REV. 21 Notes
21:1-5 The Restoration of Eden: The vision now turns its focus to the reward of the saints. The beautiful world that came under the curse of sin at the beginning is now restored as God creates "a new heaven and a new earth." God's original purpose in the creation of the earth is fulfilled as it is made the eternal home of the redeemed. There, God establishes the New Jerusalem, the capital city of His glorious kingdom.
The earth itself which sin has so defiled is to be exalted and honored above all other worlds in the universe, for "the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be His people" and He will "be their God." "And God shall wipe away all the tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be more pain."
The redeemed of the earth will enjoy peace, perfect health, eternal life and a continual growth in their knowledge and love of God. Isaiah 11:6-9; 33:24; 35:5-10; John 14:1-3. There the powers of body and mind will continue to develop; the intellectual, spiritual and social faculties will continue to broaden and expand. The treasures of the universe will be open for study. At every hand are new delights to enjoy, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend and the company of unfallen beings who share the joy and wisdom gained through millennia spent in the contemplation of God's handiwork. And the years of eternity, as they roll, will continue to bring more and still more glorious revelations, for "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9.
21:6-8: God, who is "the beginning and the end" of all things, says, "It is done." The great controversy is ended; the rebellion is over; the entire universe is once again in harmonious accord. "He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time." Nahum 1:9.
Jesus invites every thirsty soul with these precious words of welcome, "If any man thirsts, let him come unto me, and drink." John 7:37. "I will give unto him that is athirst...of the water of life freely," vs. 6. He promises that the overcomers will "inherit all things," but the wicked will "have their part in the lake" of "fire," "which is the second death."
21:9-14 The New Jerusalem: One of the angels which poured out the "seven last plagues" directs John's attention to the holy city, the New Jerusalem coming down "out of heaven from God." It is shining with the glory of God and sparkles like a precious jewel, vs. 11.
The city is a perfect square, vs. 16. It is surrounded by a high wall (vs. 12) and has 12 gates, 3 on each side of the city, vs. 13. On each gate it is the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel, vs. 12. There are also 12 foundations inscribed with the names of the 12 apostles, vs. 14.
21:18-21: The city is of "pure gold, like unto clear glass." It is decorated with "precious stones," and the foundations are beautiful gems shining with all the colors of a rainbow. Each of the 12 gates is made up of a single magnificent pearl.
21:22-27: "God Almighty and the Lamb" are its "temple," and their glory "is the light thereof," and "there shall be no night there." There will be no evil or wickedness there, but only "they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
KRELL: 1. Prepare for your destination (21:1-8).2 John writes, "Then I saw3 a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away."4 The expression "heaven and earth" is a biblical designation for the entire universe (cf. Gen 1:1). So John sees a transformation of the entire universe.5 The first heaven and earth will "pass[ed] away"6 (cf. Matt 24:35). This does not mean extinction or annihilation, but transformation.7 It will be a dramatic change in quality from one level to a higher form.8 In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new (kainos) creature; the old things passed away (parerchomai); behold, new things have come." This doesn't mean that when we were converted to Christ, we ceased to be. I was not annihilated altogether, but transformed from the inside out. Likewise, the heavens and earth will be radically altered and gloriously reborn. This present universe will undergo a vast renovation-a rebirth or remaking (see Acts 3:21).9
The result of this renovation will be a "new earth" that will be our eternal home. What I am saying is: We are not going to live in heaven forever. No, this is not a misprint. The Bible teaches that we will be in heaven for an appointed time, we will then rule with Christ on earth, and finally we will experience the eighth-day of creation and live on a new earth (cf. 21:5). This teaching startles most people because many have wrongly assumed that believers will spend their lives in the sky. However, the Bible teaches that man's ultimate destiny is an earthly one. Yes, we will one day return to God's original plan as revealed in the garden of Eden.
