Text: Rev 21:9-23
OT Text: Ex 33:1-11
Featured Verse: Rev:21:15,22 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls...22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
Main Idea: God will dwell with his people in the New Jerusalem.
We have seen that the final six chapters of Revelation highlight a contrast between Babylon and the New Jerusalem. The first is described as a harlot and is the City of Man - humanity in its rebellion against God.* The second is the Bride of Christ, the City of God - redeemed humanity. Simply put:
Babylon = Harlot = City of Man
New Jerusalem = Bride = Church (City of God)
The New Jerusalem is described in ways that are continuous with the people of God throughout the Bible. The gates have the names of the OT tribes. (21:12) The foundations have the names of the twelve apostles. The jewels and gems reflect the OT temple practices. This is a prophetic picture of what Paul tells us in 'Ephesians 2:19-22, the church is the new temple of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
Here is the catch. John tells us that in this vision of the New Jerusalem, "there is no temple in the city."** Why is that? The simple answer is that the whole city is a temple. Think about it this way. The purpose of the temple was to offer limited access to God. This point is illustrated in the OT reading from Exodus 33:1-11. In that section we see that God cannot any longer dwell with his people because of their sin. This is a cause of great disappointment to them, but although God did not travel with them in the manner he had before, the very next section describes the presence of God in the tabernacle - which is the earliest, tent-like version of the temple. The temple offers access to God, but only on certain terms. It allows God to dwell with his people but protects them from his consuming holiness.
Here is the contrast. In Revelation 21:9-22, there is no temple. (21:22) That is because the temple is no longer necessary to limit access to God. God's presence with his people is unlimited. "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man." (21:3) Which leads us to an interesting point. The angel shows him the size of the city by using a measuring rod***, which reveals that the city is enormous. And, it is a perfect cube.**** Just like the Holy of Holies in the OT temple! Derek Thomas writes, "In the New Jerusalem... the entire city is a holy place."*****
Conclusion and Application
The primary feature of the New Heavens and the New Earth is that God's people will live with uninhibited access to God's presence. When Jesus returns, we will experience a massive "upgrade" from what we have now. Now, we can pray to God any time we want, but we don't see him face to face. Now, we can be confident of our standing in the righteousness of Christ, but our experience of God is darkened by the shadows of sin, Satan, and the fallen world. Our experience of God is real, it is limited and partial. In the future, it will be uninhibited. This is how Paul described it to the Corinthians at the end of his great chapter on love.
1 Cor 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
* "The wording in vv.21:9-10 is almost identical to 17:1,3, which introduced Babylon. This underlines the contrast between the two women, the harlot Babylon, and the bride of the Lamb. The immoral and unfaithful conduct of Babylon is contrasted with the faithfulness of the bride." Beale, Revelation and Shorter Commentary, p477
** Interestingly, the depiction of the city is very similar to Ezekiel's prophecy of the ideal temple. (Ez 39:25-40:16 ff) This furthers the assertion (made often in the NT) that the people are the temple. When we see the parallel between the Bride and the City, all of the pieces fit together.
*** Again, notice a similarity to Ezekiel 40.
**** "It's length and width and height are equal." (21:16)
***** Thomas, Let's Study Revelation, p175,