CDPCKL · The God Who is Here (Revelation 21:9-22:5)

The God Who is Here (Revelation 21:9-22:5)

In the beginning, God planted a garden in the east, in the land of Eden, the land of Delight. A river flowed down out of Eden, through the garden, and then split into four rivers which flowed down out of the mountains to water the plains below, where there was gold and precious stones and other good things waiting to be brought to life and order. The garden was full of trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food, but central to them all was the tree of life. 

That garden was the connecting point between heaven and earth. In a way, it had been planted at the foot of a mountain stairway, at the foot of the Mountain of the Lord, as an organic temple where God could live with the human children he had created, where he would work alongside them to expand heaven’s influence over all the earth, which was an unformed, unfarmed wilderness at that time. The idea was that, one day, the life-giving glory of the earth would match the glories of heaven, and the two would be finally, fully united. 

But as I am sure you know, a serpent from the wilderness outside slipped into the garden — into God’s holy garden-temple — and persuaded God’s children to seize control of the expansion plan for themselves, for their own glory. As a result, they lost their access to the garden and to the tree of life. The connecting point between heaven and earth remained, but now there were angels at the gates with flaming swords, and no one could re-enter the garden until God’s plans to unite heaven and earth were completed. 

Unfortunately, in the millennia that followed, mankind became so obsessed with disorder that eventually God decided to withdraw his presence from the earth. He had been holding back the unformed chaos of the universe; in his absence, that chaos came flooding in the form of waters from the Abyss outside. The stairway to heaven was broken to keep wicked mankind from climbing up and defiling heaven itself. The creation order was deconstructed — 

— and then reconstructed, but this time without a garden on a mountain, without a stairway between earth and heaven. So the survivors among mankind began building their own man-made mountains, massive temple complexes complete with stairways leading up to heaven, decorated with gold and precious stones, surrounded by gardens and trees watered by man-made rivers. Really amazing accomplishments! But the only way they could accomplish these massive building projects was by centralizing their enslaved work-force in cities. 

So what this tells us is that mankind feels the loss of the garden, we feel our broken connection with God intensely — so intensely that we are willing to spare no expense in reaching out for him. That is a good thing! except that when we spare no expense we also spare no lives, we are willing to spend human beings in order to climb up to heaven. 

And this is why our scriptures have such a love/hate relationship with the concept of human cities: cities are our most orderly, most intricately beautiful creations, our greatest attempts to reconnect with heaven so that we can bring greater life and order back down to the earth. But because all of our attempts are built upon a foundation of tyranny and slavery, we never do manage to reach heaven! — and, ironically, the closer we seem to get, the more we produce death rather than life. 

But while most of mankind was busy building cities and temples, trying to reach up to God, God himself reached down quietly to one man and his family, and promised that one day the stairway would be rebuilt from the top down, just like the garden stairway in the beginning, not from the bottom up. God would live with his children again. 

After a few generations of preparation, God kept his promise. The man’s family grew into a great nation, and out of that nation God chose one man named Moses to build a very small version of Eden’s garden. 

This was a long, rectangular tent, open to the sky, where a large bronze altar symbolized the flaming mountain of God, a bowl of fresh water symbolized the river that flowed through the original garden. And in the midst of that outer court there was an inner room, a square tent closed off from the sky, where a seven-branched lampstand symbolized the tree of life, tables of bread and incense symbolized the rich fellowship of the garden, and a golden box called the ark symbolized the footstool of God’s throne, the last step of the stairway leading down from heaven. And the whole structure was protected by images of angels woven into the curtains. 

And when Moses’ tent was complete, God’s glory descended from the mountain and filled the inner room so that no one else could enter. And so God travelled with his children throughout their 42 year-long exodus through the wilderness. 

But then, a few generations after that, when the nation was settled permanently in their homeland, a king named Solomon built a stone version of Moses’ sacred tent, but bigger and better in every way. 