Another striking statement is made in 21:1b: "and there is no longer any sea."11 Remember, at the time of this writing, John is exiled on Patmos, separated from his church by the Aegean Sea. For John, the sea was a painful barrier and wall of isolation from fellowship with his beloved flock.12 To the ancient peoples, the sea was frightful and fearsome, an awesome monster, a watery grave.13
They had no compass to guide them in the open sea. On a cloudy day, their ships were absolutely lost without the stars or the sun to guide them. Their frail ships were at the mercy of the tempestuous ocean's fearsome, angry storms. The loss of human life was beyond calculation. So the sea represented a vast barrier for nations, continents, and people groups. The sea was a separator of mankind around the globe...a destroyer of human life.14 But no more! No more geographical barriers to separate us. No more violent sea storms to bury victims in watery graves.15 God will renovate the world, as we know it.16
In 21:2, John sees "the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride17 adorned for her husband." "The holy city, New Jerusalem" is in contrast to the former Jerusalem.18 As the old Jerusalem was Jesus Christ's capital during the millennium, so the New Jerusalem will be His capital for eternity. This is the place that our Lord is preparing (John 14:1-3). The "New Jerusalem" describes both the saints (21:3-7, 24-27) and their eternal dwelling (21:2). The city is everything the bride is; the bride is everything the city is. In this simile, Christ is the husband (21:9-10; cf. 3:12). It is a glorious relationship.
The most glorious aspect of eternity is that God will be present. In 21:3, John writes, "And I heard a loud voice19 from the throne,20 saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people,21 and God Himself22 will be among them."' Two times in this verse, the Lord states that He will dwell among His people. The supreme blessing of the New Jerusalem is that God will dwell among His people, and they will experience intimate fellowship with Him (cf. Ezek 37:27; 48:35).23 Any previous intimacy with God will be blown away by what we experience in eternity.
This verse tells us that God is going to dwell with us. He's going to hang out with us! He's going to be ever-present. This is mind-boggling! Unfortunately, we are finite creatures. When we hear of this incredible blessing, we check our watch to see when church ends. Yet, what makes heaven heavenly is God's presence! He alone is the only One that can satisfy us. Therefore, we must pray that God helps us to realize our inner desire to know Him. Since He has placed this yearning within us, He will merely have to help us rediscover our neglected or untapped desire.
Another glorious aspect of eternity is that evil and suffering will be absent. In 21:4, John promises us that "He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away" (cf. 7:17; Isa 25:8). Verse 3 describes the benefits of the New Jerusalem positively, and verse 4 does so, negatively. This reference to wiping away tears highlights God's compassion for His people. Sorrow, death, and pain will all end along with the tears, mourning, and crying that result from them. This is a final reversal of the curse (Gen 3). All these former experiences will be gone forever then. However, note that the removal of tears will take place after the judgments, including the judgment seat of Christ, when some Christians will suffer the loss of reward (1 Cor 3:15; cf. 1 John 2:28). The "first" things are the former things, the things associated with the old creation.
In 21:5, John says, "Out with the old and in with the new." John records, "And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'" John turned from describing the New Jerusalem briefly to describe some of God's utterances (cf. 1:8; 20:11). "Behold" introduces a special pronouncement, namely that God will bring a new creation into existence (cf. 21:1). He assures us that His words are "faithful and true." The Lord then said to John, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost" (21:6). The judgments of the tribulation (cf. 16:17) and of the whole, old creation stood accomplished (cf. 21:5). Jesus said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, suggests that the Lord God Almighty is the initiator of creation, the source and origin of all things. Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, points to the fact that He is the end of everything, that is, He is the goal or aim of all things (1:8; 22:13; cf. Isa 44:6).
His promise of abundant satisfaction for the thirsty is metaphorical, symbolizing His ability to meet the deepest needs of His people (7:17; cf. Isa 55:1; John 4:13-14; 7:37-39). This is an invitation to anyone, including believers, to come to God to receive freely from Him, what is truly satisfying. It is a beautiful Gospel invitation (cf. 22:17). Besides this promise being guaranteed by God's faithfulness (21:5), it is also guaranteed by His power (21:6).
