stadia or 606.75 feet, J.D. Douglas, New Bible Dictionary, p. 1,324, Eerdmans, 1962). Multiplied out, the length amounts to an amazing nearly 1,400 miles per side. To put this in perspective, one side would reach from the west coast of the U.S. as far east as Chicago, Illinois. Or going the other direction, from the east coast to Colorado. Or from the Texas panhandle north to the Canadian border. Then John adds a further startling dimension. The city is nearly 1,400 miles high as well, giving it the shape of an enormous cube. Clearly, when Jesus told His disciples, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places” (Jn 14:2) He meant what He said quite literally. Charles Ryrie comments in a footnote, “It has been calculated that even if only 25 percent of this space were used for dwellings, 20 billion people could be accommodated spaciously” (Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition, NASB, 1995 updated, p. 2,043).

Revelation 21:17, 18
Verse 17: The angel measured the wall at “144 cubits” which is about 72 yards. Whether that is that height or width isn’t stated, but John notes that these measurements are to be taken literally. He said the angel’s measurements are the same as human measurements, meaning we should not let the enormity of this place cause us to spiritualize what we’re hearing. He wants us to simply marvel at the size of the city. The purpose of his comment is as if to say, “No, it really is going to be that big!” Verse 18: The materials used to construct the outer wall and the buildings themselves are not found on the earth today. The new heaven and earth will be made from new materials able to endure the intensity of God’s glory. This helps explain why John sees outer walls which are translucent as jasper and golden buildings which are transparent as glass.

Revelation 21:19, 20
Verses 19, 20: Underneath the walls, but still quite visible, are twelve foundation stones. If distributed equally, there must be three to a side which would require each stone to be about 466 miles long. John also tells us the types of gemstones used. Starting with jasper, which is a deep red, he moves around the foundation listing each in order. They are sapphire (turquoise blue), chalcedony (green blue), emerald (green), sardonyx (red and white), sardius (deep red), chrysolite (gold), beryl (sea green), topaz (yellow green), chrysoprase (golden green), jacinth (dark blue) and amethyst (purple). The picture that emerges is beautiful and colorfully diverse, but the list of gems also reminds us of those on the breastpiece worn by Israel’s high priest. When John’s list is compared with Moses’ list (Ex 28:17-20) at least seven of the stones are identical and even where the names for stones vary, similar colors may well be present. The breastpiece had twelve gemstones sewn onto a square piece of cloth which was held over the priest’s heart by delicate gold chains. Each stone was engraved with the name of one of the tribes. The intended symbolism is obvious. The high priest modeled God’s love for the tribes of Israel. He, like God, was to always keep them near his heart. Though each tribe had its own characteristics, God thought of them as a beautiful collection of gems. This same symbolism cannot be far from what God was revealing to John. The church which Jesus founded on the apostles (and prophets; Eph 2:20) is made up of many diverse people groups, and as with Israel, this diversity delights God who sees each of them as beautiful gemstones.

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