First, it was actually on a mountain. The altar was bigger; the little washing bowl became a massive pool containing 44,000 liters of water. Fruit trees and flowering plants and guardian angels were carved into the walls and doors and the whole thing was covered with gold and precious stones. But most notable of all was the change to the innermost room, where God’s footstool sat: in Moses’ tent, the inner room was a square, as wide as it was long, which — to ancient people — symbolized order and balance; in Solomon’s temple, the inner room became a perfect cube: as tall as it was wide and long, which symbolized a perfected level of order and balance. 

And when Solomon’s temple was complete, God’s glory filled that inner room so that no one else could enter. And so God finally came to live, once again, in a garden on a mountain with his people, ready to work alongside them as they brought life down from heaven and shared it throughout the earth. 

But once again God’s children decided to seize control of God’s expansion plan for themselves, for their own glory. God’s capital city became like all the other cities on earth: a center of slavery, injustice, and man-centered worship. So they lost their access to God’s presence. As a prophet named Ezekiel watched in his visions, God withdrew his glory from the temple and allowed the forces of chaos to come flooding in the form of the Babylonian empire. Once again the stairway to heaven was broken. 

But near the end of Ezekiel’s career, the prophet was carried away in the Spirit to a very high mountain, where he saw a city. An angel with a measuring rod met him, and gave him a tour of the whole place, measuring everything as they went. 

The city itself was a massive square, with three gates in each of the four walls, 12 gates in all, the gates named after the tribes of Israel. Within the city was a temple with a square outer court containing a square inner court, the whole thing many times larger than Solomon’s temple, every surface carved with trees and angels. But instead of a huge water basin, Ezekiel saw a river that flowed down out of the temple, out of the city, down out of the mountains to water the lands below, and everywhere the river flowed the wilderness came to life. 

And when Ezekiel took a closer look he saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. And the angel told him, “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” 

And as Ezekiel watched, the glory of God came and entered that temple and told him, “This is where I will live among my people forever.” And because of God’s presence there, the whole city and the whole mountain is made holy. In the very last words of Ezekiel’s book, we are told, “And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.” 

And so, for hundreds of years, God’s people waited for Ezekiel’s temple to be built. They were longing for the stairway between heaven and earth to be re-established. They did manage to build another temple in Jerusalem, a temple that was four times bigger than Solomon’s temple! but less than one-fourth the size of the temple Ezekiel saw. 

Then a man showed up named Jesus of Nazareth, and he claimed that he had come to re-establish God’s mountain, God’s stairway, God’s temple. In fact, this Jesus claimed that he, himself, was the temple, a living temple, the living foundation stone of Ezekiel’s temple. He claimed that he was going to be buried in the ground — just like a foundation stone must be — but that through his death Ezekiel’s temple would rise to fill the earth: not a man-made temple made of stones, but a temple made of living stones, human beings gathered in from every nation on earth. He claimed that God’s glory would fill this human temple so that no one else could enter, and so, through this human temple, the life-giving glory of the earth would gradually grow to match the glories of heaven until heaven and earth could be finally, fully united. 

As I am sure you know, the religious leaders of God’s people at that time…rejected Jesus’ claims. They had him executed. And Jesus was buried in the ground just as he had promised. And just as he had promised, through his death and burial — and his unexpected resurrection — Ezekiel’s temple was established, and immediately began filling the earth, gathering in people from every nation. And the people who made up the walls of this new living temple gradually came to be called Christians, and their temple was called Jesus’ Church. 

But sixty years after Ezekiel’s temple — Jesus’ Church — had been established, Christians were in trouble with the Roman empire, the most urbanized, city-centered civilization that had ever existed until that point in history. It had become clear that the ancient serpent from the Abyss was fighting back, inspiring the cities of the empire to crush or seduce the Christians living within their territories. 

To the Christians of that time, it did not feel very much like God’s glory had filled their communities so that no one else could enter. They felt like the serpent — the dragon! — was entering all the time to devour them. They felt weak, powerless, unprotected. And Christians have felt like that ever since, right up until the present day. 

