What we are about to read you are not going to believe. What we are about to read is a description of the City of God, the glory of God, prepared for those who will spend eternity with the Father. I say, “You won’t believe it,” but I’m not suggesting that you will deny the reality of the City of God. What I mean is that the description of the City of God, the New Jerusalem, is so far beyond our realm of understanding that we can’t even begin to get our mind around what this glorious city will be like. The city is so massive, so glorious, so unbelievable that S. Lewis Johnson says, “Even a Texan can’t grasp it.” I want to prepare you for what we are about to read so that you can brace yourself, prepare yourself, for what is coming your way. I want to urge you to believe the unbelievable this morning. It really isn’t that difficult if you stop to think about it. We are told unbelievable truths all the time that we choose to believe. Let me illustrate what I am talking about this morning.
Several years ago I was invited to speak at John Marshall High School about the history of Christianity. After I finished speaking I asked the kids if they had any questions? One of the kids in the class raised his hand. When I called on him, he said, “Do you believe in Heaven?” I said, “Yes, I do.” He said, “You ever been there?” I said, “No, but I have confidence that one day I will be there.” He said, “I won’t believe it until I see it.” I said, “So, you don’t believe in anything you can’t see? Is that it?” He said, “Yeah.” Other kids chimed in. I said, “Let me ask you a question. Do you believe that there is a country called ‘Australia?’” Several of the kids spoke up and said that they did believe in a country called Australia. I said, “Have you ever been to Australia? Any of you? Have you ever been to Australia?” Nobody said a word. I asked, “How can you believe that there is a land called Australia if you’ve never been there?” One of the kids said, “But I’ve seen pictures of it.” I said, “How do you know those pictures are real? You see pictures of monsters and computer generated characters all the time that you know aren’t real. How can you know that the pictures you see of a place called Australia are real?”
I said, “Let me ask you another question. How many of you listen to the radio?” All of the hands shot up. I said, “Have you ever seen a radio wave? Anybody?” Nobody moved. I said, “Why would you listen to the radio if you’ve never seen a radio wave? Isn’t that hypocritical?” I told the kids the same thing I want to tell all of you this morning—we believe in things that we don’t understand every day and the reason we believe is because we have faith.
I could have gone on with the kids, but I think I proved my point. I was reading this past week about something called, “Dark Matter.” Do you know what Dark Matter is? Well, let me read to you from the website called, “Space Daily,” as they describe Dark Matter.
Dark Matter is matter with normal gravitational properties but which does not emit sufficient electromagnetic radiation to be observed directly in any type of telescope. Large amounts of normal matter (in the form of stars or hydrogen gas) in galaxies and clusters of galaxies, are seen to be moving so fast that they would escape, unless there is up to ten times more gravity than that of the normal matter itself. This additional gravity is ascribed to Dark Matter but what it consists of is currently unknown. (Space Daily, New Evidence for Dark Energy, November 13, 2002, http://www.spacedaily.com/news/darkmatter-02d.html)
Scientists tell us that they know from observing the rotation of galaxies that about 90% of the matter contained in the galaxies of the Universe are invisible to us.
Along with Dark Matter, scientists have discovered something they call “Dark Energy.” Even though they don’t know what Dark Energy is, they know that about two thirds of the Universe’s energy is Dark Energy. We can’t see it. We can’t touch it. They can’t adequately describe it, but they know it exists. How do they know? Well, scientists have studied the Universe, they’ve observed what they can observe, but ultimately they believe because they have faith.
I don’t have any problem believing what the scientists tell us about Dark Matter and Dark Energy and I pray that you won’t have any problem believing what God’s Word has to say about the glorious city of God. S. Lewis Johnson says,
It is a literal city, although described in symbolical language. We look for a real city. Now we know from science that things that cannot be seen are nevertheless real. And it is definitely in accordance with the Word of God that at the moment there are things that we cannot see, but there are things that are nonetheless real. This city is a real city. Symbolically presented in the Word of God, but still a real city. (S. Lewis Johnson, The Metropolis of the New Earth.)
