The reign of Christ, 17:1-22:5

2. The dawning of the City of God, 21:9-22:5

i] The new Jerusalem


In John's vision of the Holy City, he symbolically describes the "new Jerusalem", "the bride, the wife of the Lamb." In symbolic language, John pictures the assembled people of God, gathered in the heavenlies, and by so doing he reminds his readers of the inevitable glorification of those who stand with Christ.


The Kingdom of God is at hand; The city of God replaces the secular city.


i] Context: See 17:1-6a. In 17:1-21:8 John is invited to see the ruin of the harlot Babylon and the demise of the Beast, visions reminding the Christian community that although evil is apparently victorious with the powers of darkness (often seen in the secular state) triumphant, their end is already enacted. God has cast down the powers of darkness and brought low their authority - no power prevails against God's might. Now, in this third section dealing with the reign of Christ, John is invited to see "the bride, the wife of the Lamb", the glorified Christian community. He sees the materials from which it is constructed, along with its mind-blowing beauty. The constant repetition of the number twelve serves as a reminder that this apocalyptic image of a glorious city represents the people of God (ie., 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles). Going on to paint the conditions found in the city, 21:22-22:5, John describes paradise in relational terms, of the marriage between the Redeemer and the redeemed - of light that needs no sun or moon, v23-24, of protection that needs no closed gates, v25-26, of a purity where nothing is unclean or shameful, v27, of health where life abounds, 22:1-2. In summary, in this city there is no curse, God in Christ is present with his people, v3-5.


ii] Background: See 1:1-8.


iii] Structure: The new Jerusalem:

John receives a guided tour, v9-10;

"Come I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."

The city described, v11-21:

Beauty, v11;

Gates and foundations, v12-14;

Measurements, v15-17;

Construction materials, v18-21.


iv] Interpretation:

In this vision, John describes a spiritual state (not literal) which fires the whole book. The present state of sin has moved on to judgment and now we finally come to blessing - the kingdom of God is established in power. It is the blessing for which we yearn and it is this blessing which fires our determination to stand against the powers of darkness, a darkness entrenched in our surrounding secular world. It may seem that all power and glory rests with the "whore of Babylon" (the secular city, well illustrated in John's time by the Roman Empire), but its apparent glory and power is short-lived, for in the age to come all glory and power will rest with the "Bride of Christ", (The new Jerusalem, the city of God, the heavenly assembly, the holy city, ie. the church universal, all believers). Black's New Testament commentary puts it this way, "Here is the real source of John's prophetic certainty, for only in comparison with the 'New Jerusalem' can the queenly splendors of Babylon be recognized as the seductive gauds of an old and raddled whore."


It is difficult to draw definite conclusions from the pictures painted by John. There are those who would take the description of the Holy City literally, but this is not John's intention. John tells us that the city is 1,500 miles long, wide and high (in multiples of 12). The Holy of holies is also a cube, the presence of God in the city itself. The foundations are precious jewels of 12 kinds, bearing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. Just as the prophets like Ezekiel did not want us to take their description of the new temple in a literal way, even less so does John want us to take his vision literally. So, it is a metaphorical image, but then how do we rightly understand the metaphors?

We are best to generalize the pictures rather than become too specific in our interpretation. For example, in v19-20 we are given the description of the foundations of the walls of the city, foundations which are covered in precious stones. The stones are listed for us - twelve types. Now what do we make of this? If it is a metaphor, what is it a description of? We know that there is some link in the list of stones with the signs of the Zodiac. They are given in the reverse order as the sun passes by the star signs. What do we make of this? We could say something like: the city of God reverses all known human reasoning. We also know that the stones are very similar to the ones on the High Priest's breastplate, Exodus 27:17-20. So, we could reason that here is the fulfillment of the high-priestly dress which would indicate something like: priestly access to God is open to all who are part of the new heavenly / spiritual community. We are best to generalize our conclusions.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 21:9

