Today we will complete the book of Revelation. These chapters are the seventh and final vision cycle that close the book. This cycle begins with the dragon being chained and thrown into the abyss (20:1-3). This is another description of what we saw in Revelation 12:7-12. This is Satan being expelled from heaven and thrown down to earth. The thousand years represent the time between Christ’s First Coming and the three-and-a-half, which is the time Satan will be released, only to be destroyed. Satan’s binding and expulsion from heaven were spoken of by Christ during His first advent. Satan is the strong man (Matt 12:29). Christ bound Him so that the church could plunder his house, that is, the world as we reclaim the nations for Christ. That is why his binding is so he “might not deceive the nations,” a reference to God’s salvation being opened up to the whole world (this can also be translated “deceive the Gentiles”). Christ also announced the casting out of Satan (from heaven) with the completion of His work (see John 13:31) as judgment (see John 16:11).
John then sees those who “dwell in heaven” (see 12:12). These are those on the thrones (v. 4 – see 4:4). This is the elect of all time. Our coming to life (v. 4) and the first resurrection (v. 5) speak of our spiritual resurrection we experience in Christ (see Rom 6:1-11). That this resurrection is spiritual is clear in that it is contrasted with the second death (v. 6), which is clearly spiritual. This is spiritual life for those who are in Christ, and spiritual death for those who are not. The physical resurrection of the just and unjust alike happen after the 1,000 years (v. 5). And we are either spiritually raised with Christ now, or we will spiritually die for eternity.
We then get a brief overview of the three-and-a-half (vv. 7-10). Satan will be allowed to deceive the nations wholesale again – this will include the great apostacy from the visible church and the unparalleled persecution of the church by the deceived nations. We see again the Battle of Armageddon, which is the war of Gog and Magog. The battle ends with judgment (fire) from heaven, which is Christ’s judgment. Satan and his fallen angels will be thrown into eternal punishment.
Then comes the judgment of both righteous and the wicked man (see Dan 12:2, John 5:28-29). Christ is on the throne and the fallen creation is destroyed (v. 11). The books that are opened are those that detail the sin of the lost, and also the book of life that contains the names of those in Christ, who have no sin (v. 12). Physical death is destroyed forever, as is the place of the dead (the intermediate state), and the wicked are thrown into eternal spiritual death (vv. 14-15).
John then sees the New Heaven and New Earth (21:1). The old, fallen creation has been destroyed. That there is no sea has multiple referents in the Old Testament as well as other Jewish writings. The sea represents chaos (as pictured in Gen 1:2). Here, the new, final creation is being shown to be vastly superior to the old. Additionally, the sea was believed to be the gateway to Hades. In the new creation, there is no need for a place for the dead, as death is destroyed forever (v. 4).
The heavenly Jerusalem is the church, the bride of Christ (v. 2). The church is given the fulfillment of God’s repeated promise: He will be our God, and we will be His people, forever (v. 3). Christ then declares that He is making all things new (v. 5). This is the same Person in the beginning of John’s vision (v. 6 – see 1:8). Note the return to the promise for “the one who conquers” (v. 7). This reminiscent of the addresses in the first vision cycle. He is showing John the reward for those who persevere (see v. 3). Our greatest promise – our reward – is Christ Himself. Those who do not conquer will inherit eternity in the lake of fire (v. 8). This is all the reprobate, including those who apostatize from the visible church at the end.
John then describes the New Jerusalem, which is the church (v. 9). What John now sees is what Ezekiel sees in his vision after the war of Gog and Magog (compare v. 10 to Ezek 40:1-2). The city (the church) is described using heavenly language describing glory and heavenliness (see 4:3-6). The fullness of the elect is symbolized by the twelve gates (Old Testament saints) and the twelve foundations (New Testament saints) (vv. 12-14). Note the man with the measuring rod who measures the city (v. 15 – compare to Ezekiel 40:3). The man measures 12,000 stadia cubed (v. 16), with its wall 144 cubits (v. 17). This is again symbolic of the elect of all time (like the 144,000). This also follows the pattern of the Holy of Holies, which was a cube that contained God’s presence.
Like all of the furnishings in the presence of God in the Tabernacle and Temple, the entire city is made of gold (v. 17). This is the church in the immediate presence of God. That the city is pure gold, yet clear glass (see also v. 21), shows that this is heaven come to earth – the division is taken away (v. 18). The jewels in verses 19-20 are like those used throughout the Bible to describe those who are allowed in the presence of God (as symbolized by the High Priest’s breastplate – see Ex 28:17-21). There is no Temple in the city – God is the true Temple (v. 22). There are also no lights in the sky, because God is the light. This also shows the superiority of the new creation over the old. And the glory of the Lord now covers the whole earth (v. 24), access to God is unlimited and unhindered (v. 25), and only those who honor God and do no evil in this life – that is, those who are written in the book of life – will be there with God (vv. 26-27).
We see the new creation is the consummation of God’s original design. This was His plan all along. Like Ezekiel saw, John sees a river flowing from God and the Lamb (the “Temple” – see 21:22 and Ezek 47:1-7) with trees on either side (22:1-2). Man has been restored to perfect fellowship with God, and again has access to the Tree of Life (see Gen 3:22-24). The New Heaven and New Earth will not be under the curse (v. 3). And we will see Him face to face (v. 4) – something that meant death before, but no more, because there is no more death. This will be our eternal reality – everlasting life in God’s very presence! There will be no more night (v. 5 – see 21:25) – no more deceit, no more evil. And we will be with Him forever, with the earth finally filled and subdued by God’s perfect creatures.
In verse 6, the angel tells John that what he is seeing is a guarantee for God’s people. Christ then says He is coming soon (v. 7). We need to be awake and awaiting His return so that we can “keep the words of the prophecy and this book” – so we can persevere, endure, and conquer. John then addresses his readers to assure them that he saw all of this firsthand (v. 8). The angel tells John not to seal up the book (v. 10). It must be read because the time is near. Verse 11 tells us that this is for the elect only.
Jesus then warns of the coming judgment (v, 12) and describes Himself as He did throughout the first vision cycle (v. 13, 16). John pronounces blessing on those who wash their robes (v. 14) – this means those who hold fast to their testimony in this life (see 7:14, 19:8). Only we may “enter the city by the gates,” that is, enter into the true Church. We are then contrasted with the wicked (v. 15). But all are invited (commanded!) to come and take of what Christ alone can give (v. 17). John then warns that changing the prophecy in any way will prove one’s reprobation (vv. 18-19). Jesus, Who testifies to all that has been written assures His people He is coming soon (v. 20). As we live as sojourners in this world that hates us because it hates Him, we hold fast to our testimony, praying at every moment “come, Lord Jesus!” Amen!