The city “whose builder and founder” is God is none other than the New Jerusalem John saw “descending from heaven” – Revelation 21:24-22:5.
The book of Revelation concludes with a portrait of the immense and glorious city of “New Jerusalem” populated by the “innumerable multitude” of men redeemed from every nation by the “Lamb,” the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant promises to Abraham – “land” and “blessings to all the nations of the earth.”
God promised Abraham that “in you, will all the clans of the earth be blessed.” Kings would come from him, and he would become the “father of a multitude of nations.” The vast extent of the promise was illustrated when Yahweh challenged the Patriarch to number the stars, for “so shall your seed be.”
While standing in the land of Canaan, God commanded Abraham to look in all directions, “north and south, east and west, for all the land that you see will I give to you, and to your seed, for an everlasting possession.” The original covenant always envisioned something far greater and grander than the tiny territory of Palestine.
And so, “by faith,” Abraham “became a sojourner in the land of promise… For he looked for the city whose builder and maker is God.” From the start, the Patriarch envisioned something beyond what his eyes saw in Ancient Palestine – (Hebrews 11:9-10).
In Revelation, the dimensions of this city are coterminous with the “new heavens and the new earth.” It is the “paradise of God” where the “tree of life” stands to give life to the “nations.” And that “tree” is none other than the cross of Calvary. As the Risen Christ promised to all who overcome, “to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” – (Revelation 2:7).
In the “city,” all that was lost through the disobedience of Adam is restored, but also infinitely enhanced and enlarged. The “curse” is no more. Even its return is no longer a possibility. Therefore, the saints, together with the “Lamb,” reign “forever and ever” over the New Creation.
The description of the “city” includes verbal allusions to 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 heaven and earth.
Likewise, the covenant promises of land, kings, and “blessings to the nations” are fulfilled in “New Jerusalem,” as well as the promise to regather the tribes of Israel.
This glorious conclusion was anticipated in the vision of the 144,000 men from the “twelve tribes of Israel.” While John “heard” their number, “12,000 males from each of the tribes,” when he looked, he “saw” a multitude of men and women so vast that “no man could number them, out of every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands” – (Revelation 7:3-17).
Thus, what John “saw” interprets what he first “hears.” And all this was accomplished by the sacrificial “Lamb.” In “New Jerusalem,” Jesus reigns, but he does so as the “Lamb.”
NATIONS AND KINGS. The “nations” of the earth are portrayed positively and negatively in Revelation, likewise the “kings of the earth,” depending on how they respond to the “Lamb.” Those that submit to him, find themselves in “New Jerusalem.”
- (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 “innumerable” people from every “nation.” In his current “reign,” the “Lamb shepherds the nations” with his “rod,” but he does not smash and pulverize them. Instead, he “shepherds” them so that his glorious city will be populated fully – (Revelation 5:9, 7:9, 12:5, 15:4, 19:15).
Similarly, Jesus is the “ruler of the kings of the earth” in the present age. Yet, this very group was included among those who fled from his “wrath” when the “sixth seal was opened,” Likewise, the “kings of the earth” were gathered for the “war” against the “Rider on a White Horse” – (Revelation 1:4-6, 6:15, 17:2, 17:18).
Nevertheless, in “New Jerusalem,” the “kings of the earth” bring “their glory into the city, and the glory and the honor of the nations,” and only individuals whose names are “written in the Lamb’s book of life” gain entrance.
Logically, this means that at least some of the “kings of the earth” will find their names written in the “Lamb’s book of life.” The present reign of Jesus is not simply to manipulate or destroy them, but again, to “shepherd” them until they reach his city.
The inclusion of both groups fulfills the covenant promise to Abraham to bless “all the nations of the earth” in Abraham – (Genesis 12:3, 17:6, 22:8).
The group that is excluded from the city is the “inhabitants of the earth,” the men and women who gave their allegiance to the “beast from the sea,” took his “mark,” and bowed before his “image.”
HEALING OF NATIONS. “And He showed me a river of water of life.” This clause echoes the final vision of Ezekiel when the prophet saw a river flowing out from “under the threshold of the house” to provide healing and life, only now, it is healing for all the nations – (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.”
- (Ezekiel 47:1-12) – “Afterward he brought me again to the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar… And when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other… These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed… And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat and the leaf thereof for medicine.”
“The tree of life” (xulon zōés). The Greek noun rendered “tree” or xulon was commonly applied to “wood” used for construction as opposed to living trees. The same Greek clause is found in the Septuagint rendering of Genesis 2:9 for the original “tree of life.
Xulon is applied elsewhere in the New Testament to the cross on which Jesus was hanged, and very likely, Revelation wants the reader to make this connection – Christ crucified is the tree of life – (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29, Galatians 3:13, 1 Peter 2:24).
But unlike the first “Paradise,” in New Jerusalem, “there will be no curse any longer.” The term “curse” echoes the Genesis story, when the earth was “cursed” on account of Adam’s disobedience, the same “curse” that was reversed by the “slain Lamb” – (Genesis 3:17-19).
“There shall be night no more… for the Lord God shall give them light.” The clause alludes to the promise of restoration to Israel from the book of Isaiah, one that included the regathering of Israel to the land. Darkness would cover the earth, but 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):
- (Isaiah 60:19-22) – “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. Your sun shall go down no more, neither shall your moon withdraw itself; for Yahweh will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended. Your people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever.”
Thus, Revelation has “squared” the “biblical circle.” The “Lamb” has reversed the “curse” and redeemed the entire creation. All God’s promises have found their fulfillment in him – Both the call for Adam to “take dominion over the earth” and the covenant with Abraham are gloriously fulfilled.
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 rule with the “Lamb” forevermore.
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