The Holy City, New Jerusalem - Rev. Herman Hoeksema
Behold He Cometh - Chapter 51
9 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.
10 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,
11 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.
15 And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
16 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.
17 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.
18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
19 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.
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.
22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
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.
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 honour into it.
25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which were written in the Lamb's book of life.
The Queen of Sheba had heard of Solomon's greatness and glory and wisdom. Others had tried to give her an idea of it. They had pictured it to her so vividly and strongly that she would not believe it. She determined to investigate for herself. She beholds the glory of the king. She listens to his words of wisdom. And she returns with the confession that the half had not been told her.
The same will, no doubt, be true with respect to the things described in the passage we are about to discuss.
All things are to be new in the eternal future of the kingdom of heaven and in the perfect church. We expect a new heaven and a new earth, that is, a new and entirely different state of things. Essentially this new state of things shall consist in this, that God's tabernacle shall then be with men. In detail, however, Scripture tells us very little about the rest. How shall this new state be? We know a few things of that new and perfect state which shall be characterized by God's dwelling with men. Certainly, we know that sin and suffering shall be no more. All will be holy and righteous and filled with the glory and knowledge of God. We also know that the temporal and all that is connected with it shall be no more. All that is of this present time shall be changed. In the present passage Scripture gives a symbolical picture of that new state of things, particularly of the holy city, New Jerusalem. And we can stammer a few words in explanation. But for the rest, our experience will be like that of the Queen of Sheba after she had visited Solomon, and we shall undoubtedly say: "The half was not told us."
In this section of Revelation 21 we have before us in a little more detail the description of the New Jerusalem. Already in verse 2 John saw the New Jerusalem. Now he is shown the city in detail.
The City's Appearance To John
The vision is introduced in verses 9 and 10, where we read: "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 thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. 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."
The agent who shows John the vision, therefore, is one of the seven vial-angels, one of those who had poured out the seven last plagues. This is very appropriate. It reminds us of the fact that there is a connection between those judgments and the coming of the New Jerusalem. Those judgments and the final destruction of Babylon had their positive purpose in the coming of the New Jerusalem. They must serve to prepare the way. This mediating angel says to John, "Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife." And then we read in verse 10 that he showed John "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God." John is carried away in the spirit, and he is shown the New Jerusalem from a great and high mountain. We are warned here at once that the description of the city which follows is by no means to be interpreted as referring to a literal city. The New Jerusalem is here called "the bride, the Lamb's wife," which is, as we know, the church. And John is shown spiritual things in a vision and in signs and symbols. The mountain to which John is carried away in the spirit is a great and high mountain, in order to afford John a proper view of this colossal city. The picture is that the city is still descending out of heaven from God (cf. verse 2); and in order to have a clear and unobstructed view of it and because of its colossal size, John must be situated on this great and high mountain "in the spirit" in this vision.
John beholds a huge city, suspended in mid-heaven, descending from heaven to earth. It is the great city, the holy Jerusalem. In shape the city is a perfect cube; and in size the city is twelve thousand stadia, or furlongs, each way. The city, therefore, is in the shape of a cube which is approximately 1400 miles long, 1400 miles wide, and 1400 miles high. Imagine! Travelling at sixty miles per hour, it would require a full day and a night to go from one side of that city to the other. Or, superimposing the city on our continent, it would reach from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Plains and from Maine to Florida. And the height is also some 1400 miles! Around the city is a wall which, though very high in itself, is not nearly as high as the city. It is 144 cubits, or approximately 220 feet, high. In the wall are twelve gates, three on each of the four sides. And at each of the gates stands an angel. Moreover, on the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Further, the wall has twelve foundations, evidently standing next to one another and stretching from gate to gate. And the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are written in the foundations.
