The Coming Kingdom 038Revelation 21-22 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 21, 2018 • The Coming Kingdom
The Coming Kingdom
3-21-18 Revelation 21-22 Lesson 38
Let’s open our Bibles if we could to the Book of Revelation, chapter 21, as you guys all know we’ve been continuing our study on the doctrine of the kingdom. We’re in chapter 14 of my book so basically in this part of the study we’ve been looking at what does the Word of God say about the kingdom. It’s been sort of a long bus ride, if you will, through the Bible and we would expect to go through the Bible in a study like this because the kingdom, as I’ve tried to explain is the dominant theme of the Bible. And we went all the way through the establishment of the kingdom for a thousand years and now we’re on number 17, after the thousand years.
So here’s our standard prophecy chart, if you just go to the far right you’ll see the kingdom, the thousand year kingdom, Revelation 20 and then after that will come the eternal state. So we’re in Revelation 21 and 22 which is a description of the eternal state. And I find that most Christians hardly know anything about the eternal state which is unfortunate because we’re going to be there for how long… that’s not a trick question. So the eternal state is really the last stop, if you will, on the ride covering the kingdom.
So to help us grow in our understanding of the eternal state I’ve sort of divided it into five parts. The first point we made, we were talking about how the eternal state is only going to come into existence after God has restored authority over planet earth. So kind of the goal of history is how God restores what was lost in Eden and that is going to be accomplished in the thousand year kingdom. The eternal state comes into existence after that so with that goal in history won for God, God is now free to start over.
So we move from there into the new creation and that’s Revelation 21 and 22. One of the points we’ve tried to make is that this new creation that’s coming is not a renovation but it’s an ex nihilo, something out of nothing, brand new creation. Your renovation is the thousand year kingdom; that’s when this earth is renovated but the eternal state, and I think I gave five reasons for that , is something totally new. It’s still a world like this one but it’s a brand new world. It’s a brand new heavens and new earth.
And then number 3, we looked at the fact that the eternal state, a lot of people look at it as very symbolic but the reality is it’s very literal. Why is that? Because terms are used in these final two chapters of the Bible that we would interpret literally anywhere else. So it’s a literal time period and one of the things to understand is the throne of David continues, not just into the thousand year kingdom but also into the eternal state. Why is that? Because David was promised a throne that would last forever; forever is longer than a thousand years, right. So somehow the Davidic throne has to continue on into the eternal state. And right now and even through the millennial kingdom there’s a difference between Jesus’ throne and the Father’s throne. Jesus’ throne is on earth in Jerusalem, that’s the throne He’ll be seated on throughout the thousand years. The Father’s throne is in heaven. So in Revelation 3:21 you see the distinction in those two thrones. [Revelation 3:21, “’He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”]
By the time we get to the eternal state those two thrones merge together. So the Son’s throne merges into the Father’s throne and it’s in that sense that the Davidic throne continues. It continues on, just in another form. So we tried to make that case a couple of weeks ago. And some folks have asked me, number 5, what’s the eternal state going to be like? What are we going to be doing? And I’m glad you asked that question because here are six subparts answering that question.
One of the things we have talked about is how the eternal state is different than the millennial kingdom. And I gave you this chart and this chart showing you the difference between the two. And this is one of the problems that I have with so-called progressive dispensationalism that they’re now teaching at most of our seminaries that used to teach traditional dispensationalism, including my alma mater, Dallas Seminary. Notice that these guys are taking the millennial kingdom and the eternal state and sort of bunching it altogether. The progressive dispensationalists have one dispensation at the end they call the Zionic dispensation and they include the millennial kingdom and the eternal state as the same dispensation. And I really have a difficult time with that, I don’t think that’s what the Bible teaches at all because there’s a world of difference between the thousand year kingdom and the eternal state. And so a chart like that and a chart like the prior one that we walked through the last time I was with you was designed to reveal that.
I’ll explain in a minute why the eternal state is not even a dispensation. So if you care about details you start to see the thousand year kingdom and the eternal state as very different concepts that God has revealed for the future. And I think that’s where we made it to last time.
