The Posh of this world is poverty compared to this City.
Perhaps one of the most famous shows in the last 30 years is Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. If you’re over 30 years old you may remember the shows host, Robin Leach, with his British accent, bidding us “champagne wishes and caviar dreams”. Each episode Robin spirited us away from our middle-class worlds for an hour and introduced us to the wealthiest princes, business moguls, and entertainers on earth – Millionaires, Hundred-Millionaires, and Billionaires living unimaginably decadent lifestyles. Our Laz-e-boyz became our front-row seats to the grandest locations: the French Riviera, Switzerland’s St. Moritz; penthouse’s in New York’s Olympic Towers, Italy, Spain, Mumbai and more. Our eyes glittered with visions of gold; luxury mansions, opulent palaces, palatial homes of unimaginable size and worth; yachts the size of cruise liners; more gold; lavish personal jets; awesome collections of the finest cars; extravagant gardens; priceless art; prize thoroughbreds, and the most gorgeous pools and beaches; did I say gold?
I’m not trying to breed greed this morning, but, our text today demands we think rich. Our host, John the Apostle, is spiriting us away to a vision of the paragon of beauty and luxury: the city of Gold, the New Jerusalem, the Eternal City, the home of righteousness. The wealth of the New Jerusalem is so out of this world that in order to begin to sense it we have to look above our Ford’s, our Levi’s, our 2 stall garages, our groupons – and we have to look at the wealthiest of this world to get a penny’s picture of what’s in store. Even then, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has planned for those who love Him.” The Posh of this world is poverty compared to this City.
#1: The Makings of the Eternal City (v9-21)
The first point is the Architecture of the Eternal City. The architecture of the New Jerusalem puts on display the incomprehensible wealth of heaven. Follow along as I read verses 9 through 21, “….”
The measurements and the materials of the New Jerusalem are staggering. It is described as a cube: 1500 miles wide, 1500 miles long and 1500 miles high, with the walls at 216 feet thick. If placed in the US, the foundations would form a square and stretch from California to the Appalachian mountains and from Canada to Mexico. If there are levels or floors like we have in our buildings then there would be over 600,000 floors. That’s a long elevator ride – unless you can just be “raptured” up to the top!
The quantity of materials are unimaginable. Don’t scoff at this as though its all too big to be real. I think this is one of the reasons God made our universe so much bigger than we can imagine. It serves to remind us a) He is infinitely bigger than us, b) He is faithful because we matter to Him out of all this universe, and c) if He made all this, surely He can make the city described here. He can create ex nihilo, out of nothing, just like did in the beginning, just like He did with the new heavens and new earth.
It’s not just the quantity, but, its the quality of the materials used. God isn’t creating on the cheap. There are no budget constraints or limited resources. The walls of the city were made of jasper, which commentators say is probably referring to diamonds. Imagine diamond walls! The whole city is made of gold, Main Street is made of gold, the gates of pearls, the foundations decorated with every kind of precious stone, ………….. Now we can understand verse 11, “It shone with the glory of God and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel…” The dazzling light of God’s glory is going to burst through this colossal jewel-city.
The foundation of the whole superstructure will honor those who are the foundation of our faith: the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles. I think that when Scripture says we collectively make up a human “building”, there is also a corresponding material building God will create. It will be for us to live, but, it will serve to memorialize our faithfulness to Christ in this life forever. The Apostles are the foundation of the Church, and, everyone after them builds on top of them (1 Cor. 3:9-11; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:5). Jesus said to the Philadelphian church, “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem which is coming down out of heaven from my God…” (Rev. 3:12).
#2: What is Missing in the Eternal City (23-25; 22:5)
There are features of life now that will be missing in the Eternal City.
The first missing feature is a Temple, verse 22 says, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” After describing the measurements and materials of the new city, it only makes sense that the first thing a Jew would look for is a temple. But John doesn’t see one. Why? Because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are going to be the temple. The Bible describes a profound intimacy between God and those who worship Him. “Now the dwelling of God is with men and He will live with them” verse 3 said. “They will be His people and God Himself will be their God.”
The thrust of John’s observation, that God Himself will be the temple in the New Jerusalem, is that God’s holy presence will be the immediate environment of everyone in this city. You won’t have to go to a temple to worship God or meet Him. Just like all that was in the Jewish Temple was holy so all that will be in the New Jerusalem will be Holy. No ritual to remind you of sin will be necessary because all sin will be gone. None will exist in the city, verse 27 says, “Nothing impure will ever enter it nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
In the OT you may remember the Holy of Holies, the inner most sanctum of the Temple. It was where God’s glorious presence dwelled. No one was allowed in there. Only the high priest was allowed to enter once per year and only after he had carried out elaborite rituals to prepare for entering God’s presence.
The second missing feature is natural light. Read verse 23-25, “….” I was wowing the kids last week with this passage and Evan said, “Really? No night time? We’ll never have to go to bed again!” To a kid the idea of never having to go to bed again is heaven. To parents raising those kids the idea of them never going to sleep again is something else.
The Psalmist prayed, “Let the light of your face shine upon us O Lord” (Ps. 4:6). That prayer will be fuly answered in the New Jerusalem. The City will be illuminated with an ancient light, the eternal light of God’s glory. This is the light that gave light to the first 3 days of Creation before the sun and moon were created. This is the shekinah glory light, the light of God’s presence in the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple. This is the glorious light illuminated Moses’ face so brightly they had to cover his head. Think of the light that radiated out of Jesus when He was transfigured. Think of the light that blinded Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. This same Saul who later said, “God – the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16). First John 1:5 says, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but, will have the light of life.”
God is our light. His word is our spiritual and moral light. In the Eternal City His eternal glory will be the radiant light illuminating all of life, day and night, forever and ever.
This brings us to our third missing element of the New City, locked doors. Verse 25 says, “On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.” There will be no need to close up the doors at night because there will be no night time. The implication here is evil will be gone. Wickedness is done in an environment of darkness. Darkness is descriptive as the moral quality of evil, but, also darkness describes the environment that is most conducive to evil. Darkness allows for concealment, and, evil behavior loves concealment, John 3 says, “Light has come into the world but men loved darkness instead because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” This is why Paul stresses to the Thessalonians, “You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” What is true for them is true for us as well. This city of light will be filled with the sons of light all under the glorious canopy of the Father of lights.
“John Bunyan writing in that marvelous Pilgrim’s Progress which demonstrates such genius in making the Christian life into a graphic illustration or allegory has a conversation between two pilgrims who are on their way to the celestial city, which, of course, is heaven.
One of the two pilgrims says to the other, “When do you find yourself in the most wholesome and most vigorous spiritual state?” To which the other pilgrim says, “When I think of the place to which I am going.”
Bunyan understood that. When he wrote that he understood that heaven on your mind changes your life. The living in a joyous anticipation of the presence of God changes everything.” -Macarthur
Join us next week as our host John the Apostle gives us a VIP look at the rest of the Eternal City. Until then, here’s your host wishing you “water of life wishes and diamond city dreams.”