As to its material, the city itself is pure gold, transparent in its splendor like glass. The wall is of pure jasper, a beautiful precious stone which may appear in divers colors, but which here shines like crystal and is perhaps white like the diamond. The gates in the wall are each a huge pearl, pure and lustrous. The foundations are adorned with all manner of precious stones, in which blue and green, red and white and yellow vie with one another in splendor and beauty. The first foundation is again jasper. The second is sapphire, which is a beautiful dark blue stone. The third is a chalcedony, probably an agate. The fourth is emerald, which is a beautiful green. The fifth, sardonyx, a brilliant flesh color. Then there is the sardius, a precious stone of a bright red hue (cf. Rev. 4:3). The seventh is chrysolyte, a stone of a golden, yellow luster. The eighth is beryl, like the greenness of the sea when the sun shines upon it. The ninth is topaz, which is a transparent, yellow color. The tenth is chrysoprasus, a pale, golden color. The eleventh is jacinth, a violet color. And the twelfth is amethyst, which is a purple color. And the street of the city is of pure gold, like transparent glass. The question whether there was only one street in the city or whether the term street is representative of all the streets is of no moment. The over all impression of this colossal city which John beholds is one of overwhelming beauty. For thus we read already in verse 11: "and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal."
The Identity Of The City
Now it is of the utmost importance to understand that what John beholds is not a literal city, but a symbolic and visionary city. It is, in fact, very difficult to avoid thinking of a literal city when we contemplate this passage. Yet we make a very serious mistake if we do so, a mistake which would cause us to miss the thrust of the entire passage, and one which would also involve us in impossible difficulties as far as the interpretation of this graphic and detailed description of the city is concerned.
Yet there are those who would have us think of a literal city with a literal wall and literal gates and streets, in which the saints of all ages shall dwell. Some would even locate this city permanently in mid-heaven, that is, between heaven and earth, so that other nations on earth will walk in and enjoy its light. But there is every indication in the passage itself and in the context to the contrary. In the first place, the very fact of the symbolic character of the Book of Revelation as a whole should put us on our guard against a literal understanding of a passage like this. Secondly, there is the fact that John introduces the entire passage by telling us that he was carried away in the spirit unto a great and high mountain. In other words, what we have here is a vision. And when we consider in this connection the highly symbolic nature of the passage, every thought of a literal city is ruled out. Think, for example, only of the shape and size of the city. Who can conceive of a literal city in the shape of a cube? And what kind of literal city would be the size of almost half of the United States? Besides, there are the precious stones mentioned, and the names of the twelve tribes engraved in the gates, and those of the twelve apostles written in the foundations; there are the recurring multiples of 12 and of 10, both of which numbers are used again and again in the symbolic sense in the Book of Revelation and elsewhere. All these facts are indications that here we must think not of a literal city, but of a highly symbolic city. In the fourth place, not a city suspended in mid-heaven is the everlasting habitation of the saints. But the new heaven and earth shall be their habitation. The meek shall inherit the earth, not a city in mid-air. And, above all, this literalistic interpretation is contradicted by the introduction by the angel. He says to John, "Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife." And then he proceeds to show John, who is "in the spirit" and on "a great and high mountain," a city, "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending (not suspended permanently in mid-air, but in the process of coming down) out of heaven, from God." In other words, when John beholds this great city, holy Jerusalem, he is being shown "the bride, the Lamb's wife." They are the same, the latter being shown to John under the symbolism of this city.
In this same connection we should be cautioned against thinking rather idyllically and sentimentally of heaven in terms of this city. This is not infrequently done in song and in the spoken word, as though heaven, or the new creation, were a place with streets of gold and gates of pearl, where there is literally no night, etc. Now there is no question about it, in the light of Scripture, that the abode of the saints in the new creation will be exceedingly glorious. But it is not in harmony with this passage, nor with any other passage of Scripture, to think in any wise of a literal city and literal gates and streets. The sole purpose of the vision is to show us "the bride, the Lamb's wife." We must therefore constantly be on our guard against a literal conception of the things here described.
Hence, rather than thinking of a literal city, we must understand that the vision purposes to show us the church under the symbolism of this great and holy city. This is clearly in harmony with the words of the angel, "Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife." The passage considers the whole of what is here described, that is, the church, the Lamb's wife, as a city in relation to Christ. This implies, in the first place, that the church is not in this city; but this city is the church. In the second place, this city, as the bride, the Lamb's wife, stands in a most intimate relation to Christ, and through Christ to God. The relation is that of a communion of nature, a communion of life, and a communion of love, (cf. Revelation 19:6-10). Christ, therefore, is everything in this city. He fills the whole city with His life and love. And through Him the city stands in fellowship with God. And, in the third place, this implies that Christ is the Lord of this city, His bride. He is the One Whose will she delights to do; and, through Him, it is the will of God that is her delight.
