Newell: Romans, Revelation
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.The New Creation
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God; and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away. And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true. And he said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
Three great passages, Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:10-13 and the present Revelation passage, deal with this stupendous subject, the new creation. The definite and repeated statements that the old earth and heaven “flee away,” “pass away with a great noise,” and are “burned up”; together with the statement that “there was found no place for them,” compel the conclusion that those who argue that these words indicate only a “cleansing by fire” and not actual eternal dissolution and disappearance, shrink from the searching realities of this subject. The word “create” is a solemn word to modify or trifle with! We know that create in Genesis 1:1 cannot mean anything but the calling into existence of that which did not before have being (Hebrews 11:3). And certainly Revelation 21:1 is just as new a beginning! [The searching words of Govett need to be weighed here: “Many will not accept the Scripture doctrine of utter destruction of the old globe. What the reason is, is perhaps hard to say, but most will with earnestness contend that the fire will only purge the world, not destroy it. Perhaps this is owing to the felt connection between the entire destruction of man’s abode and the eternal suffering of the wicked. With some it arises from fancied scientific reasons: ‘matter cannot be annihilated.’ True, man cannot annihilate it, but cannot God? Did He not bring it into existence out of nothing? Can He not hurl it again into nothingness? This answer often brings out into view the fact that many do not believe in creation; they believe that God did not make all things out of nought. He only ‘framed them out of pre-existent matter.’ Such are indeed consistent: but they are opposed to the glory of God and to the testimony of His Word. Moreover, the apostle argues that the prophecy in Haggai foretells the final shaking of heaven and earth preparatory to their entire removal; in order that the new creation may supersede them (Hebrews 12:26-28).
“If any further proof were needed, the words of the passage in Revelation 20:11 are evidently designed to furnish it. The result of the passing away of the heaven and earth is that, ‘there was found no place for them.’ How this can consist with their atoms being remolded and constituting the place in which the redeemer shall live, would puzzle the acutest to discover.”]
The words, “Behold, I make all things new” must be taken literally. It is not that things are “changed” or “purified.” The very laws of material being must be included in the new creation. Our Lord entered and stood in the midst, “the doors being shut,” and said, “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having.” And our bodies are to be like unto His. In Isaiah 65:17 God says, “I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” In the more than one hundred and twenty Bible occurrences of the word “create” or its cognates, I can find no hint of any meaning except origination of things. There is no thought of a former creation, changed or cleansed.
Furthermore, this Revelation 21:1 plainly discriminates the two creations, in that one must pass away before the other appears.
The matter thus lay also in the mind of our blessed Lord who said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.” To one of the simplicity of a child, all these Scriptures convey nothing else than the complete disappearance of a former creation and the appearing by the Word of God of a material creation absolutely new. Even the resurrection of the body does not prove the eternal existence of matter already created. We read, “That which thou thyself sowest is not quickened except it die: and … thou sowest not the body that shall be, but a bare grain … but God giveth it a body even as it pleased him.” The former grain was gone and dead. The germ of life (a profound and undying mystery!) sprang up.
It is certain that the redeemed will retain and possess forever the memory of that former sinful state in the first Adam out of which God in grace redeemed them; but that is no argument for the perpetuation of the old Adam-rather the opposite!
For this is the great mystery of the cross: that there God secured the transference righteously of His saints from that Adam in which they were born into the Last Adam and the new creation. Their guilt was put away, and they being identified with Christ, died with Him and thus were brought to an end as to their history in Adam the first.
Then God, having raised up Christ as the “first born from the dead,” “made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with him.”
Now before this history, we are called “separate from Christ, having no hope,” etc. But God now says concerning us we are “God’s workmanship, CREATED in Christ Jesus”!
That which is now true of us as spirits (for that which is born of the Spirit is spirit) will, when Christ comes, become true of us as to our bodies.
The fact that our Lord passed through doors, though in a body of “flesh and bones,” reveals that He was in that realm where all things are new, even the laws of existence and substance, as well as of action.
