|By: Dr. Robert Thomas; ©2003|
|Dr. Thomas explains that there will be not temple in the Holy City because, in a sense, the whole city will be a temple. And the city will not need a created light source, because God’s pervading presence will provide all the light needed.|
The Seventh Bowl: Part Three of Intercalation #2, The City’s Illumination
Having covered the physical features of the Holy City in Revelation 21:11-21, in 21:22-27 John the prophet turns next to describing the source of that city’s illumination. In this third part of Intercalation #2 the writer touches upon other aspects of the city, but seemingly, the light originating therein is the most recurrent theme. Revelation 21:22-26 centers about the divine prominence within in the city, and Revelation 21:27 notes the exclusion of certain persons from the city.
Divine Prominence Within the City (21:22-26)
Contrary to what might be expected, the city will have no temple, because the personal presence of “the Lord God Almighty” and “the Lamb” will replace the temple (21:22). In a sense, the whole city will itself be a temple. In its best days the Jerusalem temple had a holy place and the Shekinah glory of God in the Holy of Holies. In the new creation with God Himself immediately present, no need for a temple will exist.
The Old Testament prophets foresaw the temple as the principal item in their descriptions of a glorified city (Isa. 44:28; 60:13; Ezekiel 40–48). The absence of a temple from the new Jerusalem marks a significant difference from that expectation. The difference is explainable by understanding the difference between the future millennial kingdom and the new creation to follow it. The temple will be the principal focus of attention during the millennial kingdom, but not in the new Jerusalem. In the latter state no independent temple structure will be standing.
The city will not need such a structure because God Himself will dwell with His people in direct unmediated communion. According to 2 Corinthians 6:16 Christians are the temple of the living God, but that is in an indirect mediated relationship. When the future Holy City arrives, God Himself and the Lamb will be the Holy of Holies for that city’s inhabitants.
Revelation 21:23 notes a further implication of God’s prominence in the city. Just as the city will have no need of a temple, she will also not need created light because God’s pervading presence emits constant light in abundance. The sun and the moon of the first creation (see Gen. 1:14-16) will have no function in the second creation. The Shekinah glory of God provided necessary illumination for the Holy of Holies in Israel’s tabernacle and temple. His immediate presence will do the same for the whole city yet to descend from heaven (see Isa. 60:19-20).
The new creation will have no more alternating patterns of day and night. An earlier reference to the innumerable multitude from every nation spoke of their serving God day and night in His temple (Rev. 7:15-16). Obviously, that was a period during Daniel’s seventieth week, prior to the millennial kingdom. In the new creation the pattern will differ. It will be a state of constant brightness and brilliance provided by “the glory of God” and “the Lamb” (21:23). The Lamb will be “her lamp”; in other words, He will be in a physical and spiritual sense what the seven churches of Asia were in a spiritual sense to the world of their day (see Rev. 1:12, 20). Later, we learn that the Father too is the lamp of the city (see Rev. 22:5).
The special illumination will have its impact on the nations also (Rev. 21:24). The brightness emanating from the city will be sufficient for the whole new creation. From verse 24 we learn two new facts about the new creation. One fact is that the Holy City is not the totality of the new creation. There will be in the new earth parts that lie outside the new Jerusalem from which these nations will come into the city. The Bible does not reveal specific information about such external territories, but one can assume that they will be free from the curse that plagued the former earth (22:3), making them vastly superior to what exists in the present order. Assuredly, these territories will have no vast bodies of water such as our present oceans (Rev. 21:1) and will experience no periods of darkness that we call “night” (Rev. 21:25). They will have kings to rule them, rulers who will bring their glory into the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24).
The other new fact we learn from verse 24 is that “the nations” will inhabit those territories. Again, the Bible does not identify these nations. Many suggestions as to their identity have been forthcoming, at least ten. The scope of our discussion does not permit a listing and evaluation of all ten. We can only describe the most probable of the identifications.
Earlier in Revelation, “the nations” have been seen in a negative light as a pagan and rebellious people who trample the Holy City (Rev. 11:2, 18) and become drunk with the wine of Babylon (18:3, 23). In the new creation, that picture changes radically as the nations walk in the light of the new Jerusalem and their kings bring their glory into the city.
A probable identification is that “the nations” are composed of saved people who survive the millennial kingdom without dying and without joining Satan’s rebellion and who undergo some sort of transformation at the end of the millennium that suits them for life in the eternal state. They will be like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall, unresurrected human beings who will inhabit the new earth—Paradise restored (22:1-5)— throughout eternity. God’s resurrected saints will reign over them (Rev. 22:5). Nations, peoples, and men on earth must continue in the flesh as Adam and Eve did before the Fall.
Following the disclosure of the kings and their tribute comes a brief parenthetical word about the gates of the city remaining open during daylight hours (Rev. 21:25). The glory of God will bring constant illumination so that the city will have no darkness such as night usually brings. That means that the city gates will never be closed. They will provide constant access to the city.
In Revelation 21:26, the text returns to the actions of the kings. They will bring “the glory and the honor of the nations” into the new Jerusalem. That refers to the choicest of the new creation’s treasures, whatever they may be. In a time of unlimited prosperity, their offerings will doubtless be very generous, though they will be different from those of the present creation because of a new state of existence and increased productivity. The kings will enter the city and have freedom of movement within the city. What an exhilarating thought to be a part of that company, whether on the giving or the receiving end!
Persons Excluded from the City
Though the gates of the city remain open to receive the kings and their tribute, nothing unclean will pass through them. Revelation 21:27 emphasizes the continuing purity of the city. The only way to enter the city is for a person to become a loyal follower of the Lamb while part of the old creation. When the new creation is in place, no one “doing an abomination and a lie” will be a part of it, either inside or outside the city. Abominations will characterize future Babylon (Rev. 17:4-5), but not the new creation. God has already committed people guilty of abominable behavior and lying to the lake of fire and brimstone (see Rev. 21:8). Lying which characterizes personal behavior in this existence eliminates any possibility of a part in the bliss of the new creation.
When the new creation arrives, “those written in the book of life of the Lamb” are the ones whose names remained in that book at the Great White Throne judgment (Rev. 20:12, 15). They have not had their name erased from that book through a failure to trust the Lamb of God for their salvation (see Rev. 3:5; 13:8 also).
Denial of the right to enter the new Jerusalem is part of the seventh-bowl judgment. This is part of the visitation of God’s wrath upon those who dwell on the earth in rebellion against His will. An eternity in the lake of fire in place of the exalted experience of God’s immediate presence in the Holy City is as severe as judgment can be.
A person’s relationship with God during the present is what determines where he will spend eternity. The choices are twofold: the uninterrupted illumination of the new Jerusalem and the constant darkness of lake of fire—called “outer darkness” by Jesus (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). What more powerful incentive to come to God by way of Jesus Christ can anyone have than that? Whatever opposition may come to keep one from actively receiving Jesus Christ as Savior is nothing compared with the glory yet to be revealed in those of us who do become His followers. A destiny of heavenly bliss instead of eternal destruction hinges on this most important decision.
Note: For more details about the illumination of the new Jerusalem, see my discussion in Revelation 8–22 (Moody Press, 1995), pages 474-480. To order this volume, you may contact Grace Books International at (800) GRACE15 or www.gbibooks.com.