The Holy City

An exposition of Revelation 21:9-27. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, November 30, 2008.

You’ve seen the commercial.  Two “good old boys” in a beat up aluminum boat in the middle of a quiet lake.  One is reeling in a prize-winning catch.  The other is opening a cooler filled with ice-cold beer.  Then comes the line – “Life just doesn’t get any better than this.”  Life on a quiet lake with the fish biting and plenty of cold beer may be some folk’s idea of heaven but not mine!  If that’s all we had to look forward to I wouldn’t be all that motivated or encouraged.

According to the Scripture there is a glorious existence waiting beyond this veil of tears.  The Bible says, “This world is not our home.”  We are merely pilgrims here.  Our home is in heaven.  Our citizenship is in glory.  That is the believer’s hope.  It has comforted and encouraged the hearts of the saint through the centuries.  In times of heartache and trouble the believer looks up!  We are reminded to lift our thoughts beyond this present world to the world to come.  That is not escapist – it is the life of faith.

We’ve been called to heavenly-mindedness. Called to dwell on that which is to come rather than that which is destined to pass. It is at times hard to recognize but this life is a temporary stop over.

As a political prisoner, John walked the rocky shores of Patmos.  It was there on the Lord’s Day he was taken to glory and given a glimpse of what was to come.  He was told to write down what he saw and heard.  Thus we are given a glimpse of eternity.

Chapter 4 = a door standing open in heaven, “Come up here!” God firmly seated on the throne of the universe – unquestioned, unchallenged. John experienced the worship of the heavenly beings and the elders.

Chapter 5 = the Lion of Judah, the Lamb slaughtered. The one empowered to take the scroll and unfold history. Again – and explosion of praise and worship.

Chapter 20 = the demise of Satan the old serpent and the final judgment.

Chapter 21 = life for those who enter into glory.

Our text this morning is found in Revelation chapter 21 beginning with verse 9.
Text: Revelation 21:9-27

This is an extraordinary vision – a sight beyond description.  This is a familiar passage.  One that has inspired countless artist and musicians with streets of gold and gates of pearl.  But look carefully.  There is something more significant here than meets the eye.

Thesis: The revelation of the New Jerusalem provides us insight into the character and the heart of our God.

Look beyond the description of the city and learn something of its architect and builder. The logical question is, “Is this literal?”  Maybe, maybe not.  Now, hold on, I do believe in a “literal” interpretation of the Bible.  The Bible is literally literarily true meaning it is to be understood literally as it is intended.  A metaphor is a metaphor.  A picture is a picture.  The book of Revelation is highly symbolic to force a wooden literalism on it would be a mistake.  That in no way takes away from the beauty and splendor of heaven. Keep in mind John is struggling to find words adequate to describe what he saw.

I’m convinced that heaven will be far more glorious than any of us have ever imagined! I’m certainly not going to be disappointed if this is not a literal description.

As we walk through this passage, I want us to draw some conclusions about the architect.

I. The glory of the holy city and its massive walls reflect the majesty of God and the unity of His people.  (21:9-14)

As the city descends John is struck by the brilliance of the city. “Having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

There is this diamond-like quality about the city as it descends. Picking up light and reflecting it in a dazzling display of color. The word “glory” is the word “doxa” – doxology = worship, honor. Heaven is a place where the glory and majesty of God is constantly reflected.

By the way, none of these materials are brilliant in the dark! This is what concerns me about so much of the talk of heaven.  Attention is given to the glory of the materials without understanding if God is not there – there is no brilliance.  If God is not present, there is no glory!

John describes the massive walls – symbolic of protection and security.

II. The magnitude and beauty of the holy city reflect God’s perfection and His extravagant love.  (21:15-21)

This is where it gets interesting to me. The angel giving John the guided tour pulls out a measuring rod.

The first thing we note is the city is laid out in a perfect cube. Equal in length, depth and height. Perfectly symmetrical, perfectly balanced, reflecting the perfect unity of the Godhead.

If you remember the holy of holies was also a perfect cube. Note the dimensions: 1200 stadia = 1500 miles. 1500 miles long, 1500 miles wide and 1500 miles high! That’s 2,250,000 square miles – now that’s a big city. Roughly – Florida to Maine to Minneapolis to Houston.

Now if you take this measurement as literal – there is plenty of room for everyone in heaven.  Because 2,250,000 square miles on the ground and 1500 miles up from there gives you a total of 375,000,000 cubic miles enough room to easily accommodate 100 billion people.  It is estimated that 30 billion people have lived on earth over earth’s history.

The point = the graciousness of God. His inclusive love. God made adequate provision for a great, unnumbered host!

When you note the materials used, this was no budget job! No cinder blocks and no shag carpet. Apparently God doesn’t work with a finance committee. This is reflective of God’s wild, extravagant love.

III. The inhabitants of the holy city reveals God’s abundant grace.  (21:22-27)

As John catches his breathe, he is a bit surprised as he realizes there is no temple. The temple was the focal point for the Jew. When a Jew was away from Jerusalem, he long to see the temple again. The temple was the place to meet with God. It was the place of worship and celebration. It dominated the landscape – no temple? How could that be?

But there will be no need – the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb will be its temple. The presence of God will fill the city. His radiant glory is everywhere present.

Man will be restored in his relationship with God. The fall will be reversed. Nothing impure will ever enter. Sin and death are done away with.

Heaven will be a place of indescribable beauty and grandeur.  But more importantly it will be a life lived in the presence of the living God.

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