We dwell on these things because this hanging on to the old creation, admitting only that it is to be “cleansed by fire”; this claiming that “pass away” does not mean disappear, but merely be “changed,” and that God’s statement that the “earth and the works that are therein” will be burned up does not carry its simple and full meaning, but means only the clearing off the earth of its present order, the marks of sin, etc.,-all this we cannot but associate with the desperate effort of the legalists to hold on to Moses. They will, for instance, acknowledge justification by faith; but they must have the law as the “rule of life.” In other words, they will not consent to Calvary’s being the end of their history; with only Christ to stand in and to glory in forever. Like Agag, they come whining, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”
But we cannot but feel the power of the words, “I create new heavens and a new earth”!
Creation unto new creation becomes thus the phrase that spans the Bible.
The first creation was the sphere and scene of what God calls “the first things.” Sin, beginning in heaven and with the highest of the creatures, challenging the will of the Creator as the creature’s highest good, came in to mar, ruin, and wreck the first creation. Now comes at last, based upon Christ and His work, a wholly new creation which will never pass away, and in which the apostle Peter announces that “righteousness will be at home” (2 Peter 3:13, Greek). Even the temptation to evil will be eternally absent, for every opportunity of rebellion against the rule of the Most High will have been thwarted, every such rebellion having been proved by experiment disastrous to the creature, as well as dishonoring to the Creator.
The Two Final Classes
He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.
While those who chose darkness and evil deeds are indeed seen in this final state, it is as eternally separated from holy beings, and under divine indignation (Revelation 21:8). There is no longer any danger of invasion, either from former evil, or from temptation or trial in any sense whatever to God’s holy ones. Not only is evil no longer triumphant, as at present, and in the days of Antichrist, and even, though checked, during the thousand years’ reign; but there is complete, deep, final rest from it! And will not that be a glad day!
And, be it noted, the only two classes seen in this final eternal order are those who overcome, and those cast into the lake of fire. The “overcomers,” thus, are shown to be all God’s true children. For all had the divine gift of faith, all were begotten of God. So we read in 1 John 5:4 : “Whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.”
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.The New Jerusalem
And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were laden with the seven last plagues; and he spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee 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, having the glory of God: her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal: having a wall great and high; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: on the east were three gates; and on the north three gates; and on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that spake with me had for a measure a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length thereof is as great as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs: the length and the breadth and the height thereof are equal.
1. It is a literal city, the materials, dimensions, appearance, appointments, inhabitants, divine glory and indwelling, and eternity of which are all distinctly declared.
2. It descends from God out of heaven. It is that better country and heavenly for which Abraham and the patriarchs looked. It is that place prepared for God’s saints. “He hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
3. It will be peculiarly the home of the Church, the Lamb’s wife (Ephesians 5:27-32); others will be there, and many will have access (Revelation 21:24-26); but the Church will be as the wife in the home.
4. It will be vast indeed: a cube of at least fifteen hundred miles each way (Revelation 21:16). Much, indeed all, of our conception of that city must be in the realm of faith-along with that of our father Abraham, who “looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose architect and maker is God.”
5. It will be lighted directly by the presence and effulgence of God. This is thrice stated:
a. In Revelation 21:11, the city has “the glory of God” with a light (or luminary) in consequence “like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone clear as crystal”;-this is its effulgence-its appearance from without.
b. Revelation 21:23 -“no need of sun, neither of the moon … for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb.” We are here within the city, walking “in the light of God,” constantly conscious that Christ is the channel of all blessing to us. That the Lamb is the lamp is the secret and the source of the unspeakable blessedness of those who walk there! What a sense of redeemed ness; of being beloved even as Christ, and of fathomless depths of eternal security!
c. Revelation 22:5 -“night no more; and they need no light of lamp, neither light of sun; for the Lord God shall give them light: and they shall reign unto the ages of the ages.” Note three elements here:
1. No more dependence on creature or mediate light.
2. The immediate light constantly from God, Himself.
3. Their “reigning” thus forever! That “reigning in life,” which began when they first believed (Romans 5:17) is now at last consummated; and is eternally perpetuated.