In 21:7, the Lord states, "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son." The overcomer will inherit the blessings of the new creation.24 The phrase "I will be his God and he will be My son"25 is defined elsewhere as a statement of special honor, not of salvation. The Davidic covenant promised to David's son, Solomon, "I will be a Father to him and he will be a son to Me" (2 Sam 7:14). The intent of this phrase was to signify a special, intimate relationship. It is a special honor associated with the Davidic covenant, including privileged intimacy and ruling authority. A person can be a son and not necessarily behave as a son. A true son reflects a life of obedience (Jer 7:23; 11:4). A willingness to yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit is characteristic of the sons of God (Rom 8:14).26
In contrast to the overcomer, the Lord utters these frightening words: "But for the cowardly28 and unbelieving29 and abominable30 and murderers31 and immoral persons32 and sorcerers33 and idolaters34 and all liars,35 their part will be in the lake that burns36 with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (21:8). This verse serves as a description of the individuals thrown into the lake of fire as a result of the great white throne (20:11-15). These eight particular evils especially characterize the unfaithful during the period of the great tribulation. These are also the very evils which are most tempting to the believer, during the intense persecution and evil of the last days. In this verse eternal sinfulness is in view. It is a mistake to think that this verse is describing the way the unsaved behave here and now. The verse says nothing about the current behavior of believers or unbelievers. Rather, it concerns the eternal sinfulness of unbelievers (cf. John 8:24). Unbelievers die in a state of sinfulness. Forever they remain sinners. Believers, however, do not remain in a state of sinfulness because they are justified by faith (Rom 4:1-8; 8:33-34). There will be no sinners and no sin in the new heavens and the new earth.37 According to 1 John 3:2, "when He [Jesus] is revealed, we shall be like Him."
The reason that you must "book your destination" is because the costs are high. Heaven or hell awaits every person; the choice is yours. Will you trust in the finished work of Christ to secure your destination? If so, you will spend eternity with God.
[John's initial interest in the New Jerusalem was in its citizens. In 21:1-8, we are told who will inhabit the New Jerusalem, as well as those who will be excluded. When we come to 21:9-21, we find John taking a closer look, as it were, at the city itself].
2. Upgrade your destination (21:9-21). One of the blessings of our eternal destination is that everyone will experience an upgrade. What is the most beautiful place you have ever seen? Can you describe the physical features of the city? That's what John does in 21:9-21. These verses make me wonder if John was an interior designer on the side. In 21:9-11, John likens our eternal home to a gem. He writes, "Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, 'Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.'38 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city,39 Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven40 from God41 having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper." The first and most important characteristic that John noted was its radiant glow. It shone with the splendor of God Himself because He was in it.42 John compared the glory of the city to that of a beautiful gem. Jasper stones were very beautiful but not always clear. As mentioned earlier (cf. 4:3), this is probably a crystal-clear gem with many facets of brilliance; probably what we call a diamond. This stone described God Himself earlier (4:3), so its brilliance is a further reflection of God's presence in the city.
In 21:12-21, John further explains the greatness of our eternal home. But this is a most challenging task. The great pastor and writer, Ray Stedman (now with the Lord) used to say, "For John to try to explain to finite humans what this new state is like is similar, said, to trying to explain the concepts of relativity and quantum physics to a two-year-old." This is the truth! John writes, "It had a great and high wall,43 with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west.44 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.45 The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall.46 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.47 And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements.48 The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.49 The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper [light green]; the second, sapphire [blue]; the third, chalcedony [gray or green]; the fourth, emerald [green];50 the fifth, sardonyx [brown and white]; the sixth, sardius [red]; the seventh, chrysolite [yellow]; the eighth, beryl [blue-green]; the ninth, topaz [yellow-brown]; the tenth, chrysoprase [apple green]; the eleventh, jacinth [blue]; the twelfth, amethyst [purple].51 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl.52 And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass."53 Why would John spend so long with a description of the various precious gems out of which the city is built? The length of this section suggests that there is an important lesson to be learned here. I would like to suggest three areas of application that this section suggests: (1) For those saints whose lot is poverty, like the saints in Smyrna (2:9), John's description of the splendor of the New Jerusalem is great encouragement.
Whatever material benefits have been forfeited for their faith, the eternal riches of the New Jerusalem will more than adequately make up for.54 So if you feel like you're barely making ends meet, remember the eternal home that awaits you.