And this is why Jesus chose a man named John to write this final book of the bible as an encouragement for every generation of his people, this Book of Revelation. Jesus wants us to know that God is with us! — but that we have not yet arrived at the ultimate mountain of God, and this is why we must suffer as we do for a time, times, and half a time. 

For instance, during the 42 years of the Old Testament exodus through the wilderness, God was definitely with his people! and still God’s people experienced tribulation. 

In the same way, Jesus’ Church is now passing through a symbolic “42 month” tribulation through the wilderness of history — but this does not mean God is not with us. 

Another way to look at it is this: the tent that Moses’ built was a temporary structure, and — to be honest — not very impressive to outsiders. It was only when God’s people arrived at God’s mountain that the tent was transformed into a permanent structure, superior in every way, impressive even to people who did not know God. 

In the same way, the “tent” that Jesus’ built as his earthly Church is also a temporary structure, and not a very impressive one to outsiders. Only when we arrive at the mountain of God will our temple be transformed into a permanent structure, superior in every way to the first. 

But even while we look forward to this, Jesus wanted us to know that the innermost room of his temple has already been completed. This is why, back at the central turning point of Revelation, John was given a measuring rod and told to measure the temple of God and its worshipers, but to exclude the outer court and the holy city, because they are destined to be trampled by the nations for that symbolic 42 months. In other words, construction of the temple’s innermost room was already finished; but the temple complex outside was still under construction — it was not yet time for it to be measured and compared against the original blueprints. 

The point Jesus was making is that our souls are sealed up safely in our Father’s presence at the top of the mountain, even if our bodies suffer tribulation in the city and in the wilderness below. So we do not need to worry! because this means that, when God’s people die on earth, they immediately come to life in God’s presence and are even promoted to reign alongside Christ. 

Well, now, finally, as we come to the end of Revelation, we find that the outer court and the city have been completed at last. We caught a glimpse of this last week, when John saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of  heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. The Abyss has been sealed: there is no longer any sea; there are no more serpents, no more dragons roaming the earth, because this is “a new heaven and a new earth.” The war is over, which means that the world has been made safe for the eternal wedding supper of the Lamb. 

But we want more than just a glimpse of the bride, right? And Jesus wants us to have more than just a glimpse. So now, in verse 9, John says, one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 

[10] And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. [11] It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. [12] It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. [13] There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 

And when we compare John’s words here with Ezekiel’s words in the Old Testament, we can tell John is seeing the same city Ezekiel did — but superior in every way. Because: 

[14] The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 

Ezekiel’s city had twelve gates named for the twelve Old Testament fathers of Israel. So does John’s. But John’s city also has twelve foundations named for the twelve New Testament fathers of Jesus’ Church. 

So we have twelve plus twelve equalling twenty-four, like the twenty-four heavenly elders we met at the beginning of Revelation: this is a symbolic way of saying that this city contains all of God’s faithful people from the Old Testament and the New. 

But there is more: [15] The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls, 

— just like the angel did in Ezekiel’s vision. 

[16] The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide, just like Ezekiel’s city. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length 

And that is a big difference! In Ezekiel’s vision, the city was two kilometers square. This city is 2,220 kilometers square, more than 1000 times bigger. 

But that is not all, because it is also as wide and high as it is long. 

So the new Jerusalem in John’s vision is not just a massive square like Ezekiel’s temple was, it is now a massive cube. Just as the square inner room of Moses’ tent became the cubed inner room of Solomon’s temple, now the square city of Ezekiel has become the cubed city of God. 

Which symbolizes a perfected level of order and balance. 

And this idea of perfection is reinforced by John’s use of the number ”12,000” here, which is 12 — the number of God’s people — multiplied by 1000 — the number of beauty, symmetry and completion. 

Then, just in case we miss the point, [17] the angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. 

144 is 12 times 12, a number and a concept we are already familiar with, which symbolizes God’s Old Testament people multiplied by God’s New Testament people. And the angel is using “human measurement”, which is a way of telling us that these numbers do symbolize mankind. 