And he measured the wall thereof, a hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. And the building of the wall thereof was jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto pure glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the several gates was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof. And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it. And the gates thereof shall in no wise be shut by day (for there shall be no night there): and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it: and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb’s book of life. And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall be night no more; and they need no light of lamp, neither light of sun; for the Lord God shall give them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
6. It will be a new city-corresponding with a new heaven and a new earth. Many have taught that during the thousand years it will be suspended over the earth. Many hold also that Revelation 21:8 is the end of the progress of the Book; while 21:9 on through Revelation 22:5 turns us back to millennial times. They compare this passage with Revelation 17:18, which describes in greater detail the character and overthrow of Babylon the great, although that overthrow really occurred in the preceding Revelation 16:19.
Those who hold that Revelation 21:1-8 describes the eternal state while Revelation 21:9-27; Revelation 22:1-5 reverts to millennial times, because we read in Revelation 21:24-26 that “the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof” the kings of the earth bringing “the honor of the nations into it”-seem to overlook several important points:
a. In Revelation 21:3, where we read that the tabernacle of God is at last “with men,” we also read that “they shall be his peoples” (Greek laoi). It is amazing to find discerning men apparently almost willfully translating the plural laoi, as if it were loos. Alford reads, “‘they shall be his people’: plural, because as in Revelation 21:24, many nations shall now partake in the blessed fulfillment of the promise.” But for this very reason he should have translated laoi, “peoples,” faithfully, that is, literally: “peoples,” not “people” Seiss, even in his “revised text,” reads, “God shall tabernacle with the men, or mankind (?) and they shall be his people” etc. The Revised Version, which so many affect to despise, translates truly and plainly, “They shall be his peoples,” and thus prepares us to avoid the impossible assumption that Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5 is a passage that reverts to millennial scenes.
b. We know positively that at least one nation and one seed, ISRAEL, will belong upon the new earth. In Isaiah 66:22 we read, “As the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith Jehovah, so shall your seed and your name remain.” This is eternity for national Israel, and no escaping it! Because Isaiah 65:17-18, which belongs to the new creation, has been confused with the millennial Revelation 21:20-25 men have rushed to the conclusion that all that Isaiah says concerning the new creation is millennial. But God says Israel’s “seed and name” shall remain, in the new heavens and earth, that is, in that new order beginning in Revelation 21:1. But in this new order, we are distinctly told “death shall be no more,” whereas, in Isaiah 65:20, “the child shall die a hundred years old.”
Now, Israel is God’s elect nation-elect not for the past, or even through the millennial age, but forever. Yet, if Israel be the elect nation, the existence of other nations is presupposed! You reply, “Were not nations the result of God’s judgment at Babel?” They were, doubtless. But God, when He acts in grace, is evermore bringing good out of man’s evil! When Adam sinned, Christ, as the Seed of the woman, was first announced. When Israel asked for a king, God, after Saul’s rejection, brought in David, in whom He lodged the royal Messianic counsels for all time to come. When Israel crucified their Messiah-the highest act of sin-God brought forth “abundance of grace” through Him who “tasted death for every man.”
At Pentecost, salvation was announced to every nation in its own tongue. Grace came to the nations without destroying or changing national existence, or even national individuality.
The prophet Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:9) indeed tells us of a coming day, when, saith Jehovah, “I will turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve him with one consent.” The word “language” here is in Hebrew lip, as it is in Genesis 11:1. But that national existence will not cease, is shown clearly by Zephaniah 3:20 of the same chapter: “At that time will I bring you (Israel) in, and at that time will I gather you; for I will make you a name and a praise among all the peoples (plural!) of the earth.”
c. Finally, the language of the first 5 verses of chapter 22 of The Revelation, and especially of Revelation 21:4-5, is just as eternal in its character as anything at the beginning of chapter 21. “The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face; and his name shall be on their foreheads … and they shall reign unto the ages of the ages.” Why should such statements be connected with a passage that is meant merely to go back and describe millennial conditions? That would be incongruous. Furthermore, it is not in keeping, we feel, for the Scripture to go back after the last judgment has been held, and the new creation has come in, to times before that last judgment and new creation!
