Revelation Chapters 20 through 22, Part 5
by Karl Kemp
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Here in Part 5 we continue the verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapters 20-22, starting with Rev. 21:18.
(18) And the material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. [[In Rev. 21:21 we are informed that "the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass." It seems obvious that we are not to think of pure gold as we know it in our world; our gold isn't like clear/transparent glass. For one thing, I don't expect the glorified elements/materials of new Jerusalem and the eternal state to be the same as those that exist in our present world/age. We might call this glorified gold. Also, as I have mentioned, I believe this passage is packed with symbolic language, trying to describe the glory that is indescribable for us living in this world/age.]] (19) The foundation stones [cf. Rev. 21:14] of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. [Cf. Isa. 54:11, 12.] The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; (20) the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. (21) And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (22) And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. [[This is a very significant verse. When you are permitted to dwell in the presence of God, you don't need to come to worship Him in a temple. The words are especially applicable for true Israel (cf. Rev. 22:3-5), but they apparently have some application for the nations too (cf. Rev. 21:3, 4; 21:24-22:3). As discussed above, it would be blasphemous to include Christ, the Lamb, with God the Father here if He weren't deity with the Father. He is!]] (23) And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it [For one thing, the sun and moon pass away with the passing away of the first heaven and the first earth.], for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. [Cf. Isa. 60:19, 20; Rev. 22:5. This verse also confirms the deity of Christ Jesus.] (24) And the nations [As discussed at some length in this paper, "the nations" seem to be distinct from true Israel. We'll discuss the nations further as we continue.] shall walk by its light [[Cf. Isa. 60:1, 3. Isaiah 60:3 mentions nations and kings; they go together. The glory of God that illumines new Jerusalem (spoken of in Rev. 21:23) is so intense that the light of new Jerusalem illumines the entire new earth, where the nations apparently dwell. They have access to new Jerusalem, but they aren't part of the city (as true Israel is), and they apparently don't live there. It seems clear that the "light" here, which goes with the life of God (cf., e.g., John 1:4; 8:12), yields things like truth, righteousness, holiness, health, divine order, and every blessing.
The emphasis in Rev. 21:24-22:3 seems to be on the nations initially coming to God and His eternal life at the time the eternal state begins, with the spotlight on those who were just resurrected at the end of the millennium to be judged (Rev. 20:11-15) whose names were found in the book of life. We can probably say that Rev. 21:24-22:3 expands on Rev. 21:3, 4. The scene pictured in Rev. 21:24-27, which isn't quite what I would have expected, is apparently based on verses like Isa. 60:3, which (in some ways) fits the situation at the beginning of the millennium better than it fits the eternal state. It is also true, however, that the elect of the nations who aren't raised from the dead until the end of the millennium [assuming that there are such people, which I do assume] won't be there at the beginning of the millennium. And, as I mentioned, it seems that the elect of the nations who are resurrected at the end of the millennium are the ones from the nations in the spotlight in Rev. 20:11-22:3.
It isn't surprising that some commentators think that Rev. 21:24, 26, and other verses from Revelation chapters 21, 22, are referring to the millennium instead of the eternal state. That viewpoint, however, seems to raise more problems than it solves, and (in agreement with the majority) I believe it is wrong. It isn't explained, nor does it need to be explained in such a symbolic presentation, how the nations ended up on the new earth to which new Jerusalem comes down. (This comment applies to Rev. 21:3, 4 and 21:24-22:3.)]], and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it. [Cf., e.g., Isa. 60:4-17; 66:12; and Rev. 21:26.] (25) And in the daytime (for there shall be no night there) its gates shall never be closed [On the gates never being closed, cf. Isa. 60:11. The darkness, which is the absence of light (which is a symbol for God's truth, righteousness, and holiness), undoubtedly includes the ideas of sin and all the things (including curses) that come with sin. Darkness is one of "the first things" that has passed away (cf. Rev. 21:1, 4, 5).]; (26) and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it [[The primary thing the peoples of the nations will bring into new Jerusalem is themselves, as they submit to, and worship, the triune God (their Creator, their Savior, and the One who makes all things new) from the heart, with a heart full of thanksgiving for His super-abundant grace. They aren't going to bring into the eternal state their riches from this age, or anything derived from fallen man, man in the flesh. Cf., e.g., Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Tim. 6:7.]]; (27) and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying [cf. Rev. 21:8; 22:15], shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." [[All the people who will have a place in God's eternal kingdom, whether a member of true Israel, or a member of the nations, was, at one time, spiritually dead and a sinner, in desperate need of the Savior, but all those who enter will have been saved from sin through the Lamb of God. None of these people (the elect) are in the category of those who never will repent, and none of them are in the category that Jesus spoke of in John 8:37-47, "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44).
