Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 21:15-19a

Revelation 21:15-19a

The angel who spoke to me had a golden measuring rod with which to measure the city and its foundation stones and wall. 16 Now the city is laid out as a square, its length and width the same. He measured the city with the measuring rod at fourteen hundred miles (its length and width and height are equal). 17 He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits according to human measurement, which is also the angel’s. 18 The city’s wall is made of jasper and the city is pure gold, like transparent glass. 19 The foundations of the city’s wall are decorated with every kind of precious stone.
(NET Bible)

A city like no other

Suppose I told you that you could have anything you want. What would you put on the list?Now — would you trade those things for the things God is going to provide you freely in his eternal city?

The information given about the New Jerusalem is not comprehensive, but it suffices to demonstrate that the city of God is a real place that we will call home. No clouds, no harps, no fuzzy, out-of-focus scenes to make it seem like a storage bin for cotton balls.

The first thing John emphasizes about the specifics is the cubic shape of the city (21:16). Grant Osborne explains the significance when he says, The cube shape matches the shape of the Holy of Holies (20 cubits each direction, 1 Kings 6:20; 2 Chron. 3:8-9).[1] No barrier exists between sacred and secular. NT scholar Ben Witherington says, The whole city is a holy temple, for God is with his people throughout the city and they are his temple.[2]

The city is immense by any current measure, but our calculation of its size depends on the measure assumed for the Greek word stadion, which the standard lexicon defines as: a measure of distance of about 192 meters.[3] Using that value, I calculate a cube with dimensions of 1432 miles. The use of different values for this measure — the ancient world was not big on universal standardization — explains how NET says fourteen hundred miles (21:16) while the New American Standard Bible says fifteen hundred miles. Your mileage may vary. :)

As you can imagine, a city whose dimensions are approximately the distance from Dallas to San Francisco can hold a vast number of redeemed people in an environment that defies description. But commentators are not comfortable with such a size, and most suggest the numbers are symbolic. Perhaps they are, but no one seems to think the number of gates or foundations is symbolic, so there has to be some subjectivity involved in these pronouncements of what is symbolic. I see no reason to discount the vast size of the holy city.

That the wall is so tiny compared to the city (21:17) demonstrates that it is merely decorative, not functional. The city in which the All-Powerful dwells does not even bother to shut its gates (21:25).

Who needs Camelot?

Gods promises are never empty! Abraham received promises from God and yet he remained a wandering sojourner, living in a tent all his life. The author of Hebrews says of Abraham: For he was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:10). Since Abraham will also live in the New Jerusalem, will not his expectation be more than satisfied?

We find it so easy to have cynical, earth-bound thoughts. But Jesus said, This is impossible for mere humans, but not for God; all things are possible for God (Mark 10:27). When God is creating our reward, there is no limit to what it may be!

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 753.

[2] Ben Witherington III, Revelation, The New Cambridge Bible Commentary (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 268.

[3] BDAG-3, stadion, (a measure of distance of about 192 meters), q.v.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 21:1-4

Revelation 21:1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. 2 And I saw the holy city the new Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.
(NET Bible)

The new heaven and the new earth

Some ideas die hard. In the early 20th century, many people believed an idea from mile Cou, a French psychologist, who said, Every day, in every way, Im getting better and better. Many thought the world was on the same track. But after World War I killed 16 million people and the influenza pandemic of 1918 killed at least 50 million people, such opinions soured.

Yet in 2007 a serious book was published with the title The Improving State of the World, again advancing the world-is-getting-better-and-better idea. Will humanity create heaven on earth?

Revelation 21:1-6 offers a summary of everything that will follow, and then verses 7-8 tell us how we must live in light of these things. The summary will then be expanded in two directions, first viewing the Holy City as an eternal Holy of Holies (21:9-27) and then as a new Eden (22:1-5).[1]

Here is a fact that some people do not accept easily: the new heaven and new earth are brought to us by God (21:2), not by humanity! The idea that humanity will save itself and transform the world into paradise is a lie! The beast took over the concept and presented his rule as the key.