7. The New Jerusalem is the capital city of God-the place of the divine presence and government of the universe. “The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein” (Revelation 22:3). No other or further throne than this is described in the Word of God. As we have seen, various phases and aspects of the divine majesty have heretofore been exhibited in Scripture. Now it is “forever and ever.” Note that it is “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Christ, who delivered up the kingdom to God, yet shares that throne, as the One who redeemed these now blessed creatures unto God. The Redeemer abides in view of His people as the sacrifice and priest. In each view of the city, the Lamb is named. Seven times does the word occur in connection with the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9; Revelation 21:14; Revelation 21:22-23; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:1-3).
God’s Eternal Plan Was to Be “With Men”
His “delight was with the sons of men” (Proverbs 8:31). Man was made in God’s “image” and “likeness.” Doubtless we will never know all that these terms mean! God was manifest in the flesh in Christ, the Son of man. Jesus, though crowned with glory and honor, remains man forever.
What the “delight” of God will be in this new earth “with men,” and what their capacity for knowing God, and progressing in that blessed and only real knowledge, can be measured only by eternity, and the infinity of God Himself; which is to say, it is utterly without limit! Marvelous and yet reasonable fruit of “the redemption that is in “Christ Jesus,” who “suffered for sins … that he might bring us to God.” Note the words “with men,” “with them,” “with them”-three times in one verse (Revelation 21:3). Pause now, and consider this long and well.
It is astonishing, and yet should not be so, that there is no mention after Revelation 21:1-27, of those blessed beings previously seen as accompanying the throne of God: cherubim, seraphim, living ones, elders: it is now simply “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Not that those others are not there. They are, and are in ecstatic, eternal delight that God is revealed at last as they could not as mere creatures ever know him: as the blessed One who is LOVE. Those beings knew His eternity, His power, His holiness, and His Glory; and celebrated these attributes constantly-as in Revelation 4:8-11 and Isaiah 6:1-13. But now God’s heart goes fully out. He has, through infinite sacrifice, “brought many sons unto glory,” to be “conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Not only to these, the “church of the firstborn,” but to the various peoples of this new earth, His love is now, without limit, extended; and will be extended forever and ever. And in this will all holy beings find endless joy.
“LOVE IS OF GOD.” We can scarcely write here for awe and wonder! How should her Creator say to the Bride: “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; Thou hast ravished my heart with one look from thine eyes.” “Turn away thine eyes from me, For they have overcome me.”
Oh, how little do we know our God! How small is our widest thought of Him! Do we not see this great Bible He has given us going right forward against all obstacles, over all mountains, through all valleys, yea, to Gethsemane and Calvary-to come to this sweet, eternal consummation, that God may be WITH MEN, THEIR GOD? That He may wipe every tear from their eyes that He may banish into the far forgotten past, mourning, crying, and pain; and say, “Behold, I make all things new”? For GOD IS LOVE!
Let this thought overwhelm us as we turn to the closing chapters of The Revelation, that while God’s lovingkindness is “over all his works,” it is never said in Scripture that God LOVED any but man! John, who writes this closing book of God’s blessed Word, cries, “We know and have believed the love which God hath in our case. God is love” (1 John 4:16). Let us, too, know it and believe it; and thus enter by faith this glorious new creation scene; bending low under this weight of glory, though yet we tread this earth. Let us know this love that passeth knowledge, and, breathing the fragrant air of the city of God, walk daily through its gates of pearl and walk by faith its golden streets, “giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Note about This Heavenly Jerusalem:
I. It is a Literal City.
II. Its Object and Destiny.
III. Its Relation to the New Earth.
IV. The Blessedness of Its Dwellers.
We do well to return again and again to Revelation 21:1-27; Revelation 22:1-21, for it is the end of the pilgrim path. The more distinct the vision to the pilgrim of the beauty and glory of the city to which he journeys, the less the immediate environments of his journey attract him.
