23 Apr 2023
Passage Revelation 21-22
Speaker Chris Haley
The wedding is nearly here! Are you ready? The end is nigh, in more ways than one this morning. This morning we come to the end of our long-running series on the Book of Revelation! And this morning we get the climax of the book, the high spot in history, the apex of the ages, the wedding of the Lamb! There have been some tough passages. There have been seem downright horrific passages. There have been some really quite bizarre passages! But we’ve made it through to the end! And this morning we see what happens to God’s people after Jesus has returned and judgement day has happened. This is how all God’s people will spend eternity, and the setting is a wedding.
Getting ready for a wedding is big deal! As no doubt the Freers are experiencing at the moment as their daughter Katie is getting married in July. There’s the cake, the dress, the venue, the flowers, the makeup, the speeches, the food, the guest list, the invitations! The list is endless! The wedding here though is much bigger! This is a wedding on a cosmic scale! The guest list runs to millions, and the wedding banquet is the greatest in history, and the host is God himself. The name on the invitations: The lamb, and the new Jerusalem.
Yes, that’s right if Revelation couldn’t get any weirder- on the surface of it a sheep is marrying a city, and the city is adorned as a bride! Some of us are so used to the imagery, we forget how weird it is! But what we’re seeing in reality is Christ is marrying his bride, the church. We see this imagery of our relationship with Christ like a marriage throughout the New Testament. Jesus himself spoke of himself as the bridegroom. Really what we experience now is a sort of binding engagement. The wedding itself is still to come- and we see it here! So firstly…
A Fairly Simple Explanation Heard v1-8
There is here a new Heaven, and a new Earth. A new beginning. A fresh start. After the judgement at the end that we saw in chapter 19, and the horrific end of those who did not accept the Lord Jesus before he returned, we now see the glorious end of those who did! And for once in Revelation the explanation is fairly clear (Apart from the sea bit, we’ll come to that in a minute). This new earth is inhabited by God’s people, and by God himself!
Revelation 21:3 ESV 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
What we’re looking forward to is a time when we will dwell with God together on the New Earth. We speak often of Heaven, but our final destination as believers is not Heaven. Heaven is a wonderful waiting room for this. Our final destination is the New Earth, when heaven and Earth come together so to speak, when 80s singer Belinda Carlisle finally gets her way and heaven becomes a place on Earth! There we will dwell with God in our new resurrection bodies for eternity. There will be some things missing in that new world however
No sea: In Revelation the sea is consistently an evil picture. It is where Babylon grew rich. It is where the evil beast came from. It is where people die. It is a chaotic tempest that must be stilled, and before God before we saw it was stilled, well now it has gone!
No crying, pain or death: As a friend of mine used to say, no hearses, hospitals or hankies. One day there will be no more cancer, no more heart disease, no more funerals, no more mourning, no more wills and probate, and all that goes along with it, no more cemeteries, no more invasive tests, no more psychiatrists, no more dentists’ appointments! One day there will be no more death or suffering. Every tear will be wiped from our eye by God. The pain and hurt will be over. I find that an incredible thing to look forward to, and it means it’s ok if we have more than our fair share of problems now, because one day it will be over. There’s also…
No more history: What I mean by that is that there will be nothing more to be done by God. No extra creation, no subsequent fall, no going to the cross again, no bringing it to an end again. All of that is finished. All things have been brought together under Christ. The goal of history is now here: Christ is now all in all, alpha and omega, and will be for eternity.
No more evildoers: We’ll come back to this in our third point, but that is the future put simply. God’s people will spend eternity with God on a new Earth, dwelling with Him forever in paradise. That is what he hears, but what does he see? In other words what pictures does Revelation give us to understand this?
A Garden City Bride Seen 21:9-22:5
God’s people, the bride, are pictured as a city and a garden, but really they’re two takes on the same reality. So it’s really like a garden city. That’s right! The closest we get to this on Earth… Welwyn Garden City! But this is much, much better than some commuter town in Hereford! We get seven details:
It comes down from Heaven: This is not an earthly creation. We will not build a new Jerusalem on England’s green and pleasant land! God will do this!