For his first sermon in an elementary preaching class, Lawrence, an African student, chose a text describing the joys we'll share when Christ returns and ushers us to our heavenly home. "I've been in the United States for several months now," he began. "I've seen the great wealth that is here-the fine homes and cars and clothes. I've listened to many sermons in churches here, too. But I've yet to hear one sermon about heaven. Because everyone has so much in this country, no one preaches about heaven. People here don't seem to need it. In my country most people have very little, so we preach on heaven all the time. We know how much we need it."55
(2) For those who are anti-materialistic, and who feel that all that is beautiful and priceless is to be disdained, this section reminds us that there is nothing evil about what is beautiful or expensive, or else heaven would not be made of such precious and priceless material things. Some Christians give the impression that heaven will be made out of second-hand materials; that everything is from the Goodwill or Salvation Army, and painted that ugly greenish-brown. Beautiful and priceless materials are absolutely appropriate in heaven, for God is worthy of that which is most beautiful.56 Don't disdain the beautiful things of this world. Celebrate them for what they are. Nothing is evil in and of itself.
(3) For those who are rich in this world's goods, or who are striving to become so, the splendor of heaven is a healthy antidote for materialism. The Laodicean saints thought that they were rich, but they were informed that they were poor (3:17-18). No matter how much wealth these saints could have accumulated, it would pale into insignificance in comparison to the wealth of heaven. And even if it were possible to "take it with you" to heaven, it would be of no value. After all, if the streets of the New Jerusalem are paved with such pure gold (21:21), the impure gold which we now possess would not even be suitable for road paving. Let those who would suppose that they are rich compare their wealth with that of the New Jerusalem.57
A man who has a layover at an airport does not go into the bathroom, frown at its decor, and start redecorating! Why? Because he doesn't live there. He has a home in another place. While he is away he will get by with only what he absolutely needs, in order to have more money with which to furnish his permanent home. Why do we Christians work so hard at trying to make our life in this world more comfortable? This is just the airport and we are in transit. We should spend our energy on enhancing our eternal reward, and not worry so much about the bare walls in the airport restrooms.58 Let us invest our lives in what will really last and matter for all of eternity.
[As we come to the concluding verses of Revelation 21, John is careful to describe for us what will not be in heaven. That may sound negative, but it is entirely positive. Heaven will be heaven as much for what will not be there as what is there. Having told us what and who will be there, John will now tell us what and who will be missing].
3. Appreciate your destination (21:22-22:5). In 21:22-27, John describes the character of the new city. It is known by what is not there. John writes, "I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty59 and the Lamb are its temple. 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. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 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." In 21:22-27, we discover the five blessed absences of heaven. (1) There will be no sanctuary or temple because God and Jesus are the temple (21:22). The whole city will, therefore, be a virtual temple. The Lamb will play the central role in this temple along with Almighty God.
(2) There will be no sun or moon because God is her light and the Lamb her lamp (21:23). The need for created light sources will end when the Creator Himself lives among His people. God illuminated the camp of Israel with His presence in the pillar of fire, and He lit the Holy of Holies with His presence between the cherubim. He will similarly dispel all darkness of all kinds in the new city. The Lamb is the radiance of the Father's glory (Heb 1:3), but the Father is also the light (22:5). No more flashlights. No more changing light bulbs (the one mechanical thing that I can do). The vast wattage of God will supply all the light that is needed. It will be the Jesus Christ Light and Power Company.
(3) There will be no self-glory. Nations and kings will "bring the glory and the honor of the nations" into the New Jerusalem. There will be no reveling in past success or greatness; the glory will all be given to God. The identity of these nations and kings is difficult to determine.60 It is clear from the context that John is talking about a group of people who have access to the New Jerusalem but who don't live there. There is only one group of people left on earth to go into eternity in their physical bodies-believers that served Christ during His millennium kingdom. They go into eternity in their physical, glorified bodies, not spiritual, glorified bodies like we will have because they did not experience death and resurrection. These people will go into eternity with bodies like Adam and Eve had at their creation before they were flawed by sin.61 Their physical bodies will be maintained through a special provision from God ("the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations," 22:2b). In the New Jerusalem the gates will never close; anyone can enter anytime (21:25-26). These nations and kings, therefore, may enter whenever they wish, pay homage to God, and seek out the leaves of the Tree of Life for their continued health and well-being.62
(4) There is no sin. Nothing unclean will enter the New Jerusalem (21:27a).