I. It is a Literal City
1. Because of the literalness of its description. If gold does not mean gold, nor pearls-pearls, nor precious stones-stones, nor exact measurements-real dimensions, then the Bible gives nothing accurate nor reliable. There is no one on earth who can assure your heart concerning the meaning of these “symbols”-if they are symbols! Nowhere in God’s Word, for instance, is there any account of the “symbolism” of precious stones. Twelve such stones are found in the high priest’s “four-square” breastplate (Exodus 28:15-21): sardius, topaz, carbuncle, emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx, jasper-“enclosed in gold in their settings. And the stones shall be according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve... like the engravings of a signet, every one according to his name, they shall be for the twelve tribes.” No one doubts that these were literal stones, nor do we doubt that God has a special reason for assigning to each tribe a peculiar stone. Some time it may be revealed what these stones mean, and whether they have any connection with the foundations of the New Jerusalem; but to deny that they are literal stones in The Revelation, and to admit them as literal in Exodus, is not only absurd, but unbelieving. [There have been many interesting, though not always profitable, investigations and surmises concerning these precious stones. Perhaps the most instructive remark I have found is made by J. N. Darby (Synopsis, in loc): “The precious stones, or varied display of God’s nature, who is light, in connection with the creature (seen in creation, Ezekiel 28:1-26; m grace in the high priest’s breastplate) now shone in permanent glory, and adorned the foundations of the city.”]
2. A second reason to consider the city a literal one, is, that child-like faith in reading the account always regards it as such. As the little girl asked her mother concerning the preacher who said that our Lord’s words in John 14:1-31, “I will come again,” did not mean that He would come back in person: “Mamma, if Jesus did not mean what He said, why didn’t He say what He meant?”
3. Abraham and the patriarchs “looked for a city”- not a state of mind! The sublime faith of Abraham led him to leave a city in the most remarkable civilization known on earth, and become a stranger and pilgrim, caring only for a cave in which to bury his dead; “For he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose architect and maker is God”! Abraham will be satisfied with nothing short of a place, such as he looked for. And God will not disappoint him!
4. In all other parts of the Bible, simple faith in God’s statements is asked from man; why not then in Revelation 21:1-27, of all places, here at the end of God’s book? “Wherefore do questionings arise in your heart?” the Lord asked, when He presented Himself in a risen body in the upper room. If reasonings and doubts of the reality and literal-ness of His body were excluded, then, when the human mind would naturally be astonished; how much less now can questionings and doubts be admitted as to the literalness of the marvelous city of Revelation 21:1-27, which is to be the eternal home of our Lord’s risen body, and that of His saints in glorified bodies like unto His!
5. If the New Jerusalem is not to be taken literally, we can not claim that the millennial Jerusalem of Ezekiel 40:1-49; Ezekiel 41:1-26; Ezekiel 42:1-20; Ezekiel 43:1-27; Ezekiel 44:1-31; Ezekiel 45:1-25; Ezekiel 46:1-24; Ezekiel 47:1-23; Ezekiel 48:1-35 and Zechariah 14:1-21 can be literal. But to deny these is wholly to abandon faith in the accuracy of God’s Word!
6. In this book of The Revelation, the former Jerusalem is literal (Revelation 11:8); and also Babylon the Great (Revelation 18:10). Indeed both Jerusalem (the “great city”), and Babylon, were the objects of the last fearful earthquake of Revelation 16:19. Just as the old earth which disappeared was literal, and the new earth which takes its place is literal and substantial, so also must the New Jerusalem be.
7. The unfolding of divine things in the Bible is precisely contrary to the idea that in order to have “spirituality,” material things must be left behind.
God was revealed to the patriarchs’ faith without a definite place of abode or habitation. Then, in the wilderness, the pillar of cloud and fire accompanied His visible dwelling-place, and both the tabernacle and the temple were so filled with His glorious presence, that, for the moment, the priests themselves, “could not stand to minister”! Also we are told that Jehovah chose Jerusalem and Mt. Zion therein, because He loved it (Psalm 87:2; Psalm 78:68; Psalm 132:13-14).