On the "Lamb's book of life," see Rev. 20:12, 15 (see under Rev. 20:12). There won't be any sin in God's eternal kingdom. For one thing, it would detract from the glory of that kingdom. All sin will be rooted out and taken away from all of God's elect (whether a member of true Israel, or of the nations) before they can fully enter His eternal kingdom.]]
Some Comments Regarding Those Who Constitute the Nations in Rev. 21:24-22:3. We have already discussed this important topic quite a bit. Here I'll include a few quotations. One prominent view is that the nations consist entirely of those converted and living for God during the millennium, and who don't rebel against Him. As I have mentioned, I believe all such people will end up as part of the nations in God's new earth. Their judgment isn't specifically mentioned in Rev. 20:11-15, but then it didn't really need to be mentioned, being rather obvious. Anyway, it's clear that all such people meet the requirement to enter God's new earth in that (as Rev. 21:27 confirms) their names are found written in the Lamb's book of life. The opinion/judgment of the triune God is the only one that really matters.
It is the judgment of "the rest of the dead" (Rev. 20:5) that is dealt with in Rev. 20:11-15. And, as we discussed, apparently quite a few of them will have their names found in the book of life. Taken together with those mentioned in the preceding paragraph, this multitude probably constitutes the peoples/nations of Rev. 21:3, 4; 21:24-22:3. I believe, however, as I mentioned, that it is the elect from "the rest of the dead" who receive the primary attention in Rev. 21:3, 4; 21:24-22:3 (as in 20:11-15). In fact Rev. 21:24, 26 could refer exclusively to them. (Those pictured in the preceding paragraph have already come to God and His kingdom in a very real sense in the millennial kingdom.) For these people, the transition to the glory of God's eternal kingdom will be super-dramatic: They go from a life on earth, where they apparently wouldn't be considered believers, to death and a lengthy existence in Sheol/Hades, to a resurrection and judgment at the end of the millennium, and straight into the glory of God's eternal kingdom. For them especially the words of Rev. 21:3, 4; 21:24-22:3 are so appropriate. Can you imagine the awesome thankfulness such people will have toward God and His awesome grace manifested through Christ Jesus (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). One last comment here, the numbers of people from the nations mentioned in the preceding paragraph could easily (and undoubtedly will) far outnumber those mentioned in this paragraph.
I'll quote from Leon Morris, a well-respected evangelical scholar ("Revelation," Revised Edition, [Inter-varsity Press, 1987]), under Rev. 21:24. "John does not envisage the salvation of a tiny handful and the destruction of the vast majority of mankind. He sees God as bringing 'the Gentiles' into his holy city. God's purposes for mankind will not be frustrated." Dr. Morris doesn't explain here how he thinks this will come to pass.
I'll quote from Robert L. Thomas ("Revelation 8-22," [Moody Press, 1995]), under Rev. 21:24. Thomas lists several views regarding the identity of the nations. First I'll quote one view he lists and briefly discusses on page 477, "The idea has come that these are the nations outside the city and on the new earth, whose names are in the Book of Life and who while on earth had striven against sin [We don't need to overstate their striving against sin; even true Christians are all-too-often slack in this regard], but had not come to a knowledge of the Savior before the abolition of the old creation. In the new creation they do become willing subjects of God and the Lamb. This proposal leaves unanswered the question of how they were in the Book of Life at the final reckoning (20:11-15) without a personal relationship with Christ, however. [[God is the One who determines what names are in the Book of Life. The names have been in the book since the foundation of the world, based on His plans and foreknowledge. For one thing, as 1 Pet. 1:20 shows, the atoning death of the Lamb of God had been predetermined.]] It also leaves the mystery of how they could have striven against sin without an alliance with the Lamb." Thomas doesn't mention any names here.
On page 478 Thomas gives what he considers to be the correct viewpoint, "...'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 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 (cf. Govett, Seiss). They will be unresurrected human beings who will inhabit the new earth, Paradise restored (22:1-5), throughout eternity. These will be the ones over whom God's resurrected saints will reign (22:5). Nations, peoples, and men on earth must continue in the flesh as Adam and Eve did before the Fall (Seiss)."
