Every epic story must have a good ending. And the same to God’s master plan for us. The Bible has recorded God’s salvation plan from Genesis to Revelation, aiming to restore the broken world since the fall of man to its perfect state of the New Creation. In Revelation 21 to 22, God has foretold what is good to happen at the end. And yes, it is a happy ending. And all of us who believes in Jesus Christ will also participate in this New Creation where we will be with God and his Christ forever.
1) New Jerusalem is the holy bride city
In chapter 21, Apostle John recorded the new age of the new heaven and new earth to arrive after the first heaven, and the first earth had passed away. The sea is no more, which implies God enemy. The surging oceans had been a metaphor for the wicked, where the Beast had come out. Prophet Isaiah described it as “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud” (Isaiah 57:20) That means the wicked people will be no more.
Then the holy city, the new Jerusalem, as God’s people come down out of heaven. They are opposite to the wicked city and prostitute Babylon, the embodiment of hostile human civilisation. God created humanity to dwell on the earth, and his plan is for the New Earth to be their place forever. So the new world will be the final home of the redeemed people, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. The metaphor of God’s relationship with his people is like marriage. And now, the redeemed people appear like a bride prepared for her husband, Christ himself. As Jesus described himself the bridegroom in the parable of the Ten Virgins, he said, “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” (Matthew 25:1) The bride is the church, and Christ is the bridegroom. They will be united as one. This is the fulfilment in God’s plan from the beginning with his covenant to his people. As he declared a long time ago through prophet Ezekiel, “My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.” (Ezekiel 37:27) This is the final eternal fulfilment of Ezekiel 37 and Leviticus 26. And God will wipe away the tears in their eyes, no more death, mourning, crying or pain “for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4b) God promise to every heavenly citizen of the New Jerusalem, all the bad things associated with the old order of things are now removed. Including death, mourning, crying, or pain that the saints had endured in this lifetime in the old order. It is a real comfort to those who have suffered for Christ. Our existence will be renewed. God will make everything new with no more sin and suffering or death. It is an eternal inheritance. God commands Apostle John to write it down for his words are trustworthy and true.
Jesus proclaims, “It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of water of life.” (Revelation 21:6b) Originally, Lord God Almighty called himself the Alpha and Omega, the one who existed from before the beginning and beyond the end. Even this heaven and earth have passed away; he will still be there. And now Jesus Christ also has this title, as the Beginning and the End, which brings our theological understanding that Christ is the source who created all things. And all things will end in him, the goal. As Apostle Paul declared the truth in Colossians 1:16b, “all things were created by him and for him.” And the citizens of God’s eternal kingdom can freely drink from the spring of the water of life. Jesus himself has said the same thing in the Gospel, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). Whoever drinks from the fountain of life will receive eternal life. That is Christ’s promise to his believers. And secondly, those who are victorious in the tribulation, they will have a true relationship with God as God’s family. Jesus said they “will inherit all this” (Revelation 21:7). They will inherit the eternal kingdom of God, and “I will be their God and they will be my children” We are children of God in God’s family. We are all brothers and sisters waiting to receive this membership as God’s children and eternal life through Jesus Christ.
There is also a warning here, in verse 8, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.” If we are indeed the children of God, we must change our behaviours worthy of the calling. If we don’t respond to God’s Word correctly, not obeying God’s commandments or show true repentance in our actions, we are no better than the unbelievers. Jesus warns us strictly about the second death as the consequence. Salvation comes by faith alone, but true faith is never alone by itself. True faith always accompanies by good deeds of righteousness as we are transformed by the grace of God, forming a new community in Christ. What we do in life must match our new identity as the followers of Christ.
Then one of God’s seven angels showed Apostle John the Holy City of New Jerusalem and its splendour. This city is the realisation of our human community as a faithful church. The new Jerusalem is magnificence, and brilliant like of precious jewel. It is a perfect square with twelve gates with the inscription of the twelve tribes of Israel, each of the four walls facing the four directions contained three gates. With the names of the twelve apostles on the foundation stones, symbolising the eternal Kingdom of God of the redeemed people will include both Old Testament saints and the New Testaments saints. We are all part of God’s covenant in his plan. It is 12000 stadia in the length of each side, that is about 2200 kilometres. God’s kingdom is big to include all the saints from the past to the future. All of us who belongs to Christ will be there. All twelve foundations of the city walls were decorated with precious stones like the breastplate worn by the Old Testament high priest, with a humongous pearl on each gate. These gems pearls are to show the holy city’s divine splendour. The street is made of gold like clear glass, which reminds us God’s priests serve God in Solomon’s Temple with the golden floor. But now, the entire city has a golden floor, and we will walk on it like the priests walking in the Old Testament temple in Jerusalem. God’s kingdom is a nation of priests. As heavenly citizens, we have the same privilege as a priesthood, serving God at his presence.
One thing is different to the old Jerusalem in highlighted in verse 22; John reported that “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” In Christian time, the temple of God is not a physical building like Solomon’s temple, but it is God’s people. God is present wherever his people meet. When we gather together to worship God, God is amongst us. The church is the foretaste of what our future looks like in the New Jerusalem. That is why our church gatherings are essential in our Christian life. Lord God Almighty and His son Jesus, the Lamb of God are the temple. We will serve God eternally in his temple as written in Revelation 3:12, and what it means is that we will be brought near God’s presence through faith in Christ, forever.
