Bible Study Series: The Beginning and the End - Genesis and Revelation
Home at last - The New Jerusalem Bible Study
by I Gordon
We come now to the final study in this series on Genesis and Revelation. I'm not sure about you, but I have really enjoyed this series! I have really enjoyed looking at the big picture that God has planned even before the foundation of the world and is bringing to fruition. It gives great hope and comfort that despite all the current chaos, there is a wonderful plan and future that awaits believers. And I can think of no better way to end this series than to look at our eternal home. The aim of this message is to give you, the believer, hope, excitement and anticipation.
If I do that my job will be done.
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. "
"Here in this world, He bids us come; there in the next, He shall bid us welcome."
John Donne (16th century poet)
We shall look at this welcome into the new home He has prepared for us today. Specifically we will look at:
- Genesis - The garden of Eden and God's original hand crafted home
- The preparation of a 'better' home
- The revelation of the New Jerusalem - Home sweet home.
So let's begin back in the garden in Genesis.
Genesis - The garden of Eden: A hand-crafted home
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Gen 1:16 God made the two great lights
Gen 1:21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems...
Gen 1:25 God made the beasts of the earth
Gen 1:27 God created man in His own image
I read an article the other day which pointed out that there was something special about the garden of Eden, humanities first home, that God made. It said to take note of the verbs used in Genesis where God makes something. All through Genesis 1 it says that 'God created' or 'God made'. God created the heavens and the earth. He made the two great light. He created the creatures of the sea. He made the beasts of the field. He created man in His image. But it uses a totally different verb when it comes to the Garden of Eden.
Gen 2:8-9 The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Are you a gardener? If so you will appreciate the new verb used here of 'planted'. You know what it is like to take time, thought and effort to plant a beautiful garden, putting everything in the right spot to make it aesthetically pleasing and harmonious. God did that for His original creation, hand crafting this unique place to serve as a beautiful habitat for Adam and Eve. Even later in the scriptures this garden is still referred to as 'the garden of the Lord' (Gen 13:10, Isa 51:3) or the 'garden of God' (Ezek 28:13, 31:8). In short, if you think that you have seen a beautiful garden... well, you should have seen Eden!
Now by saying that God 'created man' but 'planted a garden', I'm not trying to indicate that He spent a lot more time and thought on His garden than He did man. Though some may think that (maybe 50% of the population) and probably could find evidence to back it up! : ) No... all I want to bring out is that God created all of the world... but there was a special part of the world that He made incredibly beautiful. He planted a special garden because this was where Adam and Eve initially dwell. This was home.
Yet as incredible as the garden of Eden was, it totally pales in comparison to what is coming!
Jesus - Preparing a better place!
This hand-crafted home in Genesis is but a small picture of what God has planned for believers. Jesus is hand-crafting and preparing a far better place for His bride. On the night of His betrayal Jesus gave His disciples tremendous hope! He mentioned their true home would be prepared for them. As a Jewish groom would leave and prepare a place for His betrothed bride1, so Jesus said:
John 14:2-3 "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. (3) "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
Even Abraham was given a prophetic glimpse of the heavenly home, an incredible city, and thus longed for it.
Heb 11:8-10 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. (9) By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; (10) for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Heb 11:16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
This heavenly home, the New Jerusalem, is what we shall focus and spend our time on today.
There is a new world coming
Let's turn our attention to the scriptures that speak the most about this coming new world and our new home. This is described in Revelation 21. We won't do a verse by verse study but will focus on aspects of it that stood out to me.
Rev 21:1-8 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, (4) and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (5) And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He *said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." (6) Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. (7) "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (8) "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new."
Do you like getting new things? A new pair of shoes? A new top? Well God is the One who truly makes all things new. Believers have been given a new spirit and a new heart. We have a new family both in heaven and in Earth. It is made up of new brothers and sisters, and a new Father - a heavenly One! Next on the list comes a new body, like unto Jesus' resurrected body. At the same time comes the new home... the New Jerusalem.2 But we read even more new things in Revelation 21. The is a whole new Heaven and a whole new Earth that awaits... and with them comes a whole new experience where their is no tears, sadness, mourning, crying or pain. All of those things are simply called the 'first things' and that order will be 'old' and pass away. And let me say that nothing will 'get old' with God! There will be no boredom in the coming world. He is too incredible, too immense, too creative... Pastor and Bible teacher Ray Stedman writes:
“The new universe will surely be as big or bigger than it is now -- and it is mind-blowing in its immensity now! Billions of galaxies, far larger than our own galaxy of the Milky Way, fill the heavens as far as the eye can see by means of the greatest telescopes we have, and still we have not reached the end. That means that there will be new planets to develop, new principles to discover, new joys to experience. Every moment of eternity will be an adventure of discovery.”