With that said, let’s take a look at John’s description of the glorious city of God given to us in Revelation 21 and 22.
9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. 22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27Nothing 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. 22 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 21:9 – 22:5 NIV)
What a glorious city! The city of God. Stop and think with me for a moment. You’ve had opportunities to visit some great cities I’m sure. Have you ever been to New York? Chicago? Seattle? Los Angeles? How about cities in distant countries? Have you ever been to Melbourne? Singapore? Mexico City? Jerusalem? Paris? There are many great cities that people visit in the world, but none of the cities that have ever existed can even begin to compare to the glorious city that God has prepared for His people.
One of the greatest cities of times past was Babylon. The ancient city was known for many things, but it was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon that is still considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The gardens were built by Nebuchadnezzar II around 600 BC. It is said that he built the gardens for his wife, Amytis of Media, who longed for the trees and beautiful plants of her homeland.
Herodotus, one of the great Greek historians, called the “Father of history, wrot about the greatness of Babylon. He said that Babylon was the only city of its kind. According to Herodotus, the city was built in a perfect square with one half of the city on each side of the river Euphrates. The streets ran in straight lines, east to west and north to south, just like in any modern American city. Two huge walls that were three hundred and thirty-five feet high and eighty-five feet broad encircles the city that according to Herodotus, was fifty-six miles around the perimeter. There were some one hundred bronze gates in the wall around Babylon. Herodotus said, “In magnificence, there is no other city that approaches it.”
For all of the wonders of ancient Babylon, the city was a cancer to the heart of God because of its detestable practices. Ancient Babylon fell, but worse still, the name Babylon became synonymous for all that would be wrong about every city that would come into existence in the future. In Revelation 18:1-6 we get a glimpse of this as many Bible teachers believe that the reference to “Babylon” is a veiled attack on the Roman Empire. Read along with me from Revelation 18:1-6.
1After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 2 With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. 3 For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” 4Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. (Revelation 18:1-6 NIV)
You and I may look at the glimmering lights and magnificent structures of a city like Las Vegas, New York, Moscow, or Rio de Janeiro and step back in amazement, but God sees beneath the surface. He sees what goes on in the heart of the city. The city of man will never prevail, will never endure, but the city of God is glorious and enduring throughout all of eternity.
If you will notice Revelation 21:9 you will see where one of the seven angels invites John to come and see the “Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” Read along with me.
9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9 NIV)
What John sees in the following verses is the glorious city of God, the New Jerusalem. I noticed that back in Revelation 17:1 John was given a similar invitation, not an invitation to see the Bride, but an opportunity to see the great prostitute. Read along with me.
1 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. (Revelation 17:1 NIV)
When John saw the great prostitute, he didn’t see a literal woman, he saw the description of the city of man, the city of Rome that was prostituting the nations and persecuting the people of God.
The city of man is characterized by corruption, by vice, injustice, by sin—therefore the city of man cannot endure, it is destined to fall and to merely become a paragraph in the annals of history. The city of God on the other hand is characterized by the glory of God, by righteousness, justice, and holiness and therefore it is an enduring city. Let me show you what I am talking about.
John was invited to come and see the Bride, and then in the very next verse, Revelation 21:10, we read where the angel carried John away. Read along with me.
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. (Revelation 21:10 NIV)
Mountains are significant in God’s Word. It was on Mount Sinai that Moses received the Ten Commandments. In Ezekiel 40 the prophet shares a vision of a restored Temple and a restored Jerusalem. You need to know that Ezekiel prophesied during a time when the Babylonians attacked the people of Judah and Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar unleashed his wrath on Judah and Jerusalem, took King Jehoiachin and many of the citizens of Jerusalem, including Ezekiel, captive. Nebuchadnezzar put Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, in place as ruler over Jerusalem until Jerusalem was destroyed about ten years later, in 586 B.C.