Then, so far from the progress of God’s revealing Himself to man taking on more and more ethereality, the contrary is seen, for God “was manifested in the flesh” when Christ came! Immanuel is, God with us: i.e., God present here, in the Person of that babe of Bethlehem! This of course is what the Devil hates. “Many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 1:7).
Even in the thousand years, the children of Israel are told: “Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation … Jehovah will be with us in majesty … thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty; they shall behold a land of far distances.” How beautiful these things to simple faith, and what a denial of the vagaries of those deluded souls who connect sin with matter as a necessity! The only logical “spiritualizers” that I know of are the Christian Scientists-which are neither Christian, nor scientific! The old Manichaean heresy governs millions who call themselves Christian, though it is a Satanic lie, and pagan, and utterly anti-Biblical. The Bible leads on to a literal and blessed home of the redeemed, possessed of bodies like Christ’s body-real and holy, incorruptible, immortal!
8. It is therefore wicked and harmful to permit ourselves to drift into that weak apprehension of future realities expressed in many hymns, and much loose preaching and speaking of these days. What right have we to thoughts of “going to heaven,” merely, concerning those who “fall asleep”? God says they have departed to “be with Christ” (Php 1:23), or “to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8) [Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:4, that the Christian’s hope is not to be unclothed, that is, disembodied, but “clothed upon, that what is mortal” (mortal and immortal always being spoken of the body) “may be swallowed up of life.” He is simply willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord (R.V.). It might, indeed did, become Paul’s lot. But it is not the proper Christian hope, which is the redemption of the body at Christ’s coming.]
It is sad to find, from a devoted pen like Cowper’s:
“Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing they power to save.
When this poor lisping stam’ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave!”
How much better to sing:
“When this poor lisping stam’ring tongue Hath triumphed o’er the grave!”
But it is even more distressful to hear real Christians using blinded, demoralized, worldly expressions concerning a believer’s falling asleep: such as “he passed on,” “he is gone into the unknown,” etc.
Now while we may not be certain that the New Jerusalem is yet opened to the saints (for that event, perhaps, is reserved for Christ’s second coming, and for His saints in redeemed bodies), yet surely we should have that City constantly before us as a reality; and remember that those that have gone to be with Christ are simply swelling the great expectant throng, whose eager hope looks forward to that blessed day of glory and joy when they shall enter in through the gates into that ineffably blessed City!
Meanwhile, the saints are “with Christ.” Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:1-21, “was caught up into Paradise (to the third heaven) and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
Evidently he was given to taste the infinite joy of what is coming.
What a company is gathering yonder!
Some believe that the marriage of the Lamb will mark the Bride’s entrance into that city.
At all events, remember that it is a literal city to which you are going. There cannot be anything else meant![ Alford well remarks: “As in our common discourse, so here with the evangelist, the name of the material city stands for the community formed by its inhabitants. But it does not follow, in his case, any more than in ours, that both material city and inhabitants have not a veritable existence. Nor can we say that this glorious description applies only to them” (and not to the literal city).]
II. Its Object and Destiny
It is the eternal dwelling place, “habitation,” of God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Although only “God and the Lamb” are named, yet we know from the Scriptures, and from this very book of Revelation, that the blessed Spirit administers eternally that glorious state of which the Father is the Author and the Son the Source.
In other parts of Scripture, as we have noted before, various aspects of God’s throne are displayed: in connection sometimes with the expression of His character, or being, as the Holy One; sometimes with the execution of His government; sometimes with the form of His perpetual worship-as in the progressive perpetual tenses of Revelation 4:9-10.
But God’s home is never spoken of until the New Jerusalem comes on the scene. Heretofore, it had been written: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). To Israel in the wilderness, through Moses, Jehovah had indeed said, “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them,” and it was done. Yet he dwelt in thick darkness, and judgments had to be executed from time to time upon that unbelieving and willful generation: so that finally, as we read in Ezekiel 8:6 (and in all the prophets) they drove Him away from His sanctuary-as they did afterwards His Son when He sent Him to them.