And now under the eternal state’s description we’re on part B here, the significance of the eternal state. Why is the eternal state significant? And I have three reasons for that: number one, the eternal state is a reminder that evil is finite. Finite means what? Limited. When you look at Revelation 21 and 22 you’re reminded of a time period when evil itself will be taken out of this universe completely. And you say well why is that a big deal? It’s a big deal because as a Christian one of the things God asks us to do, or commands us to do, is to share our faith with unsaved people. And if you start sharing your faith with unsaved people one of the questions you’re going to get back in response is well if God is a God of love then why did my son or daughter get born with a birth deficiency? Or if God is a God of love why a loved one that I know just die of cancer? Or if God is a God of love why did someone I know just get hit by a car in the crosswalk? Because we’re living in a world with evil in it, right?
And so people, the natural question they have is well if God is a God of love why do all these bad things happen. And actually most Christians have a difficult time answering that question. But if you understand the doctrine of the eternal state you have an answer. The answer is yes, bad things happen in this world. What does Paul say? He doesn’t say all things are good in Romans 8; he says God uses all things together for good. [Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”] There’s a big difference. So we’re living in a world where bad things happen.
But the doctrine of the eternal state reminds you that evil is on a leash. There was a time in history before evil existed. That would be what? Genesis 1 and 2. There will be a time in history when evil will not exist? When is that? Revelation 21 and 22. So if you want to understand what’s normal you don’t study what’s happening today. What’s happening today is an abnormality because of the creature’s rebellion against the Creator, in Genesis 3, that brought all these bad things into our world. So the world that we’re living in is not as God intended it.
God’s intention is found in Genesis 1 and 2 and it’s found in Revelation 21 and 22. Everything in between is abnormal. Do you see that? So when someone confronts you, if God is a God of love why do bad things happen, the answer is well, it’s to acknowledge that we live in a world where bad things happen but it’s also to acknowledge that what is happening now is not the design of God. That may seem like a very simple point but as far as I can tell that point is completely unique to the Judeo-Christian worldview.
Only with a knowledge of the Bible would you have an understanding of that because every other worldview out there that I can think of, whether it’s reincarnation of evolution or whatever, teaches that what is happening now has always been and will always be. Even believers in reincarnation, they basically believe you come back into this life but in a different life form. And every other worldview out there teaches that what is happening now has always been and will always be. And how different it is for the Bible reader to have Genesis 1 and 2 in your Bible and Revelation 21 and 22 in your Bible and be reminded of the fact that God created this world without evil in it and when God brings forth the new heavens and the new earth evil itself will be pulled out of it. And so that’s one of the great things you can learn simply by studying the doctrine of the eternal state in Revelation 21 and 22.
Another theological significance of the eternal state is to recognize that the eternal state is not a dispensation. So there’s the big “D” word again that scares us all. What is a dispensation? A dispensation is basically a time in history where God has certain rules. We’ve done a lot of teaching on dispensations at this church. And in each dispensation God is putting humanity through a test of some kind. And what happens in every dispensation is man fails and God uses that failure to usher in a higher dispensation. And so by the time you step back in and a traditional dispensationalist like myself would see seven tests. We have innocence, conscience, human government, Israel under promise, then Israel under Law. Israel under Law is the longest biblical dispensation; most of your information in the Bible covers that dispensation. But then you have the age of the church, that’s our dispensation, number 6. And then number 7 will be the earthly kingdom.
And what you see in all seven of these is… and by the way, the plan of individual salvation is always the same no matter what dispensation you’re in. That never changes, man is always saved by faith alone in God’s provision, Old Testament saints looking forward, New Testament saints looking backwards to what Jesus did. But in every single dispensation man fails and God ushers in a superior dispensation and so by the time you step back and look at all seven who gets the glory in all of this? Not man because he’s failed in every single one of them, but God gets the glory because God’s purposes in history are to glorify Himself. We call it the doxological purpose of God.
