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THE NEW JERUSALEM, PART 2

 

 

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.” 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. Revelation 21:9–10

 

John is now visited in the vision by one of the angels that carried one of the vials of God’s wrath from chapter sixteen. We learned that the pouring out of the seven bowls of God’s wrath is nothing more than the preaching of the everlasting gospel in the end-time revival. The bowls of God’s wrath taught the necessity of salvation from sin and the inability of false and apostate religion to meet that need in the lives of people. In a sense, this is the negative side of the everlasting gospel. Now, that same ministry shows us the blessing side of the everlasting gospel. This blessing is nothing more or less than the revelation of the church as Jesus built it at the beginning of the gospel dispensation.

The angel now shows John the bride, the Lamb’s life. First, we see just in being called the bride that she is the result of salvation from sin as atoned for by Jesus on the cross. The angel calls her the Lamb’s wife. John the Baptizer introduced Jesus to the world in John 1:29 as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” We can say that as Jesus is the Lamb of God, the church is Mrs. Lamb of God. I know that sounds strange but it is the genuine relationship. This relationship indicates that those that are brought into the church as Jesus built it are brought in only through the atonement in Christ. Their sins have been purged by the blood of Christ. No formal church membership whatsoever is needed.

This same John acknowledged the marriage relationship between Christ and the redeemed in what he said in John 3:28–29, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.” At the time there was a dispute as to whether John or Jesus was the Messiah. This is John’s answer to the question. He insists that he is not Messiah and that Jesus is actually Messiah. His relationship in the ministry of Christ is only like a friend of the bridegroom; he is not the groom. He says, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom.”

Psalm 45 likens Christ to the Royal Bridegroom coming out of the ivory palaces with his garments scented with myrrh. At his right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir; the royal daughter is all glorious within the palace; her clothing is woven with gold. This is a prophetic vision of the glorified Christ and the beautiful church that shares His love. What makes this beloved bride so beautiful in the eyes of the glorified Christ? There is a trinity of texts that describes this beauty. First, 1 Chronicles 16:29 is where Jehoshaphat appoints singers for the temple in Jerusalem,

 

And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever.”

 

Second, Psalm 29:2,

 

Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

 

And third, Psalm 96:9,

 

Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.

 

Holiness is the beauty of his bride in which Jesus takes pride. It is the blood of Christ that takes away the sin of the world and cleanses us from all unrighteousness that produces the beauty of holiness that adorns His bride. The Apostle Paul confirms this truth for us in Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

The Apostle also attests to the church as the bride of Christ in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband” (RSV). He sees the church in Corinth as the bride of Christ, a congregation built on salvation through the atonement in Christ.

The angel now carries John to a great and high mountain to show him the great city, the holy Jerusalem. This great and high mountain represents the presence of God, as when God appeared to the Israelites on Mount Sinai and when the presence of God entered the temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

John is shown the great city, the holy Jerusalem. This is a metaphor pertaining to the church as Jesus built it and as discussed in Hebrews 12:18–24. The writer there compares the revelation of the church under the gospel to the revelation of God under the Old Testament. He tells us in verse 18, “For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire.” That was a terrifying revelation of God that emphasized His judicial righteousness. He goes on to say in verse 22, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels.” This is almost a verbatim preamble to what the angel tells John in Revelation 21:10, the “great and high mountain and the great city, the holy Jerusalem.”

Lest we be confused, the Hebrew writer tells us exactly what this Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem are in verses 23–24, “to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” The words general assembly and church are important. General assembly is one Greek word meaning a mass-meeting of those gather together for collective companionship. Church is the Greek word meaning those that are called out. Adding firstborn to the description shows us that the church as Jesus built it is the gathering together of all that have been born again and called out of sin to God to join together for the purpose of fellowship and consecration to the service of Christ.

We also see a common spiritual and moral quality among this called out assembly; they are just men made perfect. They are just in that their sins are forgiven through accepting salvation by faith in Christ. They are just in that they are justified in the eyes of God. They are no longer sinners. They are also made perfect. While most Christians do not believe in Christian perfection, it is a biblical truth and the intended result of salvation in a person’s life. The word perfect means complete and in the context of salvation it indicates a degree of consecration and commitment to the will of God by those that are justified. It is this aspect of salvation where, through ongoing submission to the leading and power of the Holy Spirit, believers are able to face and overcome temptation in their lives.

And finally, we are told that in coming to the heavenly Jerusalem, the church as Jesus built it, we actually come to the presence of Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant and the sprinkling of His blood. Under the Old Testament, the Israelites came to Moses and to the keeping of the Law, which bought only a ritualistic salvation that looked forward to Christ, but could not keep them from sin. In the new covenant we come to the blood of Christ that actually takes away sin and unrighteousness and fills us with the Holy Spirit.

John observes that the city, the church as Jesus built it, has the glory of God. That glory resides in the souls of the redeemed who are now in the very presence of God. The light radiating from the lives of those that are the New Jerusalem is said to be like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone. We encountered this jasper stone in Revelation 4:3 when John first entered the visions of the Revelation. John encountered a throne “and He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.” The jasper stone was commonly used for decorative purposes and was often used in signet rings, such as a king would wear. The light that shines like jasper is the radiance of King Jesus in the lives of the redeemed.

John also sees in verses 12–14 that the New Jerusalem is surrounded by a great and high wall. The walls have twelve gates and there are twelve angels, one stationed at each gate. Being that the gates are in each of the walls facing the four points of the compass, we see that entrance into the city, the offer of the experience of salvation from sin, is offered to all people around the world. And in that there are three gates on each side, we see that there are as many points of entrance that can accommodate people no matter their origin. All are welcome into the body of Christ, His church, His bride. But, also note that each of the twelve gates has its own angel. From this we learn that God calls ministries from every direction on earth to preach the everlasting gospel in the end-time revival. We also find that each gate is named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel. In this we see a divinely intended continuity between the Old and New Testaments. The Israelites were the people of God under the Old Testament; to be an Israelite, one had to be born into one of those twelve tribes. Under the New Testament, entrance into the New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, the church, one must be born of God. Remember what we are told in 1 John 5:18, “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” The Israelites enjoyed a ceremonial holiness that made them acceptable to God; under the gospel we enjoy a practical holiness that unites us to God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

And in verse fourteen John saw that the city has twelve foundations named after the twelve apostles of the Lamb. While the Old Testament saints had the imperfect Law of Moses, under the gospel we have the gospel of Christ that was given to the apostles and the church that was built through their works. This is the everlasting gospel we enjoy today.

There are some more and significant attributes of the New Jerusalem we will look into in our next lesson.