But now all is over. Redemption has been accomplished-the thing dearest to God’s heart-that which for all eternity reveals Him as Infinite. God is love, and yet absolutely righteous; the Lamb slain and now risen and abiding in that city, becomes throughout the new creation, the eternal proof and utterance of all God is!
It will also be the capital city of the new creation, for we read, “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein.” Nor is any other center of the divine manifestation and government hinted at in this closing book of the things that are revealed. We are indeed told three times in The Revelation, that the New Jerusalem “cometh down out of heaven from my God” (3:12; 21:2, 10). But this describes its double character from God-divine in its origin, and also heavenly. “It might have been of God and earthly; or heavenly and angelic. It was neither: It was divine in origin, and heavenly in nature and character.” (Darby.) This perhaps is the full meaning of the words: “from God.”
On the other hand, there remains this question: Is there to be a manifestation of the glory of God, and a seat of His government belonging to heaven, while this New Jerusalem, located upon the new earth, governs only the affairs of the new earth?
Several considerations lead us toward the conclusion that the New Jerusalem is God’s one eternal resting place.
1. Immediately we see the new heaven and new earth and the New Jerusalem descending to the new earth (Revelation 21:1-2), we are told, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men”-the former heaven and earth having disappeared. The object of the new heaven and earth is to bring about this-that God shall eternally have His home in this capital city of the new creation!
2. No other eternal habitation of God is seen than this of the New Creation’s capital! Always before, God was in heaven and man upon earth. Now that this city has come down, created by God for His dwelling, we cannot conceive of His real presence and worship being elsewhere!
3. This heavenly city has the glory of God (Revelation 21:11; Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5). It is the home of Him who “dwelleth in light unapproachable.” It is not that this city has glory given to it; it has God’s glory: for He is there! The glory is the effulgence of His Being!
4. It also has the throne of God, and that “service” of Revelation 22:3, properly called priestly service, or spiritual worship-(latreia: Hebrews 9:1; Romans 12:1; Philip plans 3:3; Revelation 7:15).
5. “They shall see his face” Here at last God, who is Love, reveals Himself to the saints of that blessed city directly. There is no temple, no form, no distance. This, therefore, must be the place of God’s rest forever!
6. We need only to remember that the dwellers in the New Jerusalem “shall reign unto the ages of the ages” (Revelation 22:5). This could not be written of others than the inhabitants of the capital of the new creation!
III. Its Relation to the New Earth
In the thousand years’ reign of Christ and His saints upon the old earth (Rev 20:46), Christ and His heavenly saints formed a “camp” above the old Jerusalem (Revelation 20:9), and Gog and Magog, the hosts of earth, were led by Satan into its final rebellion against the reign of Christ and His glorified saints in the “camp” above Jerusalem, and the earthly Jerusalem itself, “the beloved city.” It seems wrong to assume that the New Jerusalem has come down so that the nations “walk amidst the light thereof,” as in the new earth (Revelation 21:24). For, although Christ and His glorified saints will have taken over the control of affairs, such as angels now exercise (Hebrews 2:5-8 R. V. margin), yet it is to the earthly Jerusalem and the nation of Israel that God will directly subject the nations of the earth in the Millennium (Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:4-9; but especially Isaiah 4:5-6). This is the glory of Jehovah revealed upon the earthly Jerusalem, and to it, during the Millennium. The effect of this unveiling of the divine glory in the thousand years is seen in Micah (Micah 7:16-17): “The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might… They shall lick the dust like a serpent; like crawling things of the earth they shall come trembling out of their close places; they shall come with fear unto Jehovah our God, and shall be afraid because of thee.” Psalm 72:9 declares: “His enemies shall lick the dust”! “Kings, kings, kings,” are men mentioned in the next two verses; while kings will lick the dust of Israel’s feet, according to Isaiah 49:23. It is a day of iron-rod rule; of compelled subjection. The very atmosphere is different from that of Revelation 21:1-27; when, down to the new earth, wherein righteousness is at home-(2 Peter 3:13 Greek) this New Jerusalem will come from God to be planted upon her eternal foundations, and to become the glad center of attraction unto the kings and nations of those happy days. [It has been well remarked by Govett: “That the eternal standing of the city is in question, I gather from Revelation 22:3 : ‘There shall be no more curse.’ Now at the close of the Millennium comes the most fearful sin, and wrath of God, with the second death. Again, entrance into the heavenly city would not be possible during the Millennium; for then the city is only suspended over the earth. It does not come down upon it. To meet this difficulty, the holders of the opposite view translate Revelation 21:24-26, ‘bring their glory unto it,’ not into it. But this translation is unfounded, for, whenever a verb of motion capable of signifying penetration, or entrance into, a penetrable subject, such as a river, house, etc., is followed by the preposition eis, ‘into’-there entrance is affirmed.”]
