New Jerusalem Inhabited

SYNOPSIS – New Jerusalem is populated fully in fulfillment of the covenant promises to Abraham – Revelation 21:24-22:5.

Alpine Meadow - Photo by Lukas Gächter on Unsplash
In the preceding section, the “city of New Jerusalem” was unveiled with its massive proportions. It would take more than a tiny remnant of “saints” to populate it. Now, in his continuing vision, John sees the “city” populated with an innumerable multitude of redeemed men and women from all nations, even from among the “kings of the earth.”

New Jerusalem” is coterminous with the New Creation and equated with the “paradise of God.” All that was lost because of the disobedience of Adam is recovered and restored, but also, infinitely enhanced and expanded. The “curse” is no more, not even the possibility of its return; therefore, the saints together with the “Lamb” reign “forever and ever.”

The description of the “city” inhabited by redeemed humanity includes allusions to the Old Testament stories of Adam, Abraham, and Israel. What God intended in the first creation is not abandoned but, instead, fulfilled in the new one. Likewise, the covenant promises to Abraham of land, kings, and blessing to the nations are achieved in the New Creation, as well as the prophecies of restoration to Israel.

All this is accomplished through the sacrificial Lamb. In “New Jerusalem,” Jesus reigns, but he does so as the “Lamb.” The “tree of life” in the “paradise of God” that gives life to the nations is none other than the cross of Calvary (Compare – Revelation 2:7):

  • (Revelation 21:24-22:5) – “And the nations shall walk through her light; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory into it, and the gates thereof shall in nowise be shut by day, — night, in fact, shall not be there, — and they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it. And in nowise shall there enter into it anything common or he that doeth abomination and falsehood, — but only they who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. And he pointed out to me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, issuing forth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb in the midst of the broadway thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was a tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit every several month, yielding its fruit; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations, And no curse shall there be, any more; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein, — and his servants will render divine service unto him, and they shall see his face and his name [shall be] upon their foreheads. And night shall be no more; and they have no need of the light of a lamp or the light of a sun, because the Lord God will give them light, — and they shall reign unto the ages of ages.” (Source: The Emphasized Bible).

The nations will walk through her light.” The “nations” are portrayed positively and negatively in the book of Revelation, depending on how they respond to the Lamb.” Overcoming Christians are promised authority over the nations and summoned to preach to them, which suggests at least some “nations” or “Gentiles” will submit to the Lamb,” not rebel against him (Revelation 2:26, 10:11, 14:6).

The company of the redeemed includes men and women from every “nation,” and, in his “reign,” the “Lamb shepherds the nations” with his “rod.” He does not smash and pulverize them into dust (Revelation 5:9, 7:9, 12:5, 15:4, 19:15).

But the “nations” can appear in a negative light. For example, they rejoice at the deaths of the “Two Witnesses.” The “nations” suffer loss at the final judgment when the seventh trumpet sounds. At one point, they come under the authority of the “Beast from the sea.” The “cities of the nations” fall when the seventh bowl of wrath is emptied. And the “nations” are deceived by the “Great Harlot” and the “Dragon” into persecuting all those who do not render allegiance to the “Beast” or its “image” (Revelation 11:9-19, 13:7, 16:19, 17:5, 18:3, 18:23, 20:8).

Likewise, Jesus is declared the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” yet this same group is listed among those who flee from his “wrath” on the Day of the Lord when the sixth seal is opened. Before that day, the “kings of the earth” are deceived by demons and gathered to the “war” against the Lamb, the “Rider on a White Horse.” And the “Great Harlot” makes them “drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Revelation 1:4-6, 6:15, 17:2, 17:18, 18:3-9).

River Twighlight - Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash
Robson Morgan on Unsplash

However, in “New Jerusalem,” the “kings of the earth” bring “their glory into the city and the glory and the honor of the nations.” In contrast, all men and women who commit “abominations and falsehoods” are excluded from the “city”; only individuals whose names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life” are allowed entrance. Logically, this indicates that some of the “kings of the earth” and members of the “nations” will find their names in the Lamb’s book of life - They are not without the possibility of redemption.

The inclusion of the two groups is a fulfillment of the covenant promises of Yahweh to Abraham.  God promised that, in Abraham, “All the nations of the earth would be blessed.” Yahweh would make “nations” from Abraham and “kings” would come from him (Genesis 12:3, 17:6, 22:8).