This same idea is also emphasized by the names of the apostles on the foundation. This element in the vision expresses that principally the apostles constitute the foundation of the church, that foundation having been laid through the instrumentality of the apostles. But then we must remember that of that foundation Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone, which means that Christ incarnate, crucified, raised, exalted and glorified, determines the whole foundation, and thus the whole city. In other words, again, Christ is everything in this city. In the New Jerusalem we shall always be with and in Christ consciously. This is in harmony with the teaching of Scripture in Ephesians 2:19-22: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are, builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
Finally, we must notice in this connection that the bride and wife of the Lamb appears as a city. There is nothing strange about this symbolism if we remember that after all a city is not the number of houses and buildings. These are not meant here at all. They do not constitute a city. It is the living citizens, the people, who constitute the city, and that too, in the peculiar life and relation which is denoted by the term city. The bride of the Lamb is not one person, but consists of millions and millions. Truly, in the world at any given point in history she is a "little flock." But in the end she shall appear as an innumerable multitude. And in this vision the size of the city is proof of this.
But for what reason is the church depicted especially as a city? The purpose is to emphasize the idea of communion, the idea of a commonwealth, of a social community. This is expressed in the very idea of a city. The city, in distinction from the country, is representative of a more highly developed social life. In it the people do not live miles apart, but closely together. Hence, in the city there is human development in science and art and industry. There is close social intercourse. And it is from the cities as the great centers of civilization that the effects of this high development spread into the country round about. True, in this present world this more highly developed social life stands in the sign of sin and in the service of sin. But this does not change this basic idea of a closely knit social community which is characteristic of a city. And it is this idea which is on the foreground in the symbolism of our passage. The church, the New Jerusalem, will be the perfect society. All the saints of the old and of the new dispensation shall be one in Christ. Nothing shall divide them any more. They shall be of one life, of one principle, of one aim and purpose. In Christ they shall be one with the Triune God. And as such they shall stand in close communion with one another. Each occupying his own position, they shall serve a common purpose, namely, consecrated service of God. They shall be a holy priesthood!
The Perfection Of This City
In this connection we must pay attention to the several details of the vision which point to the perfection of this city.
This perfection is denoted, first of all, by the fact that the city is in the shape of a perfect cube. The interpreting angel measures the city, as John looks on, with a golden reed. Golden is the reed, in harmony with the glory of the city. This measuring reveals that the city is equal in length and breadth and height. Jerusalem has attained the perfection of the most holy place in the temple of the old dispensation, which was also a perfect cube. But now the entire city is such a perfect cube. The church has attained to universal perfection. It is the perfect dwelling-place of God, even as was the holy of holies typically. And its perfection embraces heaven and earth. Here we behold the climax of the work of God in the building of His church. For there is development in this work. First there is the line, represented in the rectangle of the old temple, symbolizing the church of the old dispensation as it was found in one nation. Then follows the temple of Ezekiel's prophecy, in which the square is dominant, symbolizing the church as it is gathered from all nations. And in the vision of our passage we find the cube, symbolizing the universal perfection of the heavenly New Jerusalem.
In the second place, we must take notice of the wall of this city. As we have seen earlier, that wall is foursquare; it is one hundred forty-four cubits high; it has twelve foundations, lying next to one another; in it are twelve gates, three on each side, with an angel stationed at each gate; and in the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.
What may be the meaning of all this?