The new Jerusalem, v9-21: i] John is given a guided tour of the Holy City, v9-10. John is introducing us to a new vision shown him by an angel. He is carried away to a high mountain in the spirit (by the Holy Spirit????) and there, descending from heaven, is the city of God, the new Jerusalem, "the bride, the wife of the Lamb." John will go on to describe the beautiful bride in contrast to the raddled whore. Morris notes the similarity between this description of the new Jerusalem and that of Babylon, 17:1-6a, the point being that we have to choose which city we intend to live in.

ek + gen. "[one] of [the seven angels]" - [one] from [the seven angels came]. The preposition here serves as a partitive genitive. Referring to one of the angels in the vision of the judgment of the seven bowls. We don't know if this is the same angel as 17:1, but it probably doesn't matter.

twn econtwn (ecw) gen. pres. part. "who had" - the one having [the seven bowls]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "angels", and serving to form a relative clause as NIV.

twn gemontwn (gemw) gen. pres. part. "full" - being full. The participle is adjectival, limiting "bowels"; "bowels which were full of the seven last plagues."

twn ... plhgwn (h) gen. "of the [seven last] plagues" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / content, although Mathewson classifies it as a genitive complement of the participle "being full."

legwn (legw) pres. part. "came and said [to me]" - [and spoke with me] saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "spoke", redundant; "spoke ...... and said" See legwn 1:17.

soi dat. pro. "[I will show] you" - [i will show] to you. Dative of indirect object.

tou arniou (on) gen. "[the bride, the wife] of the lamb" - The genitive is adjectival, relational. In Western thinking a bride can't be a wife since she is the wife to be, but in Eastern thinking the betrothed, the wife to be, is all but married. The image of God's people as a wife to the Lord has both Old and New Testament precedents.


The city represents the people of God in all their splendor, assembled before the throne. It is the glorious realization of the kingdom of God - a people of God under the rule of God. The city is "come down out of heaven from God." John's apocalyptic imagery has the Christian community coming out of heaven to the new earth below - Babylon is replaced by the city of God in an uncorrupted Eden. This "coming down" is probably not a literal reality, but rather expresses a theological reality - the new Zion is a creation of God, and as such proceeds from God.

aphnegken (apoferw) aor. "he carried [me] away" - We might say: "I was possessed and saw as in a vision."

en + dat. "in [the Spirit]" - Expressing space / sphere, "in", but more likely adverbial, expressing manner, or possibly means, "by". Osborne opts for "the Spirit" who instigates a "visionary state"; a state of "prophetic inspiration", Blount. Smalley opts for "spirit", expressing "an ecstatic state." "The spirit", as REB, seems best; "He took me away in a trance to a high mountain", Barclay.

epi acc. "to [a great mountain]" - onto [a mountain great and high]. Here expressing motion "down upon." Note the parallel with Ezekiel 40:2. The bride-city is built (believers gather) on a high hill, typically the place where God meets his people.

thn aJgian adj. "[the] holy [city]" - [and showed me the] holy [city]. Modifying "city", the accusative direct object of the verb "to show." The sense being, pertaining to, belonging to God.

Ierousalhm "Jerusalem" - Standing in apposition to "the holy city." The holy city, Jerusalem = "God's true people", Beale.

katabainousan (katabainw) part. "coming down" - descending. The participle is probably adjectival, attributive, limiting by description "Holy City / Jerusalem", so forming a relative clause; "which was coming down out of heaven from God." This is the first in a series of adjectival participles running through to v14, although see note v12. Possibly adverbial, temporal; "he showed me the holy city of Jerusalem as she was coming down out of heaven from God", Cassirer, Knox. "This city descends, and thus takes the characterization, from God", Blount, cf., v2.

ek + gen. "out of [heaven]" - out of [heaven from god]. Expressing source/origin; "from." So also apo, "from God." The sense is that this city proceeds from God's domain, therefore it is of God's design.


ii] The city described, v11-21; a) The beauty of the city, v11. John goes on to describe the city, the assembled people of God, the body of Christ. Using beautiful picture language, he first tells us that the city radiates brilliantly, for it radiates the glory of God.