J. A. Seiss, "Apocalypse" [Zondervan, 1980; originally published in 1900]), commenting on Revelation chapter 21, says that the nations belong to "unglorified humanity" (page 501), and on page 492 he says, "There is not a word which asserts any purpose of God to terminate the perpetuity of humanity as an ever-expanding race [in other words the nations will continue to bear children]." I have much respect for this commentary by Seiss (I have learned quite a bit from it); and I respect this much more recent, thorough commentary by Thomas, but I have to strongly doubt that the nations will be in the flesh/unglorified humanity and that they will continue to reproduce forever.
I'll quote part of what Henry Alford ("New Testament for English Readers," Vol. 4 [Baker, 1983 reprint]) says under Rev. 21:24-27, "Among the mysteries of this new heaven and new earth this is set forth to us: that, besides the glorified church, there shall still be dwelling on the renewed earth nations.... ... If then the kings of the earth, and the nations, bring their glory and their treasures into her, and if none shall ever enter into her that is not written in the book of life, it follows, that these kings, and these nations, are written in the book of life. And so perhaps some light may be thrown on one of the darkest mysteries of redemption. There may be, - I say it with all diffidence [lack of confidence, marked by hesitation in asserting oneself], - those who have been saved by Christ without ever forming a part of his visible organized Church."
I'll also quote part of what Alford says under Matt. 25:31-46 in Vol. 1 of "New Testament for English Readers." First he mentions, rightly I believe, that the first two parables of Matthew chapter 25 deal with the judgment (including positive judgments and rewards) of Christians. Then, still in the introduction to Matt. 25:31-46, he says, "We now come to the great and universal judgment at the end of this period [the millennium], also prophesied of distinctly in order in Rev. 20:11-15 - in which all the dead, small and great, shall stand before God. ...."
Under Matt. 25:34 Alford says (in part), "The Scripture assures us of two resurrections: the first, of the dead in Christ, to meet Him and reign with Him, and hold (1 Cor. 6:2) judgment over the world: the second, of all the dead, to be judged according to their works. [See Rev. 20:5, 11-15.] And to what purpose would be a judgment, if all were to be condemned? [It could be, and the majority of commentators on the book of Revelation think all will be condemned, but I believe Alford probably is right.] And if any escape condemnation, to them might the words of this verse [Matt. 25:34] be used...."
Under Matt. 25:37-40, Alford says, "The answer of these 'righteous' appears to me to shew plainly that they are not to be understood as being the covenanted servants of Christ. Such an answer it would be impossible for them to make, who had done all distinctly with reference to Christ, and for his sake, and with his declaration of Matt. 10:40-42 before them. Such a supposition would remove all reality, as indeed it has generally done, from our Lord's description. See the remarkable difference in the answer of the faithful servants, 25:20, 22. The saints are already in His glory - judging the world with Him (1 Cor. 6:2)... - in this judgment [of Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:11-15] they are not the judged.... But these who are the judged [speaking of the sheep], know not that all their deeds of love have been done to and for Christ - they are overwhelmed with the sight of the grace which has been working in and for them, and the glory which is now their blessed portion. And notice, that it is not the works, as such, but the love which prompted them - that love which was their faith, - which felt its way, though in darkness, to Him who is Love - which is commended." I believe it goes too far to speak of the "faith" of the sheep.
Then, under Matt. 25:40, Alford comments on the meaning of the important words, "My brethren," "Not necessarily the saints with Him in glory - though primarily those - but also any of the great family of man. Many of those here judged may never have had an opportunity of doing these things to the saints of Christ properly so called. In this is fulfilled the covenant of God to Abraham, 'in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth...be blessed.' Gen. 22:18." I believe Alford goes beyond the intended meaning of "My brethren," which should, I believe, be limited to Christians here. I'm not denying the value of doing good works for non-Christians, and especially if they are part of God's elect of the nations (which equals being part of the sheep in Matt. 25:31-46), but such works aren't mentioned, I don't believe, in Matt. 25:31-46. See the discussion of Matt. 25:31-46 in my paper on Matthew chapters 25 and 25 that is available on my internet site and will be available on this Christian article site within a few weeks. Are you aware that if you click on my name beside any of my articles it will take you to a listing of all my articles on this site?
REVELATION CHAPTER 22.
