The Resplendent City
Vision 16—Revelation 21:9–22:5
Subject: A description of New Jerusalem
Time of fulfillment: After the great tribulation and the abyssing of Satan
1, 2. (a) Where does an angel take John to see New Jerusalem, and what contrast do we here note? (b) Why is this the grand Revelation climax?
AN ANGEL had taken John into a wilderness to show him Babylon the Great. Now one of the same angelic group conducts John to a lofty mountain. What a contrast he sees! Here is no unclean, immoral city like the Babylonish harlot, but New Jerusalem—pure, spiritual, holy—and it is descending from heaven itself.—Revelation 17:1, 5.
2 Even earthly Jerusalem never had a glory such as this. John tells us: “And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls which were full of the seven last plagues, and he spoke with me and said: ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ So he carried me away in the power of the spirit to a great and lofty mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God and having the glory of God.” (Revelation 21:9-11a) From the vantage point of that towering mountain, John surveys the beauteous city in all its lovely detail. Men of faith have been in eager expectation of its coming ever since mankind’s fall into sin and death. At last it is here! (Romans 8:19; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 23; Hebrews 11:39, 40) It is the magnificent spiritual city, composed of 144,000 loyal integrity keepers, resplendent in its holiness and reflecting the very glory of Jehovah. Here is the grand Revelation climax!
3. How does John describe the beauty of New Jerusalem?
3 New Jerusalem is breathtaking in its beauty: “Its radiance was like a most precious stone, as a jasper stone shining crystal-clear. It had a great and lofty wall and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names were inscribed which are those of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. On the east were three gates, and on the north three gates, and on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. The wall of the city also had twelve foundation stones, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:11b-14) How fitting that the first impression John records is of glowing brightness! Radiant as a new bride, New Jerusalem makes a fitting consort for Christ. It positively glows, as is proper for a creation of “the Father of the celestial lights.”—James 1:17.
4. What indicates that New Jerusalem is not the fleshly nation of Israel?
4 On its 12 gates, there are inscribed the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. Therefore, this symbolic city is made up of the 144,000, who were sealed “out of every tribe of the sons of Israel.” (Revelation 7:4-8) In harmony with this, the foundation stones have on them the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb. Yes, New Jerusalem is not the fleshly nation of Israel founded on the 12 sons of Jacob. It is the spiritual Israel, founded on “the apostles and prophets.”—Ephesians 2:20.
5. What is denoted by New Jerusalem’s “great and lofty wall” and by the fact that angels are posted at each entrance?
5 The symbolic city has a huge wall. In ancient times, city walls were built for security to keep out enemies. New Jerusalem’s “great and lofty wall” shows that she is spiritually secure. No enemy of righteousness, no one unclean or dishonest, will ever be able to gain entrance. (Revelation 21:27) But for those allowed in, entering this beauteous city is like entering Paradise. (Revelation 2:7) After Adam’s expulsion, cherubs were posted in front of the original Paradise to keep out unclean humans. (Genesis 3:24) Similarly, angels are posted at each entrance of the holy city Jerusalem to ensure the spiritual security of the city. Indeed, throughout the last days, angels have been guarding the congregation of anointed Christians, which becomes New Jerusalem, from Babylonish contamination.—Matthew 13:41.
Measuring the City
6. (a) How does John describe the measuring of the city, and what does this measuring indicate? (b) What may explain that the measure used was “according to a man’s measure, at the same time an angel’s”? (See footnote.)