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
The New Jerusalem is said to be made ready. She is so perfect that she is even likened to a bride that has made herself ready for her husband. She is perfect! Jesus, as we saw earlier, has gone to prepare a place for us. Well here it is. Made ready... all prepared!
It is interesting that in the book of Revelation you have a strong contrast between two woman and two cities. Mystery Babylon the great is said to be both a harlot woman and also a city. This is contrasted with the true bride of Christ and the true city, the New Jerusalem. So we see the counterfeit and the counterpart. Today, we live in a world that glorifies the counterfeit. We live in a day where deception abounds, money and power rules. The coming day will have Jesus glorified and truth and all that is good will be upheld. The contrast between the two can be seen in the following table3:
|The bride, the wife of the Lamb (21:2,9)||The harlot with whom the kings of the earth fornicate (17:2)|
|Her splendour is the glory of God (21:11-21)||Babylon’s splendour from exploiting her empire (17:4; 18:12-13, 16)|
|The nations walk by her light, which is the glory of God (21:24)||Babylon’s corruption and deception of the nations (17:2; 18:3, 23; 19:2)|
|The kings of the earth bring their glory into her (21:24)||Babylon’s luxurious wealth extorted from all the world (18:12-17)|
|Uncleanness, abomination and falsehood are excluded (21:27)||Babylon’s abominations, impurities, deceptions (17:4, 5; 18:23)|
|The water of life and the tree of life for the healing of the nations (21:6; 22:1-2)||Babylon’s wine which makes the nations drunk (14:8; 17:2; 18:3)|
|Life and healing (22:1-2)||Blood and slaughter (17:6; 18:24)|
|God’s people are called to enter the New Jerusalem (22:14)||God’s people are called to come out of Babylon (18:4)|
For now we live in Babylon and to be perfectly frank, I'm tired of this place. Everything has an agenda. Everything is twisted. Killing babies is celebrated as 'choice'. Homosexuality is something to be 'proud of'. The mighty name of Jesus is used as a swear word. Good is called evil and evil good. Christianity is often ridiculed. The innocence of children is now being taken away through the twisted agenda's of twisted adults. The news we are fed is often biased, nearly always political only showing the side of the argument that supports the established narrative set by the rich owners and backers of the media and news corporations. Everything is money driven. Everything is about control. Today we are stranded in Babylon, which, as you may recall, comes from the Hebrew 'Babel' meaning confusion. It is all confusion and getting worse. It is no wonder that Heaven rejoices with several 'hallelujahs' in Revelation 19 when Babylon finally falls!
So how wonderful will it be when only the true bride and the true city remain. The imagery of the bride points to the intimacy of our relationship with God. The imagery of the city speaks of a community and body of believers, all living in perfect fellowship with one another. And if you have been a church long enough then that last statement is a great miracle in itself! And the best thing of all about this heavenly home is that God is there! I've mentioned this before but three times in one verse God hammers this point home that He will dwell with mankind!
"Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them"
Amazing truth! Right back how it was planned even before the foundation of the world. The beauty of the New Jerusalem is in it's complete and utter purity and holiness. Honestly. Goodness. Glory. Fellowship. Everything will honour the creator and shout out the praise that is due His name. I sooooooo look forward to that.
And if I stand let me stand on the promise, that you will pull me through. And if I can't let me fall on the grace That first brought me to You.
And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs. And if I weep let it be as a man Who is longing for his home
If I stand - Rich Mullins
The Heavenly Home revealed
Scripture now gets more specific on the actual city. There is a bit to read but it is worth it!
