Apocalypse 21, 22
Revelation 21,22 gives to the church and mankind a description of the Christian's heaven. John sees our present heavens and earth pass away and then sees them replaced by the new heavens and earth. A symbolic description of heaven is presented under the figure of a marvelous, awe-inspiring city of such magnificence and beauty that it defies all human imagination or dreams. God dwelled among the Old Testament people in the old city of Jerusalem, seated on the mercy seat in the Temple. Thus it is fitting to represent God on His throne in a magnificent city dwelling among all the saved people of earth. However this symbolic city seems to be patterned somewhat after the likeness of the ancient city of Babylon which was a foursquare city with a beautiful river running through the city. It was one the seven wonders of the ancient world. Of course, this is a very symbolic and figurative representation of heaven and is not to be taken in a literal sense.
God used this method of giving us some idea of what the wonderful placed called heaven will be like. A physical, material decriiption is given because we are physical material creatures. In our physical universe people live in cities, but no one ever lived in a city like the one described in these two chapters.. The holy city set before us is the most wonderful city human eyes ever saw or the mind of man ever imagined. Let's take a look at this golden foursquare city. First, the dimensions of this gigantic metropolis is 1500 miles long, 1500 miles high and 1500 miles wide. This is the Father's house of many mansions that Jesus is preparing for us. It is called the New Jerusalem, for it typifies God's dwelling place in heaven. All great cities in ancient times had a mammoth protective wall around them . The wall that surrounded this city was 200 feet high, and was made of Jasper, a precious stone, probably an opaque green quartz. This probably symbolized the perfect and eternal security the inhabitants will have. It was laid out a foursquare city, and there were twelve gates made of pearl.. The names of the 12 tribes of Israel were inscribed on these gates, and this signified that the New Jerusalem in heaven is the home of the Old Testament church as well as the New Testament church. In addition the gigantic wall of the city had 12 foundations adorned with all kinds of precious stones and gems, and the names of the 12 apostles were on these foundations. This signified that the city is the dwelling place and home of all true and faithful members of the New Testament church, an organization founded and guided by the 12 apostles of Christ. The names of the twelve tribes of Israel and the names of the twelve
apostles show that all the saved people from Adam to Moses, from Moses to Christ, and from Christ to the end of the world will live forever in this city. The fact that the gates of the city are never closed signify that in heaven there wil l be no fear of foes. They have all have been conquered and subdued. No enemies remain to invade its happy precincts.
Interestingly, the city had no need of either a sun or moon or any artificial light, for God and Christ illuminated the city. Having no oceans, sun or moon, it is clear that heaven will be a new spiritual state of existence, different from our present state of existence. We cannot now know the exact nature of the new world to which we are going. It is most interesting that there is no temple in this city because God the Father and Christ are personally present in the city. God and Christ will be among the saved of heaven. All heaven will be a place of worship. The most fascinating aspect of the city with its streets of pure gold is that the throne of God is in this city. Flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb is a pure river of life with trees of life growing on either side of the river. Proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb is a grand avenue, the distinctive avenue of the New Jerusalem. This broad street is divided into two parts with the river of living water flowing in the middle. On both sides of the river was the tree of life that originally existed in the Garden of Eden at the creation. It cannot be satisfactorily explained how it can be called “the tree of life” and be one tree yet be on both sides of the grand avenue. Possibly, the word “tree” is a collective word denoting many trees.
These trees on both sides of the street bear successive crops each month. Even the leaves on the trees are medicinal and ward off decay, disease or harm. There is some correspondence here to the tree of life in the garden of Eden which was the source of Adam and Eve's immortality. As long as they ate of that tree they could never die. Scripture says that after they sinned God made them leave the garden and never return, for if they returned and ate of the tree they would never die. But they were denied access to it, and that tree is now in heaven and accessible to all who live in this city. In a real sense, for all who live in the New Jerusalem in heaven, paradise is restored. In this symbolic picture, immortality and eternal life is conditioned on the river of life and the tree of life on either side of the river in the New Jerusalem. What is the meaning of this beautiful pictorial river flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, and the tree of life,
with its immortalizing fruit conferring eternal life on all the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem? Together all these items denote the fact that eternal life comes from God and Chris. They symbolize the super-abundant character of our salvation, and the absolutely full measure of the blessed and the ever abiding communion with God for all the inhabitants of heaven. Revelation 21,22 assures mankind that there will be no sorrow, no pain, no sickness, no tears and no death in the world that God has prepared for the redeemed of humanity.
In addition to describing the beauty and glory of the New Jerusalem, Revelation 21,22 reveals who will be allowed to enter this holy city and those who will be shut out. of heaven. Revelation 21:7 says, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I wll be his God, and he shall be My son.” The word overcome is used in connection with the forms of evil in the world, and those who will live in heaven are people who overcame evil in their life. Verse 24 informs us that the saved people out of all nations will live in this city. Only saved people will enter into heaven. The only saved people on earth are true Christians. Verse 27 states the only ones who enter this city are people whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. God has given Christ a name that is above every name, and God says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Revelation 22:14 says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city.” People who will enter and live in this heavenly city are people who kept the commandments of God during their lifetime.