"And he ["he" is the angel spoken of in Rev. 21:9, 10] showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, (2) in the middle of its street. [[See Ezek. 47:1-12; Rev. 7:17; 21:6; and 22:17. "Its street" means the street of new Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 21:21); this street must be quite wide. The water of life here probably symbolizes the Holy Spirit. (If so, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are pictured in this verse.) It's clear that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of life (e.g., John 3:3-8; 6:63; Rom. 8:2-11; 2 Cor. 3:6; and Gal. 5:25), and it's clear that the Spirit of God and the life of God can both be symbolized by water (cf., e.g., John 4:13, 14; John 7:37-39; and Rev. 7:17; 21:6; 22:17). In that this water of life comes from the throne of God AND OF THE LAMB, we again see the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb.]] And on either side of the river was the tree of life [On the tree of life, see Gen. 2:9; 3:22-24; Ezek. 47:12; Rev. 2:7; and 22:14. I agree with the many commentators who say the word "tree" is a collective noun here in 22:2; there are many trees pictured here. For one thing, they are on both sides of the river. The singular tree may build on the singular "the tree of life" in Gen. 2:9; 3:22-24. Ezekiel 47:12, speaking prophetically of the water that will flow from the temple of God, says, "And by the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing."]], bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month [[The NASB has the word "kinds" in italics since there is no corresponding word in the Greek. In the margin the NASB has, "or, crops of fruit"; I believe this is the idea. The picture here emphasizes great abundance, with the trees bearing fruit twelve times a year. Much of this description is symbolic, as in chapter 21. For one thing, we need not assume that the members of true Israel, or of the nations, will need to eat literal food in order to live/to function.]]; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. [[These words are undoubtedly based on Ezek. 47:12 (quoted above). We shouldn't understand these words to teach that there will be sicknesses, etc. from which the nations living in God's eternal kingdom will need to be healed, but we can think of a preventive medicine (God's eternal life) that keeps people healthy. Revelation 22:3 informs us that there shall no longer be any curse, and the Bible shows that all sickness traces back to the curse that came with sin and spiritual death. Also see Rev. 21:4.
It is probably appropriate, however, to think of an initial healing of the nations as they first enter eternal life at the beginning of the eternal state (cf. Rev. 21:3, 4), and this is especially true for that part of the nations that were recently part of "the rest of the dead" of Rev. 20:5, 12-15 (assuming that the names of some of these people will be found in the Lamb's book of life, which I do assume). I believe we can say with assurance that all the benefits that come from the tree of life and its fruit come from God through salvation in the Lamb of God, and through the Spirit of life.]] (3) And there shall no longer be any curse [See Gen. 3:7-24; Zech. 14:11; and Rev. 21:4. This statement applies to the new heaven and new earth, not just new Jerusalem.]; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it ["it" refers to new Jerusalem], and His bond-servants shall serve Him [["His bond-servants" refer, I believe, to all the members of God's true Israel, those who serve Him and reign with Him in a very special, intimate sense, in distinction from the nations, who were spoken of in 21:24-22:2. Revelation 7:15-17 are an important cross-reference: In these verses we see the just-raptured (in the middle of Daniel's 70th week) saints, all being members of true Israel. In Rev. 7:15 we read that "they SERVE HIM day and night in His temple (or sanctuary)." The same Greek verb for serve is used in Rev. 7:15 and 22:3. The verb serve fits with the idea of functioning as priests, but it's not at all limited to this form of serving. The word "bond-servant(s)" is also used in the book of Revelation (by the NASB) in 1:1; 2:20; 7:3; 11:18; 15:3; 19:2, 5; and 22:6. Revelation 10:7 should be added to this list; the same Greek noun is used in 10:7 that is used in these other verses, but the NASB translated "servants" in 10:7. In each of these verses, it is used of members of true Israel.