But the eternal state is not a dispensation. Why do I say that? Because there’s no test. Every other dispensation, the seven that come before the eternal state, there’s always some kind of test held out to man that he fails but by the time you get to the eternal state the tests have all run their course, God is glorified and so you can’t call the eternal state a dispensation. This kind of teaching is lost n progressive dispensationalism where they take millennial kingdom and eternal state and lump it as one dispensation. The problem with that is (a) the millennial kingdom and the eternal state are described as two different things entirely. And number two, the eternal state itself is not even a dispensation. So when you understand that that explains the differences between the Garden of Eden and the eternal state. The Garden of Eden is described in Genesis 1 and 2; the eternal state is described in Revelation 21 and 22. And there’s a lot of similarities between the Garden of Eden and the eternal state, but this chart here, I think I got this from Henry Morris’ book, The Genesis Record.
Henry Morris points out all the differences. In Eden there’s a division between light and darkness but in the eternal state there’s no night at all. In Eden there’s a division between land and sea but in the eternal state there is not even a sea nor an ocean. In Eden (and I have all the verse references where you can look those up) there’s a sun and moon but there’s no sun or moon in the eternal state. Eden is a garden, the eternal state is a city. In Eden you have a river flowing out of Eden but in the eternal state you have a river flowing from God’s very throne. In Eden there’s gold in the land but in the eternal state there’s gold in the city. In Eden there’s a tree of life in the middle of the garden but in the eternal state you’ve got the tree of life throughout the city. In Eden you’ve got specific stones mentioned but in the eternal state you have all manner of stones. In Eden you have God walking in a garden but in the eternal state you have God dwelling with his people.
So what is the story of the Bible? The story of the Bible is from a garden to a city with a cross in between. And that’s probably one of the best descriptions I know of the whole Bible–from a garden to a city with a cross in between. And the question becomes well why doesn’t God just put us back in a garden? Well, the answer to that is Eden is a dispensation where man and woman are under a test. That’s why you have in Eden a tree of knowledge. There has to be a tree of knowledge in Eden because there has to be a test because Eden, the dispensation of innocence, is the first dispensation.
Now why does God have to give man a test? Because man is made in who’s image? God’s image. God has free will, doesn’t He? So if we’re made in His image we also have to have what? Free will. And if you think about that that’s one of the most awesome gifts God has given us—free will. In other words, I have the free will to reject God and go straight to hell if I want to, it’s kind of a scary privilege that we have with free will. So what’s the smartest thing you can do with your free will? Give it right back to God. Didn’t Jesus model that over and over again… “not My will” Jesus said to the Father, “but Thy will be done.”
And because man is made in God’s image he has to have an avenue to rebel against God should he choose to do so. That’s why there had to be a tree of knowledge of good and evil in Eden. If there is no tree of knowledge of good and evil in Eden then God is not respecting how He’s made man as an image bearer of God with the power to choose. But, by the time you get to the eternal state what is not there? A tree of life is there but what’s missing? Which tree is missing? The tree of knowledge. So why is the tree of knowledge missing? Because man has already been tested. See that? Whatever choice people have made has already been made; that’s a sealed deal. And because there’s no choice or no test I should say, because people have already chosen one way or the other, the eternal state cannot be called a dispensation because a dispensation, by definition, has to have some kind of test. See that?
So there’s some very interesting things about the eternal state: it’s a reminder that evil is on a leash. Number 2, the eternal state is not a dispensation. Number 3, the eternal state is going to be even greater than the millennial kingdom. I mean, the thousand year kingdom is going to b great, right? Didn’t Jesus say we should pray… what? “Thy kingdom come,” I mean, I can’t wait for the kingdom. But what the Scripture is telling us is that the eternal state is even greater than the kingdom. The millennial kingdom is sometime called the Son’s kingdom; the eternal state is sometimes called the Father’s kingdom. But by the time we get to the eternal state we’re in an era or a time period which is even better and greater than the millennial kingdom. So there on the far right is the thousand year kingdom, Revelation 20, it’s going to be a wonderful time, but the eternal state is even better!