6 John continues his account: “Now the one who was speaking with me was holding as a measure a golden reed, that he might measure the city and its gates and its wall. And the city lies foursquare, and its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs; its length and breadth and height are equal. Also, he measured its wall, one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to a man’s measure, at the same time an angel’s.” (Revelation 21:15-17) When the temple sanctuary was measured, this guaranteed the fulfillment of Jehovah’s purposes with regard to it. (Revelation 11:1) Now, the angel’s measuring New Jerusalem shows how unchangeable Jehovah’s purposes are with regard to this glorious city.*
7. What is remarkable about the city’s measurements?
7 What a remarkable city this is! A perfect cube 12,000 furlongs (about 1,380 miles) [2,220 km]) in perimeter, surrounded by a wall 144 cubits, or 210 feet [64 m], in height. No literal city could ever have such measurements. It would cover a territory about 14 times as large as modern Israel, and it would tower almost 350 miles [560 km] into outer space! Revelation was given in signs. So, what do these measurements tell us about heavenly New Jerusalem?
8. What is denoted by (a) the city’s 144-cubit-high walls? (b) the city’s 12,000-furlong measurement? (c) the city’s being a perfect cube in shape?
8 The 144-cubit-high walls remind us that the city is made up of 144,000 spiritually adopted sons of God. The figure 12 that appears in the 12,000-furlong measurement of the city—with the length, breadth, and height being equal—is used figuratively in organizational settings in Bible prophecy. Hence, New Jerusalem is a superbly designed organizational arrangement for accomplishing God’s eternal purpose. New Jerusalem, together with the King Jesus Christ, is Jehovah’s Kingdom organization. Then there is the shape of the city: a perfect cube. In Solomon’s temple, the Most Holy, containing a symbolic representation of Jehovah’s presence, was a perfect cube. (1 Kings 6:19, 20) How fitting, then, that New Jerusalem, illuminated by the glory of Jehovah himself, is seen as a perfect, large-scale cube! All its measurements are perfectly balanced. It is a city without irregularities or defects.—Revelation 21:22.
Precious Building Materials
9. How does John describe the building materials of the city?
9 John continues his description: “Now the structure of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold like clear glass. The foundations of the city’s wall were adorned with every sort of precious stone: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, the twelfth amethyst. Also, the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was made of one pearl. And the broad way of the city was pure gold, as transparent glass.”—Revelation 21:18-21.
10. What is denoted by the fact that the city is constructed of jasper, gold, and “every sort of precious stone”?
10 The city’s construction is truly resplendent. Instead of mundane, earthly building materials like clay or stone, we read of jasper, refined gold, and “every sort of precious stone.” How fittingly these portray celestial building materials! Nothing could be more magnificent. The ancient ark of the covenant was overlaid with pure gold, and in the Bible this element often represents things that are good and valuable. (Exodus 25:11; Proverbs 25:11; Isaiah 60:6, 17) But the entire New Jerusalem, and even its broad way, are constructed of “pure gold like clear glass,” portraying a beauty and intrinsic value that stagger the imagination.
11. What ensures that those who make up New Jerusalem will be aglow with the highest excellence of spiritual purity?
11 No human smelter could produce gold of such purity. But Jehovah is the Master Refiner. He sits “as a refiner and cleanser of silver,” and he refines the individual, faithful members of spiritual Israel “like gold and like silver,” removing from them all impurities. Only individuals who have truly been refined and cleansed will finally make up New Jerusalem, and in this way Jehovah builds the city with living building materials that are aglow with the highest excellence of spiritual purity.—Malachi 3:3, 4.
12. What is signified by the fact that (a) the city’s foundations are adorned with 12 precious gems? (b) the city’s gates are pearls?
12 Even the city’s foundations are beautiful, being adorned with 12 precious gems. This calls to mind the ancient Jewish high priest, who on ceremonial days wore an ephod studded with 12 different precious stones somewhat similar to the ones described here. (Exodus 28:15-21) Surely this is no coincidence! Rather, it emphasizes the priestly function of New Jerusalem, of which Jesus, the great High Priest, is the “lamp.” (Revelation 20:6; 21:23; Hebrews 8:1) Also, it is through New Jerusalem that the benefits of Jesus’ high-priestly ministry are channeled to mankind. (Revelation 22:1, 2) The city’s 12 gates, each being a pearl of great beauty, call to mind Jesus’ illustration that likened the Kingdom to a pearl of high value. All who enter through those gates will have shown true appreciation for spiritual values.—Matthew 13:45, 46; compare Job 28:12, 17, 18.
