Many Christians take everything beyond the third chapter of Revelation and place it in the future. They also put many of the events and happenings in heaven (beyond the stars somewhere) instead of on earth. Usually when the Bible speaks of the heavens, it is speaking of the realms of spirit, and we do not have to leave the earth to function in the realm of spirit. The spiritual realm is not a matter of distance but a matter of plane. That is why Paul said, “He has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). As we study Revelation chapter 21, we will notice that it is speaking of something that God is doing right now on a spiritual plane.
Revelation 21:1 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.
Taking this in a literal sense, the mind sees our globular earth with its heavens drifting out of sight, and from another direction a new earth and a new heaven coming on the scene. Then the thought comes, “How are we transferred from one to the other? How do we get off the one that is passing away and onto the one that is arriving?”
I don’t believe it happens that way at all. Scriptures must be understood in the light of other Scriptures. We must also understand that the Scriptures are not meant to be only taken literally. They hold spiritual truths. If we say that the heaven and the earth literally pass away, and a new heaven and a new earth appear, then what are we going to do with Ecclesiastes 1:4 and others like it that say, “The earth abides for ever”? I remember when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, not only did I see the whole earth differently, but I became a new earthen creature. For the first time, I became aware, to some degree, of the heavenly realm of God. In a sense, the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there was a new earth and a new heaven. Evidently, the apostle Paul understood it that way too, because he said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away and all things have become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). We experience this when we become Christians, and we experience it many times afterwards as we progress in the Lord.
Revelation 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
I remember the first commentary I ever read on the Book of Revelation. I had purchased it from the local Christian bookstore. As well as charts, the author had a picture in it of the city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of the sky and safely landing on the new earth.
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus called us “a city.” In Hebrews 12:22, the Church was called “the city of the living God” and “the heavenly Jerusalem.” In this verse (Revelation 21:2); John says that New Jerusalem is “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Obviously, this is not a literal city, but a symbolic picture of the Church, the bride of Jesus Christ. It is pictured as coming down out of heaven because the adorning of the Bride of Christ is not a work of man, but a heavenly work. The Church in all its glory is a creation of God.
Revelation 21:3 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.
When the Church comes into maturity and becomes the Bride of Christ, when it becomes the holy city New Jerusalem, then the Bible says, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He dwells with them…God Himself shall be with them.”
What does the word “tabernacle” mean? It means “dwelling place.” God is making the Church His dwelling place. Instead of taking His people off the earth, He makes them His dwelling place on the earth. He wants to fill His Church with Himself, so that He can be manifested through His people to the world. Most Christians are so focused on going to heaven that they have lost sight of the fact that what God wants is a dwelling place on earth.
The thinking of Christianity has been misguided, causing people to feel that once they are saved from their sins, it’s done. Now they will go to heaven when they die, or if the rapture comes first, then they will still go to heaven. But when we realize that God is looking for a people who are willing to be His dwelling place on earth, then we become aware that getting saved is only a first step. The real issue is what we become after we are saved. God wants to make us His tabernacle.
Revelation 21:9-10 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 show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.
10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.
Verse nine is not difficult at all. We know that the Bride, the wife of the Lamb, is the Church! The Lamb is the Lord Jesus Christ. We are His Bride, and He is our Bridegroom.
The angel tells John, “Come here, I’m going to show you the Bride, the Lamb’s wife.” Then John says, “And he carried me away in the spirit (or, he opened up the spirit realm so I could see) to a great and high mountain….” In a scripture from Isaiah, it is said that “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains” (Isaiah 2:2). The picturesque symbolism of the Scriptures is beautiful. Sometimes the Church is pictured as a high mountain, usually called Mt. Zion; sometimes a city; sometimes, a woman; sometimes, a man; sometimes, other things. Each description reveals a certain aspect of the Church.
“John, do you want to see the Bride, the Lamb’s wife?” And John answered, “Oh, yes I do!” Then the angel answered, “Come here!” And what did John see? He saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, because it is something God has created. It is what Jesus talked about when He said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14). The Church will not be hid. The Lord will have His people in full view because He wants to be glorified and admired in them (II Thessalonians 1:10).
The following verses in this chapter describe the holy city Jerusalem. You would be surprised how many Christians are of the opinion that God is building a city up in the heavens somewhere for them to live in when this earth passes away. They talk about the city of precious stones, the streets of pure gold, the gates of pearl, etc. This city is the Church! It is people! This description of New Jerusalem is given to reveal spiritual truths about the Church and its relationship with God. It is not a city for Christians to dwell in; it is a city for God to dwell in – a city of people. We become the tabernacle of God.