Noteworthy are the two groups from Revelation that are excluded from entry into “New Jerusalem” and are never portrayed in a positive light, the same two groups that are destined for the “second death” in the “Lake of Fire” -  Namely, the “inhabitants of the earth,” and all men and women who “take the mark of the Beast” (Revelation 3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 12:12, 13:8, 13:12-15, 14:6, 14:9-11, 16:2, 17:2, 17:8).

He showed me a river of water of life… And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” This is a verbal link to a vision from the book of Ezekiel in which the prophet saw a river flowing out from “under the threshold of the house” to provide healing and life, as follows:

  • (Ezekiel 47:1-12) – “Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar…And when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other…These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed…And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.”

Orchard - Photo by Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash
Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash

The tree of life” (xulon zōés). Previously, this was promised to all “overcomers” from the Church at Ephesus - “To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life (xulon zōés) in the paradise of God.” The Greek noun rendered “tree” or xulon was commonly applied to “wood” - Something constructed of wood as opposed to a living tree. The clause, xulon zōés, is the same one used in the Septuagint rendering of Genesis 2:9 for the original “tree of life” (Revelation 2:1-7).

This Greek noun xulon is applied elsewhere in the New Testament to the cross on which Jesus was hanged and, very likely, the book of Revelation wants the reader to make this connection - Christ crucified is the “tree of life.” Note the following passages:

  • (Acts 5:30) – “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.”
  • (Acts 10:39) – “And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree.”
  • (Acts 13:29) – “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a sepulcher.”
  • (Galatians 3:13) – “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.”
  • (1 Peter 2:24) – “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.”

In the letter to the Church at Ephesus, the “overcoming” believer is promised access to the fruit of the “tree of life” in the “paradise of God.” In the context of the book, “paradise” can only refer to the New Creation - It refers to the final state of the righteous realized in the “New Jerusalem,” the “new heaven and new earth,” not to a place where the dead reside until the resurrection at the end of the age (compare - 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

Unlike the first “Paradise,” in this one, “there will be no curse anymore.” In a context that refers to “paradise,” fruitful trees, and the “tree of life,” “curse” must echo the Genesis story in which the earth was “cursed” for Adam’s disobedience, a “curse” that is now reversed by the Lamb:

  • (Genesis 3:17-19) – “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the earth for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life…for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.”

The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it and his servants shall serve him.” As before, since the enthronement of the Lamb, he and the “One Sitting on the Throne” have ruled in concert.  When John saw the innumerable multitude exiting the “great tribulation,” he was informed by an angel that those men and women would be before the “throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sits on the throne shall dwell among them…For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters.” That image becomes reality in the “New Creation” (Revelation 7:14-15. Cp. Ezekiel 48:35).

His name will be on their foreheads.” This, also, is according to the earlier visions that anticipated this reality for believers in the New Creation, as follows:

  • (Revelation 3:12) – “Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”
  • (Revelation 14:1) – “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.”

There shall be night no more…for the Lord God shall give them light.” This clause alludes to a passage from the book of Isaiah, one originally, a promise of restoration to Israel, including its possession of the land promised to Abraham. Darkness would cover the earth, but Yahweh would rise over Israel and display His glory, so much so, that “nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3):

  • (Isaiah 60:19-22) – “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but Yahweh will be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for Yahweh will be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. The little one shall become a thousand, and the small one a strong nation; I, Yahweh, will hasten it in its time.”

They shall reign for ever and ever.” This fulfils a promise to the “overcoming” saints that is threaded throughout the book of Revelation - It finds its fulfillment in the “New Creation.” Note the following passages, several of which allude to Exodus 19:6:

  • (Revelation 1:6) – “He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
  • (Revelation 3:21) – “He that overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.”
  • (Revelation 5:10 – “He made them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon earth.”
  • (Revelation 20:4-6) – “And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years…but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
  • (Exodus 19:3-6) – “Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”

.Thus, the book of Revelation has come the full biblical circle. The “Lamb” has reversed the “curse” and redeemed all creation - All God’s promises find their fulfillment in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The plan was never to abandon the original creation for a nonphysical reality, but to redeem it and place humanity at its center whence men and women reign with the “Lamb forever.

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