Phew! Nearly made it through Revelation. We are in familiar territory again, basking in the beauty and glory of what eternity will be like. These final visions weave in a whole host of themes from the rest of Scripture – creation, v.1, the holy city, v.2, the communion of God using marriage imagery, v.2, the dwelling of God, v.3, the saints as God’s own people, v.3, the end of suffering and death, v.4, the trustworthiness of God’s word, v.5, living water, v.6 , becoming a son of God, v.7, warnings to the faithless, v.8 and judgement, v.8.
The old world is transfigured into a new world, just like our old bodies will be transfigured into new ones. Everything is new, but by redeeming the old, v.5.
Why no sea? The description is symbolic. As moderns we love the beauty and majesty of the sea! We have lost the idea of evil and chaos that ancient people associated with the sea – water destroyed the earth in Noah’s day, the Philistines were the “sea people”, monsters come out of the sea (Daniel 7:3; Isaiah 27:1…) The removal of the sea in this sense means the permanent removal of the challenges to God’s order and hence peace and stability.
At the centre of the new creation is the holy city, symbolic of the dwelling of God with His people. In the Old Testament that was Jerusalem, but access was restricted. The whole of God’s people will have direct access; no need for a temple because God is dwelling with us. In Genesis, Babel was man’s attempt to reach to heaven. Now heaven comes down.
The vision and picture of the new Jerusalem is given in more detail in v.9f. The city is called the bride, who enjoys intimacy and joy in the presence of God. The city shines with the glory of God. The city has walls and gates, not because of a continued need for protection, but to remind us there will be full security in God.
The 12s point to the 12 tribes – the people of God in the Old Testament – and the new covenant people of God, instituted under the 12 apostles, so the careful organisation and integrity of the whole people of God is symbolised by the 12 imagery. The 12,000 stadia dimensions take the ‘people of God’ number – 12 and multiply it by 1,000 making it huge (in our terms 1,400 miles) God’s purposes are huge – there is no lack of space or supplies in the new world. The three dimensions of the city make it a perfect cube. The shape is the same as the Most Holy Place, but much, much, much bigger.
The ancient gates never need to be shut as there is no fear of attack, fulfilling Isaiah 60:11.
Come Lord Jesus!