Text: Rev 21:23-27
OT Text: Habakkuk 2:14
For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
5 Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
Featured Verse: Rev 21:26 And they will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.
Main Idea: The enormous volume of the temple expands to fill the earth, and the honor of the nations are brought into it.
I mentioned yesterday, that the size of the city in John's vision is enormous. Let's go back and consider just how big this city really is. John said that it is a cube, with each side "12,000" stadia. That is equivalent to 1,400 square miles. By way of comparison, Mt. Everest is six miles high. Tim Chester points out that air is thin at the height of six miles, so if we were trying to map this onto our experiential reality, then the top of this city would be extended far beyond the earth's atmosphere. What is going on this this vision?
We saw yesterday, that the inside of the temple was a cube. So the entire city has the same function and the same proportions as the Holy of Holies. It was a place for God to dwell. The other significance of this enormous temple is that it essentially covered the known world.* This is a fulfillment of the earliest promise God made to Abraham. His work through Abraham's descendants would ultimately undo the curse of Babel and bring a blessing to all the nations of the earth. (Gen 12:1-3) The binding of Satan allows the ministry of the Gospel to go to the nations in the power of the Holy Spirit, fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus. (Matt 28:18-20)
We have already seen multiple times in Revelation that the redeemed people of God will be from "every tribe, and language, and people, and nation." (5:9, 7:9, 14:6) Now we see another intriguing image. "The kings of the earth will bring their glory into it... they will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations." (21:24,26) So what is the glory and honor of the nations? As a minimum, it means that the gentiles (non-Jewish people) are coming to bring themselves as worshippers. But, it may be mean more than that. The glory and honor of the nations may carry with it the unique ways in which God was pleased to shape particular cultures. This may be showing a celebration of the redeemed cultural goodness of those people who have come to faith in Christ - from out of every ethnic group. We don't know for sure how far to extend this or whether some of our "cultural artifacts are carried through into eternity." We do know that good works done in faith will last. (1 Cor 3:10-15) We also know that redeemed people will continue to bear the marks of their earthly human ethnicity. After all, John can recognize people from every "nation". (5:9, 7:9) And think of it this way. Jesus is still, "the Lion of the Tribe of Judah." In his humanity, he remains Jewish. In eternity, we will not be one amorphous blob of humanity. It seems that in some sense... we will carry with us, the marks of our earthly ethnic humanity. God will do this, because the vast diversity of his created order is pleasing to him.
Conclusion and Application
Part of the beauty of the New Heavens and New Earth is that it includes the completion of God's world-wide mission. The growth of the church across the cultural divides that began after Pentecost and have continued throughout church history will find its completion in the book of Revelation. For John, who was Jewish, the reference to the Gentiles has the perspective of the grace of God extending outward from his long-established place in the covenant community. But for the rest of us, when we see the nations coming into the city**, we see family faces. Imagine, that you are looking back at old photos and slowly recognizing faces...
Wait...look. That's my grandparents! Coming into the city, carrying the honor of the nations with them.
Look. Those are our friends in Zimbabwe. There... Bulgaria.
The prayers we have offered regularly for the persecuted church in China... look, I can see the answers to those prayers.
Isaiah 60:3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
* Beale, p483.
** Given the way in which John has regularly "layered" the visions of Revelation, I don't think that this is meant to communicate that the Gentiles will come into the kingdom later. The Bride of Christ, necessarily includes the entirety of the church, which is all of God's people from all nations. All "those who are written in the Lamb's book of Life." (21:27)