Revelation 21:9-22:5 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How does John describe the heavenly city in Revelation 21:10b-11 (printed below?)

Then he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. (11) Possessing the glory of God, her brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:10-11)

John sees the heavenly city radiating with the glory of God. The new Jerusalem is coming down from the presence of God and, consequently, it is reflecting the glory of God—as did Moses when he came forth from the immediate presence of God (note Exodus 34:29). The brightness of the heavenly Jerusalem is compared to “a jasper, clear as crystal.” In Revelation 4:3 the Lord Himself is compared to a jasper stone; and in Revelation 4:6 John sees a sea of glass like crystal stretching out before His throne. Our Christian destiny in the new Jerusalem will be to radiate with the glory of God, perfectly reflecting the awesome beauty and purity of the Lord Himself (note Luke 6:40; Ephesians 5:25b-27).

2. How is the heavenly city described in verses 12-14 (printed below?) How would explain the meaning of this imagery?

It had a great high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates stood twelve angels. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. (13) There were three gates on the east, and three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. (14) The walls of the city had twelve foundations, and written on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:12-14)

The heavenly city is securely enclosed by a great and high wall. This majestic wall depicts for us the divine protection and security God ministers to His people (cp. Zechariah 2:5). At the twelve gates stand twelve angels. Just as the cherubim stood guard at the entrance to the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24); so, too, the angels of God guard the entrance to the heavenly Jerusalem. Our Christian destiny in the new Jerusalem shall be the enjoyment of a life of perfect security and tranquility under the watchful protection of God and His holy angels.

3. Whose names are written on the gates of the city (see verse 12 printed above under question #2?) Whose names are written on the foundations (see verse 14 printed above under the question #2?) What is the significance of this?

It is significant that the names of the twelve apostles form the foundation of the city, while the twelve tribes of Israel form the gateway into the city. The point being made is that the gospel preached by the apostles—the good news of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son—has always been the way of salvation from the time of Adam’s sin, it did not originate with the New Testament church (cp. Luke 24:25-27,44-47). The fact that the twelve tribes of Israel are described as the gateway to the heavenly city is portraying the fact that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22); that is to say, God ordained that the Savior of the world would come from the nation of Israel.

4. Describe the scene John relates to us in Revelation 22:1-2 (printed below).

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 street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve types of fruit, yielding its fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2)

In the center of the new Jerusalem John sees a luxurious park; and in the midst of the park there stands “the tree of life,” and throughout the park there flows the “river of the water of life.” John’s attention is first focused on “the river of the water of life.” The river, bright as crystal, flows out from the throne of God and the Lamb; this river is depicting the presence and the working of the Holy Spirit (cp. John 7:37-39a). Next John’s attention is turned to “the tree of life.” This tree derives its life from the river: the river flows directly through the trunk of the tree; what is depicted here is spiritual life, life generated by and sustained by the Holy Spirit. This tree yields twelve varieties of fruit, one variety each month—depicting the abundance of eternal life (cp. John 10:10b). Whereas Adam and his descendants were barred from the tree of life situated in the original garden of Eden because of their sin (cp. Genesis 3:24), our Christian destiny is to gain access to the tree of life that represents the blessing of life in the presence of God (note Psalm 16:11; Psalm 43:4).

5. How are God’s people described in verse 3 (printed below?) What blessings do they enjoy (see verses 4-5 printed below?)

There shall no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be there, and his servants shall serve him. (4) They shall see his face, and his name shall be written on their foreheads. (5) There shall no longer be any night. They will not need the light of a lamp, nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5)

We are informed that the throne of God shall be there and His servants shall serve Him. Note: the sovereign rule of God never is set aside or comes to an end. The paradise of God is not a “spiritual democracy,” but is rather a blessed theocracy (the rule of God over His people and over His creation). What does undergo a transformation is not the role of God as King and sovereign Lord; but rather the disposition and attitude of His people: His servants shall serve Him willingly and wholeheartedly. Verse 4 informs us that God’s servants shall see His face, and shall bear His name on their foreheads. Our Christian destiny in the paradise of God is the supreme privilege of serving as the priests of God (in Revelation 22:3 the Greek word translated, “to serve,” means, “to perform priestly service”) and to render this service continually (cp. Hebrews 13:15-16; Romans 12:1). At the conclusion of verse 5 we are informed that God’s servants “shall reign with him forever and ever.” Our Lord Jesus Christ (in His capacity as the incarnate Messiah), because He fully submitted Himself in service to His Father, was exalted to share in the very dominion of God (note Philippians 2:7-9). What is true of the Savior shall also be true of those who follow Him.