ecousan (ecw) pres. part. "it shone" - having. The participle may be taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting by describing "Holy City / Jerusalem", v10; "which was coming down from heaven and shining with the glory of God." Possibly adverbial, modal, modifying "coming down", "displaying the glory of God"; "with the sheen of God's splendor", Barclay, Moffatt. Note John's flexible use of the participle "having", reflected in the translation offered by the NIV, cf., 1:16.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the glory] of God" - The genitive is adjectival, probably possessive / verbal, subjective, but possibly epexegetic (a genitive of definition - limiting by specifying the type of glory in mind)

oJ fwsthr (hr hroV) "brilliance" - the radiance, a light-giving body [of it was]. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. "Glory" is again intended, imaging the radiance of the Lord's Shekinah glory; "shining with his brilliant presence".

timiwtatw/ (timioV) dat. surp. adj. "very precious [jewel]" - [like] a precious [stone, as a jasper stone]. The superlative is used to convey an elative sense, "very very precious", "rare", and is dative after the adjective o{moiV, "like", dative of the thing compared - same construction after the comparative wJV. Note, jasper represents the divine visage (4:3) so the city reflects divine glory.

krustallizonti (krustalizw) dat. pres. part. "clear as crystal" - being clear as crystal. Hapax legomenon, once only use in the NT - its meaning is unclear. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "jasper"; "like jasper which is crystal clear", "like crystal clear jasper".


b) Gates and foundations, v12-14. Its walls are high and its gates protected by angels - ie., it is impregnable and thus can no longer be violated by the powers of darkness. The names of the twelve tribes of Israel are on its gates, for it is the fulfillment of Israel's hope - the city is the final realization of the kingdom of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. The foundation of the city is the apostles - the city rests on the Word of God mediated by Christ and preserved for the church by the apostles.

ecousa (ecw) pres. part. "It had" - having. This participle probably continues to limit by description the "Holy City / Jerusalem", although there is a shift from the accusative to the nominative such that "Holy City / Jerusalem" has become the subject. This shift is a consequence of the focus being now completely on "Jerusalem", although as noted of "having" in v11, John's use of this participle is very flexible, cf., 1:16. Note that the feminine person has been retained, although there is a shift when the wall around Jerusalem becomes the focus. Porter suggests that this series of participles in v11-14 serve as finite verbs. They are certainly often translated this way, so NIV etc; "It had a wall great in extent and it had twelve gates", Cassirer.

teicoV mega kai uJyhlon "a great high wall" - a wall great and high [having twelve gates]. Accusative direct object of the participle "having". The sense is probably "a very high wall", ie., it is secure. The high wall, as with the twelve angels and the tower-gates, images God's protection of his people, or as Zechariah put it, "there is no wall, for the Lord is a wall of protection for his people." Note how the imagery reflects both Zechariah and Ezekiel's description of the new Jerusalem.

aggelouV dwdeka "with twelve angels" - [and at the gates] twelve angels. Accusative direct object of the participle "having". A possible allusion to Isa.62:6, "watchmen / guards", Mounce. "These angels are comparable to the angels of the churches and the twenty-four elders, who represent the true people of God, the true Israel", Beale.

epi + dat. "at" - at [the gates twelve angels]. John's favorite spacial preposition, here + dat.; the sense is probably "at".

toiV pulwnaV (wn wnoV) dat. "the gates" - the gates, towers, porches. The word is used for a tower entrance, not just gates, "gate-towers".

epigegrammena (epigrafw) neut. perf. pas. part. "on the gates were written [the names]" - [and names] having been written upon them. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting by description "names"; "he showed me the Holy City / Jerusalem .... which had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels and names which had been written on [them] which is (collective = "are") the names of the twelve tribes", cf. Ezk.48:31-34.

twn ... fulwn (h) gen. "of the [twelve] tribes" - [which is the names] of the [twelve] tribes. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

uiJwn Israhl gen. "of Israel" - of the sons of Israel. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic, limiting "the twelve tribes" by specifying them.


apo + gen. "on [the east]" - from [east three gates and] from [north three gates and] from [south three gates and] from [west three gates]. Expressing separation; "away from." In a similar pattern to Ezekiel's city there are four groups of three gates facing the four points of the compass. The order of the compass points is not significant as they are different in different cultures. The twelve serves to remind us that all the tribes are covered, covering all the corners of the world; - possibly making the point that the city is complete, even that it is open to all.


