“Tour of the Heavenly City”
Series: Understanding The Book Of Revelation
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
First Baptist Church, Henderson KY
- Please open your Bibles to Revelation chapter 21.
I’m saddened by the fact that we are very closely near the end of our series of messages, verse-by-verse, through the book of Revelation! After this morning, we’ll have just one more message and we will have completed our study.
We’re looking at one of the final visions the Apostle John has as God shows him some of the things that will take place in the eternal state. The eternal state refers to the new heavens and the new earth that all believers, all Christians, will inhabit for eternity.
- Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Holy Word.
9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
This fall Michele and I will have been married 20 years. And it’s really hard to believe that because it seems like we just got started. It seems like just a few years ago that we said “I do” and then headed off to a wonderful honeymoon week in the city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico—and with temperatures well below freezing this morning I wish I were there right now! But I remember the first day or so that we were there we kept seeing these advertisements for tours. Take this tour and this tour and that tour. And we wanted to see as much of Puerto Vallarta as we could in a week, but we hardly knew where to begin. Fortunately early that week we met one of the taxi cab drivers who spoke English well and he offered to be our personal tour guide. He met us each day at an appointed time and took us around and showed us all the important sights of the city. We felt so blessed to be escorted by our own personal tour guide as he showed us all the wonderful sights of the city.
Well this morning I want to play the part of that cab driver and be your personal tour guide of the heavenly city John describes as the “holy Jerusalem,” the new city that God will have prepared for every Christian to occupy in the eternal state. So let’s check out several points of interest on our tour of the Heavenly City. There are six sights I want us to see as we make our tour. First I want you to see:
1) The Splendor of the city (9-11)
In verses 9-11 we see the splendor of the city. One of the seven angels, one we read about back in chapter 16, is still around. He’s the one who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues and he came up to John and said, “I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” The bride here is a reference to both a place and a people. It is a reference to heaven. And so John says the angel carried him away to a great and high mountain where he then saw this new heaven descending from above. He calls this new heaven “the great city, the holy city of Jerusalem.” John describes the splendor of the city in verse 11. He says it had “the glory of God” and her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.”
John says the city had “the glory of God.” The glory of God is not easy to describe. I like to think of God’s glory as the sum total of His attributes. Just as you look at a rainbow and you see the varied colors of red, blue, yellow, green, and others that make up the glory of the rainbow, so when you look at God you see the varied attributes of love, mercy, patience, kindness, holiness that make up the glory of God. The heavenly city has the glory of God. See the splendor the city!
Have you ever heard it said of a person that “he was so heavenly minded that he was no earthly good?” I know what people mean by that, but the truth is, it is very wise to mediate on heaven. I think I shared with you before that the great Puritan Richard Baxter made it his practice to meditate upon heaven for half an hour each day and recommended that we do as much.
Meditating upon heaven is a biblical exercise. The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 3:1-2, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (NIV).”
So as you pause here on our tour and gaze upon the splendor of the heavenly city, make a mental note to come back to this sight and read it again to nourish your soul. We’ll let’s look at our next sight in the heavenly city. We see not only the splendor of the city but, secondly, see:
2) The Security of the city (12-14)
In verses 12-14 John describes a great and high wall that he sees in the city.
12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.
14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The wall speaks to the security of the city. When you read about cities in the Bible you understand how important it is for these ancient cities to be protected by a wall. John describes this wall as “great and high with twelve gates.” Now whatever else may be going on here in these verses, one thing seems clear: that the wall has twelve gates having the names of the 12 tribes of Israel and twelve foundations on which were written the names of the 12 apostles illustrates the unity of the Old Testament believers and the New Testament believers. As Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile . . . for all are one in Christ Jesus.”
We must move quickly on our city tour if we’re going to see everything this morning. We’ve seen the splendor of the city, the security of the city, look next at:
3) The Size of the city (15-17)
Verses 15-17 give us the size of the city as John gives us detailed dimensions of the heavenly city we will one day occupy.
15 And he who talked with me (that is, the angel) had a gold reed (a measuring stick) to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.
16 The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth (so it’s a perfect cube) And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal (again, a perfect cube).
17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.
So we have two main measurements indicating the size of the city: the measure of the city itself and the measure of the wall. Verse 16 tells us that this city is equal in length and breadth, and height. And the measure of length and breadth and height is “12,000 furlongs,” that equals about 1400 miles, the approximate distance of the Mississippi River to the California coast. So the city is 1400 miles in length, but it’s also 1400 miles in width, and 1400 miles in height, a perfect cube.
In verse 17 John tells us that the size of the wall is “one hundred and forty-four cubits.” That’s about 216 feet. While we’re not told specifically, this measurement probably refers to the thickness of the wall.
If these measurements seem rather fantastic to you, remember that this city is being built by the same God who built your present home. In just six 24-hour days He created the solar system and the earth and all its fullness. Creating a city 1,400 miles in every direction is nothing for a God Who created and positioned the sun exactly 93 million miles from the earth, a God Who says, “I’ll put the earth right there, the sun there, the moon there, and the Rocky Mountains there.” How great is our God!
