“Then I saw a New Heaven and a New Earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things had passed away’.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
We no longer see the Prostitute, but now the Bride! The Church is revealed as pure and precious, dearly loved, and made perfect – and that means all of us! Heaven and Earth have been completely renewed and we will live with Christ on the new earth, surrounded by the new heaven. The earth that we used to live on has been scraped clean and renewed, permeated by a visible heaven in perfect unity with it. The phrase “…there was no longer any sea” should not disappoint those of us who love the coastline and the ocean – it is almost certainly symbolic: the sea represents the aggression of the godless nations that oppress God’s people (look at Isaiah 17:12; 21:1; 57:20; Jeremiah 6:23; Ezekiel 26:3; Revelation 13:1; 17:15). The Beast came from the sea – antichristian empires from out of the nations – and Babylon ‘sat’ on the waters too.
We will be given new resurrection bodies and our world will be physical as well as spiritual – both at the same time and in the same place. The symbolic picture of the ‘city’ is amazing – the literal dimensions given are two-thirds the land area of Australia and a height five times higher than that of the International Space Station! The city is a perfect cube. This is representative not of a building, but of a perfect and massive community of God’s people, his Church, illuminated by the Lord himself. In the old temple, the Holy of Holies was also a perfect cube and was not lit by any light other than God’s radiance. We will be enjoying a beautiful and perfect new physical creation – one that we catch glimpses of in this life – which we will enjoy totally from then on and for ever!
Not only is the City coming home, but God is coming home – to our home! The ‘curse’ – including sin, spiritual death, pain, broken relationships, dysfunctional creation, and physical death – has been removed forever. Just imagine a world without need of security, protection, medicine, undertakers, divorce lawyers, and the emergency services! In it, we will reign and rule with him, as part of the heavenly Royal Family. We will be re-united forever with our loved ones who have passed away in Christ and our joy will be complete. Most of all, we will forever gaze upon the face of the One who loves us and has always loved us – our Jesus, our Saviour!
The Bride, the Wife of the Lamb, is the most beautiful thing in all of creation. She is God’s Church, His redeemed, gathered finally from all the nations to be in his presence forever. Let us never underestimate the priority that the Father has for his church – both universal and local, both eternal and time-and-space-based. Let us do nothing to disunite or to disrupt the work of his Church and the relationships contained within it; that would be a very dangerous course of action to take! In our picture today, those within it are kept absolutely secure (very thick walls – 65 metres) and all their enemies have already been vanquished. Everything about this city speaks of beauty and order. All the old trappings of religion and of the old creation – temple, sun, moon – are no longer present, being unnecessary, since their replacements are God himself!
Membership of this New Jerusalem – the redeemed Church – is restricted to those who names have been written into the Lamb’s Book of Life – from the very beginning of the world, as it happens. (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27). These are the ones made righteous by Christ, those born again, those trusting in the death and resurrection of their Saviour.