Session 20

Revelation Study – Session 20

 

This is our 20th and final session in our journey through Revelation.  In this session we will conclude looking at the 7th, and final, act in this great drama of redemption and then look at the conclusion to the book. 

 

Saw in our last session that the final act of the drama, which deals with the eternal destiny of all people, is presented in two parts with some sub-parts.  There are only two parts because there are only two possible destinies for all humanity.  Some will live for eternity in relationship with God, which is a continuation of the relationship they experience in this life.  Others will live for all eternity separated from God, which is a continuation of the separation they experience in this life.  This last act this drama deals with eternal destinies of these two groups.

1)      The destiny of the unredeemed (20:11-15)

2)      The destiny of the redeemed (21:1 – 22:5)

We saw that much more space is given to the destiny of believers rather than non-believers.  It was not necessary for John to dwell on the destiny of the wicked.  He has already portrayed them as being totally defeated by God.  He reveals enough about their eternal destiny to let us know their defeat is complete and forever.  Since he is writing to the redeemed, much more space is given to their positive eternal destiny.

 

The destiny of the redeemed (21:1 – 22:5) – In contrast to the few verses dedicated to describing the fate of the unredeemed, John gives a lengthy description of the destiny of the redeemed.  This was the main thing the Christians in Asia Minor were concerned with.  In this section John uses three beautiful symbols to show us what heaven is like from different perspective.

1)      The heavenly tabernacle (2:3-8) – Heaven is a place of perfect fellowship with God.

2)      The majestic city (2:9-27) – Heaven is a place of perfect security and protection.

3)      The heavenly garden (3:1-5) – Heaven is a place of perfect provision from God.

The majestic city (2:9-27)

In ancient times cities people grouped together in cities for protection from enemies.  In portraying the eternal destiny of the redeemed as being residents of a great, majestic heavenly city, John was saying that we will have total, complete security in the life to come.  Want to read through this vision of the new Jerusalem and make some comments about it along the way.

 

      “the bride” (v.9) – Some suggest the imagery of God’s people being the bride of Christ which is so prevalent in Revelation is to contrast the people of God with the evil Roman Empire portrayed as a great harlot or prostitute in chapter 17...imagery of bride quickly gives way to imagery of a city...

 

      “great and high mountain” (v.10) – In Jewish thought mountains play a significant role...Moses had encounter with God and received the law on Mt. Sinai...Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac on a mountain...Ezekiel had his great vision of the restored temple on a very high mountain (Ezek. 40:1-2)...mountains were seen as places of encounter with God...

 

      “the holy city, Jerusalem...” (v.10) - The entire description is intended to present a strong, spacious, perfect, and beautiful city where God’s redeemed will dwell with him in perfect fellowship.  Some try to make this a literal city.  But to do so does violence to what John is portraying here.  Some have done this and have arrived at absurd conclusions.  They find that the city is 1,500 miles square; and Palestine, where it is to be located, in their view, is not more than about 150 by 70 miles.  Therefore, they think that the city will stand high above Palestine, and perhaps stationary, as the earth revolves under it.  John Newport has a better perspective when he states, “...if the city is the bride and the bride the glorified community of God’s people in their eternal life, there is little question that John’s descriptions are primarily symbolic of that glorified life.” [p.316]

 

      “having the glory of God... Her brilliance was like a very costly stone...” (v.11) – God’s glory is often portrayed in Scripture in terms of brilliant light...(cf. Isa. 60:1-2)

 

      “...great and high wall...” (v.12) – Ancient cities nearly all had walls...were for protection...the stronger and higher the wall, the greater the protection...

 

      “...twelve gates...” (v.12) – Symbolic of abundant entrance...ancient cities had one gate, which was closed at night or when the enemy approached.  If one was caught outside, it meant destruction.  The New Jerusalem has not one gate but twelve – a complete number symbolizing organized religion...gates led to very presence of God ....Moreover, these gates are never closed – there is an abundant entrance into God’s presence...

 

      “...at the gates twelve angels...” (v.12) – Ancient cities had gatekeepers and watchmen to keep people inside safe from invading enemies...those in the heavenly city are protected by angels of God...

 

      “twelve tribes of the sons of Israel...” (v.12) – Emphasizes continuity of the NT church with God’s people of the OT...

 

      “twelve foundation stones...names of the twelve apostles...” – Again emphasizing continuity between old and new...repetition of the number 12 is deliberate...

 

      “gold measuring rod...” (vv.15-17) – The measuring of the city signifies securing something for blessing and to preserve it from spiritual harm...the measuring reveals perfection, fulfillment, and completion of God’s purpose for His bride...not to be taken as literal size...expressing the vastness, perfect symmetry, and splendor of the new Jerusalem...

 

      “foundation stones...every kind of precious stone...” (vv.19-20) – Precious stones listed here found in breastplate of the high priest (cf. Ex. 28:17ff; 39:10ff)...basically lists them in reverse order of the instruction for the high priest’s breastplate...some see reversal as significant...while jewels all there, are placed in the new authoritative order of the Lamb...

 

      “twelve gates...twelve pearls...” (v.21) - symbolizing the fact that the entrance to heaven is by the way of  suffering – the pearl is the only jewel which is produced by suffering and pain in overcoming difficulty [Summers, p.213]

 

      “...no temple...” (v.22) – Since temple represented presence of God, no need for temple because God and Jesus in heaven are the temple...the temple was the place where God met his people, where sacrifice for sin was made, where intercession was made.  It is not needed in the New Jerusalem, because there is no sin to be atoned for and because the people are in the immediate presence of God.