Many other verses in the book of Revelation support the idea that true Israel is distinct from the nations, including Rev. 1:6 (they are priests); Rev. 2:26, 27 (they reign); Rev. 3:12 (they are pillars in the temple of God; the name of God, the name of new Jerusalem, and the new name of Christ will be written on them); Rev. 3:21 (they reign); Rev. 5:8 (the word "saints" here, and the other twelve uses of this word in the book of Revelation, always refers to members of true Israel); Rev. 5:10 (they are priests; they reign); Rev. 7:4-8 (this group of 144,000, who receive a special seal, added to the 144,000 mentioned in Rev. 14:1-5, who have the name of the Lamb and the name of the Father written on their foreheads, apparently constitutes the fulness of true Israel); Rev. 12:1-17 (the woman and her seed/offspring constitute true Israel in her fulness); Rev. 13:6 (true Israel is God's tabernacle); Rev. 15:2-4 (the members of true Israel spoken of here are distinct from the nations; in the song of Rev. 15:3, 4, they sing of the nations coming to worship God now that His acts of saving and judging have been manifested, about the time of the end of Daniel's 70th week); Rev. 17:14 (also see 19:14, 19; the raptured saints are with Christ during the second half of Daniel's 70th week); Rev. 19:7-9 (true Israel is the bride of Christ); Rev. 20:3, 4 (true Israel is glorified and reigns); Rev. 21:2, 3 (true Israel is the tabernacle of God and is part of new Jerusalem which comes down from heaven; and they are the bride of Christ); and Rev. 22:1-5 (the members of true Israel are bond-servants of God, and they reign). The book of Revelation was written for, and sent to, Christians, true Israel, not the nations. I believe the evidence presented in this paper under Revelation chapters 20-22; under Matt. 24:30, 31; under Matt. 25:31-46 in my paper on Matthew chapters 24, 25; and in my paper titled, "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations" is sufficient to demonstrate the significant difference between true Israel and the nations in God's eternal plans. (All of the papers just mentioned were originally part of a single paper.) Also see my papers on Psalms, Isaiah, and Jeremiah on my internet site. Excerpts from the paper on Jeremiah are included on this Christian article site.
"His bondservants." Christians are spoken of as "bond-servants" of Christ (Rev. 1:1; 2:20; cf. 22:6), and as "bond-servants" of God (Rev. 7:3; 10:7; 11:18; 15:3; 19:2, 5), but I believe "His" refers to God the Father here. For one thing, He has the preeminent role in the Trinity. See my papers "Who Do We Worship?"; "Who Do We Pray To?"; "More on the Trinity"; and "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son." Also, the words "they shall see His face" of verse 4 refer to the face of God the Father.]]; (4) and they [His bond-servants, all the members of true Israel] shall see His face [[Compare Psalms 11:7; 17:15; Matt. 5:8; 18:10; 1 Cor. 13:12; and Heb. 12:14. God the Father's face is referred to here (cf., e.g., Ex. 33:20, 23; John 1:18; 1 John 3:1, 2; 4:12, 20; and 1 Tim. 6:16). We will also see Christ's face. However, keep in mind that seeing His face then will be far beyond seeing His face when He walked on the earth, and even far beyond seeing His face in His post-resurrection appearances (where His glory wasn't manifested to any great extent). There was a mild foretaste of His ultimate appearance at the Mount of Transfiguration, but keep in mind that Peter, James, and John were not yet able to handle seeing much of His glory (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2, 3; Luke 9:29); on the glory of Christ, also see John 17:5; Rev. 1:16; 10:1; and especially Rev. 21:23).
All the members of true Israel will have been glorified, living in the presence of God, and reigning with Him since the beginning of the millennium by the time we get to the eternal state pictured in Revelation chapters 21, 22. We can probably also say that we will continue in some priestly functions on into the eternal state, though not to the extent we functioned as priests during the millennial kingdom (since the nations will move to a higher state than what they experienced in the millennium). By saying that true Israel will probably still function as priests, I'm not suggesting that the nations won't be permitted to see the Father's face; apparently they will (cf. Rev. 21:3, 4, 22), but apparently there will be a big difference between the relationship we (true Israel) will have with the Father, as we continually, and fully, dwell in His presence as His bond-servants, and the relationship the nations will have with Him.
Keep in mind that the book of Revelation was written to encourage and bless (also warn) Christians (not the nations); payday is coming (not that we can earn anything from God, since everything is freely given), and the rewards will be super-great. We shouldn't be ashamed to acknowledge them; that wouldn't be true, Biblical humility. Thinking on the glory of the age to come will help motivate us, and make us faithful and thankful.]], and His name [I believe "His" refers to God the Father, but, as we will discuss, the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will also be on our foreheads.] shall be on their foreheads. [[Again it seems that all the members of true Israel, but not the nations, are being spoken of. See Rev. 3:12; 14:1; cf. Rev. 7:3-8. Revelation 3:12 mentions that the name of God and the new name of Christ will be written on all overcomers (all true Christians). Revelation 14:1, which speaks of all the members of true Israel who will have been raptured in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, and who will be with Him forever more (cf., e.g., 1 Thess. 4:17), says, "And I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His [Christ's] name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads." (As we discussed, the one hundred and forty-four thousand is a symbolic number for completeness; the actual number will be much higher.)]]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapters 20-22 in Part 6, starting with Rev. 22:5.
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