Again, the point John is making is that this city contains all of God’s faithful people from the Old Testament and the New. Actually, he means more than that: this city does not just contain all of God’s faithful people, it is made out of the living stones that are God’s faithful people. 

And, just in case we miss that point, John goes on to be explicit: [18] The wall was made of jasper — a white stone — and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. [19] The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, [20] the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. [21] The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass. 

In the Old Testament, when the high priest entered the innermost room to sprinkle blood on the golden footstool of God’s throne, he would wear a square breastplate of gold with twelve precious stones mounted on it. Each stone was carved with the name of a tribe, and so in this way the high priest was able to symbolically carry God’s people with him into God’s presence. 

Well, these twelve foundations are made out of the same precious stones, cemented into place with gold as pure as transparent glass. The high priest’s square breastplate — which was actually an even smaller copy of the temple’s innermost room — has now become the city itself. God’s people are no longer being carried into God’s presence, they have become the living container for God’s presence! 

And just in case we miss that point, John goes on to say, [22] I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 

Until this point in scripture, God’s temple has always been structured with an inner room, then an outer court, connected to a city outside of that — moving from most holy in the center, to less and less holy. 

But now all those internal walls are gone. The inner room has grown up to fill the city, to become the city. The presence of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb has made the whole city as holy as the innermost room. 

Then John goes on to say, [23] the city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 

Just a few verses ago we were told the city is made of pure gold, as pure as transparent glass — which tells us that the gold John is seeing is not ordinary, earthly gold. Set into this transparent gold cement we find these rows of precious stones, each row a different colour. Many of these stones are also transparent; all of them reflect and multiply the light that is shone on them. In the center of the city is the shining throne of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. 

So the glory of God shines out in every direction, filling the interior of the city with light — but the light does not stop there, it passes through the transparent gold and the precious stones and fills the universe. 

And remember: we are these walls, we are these precious living stones. The glory of God is shining from within our midst, shining through us. And in shining through us, God’s glory is changed, refracted, reflected into a rainbow of colours. The city has become like a transparent, multi-coloured lamp for all of creation. 

And just in case we miss that point, John goes on to tell us: [24] the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. [25] On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. [26] The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. [27] 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. 

And all of this is a direct fulfillment of a prophecy made by Isaiah in the Old Testament, a prophecy that we read for our Call to Worship today. 

Your gates will always stand open,” Isaiah said. “They will never be shut, day or night, so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations—their kings led in triumphal procession. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.” 

Isaiah’s main point was that, one day, the whole rainbow of nations on earth will be united into one nation, ruled by one king. And that is the same point John is making here. But in John’s prophecy, the nations no longer bring their riches — what would be the point of bringing riches to a city made out of gold? Instead, the nations bring their glory and honor. In other words: they bring their worship. They bring themselves. 

Which is only right! Remember, a few weeks ago we learned that in Babylon the Great, gold and precious stones and pearls are thousands of times more valuable than human souls — and for this, Babylon was judged and burned. But in the new Jerusalem, gold and precious stones and pearls are nothing more than construction materials, no more valuable than concrete blocks and cement. Human souls, however, are the real treasure of the universe; human souls are the true harvest that God wants from the nations. 

[1] Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb [2] down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. [3] No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. [4] They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. [5] There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever 

And this is where we find all of the Old Testament promises, all of the Old Testament images combined into one. This is where we find out for sure that the new Jerusalem is also the new garden of Eden, the center of the new creation. And here the great plan of God continues on and on. Here God lives with the human children he has created and redeemed, here he works alongside them to expand the glories of heaven outward in every direction for all eternity. But this time there is no longer any serpent to slip in through the gates; the dragon is gone, the Abyss closed. There is no longer any death, any rebellious disorder, there is no longer any curse. 


So, now we have to ask: what does this have to do with us? What is our practical application? What are we supposed to do in response to this closing vision of the book? 