Rev 21:9-27 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." (10) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, (11) having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. (12) It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. (13) There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. (14) And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (15) The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. (16) The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. (17) And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. (18) The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. (19) The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; (20) the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. (21) And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (22) I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (23) And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. (24) The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. (25) In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; (26) and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; (27) and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.
One of the first things that stands out is it's size. This city is massive! It seems to be a cube, 1500 miles (L) x 1500 miles (W) x 1500 miles (H). To give some perspective, the entire country that I live in - New Zealand is about 1000 miles. Ok... some of you will be thinking, 'that's all very well but... where's New Zealand?' Fair point! For those in the UK, the entire length of the UK from north to south is 600 miles. For our American friends, the US from north to south in a straight line is 1650 miles. So think of the New Jerusalem as a city that stretches all the way from the southern tip of the US to nearly right up to the most northern point. And remember that it is not only that width again but also as high! That is pretty similar in volume to our moon which has a diameter of 2158 miles (but is obviously round). Looking at the history of the world, Christian author Henry Morris did a few calculations around this. He estimated that there may have been 100 billion people in the human race through history. So taking an estimate of 20% of them being saved, he calculated that each person in the New Jerusalem would have a “block” with about 75 acres on each face to call their own. That gives you some type of idea of how large our new home is!
And what of it's location?
It is currently in Heaven but in the eternal order it actually comes down from heaven and dwells, it seems, in the atmospheric heavens, giving light to the new earth. We need to remember that there will no longer be any sun or moon in that day. The light will come from the glory of God shining upon the earth from His home - the New Jerusalem. Imagine being on earth and looking up at the glory of a city in the sky. Let's look at the beauty you would see!
Having the glory of God... Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.
There will be nothing like it in terms of beauty. John describes it as precious stones in it's foundation and streets of transparent gold. You know how precious and valuable gold is here on earth? Well it's used for pavement up there! Can you imagine the colours as God's glory shines through all these coloured stones?4 John is almost lost for earthly words to describe it's beauty. J. Vernon McGee has some unique thoughts on it writing:
“The New Jerusalem is a city of light and a city of color. God is light, and He is there. The city is described as a jasper stone as clear as crystal. All of this color will be coming out and flooding God's universe. The jasper stone is a sphere, and the city, the New Jerusalem, is within. The light shining from within through the jasper stone, acting as a prism, would give every color and shade of color in the rainbow—colors that you and I have not even thought of yet. The New Jerusalem is, I believe, a new planet, and it is inside a crystal ball. The presence of the primary colors suggests that every shade and tint is reflected from this city. A rainbow that appears after a summer shower gives only a faint impression of the beauty in the coloring of the city of light. Oh, what a glorious place this is!”
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl.
This verse has led to many jokes about meeting Peter at the Pearly gates. Well, that is only partly true... There are twelve pearl gates but Peter isn't standing there! But one other point that stood out to me is that with every entry and exit (for we will travel from our home onto the new earth and the new heaven and out into the galaxies) there is a reminder. A reminder of what you ask? A reminder of redemption. With each entrance and exit there is a reminder of Christ, the cost of redemption, and what it produced. You see each gate is a single, glorious, pearl. And what did Jesus say?
Mat 13:45-46 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Who was the man who was willing to give up all He had so that He could gain this pearl of great value? Jesus. And that pearl, strangely enough, is you and me. It cost Him everything - His very life. But come this day His bride will be before Him in stunning beauty. And every gate will stand as a reminder of what is cost the Lord to purchase His bride but also display who she is now because of what He did! This verse also reminded me of the wonderful experience that the great D.L Moody had at his death:
A few hours before entering the ‘Homeland,’ Dwight L. Moody caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him. Awakening from sleep, he said “Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.” His son was standing by his bedside and said, “No, no, father, you are dreaming.” “No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming. I have been within the gates. I have seen the children’s faces.” A short time elapsed…and he spoke again, “This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! It is glorious!”
I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
The last point I wanted to mention again concerns God's presence, for that is the most important of all. Can you remember how God instructed Moses to build the tabernacle and how it had a section called the Holy of Holies? That was where God dwelt and it was only available to the High Priest and then only once a year - on the holiest of Days, the day of Atonement. Now this was also a cube - 10 x 10 x 10 cubits (or 15 feet cubed). Well, welcome to the new improved Holy of Holies! Inside of being 15 feet in it's height, width and depth, the New Jerusalem is 1500 miles in each direction! Instead of there only being one day a year that one person could approach the presence of God, His presence and shekinah glory is everywhere, at all time, for all people throughout this new home! That is why there is no temple seen in the New Jerusalem. God is not restricted anymore like He had to be in the earthly temples.
