Starting at Revelation 21:9, the Apostle John gives his final vision in Revelation of the city of God, the New Jerusalem, where Christians will spend their eternal lives forever before the face of God. The New Jerusalem is the fulfillment of all God’s promises and exemplifies His goodness. John’s inspired words describe it as, “Like that of a very precious jewel, like as jasper, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:11). Here in Revelation 21, readers are given a brief glimpse into the eternal glories of heaven that await them when they dwell eternally before the face of God.
A Glimpse of the New Jerusalem
In Revelation 21, an angel of God has taken the Apostle John to the top of a great and high mountain where John looks down upon the New Jerusalem and attempts to describe this great scene. Here he describes the city as a massive, crystal-clear diamond full of the glory of God, shining from its center all over the new heavens with eternity bathed in the radiance of its splendor.
In Revelation 21:12, the Apostle John moves from describing the general appearance to the exterior of the New Jerusalem, describing first its walls. John gives enough information from his human and finite perspective to help readers get a picture of what this magnificent city is like within our limited understanding.
The walls of the New Jerusalem are described as “great and high,” which is a symbol of exclusion and an explanation that only those redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus may enter the walls of the New Jerusalem. In the wall, there are 12 gates guarded by 12 angels who are inscribed with the 12 names of the 12 tribes of Israel. The gates are located on four sides, Revelation 21:13 explains. Not only are the 12 apostles represented, but also the 12 tribes of Israel. Such a mention settles the matter whether the Old Testament saints will be included in heaven. The divine intent is explained in this regard to represent that the New Jerusalem will have among its citizens not only those saved by Christ but also Israel and the saints of old.
Outside the New Jerusalem
Since we understand how those who will be within the walls of the New Jerusalem, we also need to recognize those who will be outside the walls of this great city. Revelation 21:25-27 provides the answer to this issue when it says, “On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life” (Revelation 21:25-27).
We must understand that the city gates of the New Jerusalem will never be shut. The picture John gives is a city with open gates on a new earth where those saved by Christ will dwell throughout eternity. Since there will be no night in the New Jerusalem, and since all evil has been eradicated, these gates will stay open 24/7. The book of Revelation pictures a considerable amount of activity coming from the city, and all who go in and out are saved by the blood of the Lamb. Those not saved by Christ are a long way outside the city’s walls, specifically in the “outer darkness” of hell (Matthew 8:12), assigned to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15), and cannot come near the New Jerusalem.
The impure spoken of by Jesus and the Apostle John cannot enter the city as Revelation 22:15 says, “Outside are the dogs who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” as well as the “cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, and all liars.”
The New Jerusalem and Salvation
Only those whose names are recorded in the Lamb’s book of life are free to enter the New Jerusalem, for they possess eternal life and belong to Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Lamb of God, bought them with His blood (Revelation 5:9) and will never blot their names out of His book (Revelation 3:5). Jesus will grant the beloved of the Lord the right to the tree of life and entrance and freedom to come and go from the Holy City (Revelation 22:14).
It’s not possible to have all our answers about the activities of the New Jerusalem answered because the Bible doesn’t give them. With that said, John’s description in Revelation 21 does provide a picture for all those who put their faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation.
Additionally, John’s picture reveals when the end finally comes, there will be no second chances to enter the Holy City for those who have refused to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Only in this life, perhaps even at this moment, can you repent and believe in Jesus Christ and have the promise of entering through the gates of the Holy City to worship Him face to face.
The Walls of the New Jerusalem
While John doesn't give every detail, some aspects are more obvious than others. These include the walls of the city, which will display the majesty of the Lord. Revelation 21:15-21, on these points, explains the size of the walls as around 1,380 miles long and high, measuring 144 cubits thick. Such a measurement ends up being about 216 feet or 72 yards thick approximately.
The walls of the New Jerusalem demonstrate the riches of the Lord Jesus. Revelation 21:18-20 describes these riches, "The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was 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, the twelfth amethyst."
The walls also include the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus. Such a description represents the New Jerusalem as the home of all who genuinely follow the Lord Jesus. The 12 tribes of Israel were all descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who lived by faith alone in the Lord God. The Apostles of Jesus are represented by those who have believed in Him.
The Splendor of the New Jerusalem
The walls additionally stand for their beauty. The example John provides is one of the bride coming to meet the groom for the wedding. The New Jerusalem reveals a city featuring the most beautiful of materials for those who dwell there to enjoy the most magnificent surroundings. Such is the contrast between those whose names are not found in the Book of Life and will dwell in darkness forever (Revelation 20:15).
John does not answer every question that readers may have about the New Jerusalem, and that’s okay. What John does provide demonstrates a very desirable city to live and dwell in forever with the Lord. John’s vision isn’t to give an answer to every question, but to give confidence for every reader that if they believe in the Lord Jesus, they will be there. John’s vision emphasizes the greatness of the New Jerusalem, where the people of God will dwell with Him forever.
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