(5) There are no sinners-only glory and honor, nothing defiling (21:27b). Only the blood-bought have the ticket. Only believers will enter the city. The unsaved will in no way be able to do so.63 Evidently, any believer will be able to enter the city since the contrast is with those whose names are not in the Lamb's Book of Life (i.e., the lost). This verse warns the reader that the only way to gain entrance into this city is to have one's name recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life (cf. 20:15).
The late, great Bible teacher, Vance Havner once said, "There are a lot of questions the Bible doesn't answer about the Hereafter. But I think one reason is illustrated by the story of a boy sitting down to a bowl of spinach when there's a chocolate cake at the end of the table. He's going to have a rough time eating that spinach when his eyes are on the cake. And if the Lord had explained everything to us about what's ours to come, I think we'd have a rough time with our spinach down here."64
Rev. 22 Notes
22:1-7: In the celestial city there is "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." "The tree of life" is there and bears a different type of fruit each month of the year. This beautiful river and majestic tree represents God, the source of life and immortality. To regularly drink of the water and partake of the fruit is to live forever. They are also symbolic of the spiritual life that comes from God. "There shall be no more curse." The curse of sin and its consequences fell upon mankind because of the sin of our first parents. Genesis 3:14-19. This curse is now seen everywhere, in man, beast and plant (Romans 8:19-22), but in the new earth no trace of the curse will be found.
The separation between God and humanity is finally healed, "And they shall see His face." He is their God, and they are His people, in body, mind and soul. His character of love is reproduced in them, symbolized by "His name...in their foreheads." No longer subject to persecution, the saints of God "shall reign for ever and ever."
22:10-17: In these verses Jesus summarizes the last few events of the prophecies in the book of Revelation:
· The close of probation, "He that is unjust..." (vs. 11; see notes on Revelation 15:5-8);
· The Second Coming, "And, behold, I come quickly" (vs. 12);
· The reward of the righteous, "have right to the tree of life..." (vss. 12, 14);
· And the punishment of the wicked, "For without are..." (vss. 12, 15).
Christ sends this message, His greatest and final invitation, far and wide, by all available means, to all who will listen, "Come," and "take the water of life freely." This is the most profound invitation ever given to mankind! Your response will be the greatest decision that you will ever make!
Today, while the door of mercy is wide open "The Spirit of the Bride says, 'Come.'" Will you come? Will your name be written in the Lamb's Book of Life? It can be! He invites you to come to Him today.
22:18-19: A dire warning is given to anyone who adds to the prophecies in this book or takes away anything from them.
22:20-21: Christ promises, "Surely I come quickly." John fervently expresses his desire for the blessed event, and then pronounces a blessing of the "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" upon each of us who have, with open hearts, diligently studied the prophecies of this marvelous book.
KRELL: In 22:1-5, John explains the restoration of Paradise (cf. 2:7; Gen 2; Luke 23:43; 2 Cor 12:2). Up to this chapter, the New Jerusalem seems to be all mineral and no vegetable. Its appearance is as the dazzling display of a fabulous jewelry store; we wonder if there is no soft grass to sit upon, no green trees to enjoy, and no water to drink or food to eat. However, here are introduced the elements which add a rich softness to this city of elaborate beauty. John writes, "Then he showed me65 a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (22:1-2).
The pure river seems to be symbolic of the refreshment and sustenance that God provides,66 though it, like the city itself, is probably also a literal river (cf. Gen 2:10, 14).67 John described the river he saw as bright or clear as a crystal; it was a shimmering, sparkling stream of unpolluted water. This river proceeded from the throne that belongs to God and the Lamb.68 This throne evidently stood at the head of the main street of the city so that looking down this street the throne appeared to be in its middle.69 The point of the passage is to teach that, in the eternal state, God's people will live at the source of the life-giving stream, the very presence of God Himself.70 This lone river signifies power, purity, and eternal life, in the eternal city that has its constant source of life in God.