So think about all the things we’ve studied about the millennial kingdom, all the great things that are going to happen. It’s going to be established by God. It’s going to last for a thousand years. You’re going to have present the direct rule of Jesus Christ on planet earth. Israel’s land promises will be fulfilled. Israel will be in a position of preeminence. The millennial temple will be fully functioning. David will be resurrected and ruling under Christ’s delegated authority. There will be perfect righteousness on the earth. Are you interested in a world with perfect righteousness in it? No miscarriages of justice. The curse will be curtailed. Peace will break out all over the world. We won’t have this situation like we had a couple of days ago in Austin. There’ll be agricultural prosperity. The earth will go through topographical changes. There will be immediate answers to prayer.
And we look at that and we say well how much better can it get? Well the reality of the situation is the eternal state is even greater than the millennial kingdom itself. Why is that? Because in the millennial kingdom you’ve got a hybrid of good and evil; evil exists but it’s kept in check with the direct rule of Christ’s presence over this earth. But in the eternal state there’s not even the possibility of rebellion, so evil is gone. And that’s the design God originally had and that’s what our future is. So it’s different than the millennial kingdom, it’s a very significant time in history.
What else can we learn about the eternal state? You can learn a lot about something by what is not there. What is not there sometimes tells you as much about a place as what is there. So notice this chart here, these are all the things that will not be in the eternal state and I have all the verses and you can look those up on your own. Satan won’t be there. Why is that? Because Satan is progressively defeated throughout the Bible in seven stages and the final stage is he is, when God is finished using Satan for His own purposes Satan is thrown into the lake of fire with the beast and the false prophet have already been thrown in and they’re still in there a thousand years later.
And Satan is thrown into that lake of fire and once that happens, Revelation 20:10, once that occurs Satan disappears from this universe. [Revelation 20:10, “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”] I mean, he still exists somewhere in terms of being tormented, don’t get me wrong, but he has no influence anymore over the direction of this world and the direction of our new universe that will be created.
So Satan won’t be there. The sea won’t be there. Death, crying or pain won’t be there. The sun, s-u-n, and the moon will not be there because who illuminates the eternal state? Not the sun, s-u-n but the son, s-o-n. There won’t be a temple there because who’s our temple? Jesus! The night won’t be there. Evil won’t be there. And the curse that has plagued the human race ever since the fall of man in Genesis 3, that won’t be there either.
So isn’t it interesting how much we can learn about the eternal state just by looking at what is not going to be there? In fact, look at Revelation 21:4, it’s probably one of my favorite verses, perhaps in the whole Bible. It says, “He” that’s God, “will wipe” 90% of the tears from their eyes, no, it doesn’t say that, does it, “every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death;” we’ve had a lot of funerals and loved ones that we know pass on recently, death is a painful thing. And think of a world with no death in it, no funeral homes, no hospitals, no grieving, grief counselling, all that’s over. So there will be no more death, “there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” What’s the first things? What has become normal in our world subsequent to Genesis 3. Genesis 3 is the problem. Genesis 3, the creature’s rebellion against the Creator created all of these problems but that order is over; we’re now in an order… you know, it’s like living in Eden as if sin never entered the picture. That’s what it’s like.
So look at what is not there: tears aren’t there, death isn’t there, mourning isn’t there, crying isn’t there, pain isn’t there, and the first order of things, that’s not there either.
Take a look at Revelation 21:8, it says, “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.” All of these sins are in the lake of fire, incarcerated under the judgment of God, having no influence whatsoever on the direction of the new heavens and the new earth. So think of a world without cowards in it or unbelievers in it, or abominable things. And think of all the murders that have happened in human history—a world with no murders! Or you just turn on the TV at night and what do you see? Immorality! Think of a world with no immorality. And I think that’s why the city, there’s no night there and the city is made of pure glass. Most of us, when we commit our sins do it when no one’s looking. We sin at night, we sin in secret, and here you have a world with no night in it at all and the city is made of pure glass where everything is transparent. Why is that? Because there’s nothing to hide.
