Now the angel giving John and us the guided tour takes us through the gates of pearl into the City to continue our worship and wonder at God’s greatness.
I. The New Jerusalem Described Externally (21:10-20) This is the aerial view.
II. The City is now Internally Described (21:21-22:5). Not only is God a master architect but He is also a skillful Interior Designer.
A. Streets of Gold (21:21)
What men die for and sacrifice health and family for (gold) will be asphalt in Heaven. The gold is transparent so that we can see through it but more importantly so that God’s glory can shine through it. Our eternal focus will not be on any literal material. Nothing in the City draws attention to itself. It is just a means for us to worship God.
This is no argument against the literalness of the City. My gold wedding ring which is never ending until broken by some outside force symbolizes my commitment to my wife till death us do part.
B. No Temple (21:22) or central place of worship as in the OT and NT
Now the entire City is the temple filled with God’s presence. We don’t go to worship as with other central places of worship because we are always in the presence of God to worship. The whole City has become the Holy of Holies.
The Shekinah glory that filled the Holy of Holies once a year will in eternity penetrate every corner in The New Jerusalem constantly.
C. No Need of the Sun (21:23)
Because there is no night the gates are never closed. Even Disneyland, “the happiest place on earth” closes its gates at night. All who would disturb the city, all those who love darkness rather than light are now in the Lake of Fire (21:27).
D. River of Life (22:1-2a)
The River of Life constantly flows down from the throne of God right through main street symbolizing our never ending eternal life. This river of life is also crystal clear so we are not awestruck with this cascading waterfall as if we were standing at Niagara Falls.
The River of Life originates in the throne of God. There is no submersible pump continuously recycling the River of Life. The River of Life forever reminds us that our salvation also originated with God and is eternal.
E. Tree of Life (22:2b)
The Tree of Life spans the street of gold through which the River of life flows. The Tree of Life provides 12 different kinds of fruit each month for our enjoyment not preservation. This is perhaps is a reminder that God has given us “all things richly to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17) so that we unceasingly praise Him for all of His unspeakable gifts.
Not only does the fruit symbolize the luxuries of Heaven, but the leaves picture our eternal wellbeing. The River of Life symbolizes our eternal life while the leaves symbolize our eternal wholeness which includes physical as well as mental and emotions.
Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic, wrote of speaking to a class of mentally handicapped Christians. They thought it was great when she said she was going to get a new body. But when she added, “And you are going to get new minds,” they broke out into applause. They knew of their unique struggle; they knew of their limitations. Heaven offered for them unique healing.
Joni wrote further, “I still can hardly believe that I, with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body – light, bright, clothed in righteousness, powerful and dazzling. Can you imagine the hope this gives someone like me? Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or who has multiple sclerosis. Imagine the hope this gives someone who is manic-depressive. No other religion, no other philosophy literally promises new bodies, new hearts, [new emotions] and new minds. Only in the gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible [promise] (Randy Alcorn, Heaven, p. 286).
The therapeutic leaves reminds that one day “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
F. Worship at the Throne (22:3-5)
So far in our tour of God’s City we have seen God’s glory penetrating through clear, diamond like walls that surround a transparent gold city and a crystal clear River of Life.
But now grand finale and the crescendo are reached in 22:4: “We shall see His face.” This is the text on which Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon entitled the Heaven in Heaven. This stands in contrast with John’s first statement of this subject in John 1:18, “No man has seen God at anytime.”
What Moses in his natural body was not permitted we in eternity in our resurrected and glorified bodies will be allowed.
Jesus promised, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
This is what suffering Job longed for, “though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”
Walvoord believes seeing of God is behold His glory: “Immediate access to the glory of God will characterize the saints in the eternal state….The fact that they shall see His face demonstrates beyond question that these are glorified saints (1 John 3:2)” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 332).
MacArthur similarly writes: “The saints in the New Jerusalem will also see God’s face. Being perfectly holy and righteous, they will be able to endure the heavenly level of the glorious light from God’s presence without being consumed—something impossible for humans on earth (Exodus 33:20) (Because the Time is Near, p. 327).
“Viewing the glory of God is a limited privilege in the here and now but barriers will disappear when the redeemed enter the bride-city” (Robert Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 487).
“This seeing of God ‘face to face’ has been called the beatific vision, meaning ‘the vision that makes us blessed or happy’. To look at God changes us and makes us like him: ‘We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2). This vision of God will be the consummation of our knowing God and will give us full delight and joy all eternity: ‘in your presence there is fulness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore'” (Ps. 16:11) (Grudem, p. 190).
Now we have access to God’s presence through prayer but then we will talk with Him face to face in His unfiltered and spectacular glory.