It has impressed me more and more that the New Jerusalem will not be in sight of the old earth during the Millennium, which will be a highly judicial time-a time of military rule, the holding of a position already conquered. At the Millennium’s beginning, peace and prosperity on earth will be conditioned on complete subjection. Consequently the heavenly saints constitute a “camp,” evidently above the earthly Jerusalem. Upon that earthly city and upon redeemed Israel, the glory of God will be seen, Israel’s twelve tribes being “judged” by the twelve apostles (Luke 22:28-30) including Matthias (Acts 1:21-26).
When the thousand years, and the last judgment are over, and the new heaven and the new earth have succeeded the old, then, and not until then, does the New Jerusalem come down to the new earth.
IV. The Blessedness of Its Dwellers
Of the blessedness of those who dwell in that eternal city of infinite beauty and delight, who shall speak! It is enough to repeat: “They shall see His face; and His name shall be on their foreheads.”
Of even the inhabitants of the new earth, though not of the new city, it is written: “The tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, they shall be His peoples, and God himself shall be with them … their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, anymore: the first things are passed away.”
But to see His face, and to be so wholly His in likeness that His Name shall be on our foreheads-what a destiny! It is even more eagerly to be anticipated, than the reigning eternally!
“The Jerusalem That Is Above”
Jerusalem the golden,
With milk and honey blest,
Beneath thy contemplation
Sink heart and voice opprest:
I know not, O I know not
What social joys are there;
What radiancy of glory,
What light beyond compare!
For thee, O dear dear country,
Mine eyes their vigils keep;
For very love, beholding
Thy happy name, they weep:
The mention of thy glory
Is unction to the breast,
And medicine in sickness,
And love, and life, and rest.
O one, O only mansion!
O Paradise of joy,
When tears are ever banished,
And smiles have no alloy!
The cross is all thy splendor,
The Crucified thy praise;
His laud and benediction
Thy ransomed people raise.
O sweet and blessed country,
The home of God’s elect!
O sweet and blessed country
That eager hearts expect!
Jesus, in mercy bring us
To that dear land of rest,
Who art, with God the Father
And Spirit, ever blest.
Bernard of Cluny-12th century.
Lo! what a glorious sight appears
To our admiring eyes!
The former seas have passed away,
The former earth and skies.
The God of glory down to men
Removes His blest abode;
He dwells with men; His people they,
And He His people’s God!
Jerusalem, my happy home,
Name ever dear to me,
When shall my labours have an end
In joy and peace, and thee?
When shall these eyes thy heaven-built walls
And pearly gates behold,
Thy bulwarks with salvation, strong,
And streets of shining gold!
For ever with the Lord!
Amen, so let it be:
Life from the dead is in that word;
Here in the body pent,
Absent from Him I roam,
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent
A day’s march nearer home.
My Father’s house on high,
Home of my soul, how near!
At times, to faith’s foreseeing eye,
Thy gates of pearl appear!
Ah! then my spirit faints
To reach the land I love,
The bright inheritance of saints,
And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.
And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.