So abominable, murderers, immorality, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars. And I don’t know about you but what strikes me every time I read those verses is the first sins mentioned. You know, I would think that the first sin mentioned would be a murderer or an immoral person. But the first two are cowards and unbelieving, and we become cowards when we’re not believing or trusting in God. And to God I think those are the greatest two sins because “without faith it is impossible to” what? “please God.” I know that every time I’m afraid of something I’m not trusting God. And when I’m operating in courage I am trusting God. And being a coward or being anxiety ridden, it took me many years as a Christian to understand this, is probably one of the worst sins you can commit against God because when we’re filled with fear and worry it automatically means we’re not trusting Him. I know that every single time I’m worried about something I’m not trusting Him. And I know that when I am trusting Him I’m not worried about whatever the issue is. And that is mentioned first because our whole relationship to God is based on faith, “for without faith it is impossible to please Him.”
So the eternal state’s different than the millennial kingdom, it’s very theologically significant, there’s going to be a lot of things that are normative today that will not be in the eternal state. And this takes us to letter D, what are some things that are going to be present in the eternal state. We talked about what’s not there, what’s going to be there exactly? Well, here’s a list and that’s just part one of my list, there’s a lot of stuff here. I’ll try to go through these fast.
Number 1, God is going to be there. Now if God is there that’s got to be a good place, right? If you look over at Revelation 21:23, “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.” God is there! And according to that same verse God’s glory is there. It’s a place where the glory of God never gets eclipsed by anything. It’s also a place of holiness, Revelation 21:27 says, “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.”
It’s also a place where God’s people are going to be. The Book of Hebrews, chapter 12:22-23 is also an eternal state passage, says, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” so that would be what John saw, “the heavenly Jerusalem,” the last two chapters of the Bible, “and to myriads of angels,  to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,” so who’s going to be there? Number 1, God is going to be there. Number 2, angels are going to be there, that would be the good angels, right, the two-thirds that didn’t fall. Number 3, the church is there, now that’s us, right? Everybody that’s saved in this unique parenthesis from the day of Pentecost to the rapture, the body of Christ, the church is going to be there.
And notice this other group that’s going to be there—the spirits of the righteous made perfect, who are obviously different than the church because they’re given a different description than the church. Who are those people? Those are people that are saved throughout history that aren’t part of the church. I mean, what do you do with people in the Old Testament that were believers but they weren’t part of the body of Christ because the body of Christ didn’t start until Acts 2. What do you do with Job, Daniel, Abraham, Noah, all of these people.
And by the way, what do you do with people that get saved after the church has been translated through the rapture. We all understand that following the rapture a lot of people are going to get saved, right? In fact, John, in Revelation 7, beginning in about verse 8, talks about and innumerable multitude of people that will be saved in the tribulation period after the church is gone via the preaching of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. So you’ve got folks saved before the church started and you’ve got folks saved after the church has been removed. Who are those people? Well, that’s that fourth group, the spirits of the righteous made perfect. [Hebrews 12:23, “to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.”] And so all of us together in one place, one new world, one city.
What else is going to be there? God’s city is going to be there. Take a look at Revelation 21 and notice verse 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.” Now underneath this concept of the city there’s a lot of things to talk about. First of all it’s a real city. John describes its existence when he sees it as coming down out of heaven to the earth. Isn’t that great animation, in fact, it’s so impressive let’s watch it one more time. Do you want to do that? Because some of you were busy taking notes. That’s pretty neat.
Now my impression is that the city that’s being described here exists right now. And I think that because Galatians 4:26. Paul, says, “But the Jerusalem above is free;” the linking verb is a present tense verb. In other words, the city was in existence when Paul penned the Book of Galatians all the way back in the first century A.D. It could be, and I don’t want to be dogmatic about this but Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you for I go to prepare a place for you.” [John 14:2] It could be that this is what Jesus is talking about that we will experience in heaven, this heavenly city before we return to the earth to rule and reign alongside Him. So the city, as I understand it, already exists, it just is not fit to descend to this world because this world has been touched by sin.