2) Jesus will be the light of all nations and be among his people forever
Also, the holy city doesn’t need other light sources, because the glory of God gives it light. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. There is no night time because, in God and Christ, there is no darkness. In the biblical imagery, darkness symbolises sin and evil. But now it is permanently overthrown by the light of Christ. The New Jerusalem will be forever full of light because God is with us. Jesus Christ is our lamp to light our path in righteousness. As Jesus spoke in the Gospel of John, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12b)
The light of Christ will shine to all nations, that means, people from all nationality will come to him. John continues, “24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it.” (Revelation 21:24-26)
The gates of the Holy City will never shut because the salvation of Christ is for all nations. Everyone is invited to come to Christ. Blessed are those in every nation who responded to God’s calls and come to Christ. There is no lockdown city, like what people have experienced in Melbourne. The city gates are opened to all people. As prophet Zechariah foretold in the Old Testament, “And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.” (Zechariah 8:22)
But the entrance is only for those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. You must be a Christian who believes in Jesus to enter this holy city, to the Kingdom of God.
After that, in chapter 22, the angel shows Apostle John the river of the water of life, flowing from the throne of God and Christ to the middle of New Jerusalem. The tree of life that was forbidden from human access since Genesis is now reappearing in the Holy City, yielding twelve crops of fruit every month.
In Genesis, the life-giving river had nourished the garden of Eden, and now a life-giving river nourishes New Jerusalem. This is the same water that Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in Galilee, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) This river of life from God’s throne symbolise our eternal life is entirely coming from God’s gracious gift. It is from God. The water is clear as crystal because of its absolute purity. And the river of life symbolises God will provide his people abundant eternal life. The eating of the fruit from the tree of life symbolise God’s undoing of the curse in the garden of Eden. The bearing of twelve crops of fruit every month represents the blessings from God is unending. And all God’s people from every nation will take this nourishment from these fruits. There will be no more sickness. With God’s provision of eternal life, we will enjoy full health from God. God’s healing will remove all the consequences of sin forever for all nations. No longer will there be any more curse; only blessings from God remains.
Also, we are not being idle and have nothing to do. Chapter 22, verse 3, says, “his servants will serve him”. We will serve and worship God throughout eternity. Our imperfect service that is sometimes half-hearted will change to perfect service in the face of God. It will never be boring. Because of our sins, no human can see God face-to-face in this world. But in the coming age of eternity, we will see God’s face. The curse is removed. We will have the blessing of immediate divine presence. We will also have God’s name marked on our foreheads. Different to the Beast’s 666 marks, we are sealed with God’s name. We belong to Lord God Almighty and his Lamb forever. To bear God’s name is a privilege, and it also provides protection. We will receive this eternally guaranteed reward as God’s people. And God will give us light in his forever presence. All citizens of God’s kingdom will reign with him forever and ever. This is our privilege and the goal of God’s salvation plan that we will be with him eternally.
3) Jesus is coming back soon
The angel told John that God’s words are trustworthy and true. And all these things must soon take place. Jesus says in verse 7, “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.” Are you ready to keep his words, and obey Christ’s calling? All the challenges to overcome and be faithful to Christ that is, to the point of death, if necessary – are parts of the prophecy that every Christians may keep. The angel told John, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. 11 Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:10b-11) Everyone’s character reveals itself in their deeds, which is the basis of divine judgment. There will be a time when evil people have so hardened themselves to God’s truth that they cannot change. God permits such sins to continue until the end of this world. He promises that he will judge at last is the Book of Revelation’s great themes. So we must be faithful to Christ. Their character as demonstrated by their deeds which determines the unchangeable destiny of everyone.
Jesus warns us, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12). Everything that Jesus says must be fulfilled in history. Not a single word will be empty. The redeemed believers will have access to the tree of life and enter the gates of the holy city. But the dogs, which means various impure and gentile people who don’t know God; those who practise magic arts, the sorcerers who use witchcraft, spells, and drugs to extend personal power and pleasure; those who are sexually immoral, that is people who violate the sacredness of marriage; the murders, that is people who violate the sacredness of human life, the idolaters, is those who worship other things other than God. They violate the sovereignty of God Almighty. And everyone who loves and practices falsehood – they hate the truth, and they have followed the devil, who is the deceiver and liar. These people who break God’s commandments and refuse to repent will be outside of God’s blessings. We have two ways to live, which will lead to two eternal destinations. To live in obedience, keeping God’s Word, may go to heaven and God’s eternal kingdom. Their names are written in the Book of Life. But those who live in disobedience, and away from Christ, the wicked will be outside and will be thrown down into the lake of fire, the eternal death in torment forever.
Jesus declares clearly in verse 16, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” He is the author of this letter. He is the Root of David because God created humanity, he is also the Offspring of David because he was born of Mary as the descendent of King David, as the Messiah, the King of Judah. He is the Morning Star because he gives light to the nations as the Light of the World.
Are you ready to receive Christ and waiting for his Second Coming? Drink from him, and we will receive eternal life.
So what can we do in response to this last passage of the Book of Revelation?
- Beware of sinful acts and attitudes that will exclude us from eternal blessings.
- Keep our hope in God’s promise that whatever has caused tears in this life will one day be gone forever.
- We must continue striving to overcome sin as a sing of our heavenly citizenship.
- We must witness for Jesus Christ in all we do to turn sinners from their fate of eternal death to eternal life in Christ.
- Beware of worship anything other than God.
- Confess our sins regularly and living in close fellowship with Jesus.
- Get ready, for Jesus is coming soon.
And as the book ends, I pray for you the same thing as the last verse in the Bible, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all, God’s people. Amen”.