 

      “no need of sun or of the moon...” (v.23) – Dramatic way of describing the life-giving, light-shedding character of God...”

 

      “its lamp is the Lamb...” (v.23) – Brings to mind John 8:12 – “I am the Light of the world...”

 

      “the nations ... kings of the earth...” (v.24) – Elsewhere in Revelation the “nations” are the pagan, rebellious people who trample on the holy city...(cf. Rev.11:2, 18)

 

      The whole scene is a beautiful picture of s strong, spacious, perfect city without sin, pain, and corruption.  That is what heaven is!

 

The Heavenly Garden (22:1-5)

Three gardens play prominent role in Bible – garden of Eden...Gethsemane...heavenly garden...this final symbolizes perfect enjoyment and the supply of all needs, is the third symbol in picturing the destiny of the redeemed.  Here is a garden with a beautiful river the crystal water of which is the water of life that issues from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  On either side of the river grows the tree of life, which has fruit twelve months out of the year and the leaves of which have healing power.  There are three basic things necessary to the sustaining of life:  water, food and health.  This picture symbolizes the provision of all three.  The water of life and the perpetual fruit of the tree of life furnish the food and drink; the leaves with their healing powers furnish health.  Together they symbolize God’s nurture and care for his own.  How can a man live forever?  Here is the answer, and it comes from “the throne of God and of the “Lamb” – God has all that is needed to sustain eternal life in man. 

 

In this garden, with life divinely sustained, man shall serve God forever.  He tried it on earth, but his efforts were imperfect because there were so many handicaps.  There will be no handicaps in heaven and “his servants shall serve him.”  Another beautiful thought is found in the expression, “they shall see his face.”  Often in this world men have this longing.  It is expressed in poem and song and often in the deep anguish of the heart when no one else can know about it.  But when this earth is passed and man finds himself in the eternal presence of God, then he will look on the face of his Redeemer-God and serve him forever.  What greater pleasure could one ask?

 

Speaking of these three images – the heavenly tabernacle, the heavenly city, and the heavenly garden – Ray Summers says:  “This is God’s answer to the longing of man to know about the future life.  In symbol God says, “Heaven is a place of perfect fellowship, perfect protection, perfect provision of needs, perfect service to God.”  Great contrast is noted here between the destiny of the wicked and the destiny of the redeemed.”

 

The Summary (22:6-21) - Pageant is over and final curtain has come down.  John has seen and shown to his audience the picture of God’s care for them in their conflict, God’s victory over the evil around them, and their eternal destiny.  All that remains is final word to emphasize the truth of the message.

Verses 6-7 – Assures readers of divine authority behind the message...

      “faithful and true” – Trustworthy...can count on it...

 

“I am coming quickly...” – Some debate about this...my opinion is not reference to Lord’s return...reference to His coming to the aid of 1st century Christians...compare Rev. 2:16 (Smyrna) and 3:11 (Philadelphia)...from same word family as word translated “shortly” in Rev.1:1...those who say refers to coming either say John was mistaken or that quickly in eyes of God not bounded by time...however, would be little comfort to those in 1st century...

 

Verses 8-9 – John adds his personal testimony to the veracity of the book...”heard and saw...” – cf. to I John 1:1-3...

 

Verses 10-15 – Stresses the importance of the book for the immediate needs of the people...

   “...do not seal up...” – The message isn’t to be sealed for future generation...it is for now...

 

V.11 & 12 – The period of delayed judgment has ended...judgment is at hand...

 

V. 13  - Identity of Christ...

               “alpha and omega”  - Used of God in 1:8 and 21:6

               “first and last” – Used of Christ in 1:17 and 2:8

               “beginning and end” – Used of God and Christ

 

Verses 14 – 15 – Restatement of fate of redeemed and unredeemed...

 

Verse 16 – Reminder that the book not a human work...comes from Christ....

 

Verse 17 – The great invitation...God’s nature to call people to Him...

 

Verses 18 - 19 – Warning for protection of the book...often apocalyptic books treated with great freedom, being added to or edited as will be readers...

Verse 20  - Final promise that Christ is coming quickly to the aid of His persecuted people...

 

OVERVIEW OF REVELATION

Introduction introducing the writer/director/audience (chapters 1:1 – 3:22)

1)                  Act 1 – Vision of God on His throne and the Lamb of God (chapters 4:1 – 5:14)

2)                  Act 2 – The breaking of the seven seals revealing the judgments of God (chapters 6:1 – 8:5)

3)                  Act 3 – The sounding of the seven trumpets showing additional features of the judgments of God (chapters 8:6 – 11:19)

4)                  Act 4 – The revelation of seven significant signs revealing the identity of the combatants in the conflict between good and evil (chapters 12:1 – 14:20)

5)                  Act 5 – The pouring out of the seven bowls of wrath revealing the totality of God’s judgment (15:1 – 16:21)

6)                  Act 6 – The revealing of seven scenes of celebration of God’s victory over evil (chapters 17:1 – 20:10)

7)                  Act 7 – The revealing of the destiny of unbelievers and believers, of unredeemed and redeemed (chapters 20:11-22:5)

Conclusion (chapter 22:6-21)

Comments