New Jerusalem is populated fully in fulfillment of the covenant promise to Abraham to “bless all nations” – Revelation 21:24-22:5.
In the preceding section, “New Jerusalem” with its massive dimensions was unveiled. It will take far more than a tiny remnant of “saints” to populate it. Now, John sees the “city” populated with the “innumerable multitude” of the redeemed from every nation and ethnic group, including many from among the “kings of the earth.”
The city’s dimensions clear that it is coterminous with the New Creation, and it is identified as the “paradise of God.” All that was lost through the disobedience of Adam is restored, but also infinitely enhanced and expanded. The “curse” is no more, even its return is no longer a possibility. Therefore, the saints, together with the “Lamb,” reign “forever and ever.”
The description of the inhabited “city” includes echoes from the Old Testament stories of Adam, Abraham, and Israel. What God intended in the first creation was not abandoned; it is now fulfilled in the new one. Likewise, the covenant promises to Abraham are achieved in the New Creation.
All this has been accomplished by the “Lamb.” In “New Jerusalem,” Jesus reigns, but he does so as the “Lamb.” The “tree of life” in the middle of the “paradise of God” that gives life to the nations is none other than the cross of Calvary – (“Unto him that overcomes, I will give to him to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” – Revelation 2:7).
NATIONS AND KINGS. The “nations” of the earth are portrayed positively and negatively in Revelation, depending on how they respond to the “Lamb.”
- (Revelation 21:24-27) – “And the nations shall walk through her light, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory into it… And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. And in nowise shall there enter it anything common or he that does abomination and falsehood, but only they who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
The company of the redeemed includes men and women from every “nation.” In his “reign,” Jesus works tirelessly through his “kingdom of priests” to “shepherd the nations,” which results in a fully populated “city” – (Revelation 5:9, 7:9, 12:5, 15:4, 19:15).
Likewise, he is the “ruler of the kings of the earth” in the present age, a group that was included among those who fled from his “wrath” when the “sixth seal was opened.” And even before that day, the “kings of the earth” were gathered to the “war” against the “Rider on a White Horse.” Yet in “New Jerusalem,” they bring “their glory into the city and the glory and the honor of the nations.” This means that some of them find their names “written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Thus, the “Lamb” does not simply manipulate them to achieve his purposes, and then discard and destroy them – (Revelation 1:4-6, 6:15, 17:2, 17:18).
The inclusion of the “nations” and the “kings of the earth” in the city’s population is in fulfillment of covenant promises made to Abraham. In him, “all the nations of the earth would be blessed.” Yahweh would make “nations” from the Patriarch, and “kings” would come from him – (Genesis 12:3, 17:6, 22:8).
In contrast, two groups are excluded from the city: The “inhabitants of the earth,” and all men who gave allegiance to the “beast.”
HEALING OF THE NATIONS. The reference to the “river of water of life” is a verbal link to the final vision of Ezekiel, when the prophet saw the river flowing out from “under the threshold of the house” to provide healing and life – (Ezekiel 47:1-12).
- (Revelation 22:1-5) – “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 broad-way thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was a tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit every several months yielding its fruit, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations, and no curse shall there be, any longer. And the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein, and his servants will render divine service to him, and they shall see his face and his name 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.”
“The tree of life” (xulon zōés). Previously, access to it was promised to all “overcomers” – “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” was commonly applied to “wood”; that is, to something constructed from deadwood as opposed to a living tree. The same Greek clause is found in the Septuagint rendering for the original “tree of life” in Genesis – (Genesis 2:9, Revelation 2:1-7).
Xulon is applied elsewhere to the cross on which Jesus was hanged, and very likely, Revelation wants the reader to make the connection. That is, the cross of Christ is the tree of life – (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29,Galatians 3:13, 1 Peter 2:24).
“Overcoming” believers were promised access to the fruit of the “tree of life” in the “paradise of God.” Here, “paradise” can only refer to the New Creation, the final state of the righteous that is actualized in “New Jerusalem,” the “new heaven and new earth.”
Unlike the first “Paradise,” “there will be no curse any longer.” The term “curse” echoes the Genesis story, where the earth was “cursed” on account of Adam’s disobedience, the same “curse” that is reversed by the “slain Lamb” – (Genesis 3:17-19).
When John saw the “innumerable multitude” exiting the “great tribulation,” he was informed that the men redeemed “from every nation” would “stand 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 middle of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.” Now, that vision becomes reality in “New Jerusalem” – (Revelation 7:14-15).
“There shall be night no more… for the Lord God shall give them light.” The clause alludes to the promise of restoration to Israel in Isaiah that included the regathering of the tribes of Israel to the promised land. Yahweh would display His glory over Israel so that the “nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” – (Isaiah 60:1-3, 19-22):
- “The sun shall be no more your light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light to you, but Yahweh will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Thy sun will set no more, neither will the moon withdraw itself; for Yahweh will be your everlasting light… Your people also will be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever.”
Thus, Revelation has “squared” the “biblical circle.” The “Lamb” has reversed the “curse,” redeemed the creation, and fulfilled all God’s promises. The plan was never to abandon the original creation, but to redeem it and place humanity at its center, where righteous men and women will dwell securely and reign with Jesus forevermore.
Thus, in him, and therefore, in the New Creation, the call for Adam to “take dominion over the earth,” and the covenant promises to Abraham, including the inheritance of “land,” are all fulfilled.