God’s people are there: There are Twelve gates, twelve foundations, twelve jewels, it’s width length and height are 12,000 stadia, it’s walls are 12x12 cubits thick. Twelve all the way through has been an indicator of God’s people. Here it’s made more explicit: The gates have the 12 tribes written on them, the foundations have the 12 apostles written on them. God’s people Old and New Testament are here. I don’t think we’re to take the dimensions literally: 12,000 stadia, by 12,000 stadia, by 12,000 stadia. The city is a perfect cube - we’ll come to that in a minute - but the point is more this: A thousand is big, as we saw last week! Twelve is God’s people. It’s big and God’s people are there. That’s more the point. If these were literal dimensions then the city is about the size of Brazil cubed! As though you put Brazil on it’s side. It would be bigger in capacity than the moon! Someone online’s helpfully done a scale model. It’s 1,400 miles high! Bear in mind planes usually fly at 5 miles high, 30,000 feet. This is 28 times higher than that. It could be literal, sure, God could add more oxygen in the upper atmosphere, fine, but it’s more likely it’s a picture of this wonderful future reality, rather than a literal representation. It’s showing us it’s big, and God’s people are there, but it’s not just God’s people who are there.
God’s there: we’re told that God and the Lamb are there. More than that they are its temple! In other words we don’t need a meeting place to meet with God now, because God is there with His people. In that sense the whole place is a temple. This this is hammered home by the shape of the place: it’s a perfect cube. There’s only one place like that in the Bible: The Holy of Holies. The place in the OT where God dwelt with his people, where only the high priest could enter once a year, well now- we all get to live in it! God will dwell with his people like never before! Which he told us in plain language before
It’s also glorious!: It has God’s glory and shines like a jewel. This section is full of Old Testament allusions:
Isaiah 60:3 ESV And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Isaiah 60:11 ESV Your gates shall be open continually;
day and night they shall not be shut,
that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations,
with their kings led in procession.
The streets are paved with gold. The foundations are covered in jewels: Twelve kinds, like the twelve jewels on the Ephod of the High priest would wear to represent the people of Israel before God, another reminder of the people, and of the temple. It has no sun, because God’s glory gives it light. This is, guess what, an allusion to the Old Testament! Speaking of Jerusalem Isaiah writes:
Isaiah 60:19-20 ESV
19 The sun shall be no more
your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
give you light;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun shall no more go down,
nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your days of mourning shall be ended.
It has nothing unclean or detestable in it: parallel to the no evildoers in the city.
It has no night: darkness, night time is when bad things happen. That’s why in Star Wars the baddies are the dark side. That’s why Jesus is the light of the world, not the dark of the world. Again whether this is literal is hard to tell. No night-time, no stars, I couldn’t imagine that.
Vernon pointed out to me when we looked at Genesis on a Sunday evening that Revelation here brings together everything that was split apart at creation. On day one the day and night were separated, well now there is no night, all is day. On day three the land and the sea were separated, well now there is no sea, all is land. On day two heaven and earth were separated, well now heaven has come down to earth, and heaven and earth are united. God has put back together everything he split apart at creation. This was always the plan. Right from creation. Hat Tip Vernon! And the creation account is in mind especially…
The city in the next chapter is pictured as a garden and again we’re given seven details:
There is a river flowing from the throne: This reminds us of Eden where four rivers flowed. It also reminds us of the temple in Ezekiel. Where a river flowed from the temple out to the land, and there were trees on both sides of the river:
Ezekiel 47:12 ESV 12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.
Except here it is the tree of life: And it’s leaves are not just for healing, but for the healing of the nations, or possibly the healing of the gentiles- gentiles and nations are the same word. Whatever this is- it is for the healing of the people. There are twelve kinds of fruit: it yields it’s fruit every month- 12 times a year. The tree of life, which has not made an appearance in the Bible since Genesis 3 returns, and now provides sustenance and healing to the people. That’s not the only thing from Genesis 3 that’s here though…
There is no more curse verse 3: Nothing will be accursed. The pronouncements on the man, the woman, the land, all undone: no more curse! No more futility! No more death! God’s name will be on our foreheads. Here’s a reminder this is picture language. It’s not that we’ll all have trendy Hebrew tattoos on our heads. It’s that mark of belonging. Like a child writing their name on a favourite keepsake. MINE- it says. This one is mine- no one can take you away from me. It gets even better though!
We will see Him Face to Face! verse 4: How many times do we hear in the Bible something along the lines of “You cannot see my face and live!” Well here we will see His face and live. The barrier of sin will be gone, and we will be able see God face to face. Imagine that! You can’t imagine that can you! All his glory and majesty and beauty and perfection, and will be able to gaze upon his face! And our response to all this?