A City of Light
13. What does John next say regarding New Jerusalem, and why does the city not need any literal temple?
13 In Solomon’s time, Jerusalem was dominated by a temple built at the city’s highest elevation on Mount Moriah to the north. But what of New Jerusalem? John says: “And I did not see a temple in it, for Jehovah God the Almighty is its temple, also the Lamb is. And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God lighted it up, and its lamp was the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:22, 23) In truth, there is no need to construct a literal temple here. The ancient Jewish temple was just a pattern, and the reality of that pattern, the great spiritual temple, has existed since Jehovah anointed Jesus as High Priest in 29 C.E. (Matthew 3:16, 17; Hebrews 9:11, 12, 23, 24) A temple also presupposes a priestly class offering sacrifices to Jehovah on behalf of the people. But all those who are part of New Jerusalem are priests. (Revelation 20:6) And the great sacrifice, Jesus’ perfect human life, has been offered once for all time. (Hebrews 9:27, 28) Moreover, Jehovah is personally accessible to everyone living in the city.
14. (a) Why does New Jerusalem not need the sun and the moon to shine on it? (b) What did Isaiah’s prophecy foretell concerning Jehovah’s universal organization, and how is New Jerusalem involved in this?
14 When Jehovah’s glory passed by Moses on Mount Sinai, it caused Moses’ face to shine so brightly that he had to cover it from his fellow Israelites. (Exodus 34:4-7, 29, 30, 33) Can you imagine, then, the brightness of a city that is permanently lighted up with Jehovah’s glory? Such a city could have no nighttime. It would have no need of a literal sun or moon. It would be eternally shedding light. (Compare 1 Timothy 6:16.) New Jerusalem is bathed in that kind of radiant brilliance. Indeed, this bride and its Bridegroom King become the capital of Jehovah’s universal organization—his “woman,” “the Jerusalem above”—concerning which Isaiah prophesied: “For you the sun will no more prove to be a light by day, and for brightness the moon itself will no more give you light. And Jehovah must become to you an indefinitely lasting light, and your God your beauty. No more will your sun set, nor will your moon go on the wane; for Jehovah himself will become for you an indefinitely lasting light, and the days of your mourning will have come to completion.”—Isaiah 60:1, 19, 20; Galatians 4:26.
A Light for the Nations
15. What words of Revelation about New Jerusalem are similar to Isaiah’s prophecy?
15 This same prophecy also foretold: “And nations will certainly go to your light, and kings to the brightness of your shining forth.” (Isaiah 60:3) Revelation shows that these words would include New Jerusalem: “And the nations will walk by means of its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. And its gates will not be closed at all by day, for night will not exist there. And they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.”—Revelation 21:24-26.
16. Who are “the nations” that will walk by means of the light of New Jerusalem?
16 Who are these “nations” walking by means of the light of New Jerusalem? They are people, once a part of the nations of this wicked world, who respond to the light shed through this glorious heavenly city. Foremost among them are the great crowd, who have already come out of “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” and who worship God day and night in company with the John class. (Revelation 7:9, 15) After New Jerusalem comes down from heaven and Jesus uses the keys of death and of Hades to resurrect the dead, they will be joined by millions more, originally from “the nations,” who come to love Jehovah and his Son, the Lamblike Husband of New Jerusalem.—Revelation 1:18.