thV polewV (iV ewV) gen. "[the wall] of the city" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, expressing a derivative characteristic.

ecwn (ecw) pres. part. "had" - having. The string of the participles, "having", continue; we would have expected ecei, "has". Note the lack of concord with a shift to masculine person when "wall" is neuter and "city" is feminine. Most translations treat it as a finite verb; see "having" above.

qemeliouV (oV) "foundations" - [twelve] foundations. Probably "foundation stones" are intended, great stones upon which the wall is built, although like the temple, these great stones are visible. When we speak of a foundation we are speaking of something that is buried under the ground, but that is not the picture here. So, the wall of protection rests, no longer on Israel's patriarchs, but upon the apostles. Is this about building on the apostolic tradition of Christ's words? "The integration of the apostles together with the tribes of Israel .... confirms that ... the multiracial Christian church will be the redeemed group who, together with Christ, will fulfill Ezekiel's prophecy of the future temple and city", Beale.

ep (epi) + gen. "on [them]" - [and] on [them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the lamb]. John's favorite spacial preposition; "on, upon." The Greek is not explicit, but the intention probably is that each stone carries the name of one of the apostles of the Lamb. Note that the following genitives are best treated as possessive.


c) The measurement of the city, expressing the permanence and perfection of God with his people, v15-17. John sees an angel setting out to measure the city. This measuring is to define its grandeur and strength and thus, the security of the city for all who resides within, cf. Zech.2:1-13. Its size is 12 by the cube of 10, a perfect number. This indicates that it is the sanctuary of God as well as the habitation of all Israel. Its walls are thick and thus, impregnable.

oJ lalwn pres. part. "the angel who talked [with me]" - [and] the one speaking [with me had a golden measuring rod]. The participle serves as a substantive. "Angel" is intended.

iJna + subj. "to [measure the city, its gates and its walls]" - that [he might measure the city and the gates of it]. Here introducing a final clause expressing purpose; "in order to obtain the dimensions of the city from the outside", cf., Ezk.40:3-5. "The measuring reveals the perfection of the city", Koester.

authV gen. pro. "its [walls]" - [and the walls] of it. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or partitive.


tw/ kalamw/ (oV) dat. "[he measured the city] with the rod" - [and the city lies square and the length of it and the length of it as much as the breadth, and he measured the city] with the rod. The dative is instrumental, expressing means; "by means of."

epi + gen. "and found it to be" - John's favorite preposition seems to function here adverbially, replacing the adverbial accusative of measure; "for the extent of 12,000 stadia."

stadiwn dwdeka ciliadwn "12,000 stadia" - stadia twelve thousand. Literally 1,500 miles, but it is a figurative number, using the base 12 by the cube of 10, the perfect number, representing God's people, and extended indefinitely. The sense "infinitely large" is intended.

to mhkoV kai to platoV kai to uJyoV authV "as wide and high [as it is] long" - the length and the breadth and the height of it [is equal]. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. In simple terms the city is "a cube" (some have suggested a pyramid), as was the holy of holies in the temple, which of course implies, since there is no temple in the city, that the city is the temple.

isa adj. "as it [is]" - [is] equal. Predicate adjective.


The NIV11 improves their original tedious translation of this verse, "The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick."

tesserakonta tessarwn phcwn "144 cubits" - [and he measured the wall of it] a hundred forty four cubits. A symbolic number again expressing the idea that the 144,000, the faithful remnant of God's people, are securely contained within the city.

"thick" - John doesn't actually tell us whether the measurement is for the height, or the thickness of the wall. If height, it is only about 66 metres, which is a very low wall for a tall city.

anqrwpou (oV) gen.. "by man's [measurement]" - [measurement] of a man. The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, the 144 cubits is a measurement that belongs to humankind / human race, or better, attributive, limiting "measurement"; "a human measurement", Mathewson. The accusative metron, "measure", is adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to the measure."

