Every Thought Captive

The New City

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

Revelation 21:9-21

The twenty first chapter of Revelation presents part of the culmination of the whole Bible. What began in the garden of Eden comes to its end in Revelation. Genesis records man’s fall, separation from God, and banishment from paradise, but the end of salvation is the ultimate union of Christ and the Church, with God’s throne in the center of a new city.

Parallels between the first chapters of Genesis and the last chapters of Revelation abound. Consider the following similarities and contrasts between the garden of Eden and the new city of Revelation (some of these refer to Revelation 20 and 22, not just 21). First, the most basic: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1). Second, in Genesis, God created the sun, moon, and stars; in Revelation “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23). Third, the garden of Eden was associated with precious metal and precious stones (Ezekiel 28:14-16, Genesis 2:11-12). Fourth, in Genesis, Satan tempts (Genesis 3); in Revelation, Satan is bound and hurled into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Fourth, after Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the fruit of the tree of life is forbidden (Genesis 3); in Revelation, the fruit of the tree of life is given for all (Rev. 22:2).

Finally, in Eden, after Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden, the gate is shut, and guarded by an angel (Genesis 3); in the new city, the gates are guarded by twelve angels, one at every gate, but are open, and never shut (Revelation 21). These parallels emphasize the condition and situation of the new people of God – in the paradise of life, being given the full riches and splendor of the Lord.

Other aspects of the new city emphasize the identity of the people of God. The city is the bride of Christ. When the angel shows the city to John, he says, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9, see also 19:7-8, and 21:2), and then shows him the city. Instead of being separated from God on account of sin, we will experience complete union with Him. The city is full of the glory of God (Revelation 21:11). The former habitation of the glory of God was the holy of holies: and the new city is a cube to recall the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple – which was also shaped like a cube, being 20 cubits long, wide, and high, overlaid with pure gold (1 Kings 6:20). The point is that the full vision of the glory of God is no longer withheld from the people of God, in the holy of holies, accessible only by the high priest. Now that “the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,” we, the Church of God, are the dwelling place of the glory of God. John was not the only one to refer to the Church as a built structure: the apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22). Likewise the apostle Peter writes, “As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

The precious stones adorning the foundation of the city also present a clear parallel with the dwelling place of God. The high priest only had access to the holy of holies, and that only once a year. The twelve precious stones on the high priest’s breastplate in Exodus 28 are very similar to those listed in Revelation 21, having the same basic color scheme, and the same number of stones, with eight out of the twelve being exactly the same. The point is that there is no longer a need for a high priest to mediate between God and a sinful people: we are united to Christ. As Peter writes a few verses later: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

In the new city, we are reunited with God in the new garden of Eden. We are the Bride of Christ, adorned for the wedding. The glory of God resides in us. We are a spiritual house, a holy priesthood. We have been given the full riches and splendor of God. May we always show it forth to the world.

About the Author

Photograph of Nathan Davy

Nathan Davy

Associate Director of Music and Organist

Nathan Davy is the Associate Director of Music and Organist at Park Cities Presbyterian Church. He is married to Laura Davy, and they have five children. When not making music he enjoys running, reading, gardening, and playing chess.