Certainly that wall is not for protection, and the angels do not function as guards. The wall itself is too low to serve that purpose: for what are 144 cubits in comparison with 12,000 furlongs, the height of the city? Besides, the gates of the city are never shut, according to verse 25. No, there is no need of guards and protection against possible enemies and attacks any more: for there will be no one in the new creation and no one in the New Jerusalem who will hate and attack the people of God any longer. Rather must we understand the symbolism of the wall as meaning that the city is complete and finished. All the elect are gathered and are included within that wall. And the angels standing one at each of the twelve gates, or entrances, of the city are the angels who have served in the ingathering of the citizens and who have gathered all God's elect, and them only, into the city. In this connection, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on the gates are indicative of the identity of those who are within the gates. All Israel constitutes the glorious church of God, the glorious and holy Jerusalem. We may notice too that the idea that Israel and the church are two separate peoples is condemned in this passage. There shall not be two peoples, an earthy Jerusalem over which Christ shall rule and a heavenly people. There is only one people, and that one people is the church. The bride, the Lamb's wife is constituted the New Jerusalem; and New Jerusalem's citizens are all Israel, from Jew and Gentile.
In the third place, the perfection of Jerusalem is indicated by the symbolic numbers which occur in this vision. First of all, the number twelve prevails throughout the vision. The wall of the city is twelve times twelve cubits high. Twelve thousand furlongs is the measurement of the city. There are twelve foundations of the wall, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And there are twelve gates and twelve angels and twelve tribes of Israel. The number twelve, as we have had occasion to note before, is the product of three (the number of the Trinity) and four (the number of the creature). Hence, it is the number of election, the number of God's chosen people. All have entered through the gates, and all are within those walls, and there is room for them all in that great city. But, secondly, the number ten also occurs here. For the size of the city is twelve times ten times ten times ten furlongs. This number ten emphasizes the idea of fulness, completeness, according to the decree of God. The church is complete. The fulness of the number of its citizens according to the counsel of God is circumscribed within its walls. And if in this connection, finally, we consider the colossal size of the city, we obtain the idea that this completed church, the sum total of the elect of God, is the multitude which no man can number. Such is the great city, the holy Jerusalem!
Finally, we must notice the glory of New Jerusalem's perfection.
This is expressed in several ways in the text. In the first place, our attention is called to the light of the city: "and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal." In the second place, we are told that the "building of the wall of it was of jasper," emphasizing once more the crystalline light of the city. And, in the third place, we are informed that the city, and also the street of it, are of pure, transparent gold. And all of this is enhanced by the description of all the precious stones in the foundations and the pearls of the gates. All these details serve to express the glory, the purity, the beauty, and the preciousness of this great and holy city. We must not attempt to allegorize every detail here: that would be in conflict with the whole idea of the vision and would involve us in hopeless difficulty. But we may notice a few details.
In the first place, we must notice that the glory of God fills the city. Thus we are informed directly in the text, verse 11: "having the glory of God." This glory of God in the city is in the vision compared to the simple white luster of the jasper stone, which in the vision of Revelation 4 is associated with "him that sat on the throne." This glory of God, like the brilliancy of the jasper, is the light of the city, very bright and very clear and very transparent. The meaning is evident. The glory of God is the radiation of God's infinite perfections and virtues. And this glory of God, the radiation of His knowledge and grace and righteousness and holiness and love and wisdom and infinite goodness, is imparted to and reflected in the glorified church.
Moreover, the manifold beauty of that one glory of God is symbolized by the precious stones, which serve to picture the beauty and the preciousness of the city, of the bride of the Lamb. But we may notice that these precious stones are found in the foundation, the foundation of which, as we have seen, the chief cornerstone is our Lord Jesus Christ. It is in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, that the manifold glory of God will be revealed in the entire city, the church.
This beautiful bride of the Lamb, the city of God, is precious. Of this we are reminded by the pure, transparent gold of the city. For did not the apostle Peter speak of this in I Peter 1:7: "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearance of Jesus Christ." That gold, therefore, represents the preciousness of all believers. They have been refined and beautified in the crucible of affliction. And now, at the appearance of Jesus Christ, they are found unto the praise and honor and glory of God forever!
The Life Of The New Jerusalem
In the last section of this passage, from verse 22 to verse 27, we have a further description of the perfection and glory of the New Jerusalem, but now especially from the point of view of the glory and activity of the citizens, as well as their spiritual character and perfection. Also in this part of the vision it is important to remember that we do not have here a literal city, but a description of the bride of the Lamb, the church, from the viewpoint of its being a social community. All the details must be interpreted accordingly.