Well, to understand this closing vision, really we need to go back to the first vision of the book and see how far we have come: 

John’s first vision began in Chapter 1, when he was in the Spirit, and heard a voice speaking to him, and he turned around to find himself suddenly transported into the outer foyer of the inner room of God’s temple in heaven. And in that foyer, he saw seven golden lampstands, with Jesus there taking care of the lamps. And it turned out that those seven lampstands symbolized seven particular churches of ancient Roman Asia. 

And over the next couple of chapters, Jesus spoke to each one of those seven churches. Two of them he praised. Four of them he praised and warned. About the last one he had nothing good to say, only a warning that if they did not open their eyes to the truth he would spit them out of his mouth. 

And through this, we learned that those seven ancient churches actually symbolize different facets of the one Church of Jesus Christ: every church in every generation, including us here, now. We learned that in every generation, a minority of churches will be truly faithful, the majority of churches are going to struggle with various levels of compromise — and there will always be some churches that are right on the edge of no longer being churches. 

And this did make us wonder, from time to time, how we can be sure which category our church is in. Can we be counted among the faithful? Among the compromised? Among those who are about to be rejected by Christ? How can we be sure we will make it in the end? 

This last vision of the book is the answer to that first vision. Between then and now, John has been carried away in the Spirit up into heaven, where he watched world history play through in four distinct vision cycles. Then he was carried away in the Spirit to a wilderness: he was returned to the earth for a close-up look at the Battle of Armageddon and the final Judgement. But here John has been carried away in the Spirit for the last time, but this time to a mountain great and high. This mountain symbolizes the mountain of the Lord, the connecting point between earth and heaven. Here, John is no longer in heaven or on earth…because earth and heaven have finally become the same place. Heaven has descended to earth in the form of a great city, and the whole world has been made holy, just as Ezekiel promised in the Old Testament. 

And here is the Good News for us in this last vision: as the descending city got close enough, John saw that the city is actually made out of God’s people, all of God’s people from every generation of the Church, Old Testament and New: the one Church of Jesus Christ. 

In other words, in this last vision we find that all seven churches from the first vision have arrived. Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea: they are all here — along with many, many more. We cannot say that every member of every church made it — in some churches only a few managed to be saved — but we can say that some people from every one of those seven cities did make it. When we finally see the new Jerusalem with our own eyes, we will find representatives there from every city, every nation, every generation. 

And now that we understand this Good News, now we can say with confidence what our practical application should be. 

So, if you are here today and you are not a Christian, if you have not joined the city of God that is Jesus’ Church, then this is how you ought to respond: you ought to join Jesus’ city, our city. Because, look: no other religion or philosophy on earth promises you that you will be valued for you, yourself, simply because you are a human being. Every other religion and philosophy on earth demands that you prove your value by bringing wealth and status and things into the system — as soon as you cease to be productive, they throw you away, they replace you with a more effective model. 

Our God is not like that. Our God created us as his human children for a specific task, a task that we accomplish simply by living alongside him in his garden in the land of Delight. When we followed the serpent out of that garden way back at the beginning, he sent his own Son — he spent his own life! — to crush the serpent’s head, absorb the serpent’s venom, and open up the gates of the garden once again: that is how valuable we are! That is how valuable you are. The angels are still standing there at the gates, just like they did at the gates of the garden in the very beginning. But now, instead of waiting to cut you down if you approach, they are waiting to welcome you. 

So come! Come to Jesus, and ask him to accept you as God’s child once again. Become a living stone built into those shining walls that are rising up, layer by layer, even now. Join one of the symbolic seven churches, the healthiest one you can find: a church that urges you to drink from the river of life that is God’s Word, a church that urges you to eat from the tree of life that is the cross of Christ, so that you might be healed. If you do this, if you become a faithful child of God, a faithful member of Jesus’ Church, you will arrive. That is a promise. That is your Good News. So act on it! 

Now, for the rest of us who are already citizens of the new Jerusalem, how should we respond to this Good News, this guarantee that we will arrive? 

