Read with Me

 Revelation 21:9-14 (HCSB)
Then one of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed with God’s glory. Her radiance was like a very precious stone, like a jasper stone, bright as crystal. The city had a massive high wall, with 12 gates. Twelve angels were at the gates; the names of the 12 tribes of Israel’s sons were inscribed on the gates. There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. The city wall had 12 foundations, and the 12 names of the Lamb’s 12 apostles were on the foundations.

Listen with Me

Much speculation has been made over the centuries as to the nature and meaning of the New Jerusalem. But it is very clearly defined by the angel who is interpreting this vision for John in verse 9. The New Jerusalem is the bride, the wife of the lamb. In other words, John is being shown an illustration of the Church as God intends to make it.

At several points this vision harks back to the vision God gave to Ezekiel of the New Jerusalem and the new temple. This new temple was never constructed – the second temple that was constructed bore little resemblance to the plan God had laid out for Ezekiel. But that vision, including the divisions of the land, were a vision of the restoration of God’s people as His kingdom, rather than a precise plan to be slavishly followed in the physical dimension.

The vision begins with the acknowledgement that the New Jerusalem, the Church, is not something built by humans, a human-based society or organization. Instead, it is established by God as an outpost of heaven itself. The city glows with light provided by God’s presence through the Holy Spirit inhabiting the people, filling them with light and power.

The city is surrounded by a high wall- according to the measurement given in verse 16, over 215 feet high! This represents God’s protection of his people. Such massive walls could never be breached by any enemy.

Like the walls of the New Jerusalem that had been shown to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 48:30-34), there are twelve gates into the city, three on each of the four sides, and each labeled with the name of one of the twelve tribes. This demonstrates the continuity of God’s covenant community. The Church did not “replace” the people of Israel as God’s covenant people. Instead, the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus opened gates so that those who belonged to the Gentile nations could come in and be grafted into God’s people (Romans 11:17-24).

Something that John saw that was not revealed to Ezekiel in his vision was the fact that the wall of the city rested on twelve foundations, each inscribed with the name of one of the twelve apostles, the twelve patriarchs of the re-established covenant community. It is the teachings of those twelve apostles, received from Jesus Himself and faithfully passed on to the people of the kingdom of God, that provide a solid and sure foundation for the people of the New Jerusalem, the bride of the lamb, the Church.

Pray with Me

Father, when looked at through this lens, this vision makes so much sense. As one of Your people, saved through the sacrifice of Jesus, I am part of this new city you have built and are continuing to build, not at some point in the misty future, but here and now. Lord, helped me to live in that reality to day and every day. Amen.