First of all, we may observe that the citizens of the New Jerusalem are described both from a natural and from a spiritual viewpoint.
In verse 24 we read: "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." The same thought occurs in verse 26: "And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it." The city, therefore, is strictly cosmopolitan. It is out of all nations. We may notice, too, that they appear here as nations. This certainly does not imply - that the separation of the nations shall continue in the New Jerusalem. All national separation, separation of language and interests and aims, shall disappear forever. Yet it is plain that the organic development of the race and of the various nations is of significance for the church in glory. Also in this respect history has not been in vain. Out of the one root have developed all the various branches of nations and tribes. And this development has not been for nought. The citizens of the New Jerusalem are from every nation; and the organic development of the nations serves the purpose of the multiformity of the church and the revelation of the manifold glory of God in the multitude of the redeemed from every nation and tribe and tongue.
We may notice that the passage also speaks of the kings, who bring the glory and honor of the nations into the city. The reference here certainly cannot be to kings here in this world. Whether the interpretation is that the culture and civilization of the great of this world, the fruit of the inventions and productions of this present world, shall be carried into the eternal city, or whether this is explained as meaning that in this present world the kings of the nations serve the well-being of the church, both of these interpretations are impossible. In the first place, we must remember that this world and all that is in it will be destroyed by fire. Nothing of this present world and its culture can possibly have a place in the holy city. And, in the second place, we must bear in mind that the description here is of the heavenly Jerusalem, not of the church in this present time. The meaning is rather that also in the eternal kingdom there will be great and small. There will be rulers in the New Jerusalem, as well as those who are subject to those rulers. All shall not be the same and of the same rank. This need not be considered strange and out of place. For one thing, this is in harmony with what Scripture tells us of the angel world; also among the perfect and heavenly spirits there are differences of rank and glory, thrones and principalities and powers. Moreover, Scripture elsewhere teaches that among the saints there shall also be differences. Of the apostles we read that they shall sit on twelve thrones, for example. Nevertheless, all the dominion and glory of kings and of nations shall be in the service of the glorified Christ in the church.
Spiritually the citizens and their perfection are described both negatively and positively. We read in verse 27: "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." Nothing that defiles either the nature of the citizens or the relation between them or the entire inheritance, nothing at all of the defilement of sin, shall enter into the city. Nothing which worketh abomination, that is, no spiritual adultery or whatsoever may occasion it, shall enter into the city. And nothing which makes a lie, that is, an idol and whatever is a denial of the only true God, shall enter into the city. On the contrary, only they which are written in the Lamb's book of life shall have a place there. They are the elect, those who are chosen in Christ, who are redeemed by Him and delivered by Him from all the defilement of sin, from all the abomination of spiritual adultery, and from all the power of the lie. They are sanctified and cleansed and purified in the blood of the Lamb. They are the perfect citizens of the kingdom forevermore. Moreover, we may notice that the perfection of the New Jerusalem is greater than that of the first paradise. For it is emphasized that that which defiles and works abomination and makes a lie shall in no wise enter into the city; that is, the very possibility of corruption is forever gone. The reason is that the center and head of this communion of the holy city is Christ, the Son of God in the flesh, Who died and rose again. Death hath no more dominion over Him, and therefore no more dominion over those who are of Him, those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
In the second place, our attention is drawn to the heavenly glory of the city and its citizens.