Moreover, Revelation 21,22 state just as clearly the kind of people who will not be allowed in heaven. In Revelation 21:8, after saying those who overcome evil will go to heaven, we read these words, “”But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, fornicators, idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” The unbelieving are all who are not Christians. There is no salvation in any of the other 12 or 13 religions in the world today. All these people must convert to the Christian religion in order to go to heaven. Fornicators are people who have sexual relations before they are married. The one and only way unmarried people can be forgiven for participating in sexual relations before marriage is to become Christians and receive forgiveness for all sins committed from the time of their youth. Otherwise, they will die in their sins. The word abominations stand for all things displeasing to God.. The other forms of immoral conduct are self-explanatory.
In Revelation 22: 15, after saying those who keep the commandments of God will have the right to the tree of life, it goes on to say, “But outside are dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters and whoever loves and practices a lie.” Before I comment on these evil forms of conduct that bar people from entering into heaven, Paul mentioned other sinful forms of conduct in I Corinthians 9,10: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” All who have practiced these sinful lifestyles during their lifetime will not enter heaven, unless they convert to the Christian religion, turn to Christ and new life, and have their sins washed away by the blood of Christ.
The first set of wrongdoers mentioned in this terrible list are fornicators–unmarried men and women who have entered into sexual relations with those who are unmarried. Fornication is sex before marriage. Most young people do not realize the seriousness of their immoral conduct. Nothing could be more explicit than this inspired declaration of the apostle that such people who live in lust and uncleanness out of the mariage relationship will not go to heaven. Strange to say, in the very next place stands the sin of idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of any god but the one true God revealed in the Bible. It is also the worship of the one true God by bowing down to statues, images and pictures. The word of God distinctly says, “You shall not bow down to them.” Idolatry is not merely the worship of images made of stone, or wood, or gods of gold or crucifixes, or pictures of the Virgin Mary,–though all that is idolatry. It is also idolatry to put wealth, pleasure, power etc. before God in your life. The apostle tells us of a very low form of idolatry when he writes concerning those, “whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” There are far too many of such idolaters as these still about, all around us, and the Bible declares that they, “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
As to adulterers the apostle mentioned, they are married people who have sexual relations with any one other than their own husband or wife. Horrible and terrible is this shameful, filthy, marriage-corrupting sin in America, as well as in other lands! It is said to the followers of Christ, and to those who are unbelievers who have fallen into the guilt and crime of adultery that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God. In addition to fornication and adultery two special kinds of disgusting sexual
immorality are specified–homosexuals and sodomites. The Greek word translated homosexual means soft men, effeminite men, men who allow men to use their bodies for unnatural sex, contrary to nature; men with men working that which is unseemly. According to Thayer's Greek Lexicon, the Greek word translated sodomite literally means “a male bed,” a bed used for the purpose of sex between two males. Thayer defines the word this way, “One who lies with a male as with a female, a Sodomite.” The Old King James version translated this word, “abusers of themselves with mankind.” Lesbians would be abusers of themselves with womankind. Some think the word “dogs” used in Revelation 22: l5 may refer to homosexuals, as dogs have sexual relations with male dogs as well as females. God rained fire and brimstone on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Abraham, wiping them out of existence. The New Testament says that those cities, “are set forth as an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire”(Jude 7). This means the condemnation that fell on those people of Sodom and Gomorrah was an example of what happens to those who disobey God. Their destruction stands as a symbol of what will eventually be the lot of people who are disobedient to God. In a free society gays may choose this lifestyle, but it is positively condemned in the Bible, and it will shut a person out of heaven. It is an old cliche, but a very true one that says, “Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.”
I would like to close my remarks on the book of Revelation on a lighter note. One of the true things God commanded John to write was that in the New Jerusalem there will be a fountain of water of life for all the heavenly inhabitants, and it flows directly from the throne of God and the Lamb. It is a fountain of youth, for there we shall never grow old. The religion of Christ has revealed to mankind that there is a fountain of eternal youth, the fountain of eternal life. To discover that there is a life available to human beings that will never end and that this gift is in the hands of Christ, this is the greatest discovery a human being can make. I consider that the greatest discovery that I have made in life. During the Dark Ages, a legend grew up in Europe that there was a fountain of youth, an imaginary spring, and its waters were supposed to make old people young and would heal all kinds of sickness. It was thought to be the fountain of water of life found in the garden of Eden. Thus, it was supposed to be located in the far East.
The early Spaniards who came to America were under the impression that America was located in the far East. The “Famous Fountain of Youth” has been associated with the Spanish Explorer Juan
Ponce De Leon. He conquered Porto Rico and discovered Florida, which he claimed for the Spanish government. He founded San Juan which gets its name from him. The Indians told :Ponce De Leon of an island named Bimini, which was really the Bahamas, where there was a marvelous fountain that could restore youth to old people. It became his mission to find that fountain. He searched for it there but could not find it. On a sea expedition to find that fountain, he discovered Florida and gave it the Spanish name, “Flowery Easter,” because he discovered the land on “Easter.” The word Florida means “abounding in flowers.”
It is almost certain that this legend was derived from the Bible Jesus spoke of a fountain of water springing up to eternal life. Jesus said if people drink of the water He gives they will never die. The truth of the matter is that there is a fountain of youth, but people simply were wrong as to its location. We have learned in the book of Revelation that this fountain of living water is not in the present heavens and earth; it is located in in the New Heavens and earth. It is in the Holy City, New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21,22, and it flows directly from the throne of God and the Lamb. The closing words of this book is an invitation to all mankind to come to the New Jerusalem: : “And the spirit and bride say, come. And let him who hears say, come. And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” To live forever one must be an inhabitant of the New Jerusalem in heaven. That is my wish for you, dear reader.