17. Who are “the kings of the earth” who “bring their glory” into New Jerusalem?
17 Who, then, are “the kings of the earth” who “bring their glory into it”? They are not the literal kings of the earth as a group, for they go down to destruction fighting against God’s Kingdom at Armageddon. (Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:17, 18) Could the kings be some high-ranking ones of the nations who become a part of the great crowd, or are they resurrected kings who submit to God’s Kingdom in the new world? (Matthew 12:42) Hardly, because for the most part, the glory of such kings was worldly and has long since faded. “The kings of the earth,” then, who bring their glory into New Jerusalem must be the 144,000, who are “bought . . . out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” to rule as kings with the Lamb, Jesus Christ. (Revelation 5:9, 10; 22:5) They bring their God-given glory into the city to add to its radiance.
18. (a) Who will be excluded from New Jerusalem? (b) Who only will be allowed to enter the city?
18 John continues: “But anything not sacred and anyone that carries on a disgusting thing and a lie will in no way enter into it; only those written in the Lamb’s scroll of life will.” (Revelation 21:27) Nothing tainted by Satan’s system of things can be a part of New Jerusalem. Even though its gates are permanently open, no one who “carries on a disgusting thing and a lie” will be allowed to enter. There will be no apostates in that city nor any members of Babylon the Great. And if any try to desecrate the city by corrupting its future members while they are still on earth, their efforts are brought to nothing. (Matthew 13:41-43) Only “those written in the Lamb’s scroll of life,” the 144,000, will finally enter into New Jerusalem.*—Revelation 13:8; Daniel 12:3.
The River of Water of Life
19. (a) How does John describe New Jerusalem as channeling blessings to humankind? (b) When does the “river of water of life” flow, and how do we know?
19 The resplendent New Jerusalem will channel grand blessings to humankind on earth. This is what John next learns: “And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its broad way.” (Revelation 22:1, 2a) When does this “river” flow? Since it flows “out from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” it could only be after the Lord’s day began in 1914. That was the time for the event heralded by the blowing of the seventh trumpet and the grand announcement: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.” (Revelation 11:15; 12:10) During the time of the end, the spirit and the bride have been inviting rightly disposed ones to take life’s water free. Water from this river will continue to be available to such ones right up to the end of this system of things and, thereafter, on into the new world, when New Jerusalem ‘comes down out of heaven from God.’—Revelation 21:2.
20. What indicates that a measure of water of life is already available?
20 This is not the first time that life-giving water has been offered to mankind. When he was on earth, Jesus spoke of water that imparted everlasting life. (John 4:10-14; 7:37, 38) Further, John is about to hear the loving invitation: “The spirit and the bride keep on saying: ‘Come!’ And let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” (Revelation 22:17) This invitation is being sounded even now, indicating that a measure of water of life is already available. But in the new world, those waters will flow from God’s throne and through New Jerusalem as a veritable river.
21. What is represented by the “river of water of life,” and how does Ezekiel’s vision of this river help us to know?
21 What is this “river of water of life”? Literal water is a vital element for life. Without food a man can survive for a number of weeks, but without water he will die in about one week. Water is also a cleansing agent and vital for health. Thus, the water of life must represent something essential for the life and health of mankind. The prophet Ezekiel was also granted a vision of this “river of water of life,” and in his vision, the river flowed out from the temple and down into the Dead Sea. Then, miracle of miracles! That lifeless, chemically saturated body of water was converted into freshwater teeming with fish! (Ezekiel 47:1-12) Yes, the visionary river brings back to life something that was previously dead, confirming that the river of water of life pictures God’s provision through Jesus Christ for restoring perfect human life to the “dead” human race. This river is “clear as crystal,” showing the purity and holiness of God’s provisions. It is not like the bloodstained, death-dealing “waters” of Christendom.—Revelation 8:10, 11.
22. (a) Where does the river originate, and why is this appropriate? (b) What is involved in the water of life, and what does this symbolic river include?
22 The river originates at “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” This is appropriate, since the basis of Jehovah’s life-giving provisions is the ransom sacrifice, and this was provided because Jehovah “loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The water of life also involves God’s Word, which is spoken of as water in the Bible. (Ephesians 5:26) However, the river of water of life includes not only the truth but also every other provision of Jehovah, based on Jesus’ sacrifice, for recovering obedient humans from sin and death and granting them everlasting life.—John 1:29; 1 John 2:1, 2.