We will worship verse3: We will worship the Lamb! We will worship the Lord! We will never cease to sing his praises for all that He has done. But also…
We will reign: We will reign with Christ! Over what? Over everything! What that includes, I don’t know. Adam was given rule over the animals. In 1 Corinthians 6 we’re told we’ll judge angels, so who knows! But we will reign with Him, and it will be glorious, and it will last forever! Christ is there, his people will be there, and it will be glorious, but although everyone is invited, but not all will be there. Which is our last point…
An Invitation and a Caution Given 22:6-21
The last section of Revelation can seem a bit of a jumble, but really it’s recapping all that’s gone before. A bit like the introduction anticipates it all. We’re back with John now. He’s being assured that what he’s seen and heard is true, and is about to happen. Unlike Daniel who’s given a vision and told to seal it up because it’s way off in the future, John is specifically told not to seal it up, because this pertains to what’s about to happen. Let everybody just get on with what they’re doing and show themselves for who they are verse 11, because judgement’s coming. What we need to do is wash our robes in the blood of the Lamb. Accept his offer of forgiveness before he returns in wrath, drink from the water of life Jesus offers in verse 17. As He said while He was on Earth, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37 ESV) The Spirit and the bride bid you come and drink from the root of David, the bright morning star! Come to Jesus now before it’s too late! Accept his invitation! And one day you will be at that wedding, eat of the tree of life and live forever!
But not everyone will. Not everyone accepts the invitation to this wedding. There are those who are outside, those who are cast in the lake of fire. Back in verse 8 we were told there would be no more murderers, no more sexually immoral, no more sorcerers, no more idolaters, no more liars. There’s a similar list in chapter 22: Revelation 22:15 ESV “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises falsehood.” There ‘outside’ is a parallel to in the lake of fire in verse 8. Those are your two options paradise or the lake of fire. I am so thankful at this point for what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6. He writes a similar list, saying that those kinds of people will not inherit the kingdom, but then he finishes with this: 1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The new creation is not populated by people who have never sinned. It is populated exclusively by forgiven sinners made perfect, and Jesus who shed his blood that they might be forgiven. That’s who’s there! Or in other words verse 27… “only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.” Those who may drink freely from the water of life, those who have put their trust in Jesus for their forgiveness, those who God calls in verse 7 His sons
No mistake with gender there. This is an allusion to God’s promise to David’s offspring that he would be their Father and he his son. Only here it’s mashed up with the usual promise that God will be our God and we His people. The challenge for us is the first list half of the list. Not to be cowardly, faithless, or detestable, profane. That’s probably more aimed at those who have been following Christ for a time then turned away: fearful, faithless, and in the end desecrated. The challenge is not to turn back, or you will end up outside.
There’s also a curse pronounced on anyone who adds or takes away from the words of the book. John understands that what He has written is Holy Scripture. It’s not take it or leave it. It’s not add your own slant to it. This is God’s Word! I don’t think John was writing this for the whole of Scripture. This verse is referring to the book of Revelation specifically, but I do think the verse applies to the whole of Scripture. When you have God’s Word, you’re not free to add and take away as is convenient. That says John, will land you with the plagues, and kicked out of the garden! Why? Because you’re putting yourself above and over God. We’re back in the Eden. The devil takes away: ‘Did God really say…’ says the serpent, and Eve adds ‘Yes, and don’t touch it!’ This is how it all went wrong in the first place. We can’t pick and choose what God has said. A few verses here, a chapter there, in the name of ‘relevance’, or moving with the times or the culture. We forget we’re supposed to be counter-cultural. We forget that it’s the norm that we’re hated- read the rest of the book! Read the letters to the churches. It’s not for not ‘moving with the times’ they are condemned, it’s moral and theological compromise with Jezebels (Revelation 2:20) and Balaams! (Revelation 2:14) It’s that which risks us our place at wedding feast!
Jesus will soon return, and the caution is to not be playing hard and fast with his Word when he does, not to be caught spiritually napping or going off track. Even John needed correction- he’s reminded in verse 9 that what he needs to be doing is worshipping God. Keeping the words of this book. If we do that along with John we’ll be blessed verse 7: the seventh and final blessing in this book. What does it mean to keep the words of the book? It means to be ready! To be ready for the wedding. To RSVP before the wedding date! Repent and Believe the Gospel (I tried to make it fit RSVP, but it was too cheesy!). We need to turn from sin, turn to Christ and accept his invitation! And if we have RSVPed we need to keep going until the wedding day, keep looking forward to that wedding day. Jesus himself spoke of the danger of taking our eye off the ball, or not having enough all in our lamps when the bridegroom arrives. We must keep close to Christ sustained by His Spirit, obedient to his Word, and longing for his coming! He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. (Revelation 22:20-21 ESV) The wedding is nearly here! Are you ready? Amen! Let’s pray!