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Heaven, as someone has said, will be the place of "no more." No more death. No more sorrow. No more parting. No more pain. No more tears. No more evil.

As a young Christian, I learned a song which still echoes in my soul many years later:


That is a wonderful hope so wonderful it is almost beyond belief. I think the apostle John must have felt that way, too, for in the next few verses he is given words of assurance to help him quell any possible doubts.

21:5-6 a He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End."

God brackets all of time in that one statement: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." Everything in between proceeds from God. These words are God's seal of truth that help us to believe.

Remember the Lord's last words on the cross? After all the pain, the mocking, the sorrow, the gloom, the darkness, and the anguish of separation from the Father, Jesus cried out, "It is finished!" The basis of redemption was settled. The sacrifice for sin had been made. The foundation for salvation had been fully laid.

In Revelation 21:6 we find a similar statement: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." The redemption that was begun on the cross has now been completed. The redeemed have arrived home in glory. God's plan has been accomplished. Not one thing is left unfinished.



"Come, Lord Jesus"


The Inheritance of the Redeemed



The fourth statement in this passage revealing the purpose of the new heaven and new earth is the statement that it will be the inheritance and the home of the redeemed. In verses 6 and 7 John records the further words of God.

21:6 b-7 "To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son."

Heaven will be the home of the redeemed, and the only prerequisite is that you be thirsty. Nothing on earth satisfies not wealth, fame, pleasure, or possessions. There is only one thing that can quench the deep thirst of the soul, and that is God Himself. People who thirst after God are promised that they shall drink of the water of the spring of life. These are the ones God calls "overcomers." The overcomers will "inherit all this," all that God has newly created.

The apostle Peter tells us that there is waiting for us "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade kept in heaven for you." Those who have been transformed by God's grace are to be His children forever.

In verse 8, there is a note of contrast, referring back to the judgments we have already witnessed in the book of Revelation.

21:8 "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

As we have already seen throughout the book of Revelation (and as is apparent throughout the Scriptures), God does not want anyone to suffer this judgment. The apostle Peter writes, "The Lord . . . is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." He is reluctant that anyone should be judged, but those who persist in doing such things judge themselves.

In this passage we find three attitudes which result in five forms of visible behavior. These attitudes and forms of behavior mark those who are lost and who will not be a part of that Holy City in the new earth.

First are the cowardly those who are fearful, unwilling to take the yoke of Christ upon themselves, afraid to confess Jesus Christ, unwilling to be in the minority or on the unpopular side of things. Afraid of the risks entailed in being a follower of Christ, they turn their backs on the offer of life.

Second are the unbelieving, those who willfully refuse to believe what their hearts tell them is true. They reject the evidence because they don't want God to invade their self-centered lives.

Third are the vile, those whose way of life has become foul and abominable. They love the stink of their own sin and would scratch and claw anyone who tried to rescue them from it. They feed their minds with vile books, vile movies, and vile music. They speak vile speech and practice a vile lifestyle.

These, then, are the three deadly attitudes: the cowardly, the unbelieving, and the vile. Out of these attitudes flow evil behavior: murder, sexual immorality, involvement in the occult and demonic arts, idolatry, and lying or hypocrisy. No one who, refusing redemption, gives himself or herself over to such behavior will be found in the city of God.



A Shining City



An angel takes John to a high mountain for a spectacular view of the shining city. John gives us the following detailed impressions.

21:9-14 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

On reading this description people almost always ask, "Is this a literal or symbolic description?" The fact is, in this as in so many other passages of Revelation, we do not have to make that choice. God loves to use literal things to symbolize deeper truths. Throughout Revelation we have seen the blending of literal and symbolic meaning.

Personally, I believe the city will have a literal dimension. It will be a great, visible city, brilliant and glorious, located somewhere above or within the atmosphere of the new earth. Some commentators have suggested that the New Jerusalem might even orbit the new earth like a second moon. It will be characterized by stability, symmetry, light, life, beauty, and ministry.

But it will also have a symbolic dimension. Let us look at the symbols of this new city and interpret their meaning.
The high wall of the city speaks of separation and of intimacy separation from what is without, intimacy with what is within. If you want to have an intimate garden party you meet in a yard enclosed within a wall. The wall shuts out the outside and protects the inside, creating a safe enclosure for intimate fellowship.

All through Scripture God expresses a strong desire for what He calls "a people for my own possession." In a sense all that exists is His possession for it is His creation. All animals, all creatures are His. The billions of angels are His. The entire human race is His creation.

Yet He has created human beings with free will, the ability to choose Him or reject Him. Henceforth, only those human beings who choose Him are truly a people for His own possession. The saints alone are His possession, because with them He can share the depths of His heart. They satisfy Him and fulfill Him just as a bride satisfies and fulfills her husband.

The gates symbolize means of entering and leaving the city. There is an amazing verse in the gospel of John where Jesus says, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." This seems to be a portrayal of the widespread ministry of believers throughout the eternal ages.

The new universe will surely be as big or bigger than it is now and its vastness is orders of magnitude beyond human comprehension as it is! Billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars like our own sun, sprinkle the heavens for as far as our greatest telescopes can see. Each of those stars may be circled by planets perhaps even many earthlike planets. These may be new limitless worlds for us to encounter, explore, develop, and experience. Every moment of eternity will be a new adventure of discovery.

The gates of the Holy City are named for the tribes of Israel. It is a perpetual reminder that "salvation is of the Jews." Access to the city is through Israel not merely because it was the Jewish nation that gave us Jesus, but also because Israel gave us the Old Testament prophets and the godly traditions and practices of the Old Testament. Many of those brilliant but enigmatic Old Testament passages that now puzzle us will someday come to life as profound jewels of truth. Scripture that once perplexed us will one day lead us to adventures we never dreamed of in this life.

The foundations symbolize those aspects of the New Jerusalem that give it stability and permanence. They are named for the twelve apostles. Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was replaced in the apostolic band by Matthias, as we learn in Acts 1. These foundations speak of New Testament truth and practice. Spiritual realities that we only faintly grasp now will become startlingly clear and meaningful in that eternal plane of existence and especially those three things which Scripture says will abide forever: faith, hope, and love! "But the greatest of these," says Paul, "is love."

Language is inadequate to express the beauty and truth that is embedded in this description of the Holy City in the fact that the truths of God's Word will never pass away, in the fact that faith, hope, and above all! love will never pass away, but will go on and on, enduring beyond this dying and temporary world and crossing the divide into that new heaven and new earth! How can everyday language express a reality that is light-years beyond the reach of our deepest joy and highest exhilaration? Yet it is my prayer, as you read these words, that God would enable the inner eye of your imagination to catch a glimpse of the profound experience that awaits us in the new heaven, the new earth, and that shining new city.



The Measure and Makings of the City




21:15-17 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man's measurement, which the angel was using.

When God measures, it is a sign of His ownership. The number 12 appears repeatedly in this account: 12,000 stadia, 144 (or 12 squared) cubits, 12 gates, 12 foundations, 12 angels. The Have

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