John writes: "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." The idea of the temple, as we have seen before, is that it is the house of God, the dwellingplace of God in fellowship with His people. In the old, earthly Jerusalem there was a special temple, a separate building, distinct from the rest of the city. Although Jerusalem as a whole was the city of God, the Lord nevertheless did not dwell in the entire city; but He had His dwelling in the city in a special house, and particularly in the holy of holies, behind the veil. Then the people would go there to worship and to sacrifice and pray and to be blessed. In that sense there shall be no temple in the New Jerusalem, no special house of God. And the reason for the absence of a special temple is given in the text: "For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." In other words, the text does not mean that the temple-idea is done away, but rather that it has come to its highest and fullest realization. There is no need, no occasion, for a special temple: for God Himself is the temple of His people in Christ. That God and the Lamb are the temple signifies that God through the Lamb is the temple. Through the Lamb God dwells with His people. Christ, through His Spirit, will perfectly and completely fill the glorified church; and through Him God shall be with us in constant and perfect fellowship. Not a special building will be His temple, but the entire spiritual building of the church, that is, the whole city, shall be His dwellingplace. Constantly and everywhere His people shall know Him as He reveals Himself to them and as He walks with them. They see God evermore and everywhere, and dwell in His blessed fellowship. And all of life will be a constant worship of God in perfection. It is in this context that we must also consider the words of verse 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." This does not mean that in the new creation there will be neither sun nor moon. For the reference here is not to the new creation, but to the holy city, the bride of the Lamb, the church. Nor does the text state that there will be no sun and moon, but that the glorified church will have no need of it. The question is: why and for what does the city not need sun or moon? And the reason is given in the second part of the verse: "for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." Here, in the earthly creation, our knowledge of God is mediate. It is through earthly things. And there is only a reflection of the glory of God through the light of the sun and moon. For that kind of knowledge the light of the sun and the moon is necessary. But there we shall know and see God face to face. The glory of God, that is, the radiation of all His perfections, lightens the city, that is, the hearts and minds of the saints who constitute the city.
And this is through Christ, the Lamb, Who is the lamp in Whom that light shines. In the New Jerusalem, therefore, the saints behold the glory of God's virtues in Christ directly and immediately. They shall see Him face to face, and know Him as they are known!
Finally, the passage speaks of the activity of the citizens of the New Jerusalem.
First of all, we read that "the nations of them which are saved shall walk..." There shall be activity in the New Jerusalem. Its citizens shall not lazily loll by the river of the water of life, but shall be active. In the frequently used Scriptural expression "walk" we have a reference to this. By their walk is meant their entire life and conversation, all their activity, and that too, in relation to God. In the new creation there will be work. Indeed, there shall be no toil in order to eke out an existence or to accumulate wealth. But the citizens, each in his own place and with his definite tasks and his talents and gifts, shall be active. In eternal glory there will be constant life and constant activity, all in the service of God. For all the activity is in the light of the city; that is, all their walk and conversation is controlled and motivated by the perfect knowledge of and fellowship with God through the Lamb. And therefore, all their work will at the same time be perfect rest, the rest of God's everlasting covenant. In harmony with this is also the idea that all, the kings and the nations, bring their glory and honor into the New Jerusalem. The language and presentation are derived from the prophecies of the Old Testament (cf., for example, Isaiah 60 and Psalm 72). From that point of view, the nations are the Gentile nations who come to Jerusalem to worship and bring their treasures and offerings to the city of God. Actually, of course, the nations are not outside of Jerusalem, but included in it. And the picture of the vision is that all the honor and glory of the nations concentrates around Christ and His church, and all the fruit of their labors is consecrated to the glory of God and of the Lamb. All the activity of the New Jerusalem shall be perfect service of God!
Moreover, this activity shall be constant. This is the point of verse 25: "And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there." Once again we must remember that the reference is not to the new creation, but to the glorified church. Hence, we dare not draw the conclusion from this verse that there will be no representation of the glory and beauty of the night in the new creation. The idea is rather that for the glorified church there will be no night, but only constant light and constant, uninterrupted activity. In harmony with this is the idea that the gates shall not be shut. The gates of a city are shut at night, when there is fear of the enemy. But in that city the gates shall not be shut: for there is no night with its fear of the enemy, no night and its cessation of all activity, when the glory and honor of kings and nations cannot be brought into the city. There shall only be constant activity and constant fulness of life and joy.
What a great and holy city that shall be!
What a tremendous contrast there is between Babylon and its end in outer darkness and the New Jerusalem, the church, with its everlasting light and perfection and bliss and glory!
Well may we rejoice if our names are written in the Lamb's book of life! And well may we strive to keep our spiritual garments clean from everything that defileth, or that maketh abomination, or that maketh a lie! For if we are of the former, then we cannot be of the latter; and if we are of them who partake of Babylon's corruptions, then we are not of those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. And only they, but surely they, who are written in the Lamb's book of life shall enter into that city, where the covenant and kingdom of God shall be perfect forevermore!