You can only imagine the devastation felt by God’s people. They felt abandoned by God, but He had not abandoned them. In Ezekiel 40 we read,
1In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city– on that very day the hand of the LORD was upon me and he took me there. 2 In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. (Ezekiel 40:1-2 NIV)
What takes place in Ezekiel 40-48 is the description of the restoration of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. In the last verse of Ezekiel’s vision, after the measurement of the city is laid out, we read,
35 “The distance all around will be 18,000 cubits. “And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.” (Ezekiel 48:35 NIV)
What we have been reading in Revelation 21 is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s glorious vision. If you were to place Ezekiel 40-48 next to Revelation 21-22 and study them you would find that the vision in Revelation 21-22 is super-sized! Ezekiel’s vision was glorious, it had to have been such a comfort to the exiles in Babylon, but they couldn’t even begin to imagine what the restored Temple and city would be like. I believe with all of my heart that as glorious as John’s vision in Revelation 21-22 is to us, we can’t even begin to imagine what that city will actually look like and be like. I can tell you this—everything in the city will reflect the glory of God.
Let me tell you why I believe this. Take a look at Revelation 21:11 with me and we will read the first words used to describe what John saw, when he saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem.
11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:11 NIV)
“It shone with the glory of God.” What a beautiful description! John describes the brilliance of the city as being “like” a precious jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. He doesn’t say that it is jasper, but that it is like jasper. Truth be known, John doesn’t have the language to describe what he saw so he used the closest thing he could compare it to.
This is not the only indicator that the city reflects the glory of God. In Revelation 21:23 we see that in the city there is no need of the sun or the moon. Read along with me.
23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Revelation 21:23 NIV)
There is no need for the sun or moon to “illuminate” the city because God and the Lamb are its light and its lamp. What does that mean? It is too much to try and explain it—just glory in it. The glory of God illuminates the city, the citizens, and all of life in the city of God!
This verse reminds me of another glorious vision in God’s Word. In Isaiah 60 we read about a glorious vision Isaiah was given to share with the decimated and destroyed people of God. In the opening verses of the chapter we read,
1″Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. (Isaiah 60:1-2 NIV)
“The LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.” Wow! What a word of hope to those who were so troubled by their troubles. A little later in Isaiah 60 we read,
18 No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. 19 The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. (Isaiah 60:18-20 NIV)
Ezekiel’s vision was largely about the restoration of the Temple, Isaiah’s vision is largely about the restoration of the people and city of Jerusalem, but John’s vision is about a new city that is a Temple for the people of God. It’s not that the city is a “Temple,” but the whole city is a Temple from the standpoint that God’s presence fills the city. John says,
22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Revelation 21:22 NIV)
I pray that this study of the city of God is making you as anxious as a little kid at Christmas for that glorious day when we will see the city for all that it is. Many believers today become far too comfortable with life on planet earth. I’ve heard folks talk at funerals and in other settings about their own death. I’ve heard them say, “I’m not afraid to die, but I’m just not ready yet. I’ve got things that I want to do.” I would suggest to you that those folks don’t understand life in the glorious city of God. This place is not our home. We should be like the little girl who went to spend the night with her classmate. Both girls were in kindergarten and they had so much fun together, but neither one had been away from home overnight. As the sun set and the little girls got ready for bed, the one little girl who was away from home began to withdraw and tear up. Her friend’s mother tried to comfort her. She offered her some cookies and milk, asked her if she wanted to sleep with a Teddy Bear, but nothing was working. Finally she took the little girl in her arms and asked, “Honey, are you getting home sick?” The little girl looked up at her with big tears in her eyes and said, “No ma’am. I’m getting here sick.”
This place is not our home. We should be “here” sick, not “home” sick. This life is full of trials and troubles of every kind. God has given us this life to serve Him, honor Him, and share with the world the good news that home is just around the corner for those who will trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We need to live like Abraham who lived like a stranger in a foreign land. Take a look at Hebrews 11:8-10.
8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10 NIV)
How could we not yearn for a home like that which is described for us here in Revelation 21? As I mentioned earlier, John does his best to describe the city with the limitations of language, but his description can’t even come close to defining the city. We can’t begin to comprehend it. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. John says the city was measured. Read along with me in Revelation 21:16.