So what is the city waiting for? It’s waiting for the new world, the new heavens and new earth, the ex nihilo creation of God. Once God through an ex nihilo act creates a new heavens and a new earth, now that holy city is fit to descend upon it because that city is holy and it can’t just come into our world because our world is unholy. The city has a name, it’s called the new Jerusalem, Revelation 21:2. [Revelation 21:2, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”] The city actually has dimensions and measurements. Revelation 21:16 says the city was laid out as a square as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be fifteen hundred miles in length and as wide and as high as it was long. [Revelation 21:16, “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.”]
So I would understand this city as a giant cube, fifteen hundred miles by fifteen hundred miles by fifteen hundred miles, laid out like a giant cube, which is, when you actually do the measurements on it you’re talking about a big chunk of space. If you were to compare it to the continental United States of America this is how big the city would be; it would basically take you from the Mississippi River (of course west of the Mississippi River and take you all the way to… really the Atlantic, to Florida and then you go up to Maine and then you go back to west of the Mississippi River, roughly if I’ve got my dimensions right there, but you can see how big this is. I mean, this is a big city. Which is sort of encouraging to me because that means an awful lot of people are going to get saved throughout human history and they are going to have access to this city.
And it’s very, very troubling to watch commentators just dismiss this city out of the gate. Many, many commentators will tell you that there’s no way a city could be this big. So here’s some representative quotes. One guy says, “Such dimensions defy imagination and are permissible only in the language of symbolism.”
Another guy says, “Of course, this must preclude all idea of there being such a city literally in Palestine…this cannot be understood literally; and the very idea of a literal fulfillment of this shows the absurdity of that method of interpretation… this cannot be taken literally; and an attempt to explain all of this literally would show that that method of interpreting the Apocalypse is impracticable.”
Another guy says: “no clearer proof…that all is figurative. Such a height is simply out of harmony with the constitution of our world.” And that’s where he gets it wrong there at the end because it’s not “our world” is it? It’s going to be a new world. Another guy says, see they’re all making comments on the dimensions that I just read in Revelation 21:16. “Neither the shape nor the dimensions of the city can be taken with mathematical exactness, as if it were a gigantic apartment house.” Well, I prefer what David Cooper says. “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.”
Let me give you the Reader’s Digest version: “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” Let me give you the Reader’s Digest version. When the plain sense makes good sense seek no other sense lest you wind up with nonsense. I just think we need to get into the habit of taking God at His Word whenever you can. Now we all know there’s figurative language in the Bible but when language is meant to be understood figuratively there’s usually some kind of clue in the text that it’s meant to be taken figuratively. I think I’ve given you some examples of that in prior studies. But here it just says a fifteen hundred mile by fifteen hundred mile cube. Why not let God say what He wants to say? And it becomes an error when we try to judge what’s going to be normal in the next world by standards in this world. I mean, that becomes sort of silly when you understand that the next world is a totally different world entirely, where new principles and laws will govern it.
And I’m kind of glad that what is happening now won’t always be; aren’t you glad about that? If I thought that what is happening now will always be do you know what my life would be absent of? It starts with an H, and ends in ope, you wouldn’t have any hope, would you? So you have these people today that walk into public places and shoot people and walk into schools and shoot people. Why do they do that? Here’s my explanation for it—you’re dealing with people that are out of hope. They have given up on life and when human beings, who are designed by God to have hope don’t have hope they become very desperate.
And a study like this is a reminder that what’s normative today won’t always be and that gives us hope in the present. And if you have hope in the present you can handle the problems you’re in now. Right? The reason you can handle your problems now is because you realize that your problems now won’t be forever. But think, if you didn’t have the light of the Scripture on this and you thought that what you were in now will always be, that’s where hope disappears. And that’s where people get desperate and do desperate things and desperate acts.