Revelation 21:11-14 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a
stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
12 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:
13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Walls and gates! Isaiah 60:18 says, “Thou shalt call thy walls salvation and thy gates praise.” The wall about the city, then, speaks of our salvation. We are walled in with God. In Old Testament times they built walls around the cities for protection from marauding bands, etc. Our source of protection and immunity is God. He is our wall of salvation. In Zechariah 2:5, He says, “For I,” saith the Lord, “will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” The Lord is speaking of the Church, and we see the fulfillment of this prophecy in the twenty-first chapter of Revelation.
The gates are praise. We “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). Of course, we know that Jesus is the door (John 10:7, 9). He is the gate of entrance into God, for “no man comes unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). So how do we get into this walled city, New Jerusalem? How do we enter the Church that experiences the fullness of God and becomes His abiding place? We enter in through Jesus with praise and worship.
Revelation 21:19-20 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;
20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
Let’s compare this passage with scripture from the first epistle of Peter and the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. I Peter 2:5. Worshipers of God are called “lively stones” (precious stones), and they are built up as a “spiritual house” (an abiding place – New Jerusalem) unto God by Jesus Christ.
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon…Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. I Corinthians 3:10, 12-13. Worshipers have been tried by the fires of God and have come forth as gold, silver, and precious stones. Gold represents the divine nature. Silver speaks of redemption, and the precious stones are the gifts and graces of Christ in the Church. Thus, “the foundations of the wall (salvation) of the city (Church) were garnished with all manner of precious stones” (gifts and graces of the Spirit of Christ).
Revelation 21:21 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 the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl – The prophet Isaiah told us that the gates were praise. Praise and worship breed ministry, the true ministry of Jesus through the many-membered Body of Christ. Therefore, each pearl speaks of a different aspect of the Lord’s ministry through His Church, for “every several gate was of one pearl,” and that “one pearl” is Jesus Christ.
And the street of the city was pure gold – How often have we heard it said, “Oh, we’re going to live in the mansions of that holy city, and all the streets will be pure gold.” We can blame some of our preachers and a lot of religious songs that are sung today for those misconceptions. First of all, the Scriptures do not say anything about mansions in heaven. Neither do they say anything about a literal city in heaven. Thirdly, they do not say anything about streets of gold. What does the Bible say? It says, “The street of the city was pure gold.” We have already seen that gold represents the divine nature of the Lord, and that the city is the Church in its maturity, for it has become “the city of the living God.”
Now let’s consider the street of the city. First of all, it is not “streets”; it is “street.” It is one street! A street is a way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). Isaiah prophesied, speaking of the Church, “And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness” (Isaiah 35:8). There is only one street, one way, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the street of gold! There is no other way to come into this city, no other way to be a part of the Body of Christ, which is the abiding place of God, but through Jesus Christ.
Revelation 21:22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
Tie this verse in with verse three. Verse three says that we become the tabernacle of God. This verse says that He becomes the temple for us. In other words, we are dwelling in Him, and He is dwelling in us. The Lord and His people become one.
Revelation 21:23 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.
We do not need to be educated by man’s wisdom. We do not need to be enlightened by the things of this world, because we are being enlightened by the glory of God. Whatever we have that is worth anything comes from Him. We do not need the enlightenment of this age. That is why Peter said in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40).
Revelation 21:24 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 honor into it.
This verse goes right back to what we read in Isaiah 2:3: And many people shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And the nations of them which are saved – This chapter cannot be speaking of
something that takes place in the heavens somewhere, because nations are being
saved at this time. This is the fulfillment of the commission that our Lord
Jesus gave before He ascended, “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in
earth. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28: 18-19).
God has a purpose for His Church! While many Christians are focused on going to heaven one day, the Lord is interested in bringing the Church forth into all His glory, filling it with Himself, so that He can minister through the Church to save the nations.
Revelation 12:25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
We are not children of the night; we are children of the day (I Thessalonians 5:5). Therefore, there is no night in the city of the living God.
Many of the things we have been taught from our pulpits, plus many of the religious songs we have sung in our churches, have been misleading because they present a picture that is inaccurate – mansions on a cloud somewhere or a city up in the sky with streets of gold. The Scriptures tell us not to be concerned about worldly treasures, but to be concerned about the heavenly treasures, spiritual things. Actually, living in a mansion and having streets of gold doesn’t do a thing for me. But when I take the truths presented in the Word, like this scripture from Revelation 21, and I begin seeing what God is doing, how He is bringing the Church to the place where He dwells in their midst, then that does something for me! I like the idea of God dwelling in our midst. I like the idea of Jesus being the Way, the truth, and the life; that no man can come to the Father, but through Him. He is the life! He is the only way! He is the street of gold! He is the pearl of great price! And the salvation He gives us are the walls that protect us and give us immunity. We become His City, His dwelling-place. I love that! That just does something for me!
On top of all that, the Holy Spirit quickens it to my heart, and causes me to know that it is real. God wants to dwell in His people. He wants to live in us and move through us. He wants to use His people, His Church, to bring this whole earth under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is a glorious calling!
Copyright © 2013 by Henry DuBose