23. (a) Why is it fitting that the river of water of life flows through the middle of the broad way of New Jerusalem? (b) What divine promise to Abraham will be fulfilled when the water of life flows abundantly?
23 During the Thousand Year Reign, the benefits of the ransom are applied fully through the priesthood of Jesus and his 144,000 underpriests. Fittingly, then, the river of water of life flows through the middle of the broad way of New Jerusalem. This is composed of spiritual Israel, which along with Jesus makes up the true seed of Abraham. (Galatians 3:16, 29) Therefore, when the water of life flows in abundance through the middle of the broad way of the symbolic city, “all nations of the earth” will have full opportunity to bless themselves by means of Abraham’s seed. Jehovah’s promise to Abraham will be completely fulfilled.—Genesis 22:17, 18.
Trees of Life
24. What does John now see on both sides of the river of water of life, and what do they picture?
24 In Ezekiel’s vision, the river even became a torrent, and the prophet saw growing on both sides of it all kinds of fruit-bearing trees. (Ezekiel 47:12) But what does John see? This: “And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:2b) These “trees of life” must also picture part of Jehovah’s provision for giving eternal life to obedient mankind.
25. What bounteous provision does Jehovah make for responsive humans in the global Paradise?
25 What bounteous provision Jehovah makes for responsive humans! Not only may they partake of those refreshing waters but they may pluck from those trees a continuing variety of sustaining fruits. Oh, if only our original parents had been satisfied with a similar “desirable” provision in Eden’s Paradise! (Genesis 2:9) But now a global Paradise is here, and Jehovah even makes provision through the leaves of those symbolic trees for “the curing of the nations.”* Far superior to any medicine, herbal or otherwise, that is dispensed today, the soothing application of those symbolic leaves will raise believing mankind to spiritual and bodily perfection.
26. What may the trees of life include, and why?
26 Those trees, well watered by the river, may include the 144,000 members of the Lamb’s wife. While on earth these also drink of God’s provision for life through Jesus Christ. Interestingly, these spirit-begotten brothers of Jesus are prophetically called “big trees of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:1-3; Revelation 21:6) They have already produced much spiritual fruitage to Jehovah’s praise. (Matthew 21:43) And during the Thousand Year Reign, they will have a part in dispensing the ransom provisions that will serve for “the curing of the nations” from sin and death.—Compare 1 John 1:7.
No More Night
27. What further blessings does John mention for those privileged to enter into New Jerusalem, and why is it said that “no more will there be any curse”?
27 Entry into New Jerusalem—surely, there could be no more wondrous privilege! Just think—those once lowly, imperfect humans will follow Jesus into heaven to become part of such a glorious arrangement! (John 14:2) John gives some idea of the blessings to be enjoyed by these, saying: “And no more will there be any curse. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his slaves will render him sacred service; and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Revelation 22:3, 4) When the Israelite priesthood became corrupt, it suffered Jehovah’s curse. (Malachi 2:2) Jerusalem’s faithless “house” was pronounced abandoned by Jesus. (Matthew 23:37-39) But in New Jerusalem, “no more will there be any curse.” (Compare Zechariah 14:11.) All its inhabitants have been tested in the fire of trials here on earth, and having gained the victory, they will have ‘put on incorruption and immortality.’ In their case, Jehovah knows, just as he knew with Jesus, that they will never fall away. (1 Corinthians 15:53, 57) Further, “the throne of God and of the Lamb” will be there, making the city’s position secure for all eternity.
28. Why do members of New Jerusalem have God’s name written on their forehead, and what thrilling prospect lies before them?