So what these commentators are all doing is spiritualizing the passage, spiritualizing is basically the practice of saying well, literal words, that’s not what’s important, what’s important is the spiritual principle that comes out of it. That’s called spiritualizing. So here’s a little saying that stuck with me over the years, maybe it will stick with you—he or she who spiritualizes tells what? spiritual lies. A spiritualize interpretation may sound good but it’s a lie because it’s not what the passage is saying. What the passage is saying is there’s going to be a fifteen hundred by fifteen hundred by fifteen hundred giant cube.
By the way, the city also has a wall around it and when you go over to Revelation 21:17 it says, “And he measured its wall, and it was a hundred and forty-four cubits thick,” now some of you might correct my math on that, I think that’s about seventy-two yards, if I’m not mistaken. In other words it’s a thick wall, how’s that. “And he measured its wall, and it was a hundred and forty-four cubits thick,” and look what it says, “by man’s measurements.” So God is not using some kind of slide rule that’s different than ours because this is a city designed for people. And apparently the angel was using that measurement when he measured the thickness of this wall.
The city has gates and if you look at Revelation 21:12 it says, “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” what? “twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.” So I guess what I’m seeing here is the city has around it twelve gates and every time you go in and out of a gate what do you see inscribed at the top? A name of one of the twelve tribes, whether it be Reuben or Asher or whatever tribe is on that particular gate.
And it’s interesting here, it talks about that the gates were always open. It’s very different than Eden. Remember when man fell in Eden? Remember what God did? He stationed cherubim; in Hebrew an “im” ending indicates plurality. It’s like how we use the “s” at the end of a noun indicating plurality, more than one. Cherubim means more than one angel. I would guess two, at least two obviously, and they were stationed, Genesis 3:23-24 outside of Eden. [Genesis 2:23-24, “therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.  So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.”]
So man in his fallen state couldn’t get back into Eden because God didn’t want man to eat from the tree of life and live forever in his fallen state. So man was prohibited access back into Eden. Eden was closed. And you compare that to the eternal state where these gates are always open, never to be closed again. And since there are twelve tribes and the city is laid out like perfect square or a cube I guess I would see three gates on each side of the city, twelve total, three times four equals twelve.
And you look at verse 14, the city not only had gates but it also has foundations. Revelation 12:14, it says this, “And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones,” now the fact that this city has foundation stones means it’s on the earth, right? So this is an earthly reality that’s being described here. “And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones and on them” the foundation stones, “were the twelve names of the twelve” what? “apostles of the Lamb.” Now Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the church in this temple metaphor. He is the… the cornerstone is the first stone put into a structure and you measure all the other stones by the original stone, the cornerstone. But once the cornerstone is in then you put around it the foundation stones.
Would you say a foundation is a very important part of the building? I mean, we lived in the Dallas area for years and we would wake up in the morning and there would be a giant crack right through our wall. Why is that? Because we were on a bad foundation, the foundation would shift. It didn’t matter how nice the wallpaper was it couldn’t stop the crack from appearing because of a bad foundation. So Jesus, as the chief cornerstone, built the church on the apostles, the twelve apostles.
So here you are in the eternal state, you’re going about your business, you’re walking in and out of these gates, you look at the top of the gate, you see the name of a tribe, Jesus, the Lord built the nation of Israel on the twelve what? It starts with a “t” ends with ribes, the tribes are the foundation of Israel. So you’re going about your business, you’re going in and out of these gates which are always open, and every time you look up top you see a name of one of the twelve tribes and what are you reminded of? You are reminded of Israel. And then you look down at the foundation stone and you see, depending on what gate you’re going in and out of, you’re seeing the name of an apostle. The Lord built the church on the foundation of the who? The apostles.