o{ "which [the angel was using]" - which [is of an angel]. The neuter pronoun here with the verb to-be is likely to be epexegetic, "that is". The genitive aggelou, "of an angel", is possibly adjectival, possessive, so "that is, an angel's measurement", but again more likely attributive, "an angelic measurement." The RSV opts for possessive, "by a man's measure, that is an angel's." Probably the sense is that it's a human measurement standard which the angel was using to measure the city (for John's sake???), or he may be saying that angelic measurements are the same as human ones. There is the possibility that John is saying that the city is 144 cubits by human measurement, but that the angels have their own measurements such that what John sees in the vision is not necessarily the final reality, which reality is infinite.


d) John describes the material used in the construction of the city, v18-21. The walls are made of Jasper, a God-like jewel. They are covered by many precious stones, displaying the presence of God within the walls. The city glows, its gates are of pearl and its streets of gold. The splendor of the city is glorious indeed.

tou teicouV (oV) gen. "the wall" - [the foundation = building material] of the wall [of it was jasper and the city pure gold]. The genitive is adjectival, probably best classified as idiomatic; "the building material used in the construction of its walls." Again, this is the divine jewel, giving a red glow. So, like the city, the wall glows with divine radiance and thus divine protection.

authV gen. pro. "-" of it. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or partitive.

uJalw/ kaqarw/ dat. "[as] pure as glass" - [like] glass pure. Dative of the thing compared after the adjective oJmoion, "like". Clean or pure, but possibly in this context, clear, ie., it refracts the red glow. It is also possible that the clarity of reflection is intended. The gold is so pure, so highly refined, that it is mirror-like.


As already noted, numerous interpretations have been drawn from the 12 precious stones. In general terms, the jewels image of the brilliance of the night sky touching the earth, adorning the city in a rainbow of colours.

oiJ qemelioi (oV) "the foundations" - Nominative subject of the verbal participle "having been adorned." Probably the intention is "the foundation stones", Cassirer. As already noted, such stones are the large dressed stones sitting at ground level.

tou teicouV (oV ouV) gen. "of the [city] wall" - of the wall [of the city]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive, as is "of the city."

kekosmhmenoi (kosmew) perf. pas. part. "were decorated" - having been adorned. Again we have a participle which virtually functions as a finite verb; we could classify it a paraphrastic construction with an assumed verb-be eisin. Mathewson suggests the classification of a predicate adjective with an assumed verb to-be.

panti dat. "with every" - The dative is adverbial, probably manner, or accompaniment; "with all kinds of / with every different kind of jewel."

timiw/ adj. "precious [stone]" - "Beautiful" and "expensive" are other possibilities.

oJ prwtoV adj. "The [first] foundation [was jasper]" - the foundation [first was jasper, ............]. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. The NIV implies that the foundation stone is made of jasper. The Greek can certainly be read this way, but the intention may be "the first foundation stone was adorned with jasper", and so on ....


pulwneV (wn wnoV) "[the twelve] gates were" - [and the twelve] entrances, entrance ways, gate-ways [were twelve pearls]. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. An entrance tower may be intended.

ei|V e{kastoV "each" - each one [respectively of the gates was from one pearl]. Nominative subject of the verb to-be, with ana giving a distributive sense; "each one of the gates was of one pearl apiece", Zerwick.

twn pulwnwn (wn wnoV) gen. "gates" - of the gates. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

ex + gen. "was made of" - out of, from. The preposition may simply be taken to express source / origin, but it could also be classified as serving here as a genitive of material; "made out of, consists of." "Each gate was made from a single pearl", Barclay.

hJ plateia (a) sing. "great street" - [and] the street. The NIV has opted for the "main street", but it could mean "town square", or be taken collectively as "streets." If the main thoroughfare through the city is intended, namely the ceremonial way, it is possible that John is imaging the milky way, the brilliant heavenly highway that links heaven with earth, and upon which the redeemed will travel. Whatever, John's language is symbolic and serves to illustrate the divine presence in the new dwelling-place of the redeemed.

thV polewV (iV ewV) gen. "of the city" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

crusion kaqaron "pure gold" - was golden, gold pure. The adjective "pure" limits "gold". Beale suggests that the words are synonymous, taking "gold" to mean "golden / bright". So, "resplendent", a divine characteristic.

wJV "as [transparent glass]" - as, like [transparent crystal]. Comparative.


Revelation Introduction



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