Theme: The Throne of God and of the Lamb
In these lessons we focus on heaven as the place where God and his redeemed people will dwell forever.
Scripture: Revelation 21
When John begins to describe this in chapter 21, the thing that impresses him most about Jerusalem is that God dwells there. He writes, “I saw the Holy City,” he says, “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, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God’” (vv. 2, 3).
There’s a very interesting text in the Old Testament, which I am convinced relates to this and perhaps was something that John had in mind as he wrote these words. Jerusalem, means “the place of God’s peace” because “Salem” means “peace.” And the tragedy of Jerusalem is that it has been anything but a place of peace. That city, which was to be a symbol of the peace of God and a place of earthly peace established through righteousness, becomes a city of warfare.
And with that background, I take you to the very end of the Book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel has known the fall of Jerusalem, and he is looking forward to the establishing of the new Jerusalem. But after he’s described this new city, he says, “The name of that city from that time on will be ‘the Lord is there’ [Hebrew, yerushamah].” You notice that the name has changed. “Jerusalem,” that is, “the Lord our peace,” in which in the earthly experience was not a city of peace, becomes now “Jerushamah,” “the Lord is there.” And when we come to Revelation, that’s precisely that in which we find John the evangelist rejoicing. What marks the new Jerusalem is the presence of God. God is there. And not only is God there, God is there forever because the destiny of the people of God is to spend eternity with Him.
I want to come back to that, but before I do let’s go on and look at the description. I think it’s always hard when we study Revelation to know how much of the descriptions we find are to be taken literally and how much are to be understood as symbolism. Here we have a city that’s described as being four square, as having a great, high wall, having gates in the wall, massive foundations, streets of gold, and jewels set into the masonry. All these images are supposed to suggest to us the kind of existence we’ll have with God in heaven, the kind of community that He’s establishing. Have you ever seen pictures of Mont-Saint-Michel, a little island off the French coast, where the tide comes in and surrounds the city at high tide, coming in 14 miles from the ocean, and coming in faster than horses can gallop? Well, Mont-Saint-Michel sits there. It’s this massive thing that was built up in the Middle Ages, a monastic kind of community. It has a little village all around the bottom, and the streets wind their way up. And it goes up in a majestic way to this marvelous cathedral of St. Michel’s that’s up on the top. The highest thing sticking way up there is this statue of St. Michel. I think maybe that’s the kind of thing, only on a much grander style, that John is describing. You see this massive city prepared for the people of God leaning upward, not to St. Michel, but to God and the Lamb, who take the place of the temple within the holy city.
What change in meaning does Ezekiel foresee concerning the new Jerusalem? What is the significance of this new name?
What is the central element of the new Jerusalem?
Key Point: What marks the new Jerusalem is the presence of God. God is there. And not only is God there, God is there forever because the destiny of the people of God is to spend eternity with Him.