Well, that is but a glimpse, through a glass darkly, of what is to come. But be encouraged for amazing things await the believer. We live in extraordinary times. Crazy times. Life is not getting any easier on this planet. But always remember that everything is working towards a plan made before the foundation of the earth. And nothing with God will fail. It has all been outlined in His word, even from the very beginning, back in Genesis, and is fulfilled in Revelation. And we live in the days that countless believers have longed to see, where we will witness the return of the Lord. So lift up your head. Not just physically but also your heart. Be encouraged. Great days await! As Jesus said:
"Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." (Luke 21:28)
I have outlined some of what we will see in our new heavenly home. I will leave you with the following thought from Steven Lawson who, speaking of the coming age and our life in the New Jerusalem, reminds us of what will NOT be there. These are part of the 'first things' which will pass away. While the demise of all of these are cause for celebration, the ones you have specifically experienced will cause greater rejoicing I am sure! He writes of that day:
"There will be no funeral homes, no hospitals, no abortion clinics, no divorce courts, no brothels, no bankruptcy courts, no psychiatric wards, and no treatment centers. There will be no pornography, dial-a-porn, no teen suicide, no AIDS, no cancer, no talks shows, no rape, no missing children . . . no drug problems, no drive-by shootings, no racial tension, and no prejudice. There will be no misunderstandings, no injustice, no depression, no hurtful words, no gossip, no hurt feelings, no worry, no emptiness, and no child abuse. There will be no wars, no financial worries, no emotional heartaches, no physical pain, no spiritual flatness, no relational divisions, no murders, and no casseroles. There will be no tears, no suffering, no separations, no starvation, no arguments, no accidents, no emergency departments, no doctors, no nurses, no heart monitors, no rust, no perplexing questions, no false teachers, no financial shortages, no hurricanes, no bad habits, no decay, and no locks.
We will never need to confess sin. Never need to apologize again. Never need to straighten out a strained relationship.
Never have to resist Satan again. Never have to resist temptation. Never!"
HEAVEN HELP US! Truths About Eternity That Will Help You Live Today by Steven J. Lawson
A quick word on scripture twisting and wrong teaching here. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. He is not waiting for us to prepare a place on earth for Him! We are waiting for His return where He will take us to be where He is (John 14:1-3). He is not waiting for us to make this world 'Christianized' so that He can return to it! The so called New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement gets this all wrong, twisting prophetic scriptures around to make the return of Jesus dependent upon believers getting this world ready for Him before He can come! How wrong could they be! So they teach about the "7 mountain mandate" to establish Christianity as dominant over the 7 areas of influence while ignoring the fact that Jesus' kingdom is not of this world (and won't be until His return - John 18:36, Rev 11:15). I am not saying that Christian's should be in places of influence. But the Great Commission is to make disciples in all nations by giving them the gospel, calling them to forsake the world and turn to the Lord. The Bible does not teach that the church will progressively take over the world before His return. It teaches that the stone (Jesus) strikes all the nations when He returns to setup His kingdom and then all of man's kingdoms are destroyed at once, together, in one marvelous event! (See Daniel 2:35, 44-45) ↩
William Newell writes: "The words, “Behold, I make all things new” must be taken literally. It is not that things are “changed” or “purified.” The very laws of material being must be included in the new creation. ...In the more than one hundred and twenty Bible occurrences of the word “create” or its cognates, I can find no hint of any meaning except origination of things. There is no thought of a former creation, changed or cleansed." ↩
Table adapted from Richard Bauckham’s book, The Theology of the Book of Revelation. ↩
The precious stones and colours are: Jasper - green, Sapphire - blue, Chalcedony - greenish, Emerald - green, Sardonyx - red and white, Sardius - fiery red, Chrysolite - golden yellow, Beryl - aqua green, Topaz - greenish yellow, Chrysoprase - golden green, Jacinth - violet, Amethyst - purple ↩