In 22:2, John also saw the Tree of Life. When Adam and Eve fell, they lost their access to the Tree of Life in the garden of Eden (cf. Gen 2:9; 3:22-24). In the eternal city the residents will have access to the Tree of Life there.71 This tree was perpetually, rather than seasonally, in fruit; it produced a new crop of fruit each month of the year. Evidently the new creation will not have a lunar calendar, since there will be no moon (21:23), but another type of calendar will define months. Most fruit trees in the old creation bear fruit only a few months each year at most. In contrast, God's blessing of fruitfulness will mark life in the new earth. The Tree of Life in the garden of Eden could perpetuate life forever (Gen 3:22, 24). Evidently that will be the function of this tree in the new earth as well, to sustain immortality.
In 22:3-4, John goes on to write, "There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads."72 John tells us there will no longer be a curse. The curse in view is probably the curse that God pronounced on the old creation at the fall (cf. Gen 3:14-19; Zech 14:11; Mal 4:6). God will have intimate fellowship with His people because this curse has now been lifted. In this perfect place, we will serve Him.73
Last week I was talking with another area pastor. We were discussing the great challenge of enlisting people to serve (e.g., nursery, children's Sunday school, prayer ministry, etc.). Then it dawned on me that, like most pastors, I was guilty of not regularly challenging our people to serve outside of our church walls. I realized that I was likely guilty of not stretching our people by encouraging them to serve in an area in which they are particularly gifted. So if you ever hear me implying that ministry or service is primarily inside these church walls, please, slap me silly! I release you to serve with Child Evangelism Fellowship and Union Gospel Mission. I urge you to have a felt-needs neighborhood Bible study. God wants many of us to serve Him outside the walls of this building.
In 22:4, we also learn that God's bond-servants will see God's face; we will enjoy personal, intimate fellowship with Him. We will be able to do this because we will be pure in heart, righteous, and holy then (cf. Ps 11:7; 17:15; Matt 5:8; 1 Cor 13:12; Heb 12:14). Adam and Eve's sin broke their fellowship with God, and they hid from Him (Gen 3:8; cf. Exod 33:20, 23). Our ability to view God's glory is limited now (cf. Job 19:25-27; 2 Cor 3:18; Heb 9:7), but then it will be unhindered (1 John 3:2).
Our section closes in 22:5 with these words: "And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever." The final point John stressed was the great glory of God that will illuminate the whole new earth (21:23-25; cf. Zech 14:6-7). Previously he mentioned this to show how glorious the city will be, but now he did so to emphasize what delight this will result in for the city-dwellers (cf. Num 6:22-27). He added that His bond-servants will reign with Him forever, not just in the millennial kingdom (20:4, 6). This is the fulfillment of God's desire and command: that man should rule over His creation (Gen 1:26). Evidently, faithful believers will have more authority in the new creation than unfaithful believers, as will be true during the millennium (cf. Matt 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27).
Our faithfulness in life prepares us for higher service in heaven. Who knows but what He will give to each saint a world or a solar system or a galactic system to operate. Remember that Adam was given dominion over the old creation on this earth.74 Thus the prophecy of things that shall take place after present things (1:19), which began in 4:1, closes with a picture of God's servants worshipping around His throne and ruling under His authority.75
I'd like to introduce you to one of my best childhood friends [take out a VCR and remote]. Most of you know that I'm a sports fan. I'm sad to say that when I was growing up I wasn't just a sports fan, I was a sports addict. I would always videotape the games that I would miss when I was not at home. But I was different than many sports fans. I didn't rewind the tape to the beginning to view it. Instead, I rewound to the climax to discover who won and who lost. If my team lost, I wouldn't even watch the game. In fact, I would tape over the game. But if my team won, I'd rewind the game back to the beginning, get out some snacks, and watch the whole game. Some people think that this method can't be much fun. On the contrary, no matter how bad things look for my team, I don't have to worry because I know how the game ends.
Life is like that. If you have placed faith in Christ, you know the final score. God has given us a remote control (the Bible) that fast-forwards to the end of the age. The book of Revelation tells us that, in the end, we win! No matter how bad things look, if you have a VCR mentality you know you have a glorious destination and future.