The next development is a dramatic announcement from the throne of God (21:3-4) — Look! (21:3). The news deserving of such fanfare is that God will once again dwell among his people, but with some major differences compared to his past sojourns: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (21:4, ESV). Recall that the first time God lived among his people (Exodus & Numbers) an entire, unbelieving, rebellious generation, except for Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness without seeing the Promised Land. Yet, even in the midst of national sin during the later years of the Israelite kingdom, God promised a new heaven and new earth:See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind (Isa. 65:17, NIV 2011).

The second time God lived among his people was when Jesus came to live among us. John 1:14 uses the same verb for took up residence among us that we find in Rev. 21:3 will live among them; this verb is only found in Johns Gospel and Revelation. Jesus and his disciples experienced great opposition, suffering and even death.

Of course, it is not accurate to say that God did not continue to dwell with his people after Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9). Jesus revealed to his disciples that after leaving them he would send the Holy Spirit to reside with them and live within them forever (John 14:15-17). The presence of the Spirit was unseen yet absolutely real.

But the dwelling of God with his people in the New Jerusalem will be personal, lasting and free from the suffering and opposition that characterized the first heaven and earth. The quality of life will be so far beyond our experience as to be quite beyond our conception. What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9, ESV).

Your forever-home!

Lots of people attempt to prepare for retirement, but it is costly. The only retirement worth having requires you to give your life to Jesus in return for eternity in splendor with God.

Jesus made promises to those who love him. One of the greatest is this one: There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too. (John 14:2-3). Nothing beats that!

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 727.

Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 19:1-4

Revelation 19:1-4

After these things I heard what sounded like the loud voice of a vast throng in heaven, saying, Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 because his judgments are true and just. For he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality, and has avenged the blood of his servants poured out by her own hands!
3
Then a second time the crowd shouted, Hallelujah! The smoke rises from her forever and ever. 4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures threw themselves to the ground and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne, saying: Amen! Hallelujah!
(NET Bible)

Gods judgment stands — an eternal memorial

Many of us do not choose to attend sad movies; others screen out blood and horror. We do not go into the rough part of town, and we would not watch what police have to do — except for the sanitized version on TV.

When you think about it, we are absolute masters at shutting out what we do not want to know! Perhaps that is why we have reflected little on the judgment God will carry out. Is that wise?

Hallelujah means praise the Lord.[1] So, when you repeat Hallelujah — also spelled alleluia — in song lyrics, you are saying Praise the Lord! several times. That is a great thing to say, but it is wise to know what you are saying to God! He does not tend to favor idle words (Matt. 6:7).

Sometimes we find curious differences between the practices of American churches and those in the New Testament. Even though alleluia is often heard in our churches, the corresponding Greek word occurs just four times in the NT (19:1, 3, 4, 6). Perhaps more significant is that the praise is offered because God has unleashed his judgment against the sexual immorality, seductive materialism of Babylon (19:2) and the murder of the saints. Our use of alleluia is never about judgment; perhaps we do not want to think about it!

Keener makes some critical points about Gods judgment:

His compassion is one reason God delays judgment and enacts it sparingly, but in the broader scope of history the judgments are necessary for repentance of some and vindication of others. . . . In this world God does not settle all scores in the short run, but his justice is always satisfied in the end. Even repentance does not allow sins to escape justice — for the scores of the repentant were settled in advance on the cross.[2]

Justice will be done

Popular media sometimes take the form of a charade. Since it has become unfashionable to talk about God in the public square, TV programming often portrays those who want justice but despair of ever getting any. To make this dramatic tension work, it is necessary to completely ignore the fact that every person will face Gods judgment. The fact that Babylon will be obliterated sends a message to those who take part in it.

Peter tells us: It is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God. And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17).

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] W. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d ed. Revised and edited by F. W. Danker, translated by W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich and F. W. Danker (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2000) hall?luyah, praise Yahweh, q.v. The Greek word halleluiah is a transliteration — not a translation — of the Hebrew phrase halelu yah; both mean praise Yahweh.

[2] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 459.