28 Like John himself, all future members of that celestial city are “slaves” of God. As such, they have God’s name prominently written on their forehead, identifying him as their Owner. (Revelation 1:1; 3:12) They will count it an inestimable privilege to render him sacred service as part of New Jerusalem. While Jesus was on earth, he made a thrilling promise to such prospective rulers, saying: “Happy are the pure in heart, since they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8) How happy these slaves will be actually to behold and worship Jehovah in person!
29. Why does John say of heavenly New Jerusalem that “night will be no more”?
29 John continues: “Also, night will be no more, and they have no need of lamplight nor do they have sunlight, because Jehovah God will shed light upon them.” (Revelation 22:5a) Ancient Jerusalem, like any other city on earth, relied on the sun for light by day and on moonlight and artificial light by night. But in heavenly New Jerusalem, such lighting will be unnecessary. The city will be illuminated by Jehovah himself. “Night” may also be used in a figurative sense, referring to adversity or separation from Jehovah. (Micah 3:6; John 9:4; Romans 13:11, 12) There could never be that kind of night in the glorious, radiant presence of the almighty God.
30. How does John conclude the magnificent vision, and of what does Revelation assure us?
30 John closes out this magnificent vision by saying of these slaves of God: “And they will rule as kings forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5b) True, at the end of the thousand years, the benefits of the ransom will have been applied to completion, and Jesus will present a perfected human race to his Father. (1 Corinthians 15:25-28) What Jehovah has in mind for Jesus and the 144,000 after that, we do not know. But Revelation assures us that their privileged sacred service to Jehovah will continue into all eternity.
Revelation’s Happy Climax
31. (a) What culmination is marked by the vision of New Jerusalem? (b) What does New Jerusalem accomplish for other faithful ones of mankind?
31 The realization of this vision of New Jerusalem, the Lamb’s bride, is the happy climax to which Revelation points, and fittingly so. All of John’s first-century fellow Christians to whom the book was initially addressed looked forward to entering into that city as immortal spirit corulers with Jesus Christ. The remnant of anointed Christians still alive today on earth have the same hope. Thus Revelation moves on to its grand climax, as the completed bride is united with the Lamb. Next, by means of New Jerusalem, the benefits of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice will be applied to mankind, so that eventually all faithful ones will enter into everlasting life. In this way the bride, New Jerusalem, as a loyal helpmeet to her Bridegroom King, will share in building up for eternity a righteous new earth—all to the glory of our Sovereign Lord Jehovah.—Matthew 20:28; John 10:10, 16; Romans 16:27.
32, 33. What have we learned from Revelation, and what should be our heartfelt response?
32 What joy we feel, then, as we draw to the close of our consideration of the book of Revelation! We have seen the final efforts of Satan and his seed utterly frustrated and Jehovah’s righteous judgments carried out to completion. Babylon the Great must go out of existence forever, to be followed by all other hopelessly corrupt elements of Satan’s world. Satan himself and his demons will be abyssed and later destroyed. New Jerusalem will rule with Christ from the heavens as the resurrection and judgment proceed, and perfected mankind will finally come to enjoy everlasting life in the Paradise earth. How vividly Revelation portrays all these things! How it strengthens our determination to ‘declare this everlasting good news as glad tidings to every nation and tribe and tongue and people’ on earth today! (Revelation 14:6, 7) Are you expending yourself to the full in this great work?
33 With our hearts so full of gratitude, let us give attention to the concluding words of Revelation.
The fact that the measure used was “according to a man’s measure, at the same time an angel’s” may have to do with the fact that the city is made up of the 144,000, who originally were human but who become spirit creatures among the angels.
Note that “the Lamb’s scroll of life” contains only the names of the 144,000 of spiritual Israel. Thus it differs from “the scroll of life” that includes those who receive life on earth.—Revelation 20:12.
Notice that the expression “the nations” often refers to those who do not belong to spiritual Israel. (Revelation 7:9; 15:4; 20:3; 21:24, 26) The use of the expression here does not suggest that mankind will continue to be organized into separate national groups during the Thousand Year Reign.