And when you think of it, wouldn’t it have been enough for God to merely save us from hell? I mean it would have been enough if He had just saved us from hell and put us all up in some kind of downtrodden housing complex. We deserved nothing more. But God does more than that! He saves us from hell and He saves us to heaven! He promotes us to a wonderful city of incredible splendor, security, and size for all eternity. Let’s move on. I want you to see now:
4) The Sparkle of the city (18-21)
In a lecture to preaching students Charles Spurgeon once said, “When you speak of heaven, let your face light up. When you speak of hell well, then your everyday face will do.” When we think of heaven it ought to cause our face to light up, because heaven itself sparkles and shines and gleams and glistens as we can hardly imagine.
I heard about a little girl who was taking an evening walk with her father. And she began to look up in the sky and wonder about heaven. And she looked up at the stars and said to her father, “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!” Well in verses 18-21 we see the beauty and sparkle of the right side of the heavenly city.
18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,
20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.
21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
Can you see the sparkle of the city?—the wall of jasper; a transliteration of a word that pictures a clear diamond, the city itself pure gold like clear glass, a translucent kind of gold, then all those precious stones making up the foundation of the wall and the twelve gates, each an individual pearl, and the street of the city like transparent glass. The sparkle of the city!
Can you picture it in your mind? Can you see the sparkle of the city? Remember, Paul says in Colossians 3:1-2, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (NIV).”
In his devotional classic, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” Set your hearts and minds on things above. See the splendor of the city, the security of the city, the size of the city, and the sparkle of the city. Number five, see:
5) The Sanctuary of the city (22-27)
22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
There is no temple in the new city. This is interesting because the temple is the place where the Jewish believer went to publicly worship God, just as the New Testament believer publicly worships God in the sanctuary of the church building. But John says there is no temple in this heavenly city because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Because we will be in the very physical presence of God the Father and God the Son, there is no need for a man-made temple. Because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are there, the city itself is like one big sanctuary!
23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.
Now that doesn’t mean that there is no sun or moon. There may very well be a sun and moon in the eternal state. The text doesn’t say that there is no longer a sun or moon. Rather, the text says “the city had no need of the sun or of the moon.” Why? Because: “the glory of God illuminated it” and “the Lamb is its light.” Remember what Jesus said in John 8:12? “I am the Light of the world.”
24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.
The word “nations” there is the Greek word “ethnos,” from which we get the English words “ethnic” and “ethnicity.” It is a reminder that there is no racial division in heaven. God loves all people of all races and through the church He is redeeming for Himself a people of every tribe, nation, and tongue. Heaven is for all people and it is the church’s job to get the Good News out.
25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).
26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.
The gates are open at all times. Of course there is no need to close the gates. There’s no crime there, leave the gates open! This verse also seems to indicate that we will be able to pass in and out of the gates and even occupy the new earth God will one day create, too!
“There shall be no night there.” My kids like that! I remember a few years ago sharing that truth with one of the boys. If you have children you know how difficult it can be to get them to bed at night. There’s no night in heaven! Children hear that and say, “No bedtime!” When adults think of night they often think of the many challenges they face during the dark night hours: waking up to a phone call bringing bad news, laying awake worrying about work or where the money’s going to come from to pay the bills, the bizarre dreams that often haunt us. John says, “there shall be no night there.” Praise God.
27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Again, this city is a perfect sanctuary. Only those made pure, clean, and righteous by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ are allowed entrance and residence. We’ve seen the splendor of the city, the security of the city, the size of the city, the sparkle of the city, and the sanctuary of the city. Our last stop on our tour of the heavenly city is the sight where see:
6) The Satisfaction of the city (1-5)
Heaven is a place of perfect satisfaction. You see that pictured in this last sight.
1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
The pure river of water is the symbol of eternal life which is why the river proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb. God is the source of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the way to life. So you have the river of life. Then you read of the tree of life:
2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Here we have the heavenly counterpart to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. It is there in the heavenly city as a reminder of the eternal life we enjoy in Jesus Christ. Life in Christ is to be understood not only in terms of quantity of life, but also in terms of quality of life. There is a fullness, an abundance, a satisfaction of life we enjoy in Christ. That’s the idea behind the tree’s bearing different fruit in twelve months and the leaves being for the healing of the nations. It’s not as though we will get sick in heaven and then need to go get leaves off of the tree to be used medicinally that we might be healed. No, there’s no sickness in heaven because there’s no sin in heaven. The tree here is a symbol of eternal life. We look at it and we are reminded of the quantity and quality of life we enjoy in Jesus Christ.
3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
No more curse! I like that. We have here in the ending of the Bible is a reminder of what we had in the beginning of the Bible. You read the first two chapters of Genesis and you will find no devil. You read the last two chapters of Revelation and you will find no devil. But the devil is everywhere in-between because of the curse. When man sinned he brought the sin of the curse into the world, but now the curse is gone, removed completely forever. No more sin, no more sorrow, no more sickness, and no more Satan!
4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
Again, we’ll be in the very presence of God Himself. Then, a reminder in verse 5 that:
5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
Imagine: eternity, forever and ever and ever and ever in a place of beauty beyond our imagination!
I conducted a funeral yesterday in Sebree. And I took as my text a favorite passage of many for the death of a Christian. It is the words of Jesus in John 14:1-3. Jesus says to those whom He will soon be leaving:
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
Where is heaven? Heaven is where Jesus is. How do we get there? Only by surrendering to Him and following Him as the One and Only Savior.
Jesus says in John 10:9, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.”
- Stand for prayer.
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