So Ephesians 2:20 it says, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.” So you’re walking in out of a gate, you see a tribe, you’re reminded of Israel, you see a foundation or a foundation stone and you’re reminded of the church. See that? So what is God never allowing to go out of existence throughout human history? He is never allowing people to forget His two great works. And those are who? Israel and the church. God has a program and calling for Israel; God has a program and calling for the church. And as you go in and out of these gates you’re perpetually reminded of the two. And there’s a lot of people today that want to merge Israel and the church together and make it look like they’re not different at all. Well, they’re not going to be very happy in the eternal state because they’re going in and out of a gate and they’re reminded of the church and they’re reminded of Israel by looking at an apostle’s name and looking at a name of one of the twelve tribes.
What else do we know about this city? It’s got a lot of influence because it’s through this city that the whole new heavens and new earth are governed. We know a lot about its character, it’s called what kind of city? A holy city, so no [can’t understand word] no bribes, no backroom deals, no corruption, it certainly doesn’t sound like city hall does it. It certainly doesn’t sound like Washington D.C. because the character of this city is perfectly holy. We know that this city will radiate the glory of God because it says in Revelation 21:11, “having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.” Now do you like colors?
One of the things you discover about God is He’s into colors. I mean, after all, the rainbow did not come to us through the same sex movement, did it? Even though when they get laws passed they try to light up the White House so it looks like a rainbow. The reality is they stole our rainbow; the rainbow is God, God created the rainbow. God created the rainbow, as you know, as a sign of the Noahic Covenant that He wouldn’t flood the earth again. And as we all know by looking at a rainbow it’s very, very different shades of colors. And so when you look at Revelation 21:18-21 you see all these colors.
By the way, when you look at Aaron’s robe, in the Book of Exodus as it’s described, Exodus 20, you see all these colors. So for whatever reason God is interested in radiating colors. And if you look at Revelation 21:18 it says, “The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.” And then it says, verses 19, “The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned” look at this, “with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire;” now I’m going to stop reading there because I can’t even pronounce half of these colors. [19b, “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, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.”]
As you go through that verse on your own reading you’ll see all of these colors. Here’s most likely what these different colors looked like, and they’re just part of the walls and the gates of this city. When you look at Revelation 21:21 you learn the city has a street, it says, “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.” So think about walking on streets of gold throughout eternity. And what today is everybody trying to get their hands on? They’re trying to get their hands on gold because everybody wants safe investments and the reason gold is a safe investment is because there’s a limited supply of it on the earth. Think about living in a time period where gold is so common, I mean, one of the most valuable commodities today is gold. So you’re living in the eternal state that gold is so common that it’s under your feet. And that’s what this street, how it’s described.
And it mentions there pearls, doesn’t it, pearls next to each gate, and here is the silliness of man again. And this again is another reason why I am not a fan of these progressive dispensationalists. One of them, David Turner writes about the eternal state concerning gold and oysters, and I can’t believe this passes for scholarship. I mean, this is like in academic books and journals, this quote here. He very arrogantly in my opinion writes: “Perhaps the absence of oysters large enough to produce such pearls and the absence of sufficient gold to pave such a city (viewed literally 1380 miles squared and high) is viewed as sufficient reason not to take these images as fully literal!” See how they’re always attacking literal interpretation? “…the preceding discussion serves to warn against a ‘hyper-literal’ approach to apocalyptic imagery….” [The New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:1-22:5; Consummation of a Biblical Continuum,” Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church, ed., Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 277.]
What he’s saying is you can’t take this literally because number one, there’s not enough gold in our world to produce streets of gold. And number two, we don’t have oysters large enough to produce the type of pearls that are spoken of. Well my question is, isn’t God the ex nihilo God? Can’t He create something out of nothing? Why do we handcuff God? Why do we put limits on God? God can just speak and gold and oysters and pearls for that matter…. Can God create a pearl without an oyster? Is that too hard for God. And these guys they limit what eternity is going to be like based on some standard of reasonableness in the present.
So those are some things that are going to be present in the eternal state. I think we’ll stop there. Next week we’ll talk about life in the eternal state. What are we going to be doing? Are we just going to be singing the Hallelujah chorus ten thousand million times or is there actual productivity and activity. So we’ll talk about that next time.