Brothers and sisters, this guarantee means that we are free to shine without fear of failure. 

As Jesus once told us when he was on earth: “You are the light of the world.” And he did not mean “you” as individuals, he meant “you” as in all of us together. We are one city built around the glory of God and of the Lamb, one nation made out of many nations, a city of multi-coloured precious stones designed to transmit God’s light to nations. 

And, of course, when Jesus called us the light of the world, he was talking about our good deeds. Our good deeds are God’s light, God’s Son shining upon the world. See, we have a river — the Word of God — and a tree — the Cross of Christ — that only we really have access to. The nations outside can try to drink from God’s Word, they can try to grasp Jesus’ redemption, but without the Holy Spirit to give them eyes and ears, these things will remain meaningless to them. 

Good deeds, however, can make sense even to people without eyes and ears, without the Spirit of God. When we love God, love one another and love our neighbors, the light of God’s Son shines out and warms the faces of the blind and the deaf and lets them know that there is something good out there beyond what they are able to sense, there is a song being sung that they have never been able to hear. And in this way hearts are softened so that, when the Holy Spirit moves, and when we speak the words of life, eyes and ears are opened and God’s children are redeemed. 

Because we are valued as human beings, as God’s children, not as mere sources of production, we are able to shine without fear of not measuring up. Jesus was clear when he talked about this: the only way for us to fail is by failing to shine at all. The only way for us to fail is by hiding who we are in Christ. Which means that, as long as we are shining just a little bit then we are on the way. 

Friends, we are a church made up of many different kinds of precious stones: some are clear like glass, and transmit God’s light almost directly; some are like prisms, and shatter the light into many different bands; some are one solid colour, but smooth and glossy so that they reflect and bend the light in unexpected ways. In addition to this, we are also, all of us, at different points in the polishing process, and so we will channel different levels and qualities of light. 

Which brings us to our only warning for today: Jesus told us directly that, from those who receive increasing clarity, increasing levels of light will be required; but from those to whom less clarity has been given, less will be required. But no matter what, we can be confident of this: if we are truly cemented into the transparent gold walls of God’s city, then the glory in our midst will shine through — and that is all our Father asks of us. 

So, let’s do this: let us continue to see one another as precious but flawed human beings, designed to transmit the light of heaven. The glory of God is perfect! but we are not. So let us encourage one another on to love and good deeds, each person according to their gifting and capacity. And let us keep on calling one another to confession and repentance when we fail. Let us always be expecting more from one another! and let us also always be ready to forgive when expectations are not met, remembering that our ultimate value comes from the fact that we have been united with Christ. 


We are going to close with this: 

When John first wrote the Book of Revelation, the Romans ruled an economic empire that covered one third of the earth’s surface. Because of this, the city of Rome had declared that it was the light of the world, that Roman civilization was destined to unite every nation on earth. Jesus’ counterclaim that his Church is the true light of the world naturally meant that the Roman empire saw Christianity as a cancer that needed to be burned away before Rome could achieve its goal — and the persecution that began during John’s lifetime got many times worse during the generations that followed. This was, of course, very discouraging for the Christians of the time. 

So it is actually remarkable that John wrote what he did when he did. Through this book, written at the height of Roman power, John declared boldly that Rome’s dream of uniting the earth was going to fail, and that Jesus’ Church would rise out of the ashes to accomplish what Rome could not. Even in this last vision, John made this point again. 

Let me explain: when John says here that the new Jerusalem is 12,000 stadia in length, he was not just making the point that all of God’s people will be found there. See, 12,000 stadia — approximately 2,220 kilometers — was also the length of the Roman empire from England to India. So John was also making the point that, where Rome would ultimately fail to unite all the nations between England and India, the new Jerusalem will succeed. 

And history has proven John right. Rome is long gone! but the Church is still here, still growing, still uniting the nations. Rome laid claim to one third of the earth and failed. One day Babylon the Great will lay claim to the entire earth in the same way! and fail in the same way. But we will reign for ever and ever 


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