16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. (Revelation 21:16 NIV)
12,000 stadia is about 1,500 miles. The city is 1,500 miles on each side. Not only is it 1,500 miles long and wide, but it is also as high as it is long. The city is not a square, it is a cube. The cube was the symbol of perfection in ancient times. The city stretches for 1,500 miles on each side and it is as high as it is long. What does that mean? How can a city be 1,500 miles high? I’ve heard of “The Mile High City,” but how about “The 1,500 Mile High City?” Boggles your mind doesn’t it!
The building materials that are used in the building of the city are not the building materials you and I would pick up at Home Depot are they? The building materials are gems and jewels and precious metals. We read earlier that the city glistened like jasper. Some Bible commentators think that what John is describing is more like a diamond. Think of the diamonds that we are familiar with. The largest rough diamond ever found is the Cullinan, or the Star of Africa, which weighed in at 3,106 carats. It was about the size of your fist before it was cut. The diamond today is part of the British Crown Jewels on display at the Tower of London. After it was cut, the diamond weighed in at 530 carats. The most famous diamond in the world is the Hope Diamond on display in Washington, D.C. I’ve seen the diamond and it is guarded with an elaborate security system that makes it impossible for anyone to steal. The Hope Diamond weighs in at only 45.52 carats. As John describes what he sees of the glorious city of God he tells us that the wall of the city is made up of precious stones—a wall some 6,000 miles long and 250 feet high! Imagine that!
There are twelve gates that lead into the city and John tells us that each of the gates is made up of a single pearl. Ladies, any of you have a pearl large enough to make into a gate? It is unbelievable isn’t it? What’s interesting is that in the Bible the pearl is a symbol of redemption. In Matthew 13:45-46 Jesus tells a story about a merchant. Read along with me.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46 NIV)
The pearl is a symbol of redemption. That is a thought worth contemplating. Think about how pearls are made. A pearl is made in the depths of the sea in the heart of a living oyster. Something invades that oysters shell, like a little grain of sand or a water mite. The foreign object begins to irritate the oyster. The oyster begins to secrete a white, milky substance and layer after layer covers whatever it was that was causing the oyster pain until finally you have a perfectly formed, brilliant, round, shiny pearl. The pearl is the oyster’s answer to that which has injured it. Isn’t it wonderful how the Lord has built into His creation biblical truths? Sin has wounded you and me, it is a fatal wound, but the blood of Christ covers our wounds and produces the pearl of salvation. As we walk through the “pearly” gates we will be reminded of what our Savior has done for us! Hallelujah! He has covered our sin!
What a glorious day it will be when we enter the glorious city of our God! John’s description is symbolic, no human language can adequately describe the glorious city of God. We can get a glimpse of what the city will be like, but we cannot fully comprehend what that city will look like until we get there.
There was a little girl who was born blind. Her mother loved her very much and she worked to help her daughter understand the world around her. Her mother described the flowers in the spring with all of their brilliant colors. She tried to describe the beauty of the snow in the winter. She took her to the ocean and tried to explain the vastness of the waters. When the little girl was ten years old she had an experimental surgery done on her eyes. Several weeks later when the bandages were removed the little girl could see. She ran to the window and stood breathless. She said, “Mother, why didn’t you tell me it was so beautiful?” Her mother said, “Honey, I tried to, but words just wouldn’t suffice.” This morning I’ve tried to describe for you the glory of heaven, but I have to confess to you that I have fallen far short my friends. Paul said,
9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—(1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV)
In C. S. Lewis’ book, The Chronicles of Narnia, the kids who have lived in Narnia have completed their time and work and Aslan has come to take them home. They are leaving Narnia and about to enter Aslan’s land when one of the characters cries out, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.”
As glorious as the city of God will be there is one greater benefit for the residents of the city of God. Look at Revelation 22:4 with me.
4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:4 NIV)
It won’t be like in the days of Moses or our day. We will see His face. What a glorious blessing that will be. How can you not desire to see His face? Won’t you invite Jesus into your heart this morning so that one day, one glorious day, you will see His face?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
June 10, 2007