Walk In


As a single digit child, I used to listen to Tennessee Ernie Ford sing “I wanna be ready.” It was based on John’s vision of the New Jerusalem and gives the compelling proposition, “I wanna be ready to walk in Jerusalem just like John.” The lesson for today describes why that is such a compelling reality and provokes all who see the unsurpassable, unearthly, and extravagant beauty of the New Jerusalem to desire to be there.

I. Verse 1 – John sees the new creation that replaces the one subjected to vanity [Romans 8:21; 2 Peter 3:7, 10-13]

A. This present world presents a wild variety of scenes filled with ambivalence.

1. It is the consistent reminder of the curse of sin. “Cursed is the ground because of you, in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life, etc” (Genesis 3:17); “So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:8).

2. Revelation presents it as a place filled with shocking manifestations of divine wrath and the theater of dissolute passions of fallen man: men slay one another (6:4), there is famine (6:6), death prevails on humanity striking him from all angles (6:8), natural disasters can take heavy tolls of human life (6:14-16; 11:13). The world becomes a god for the abundance of its provision to entice the incessant demand fallen humanity has for immediate pleasure as an end in itself (18:3, 7, 11-14, 18, 19).

3. At the same time, though fallen, the natural order is the theater of God’s glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1) “You have set your glory above the heavens. . . . When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, etc. . .  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1, 3, 9). All people throughout all the world should observe the matchless power, wisdom, and beauty of God through common observations of the world (Romans 1:19, 20).

4. With all of the attention given to the created order, for all the centuries and millennia of its existence, with the present concentration of technology, we realize that we know only a small percentage of all that is contained in both its largeness and its smallness, its evident coherent simplicity and its inexplicable complexity. Its beauty is breathtaking and mesmerizing, yet God has destined it for destruction in its present manner of existence, for its present state does not give adequate opportunity for the unfettered manifestation of divine intra-trinitarian love and unrestricted beauty.

B. It is presently subjected to vanity to be renovated in part, replaced in part, and removed entirely in part. (“the sea was no more, . . . the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it” 21:1, 23; And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” 22:5).

1. Romans 8:21 indicates that the present order will “be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” When we, as God’s redeemed children, are clothed with immortality and our bodies are like the glorious body of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:53; 1 John 3:2), then creation will be released  from its own bondage and also enjoy the redemptive powers intrinsic to the removal of the curse.

2. Peter says that “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire” and that “the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” “We are waiting,” he continues, “ for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:7, 10, 12, 13). Unlike the present order, in which unrighteousness dominates and Satan himself is noted as the “prince of the power of the air,” and the flimsy and ephemeral confidence of the wicked rolls on from day to day not realizing they soon will fall (Psalm 62:9-12), righteousness will be abundantly present, exclusively dominant in this new order.

3. So, it seems, that this present earth will be purged of all that tends to corruption, replaced with a greater and incorruptible beauty as a fit place for glorified creatures to live and experience the divine presence and the heavenly bodies are to be replaced with visible displays of the uncreated glories and beauties of the self-existent, infinitely perfect God (The glory of God gives it light and its lamp is the Lamb” 21:22).

II. Verse 2 – The New Jerusalem – the beauty and perfection of the venue. He expands the vision of verse 2 in verses 9-22.

A. Coming down to this purged, renovated, and newly arranged earth will be the place that Jesus has prepared for his people, the New Jerusalem (John 14:1-3). It is called Jerusalem as indicative that it is a place especially set aside for the people of God, the presence of God, and the place in which God is worshipped purely. There priest and king were joined in giving peace with God and peace with men. Deliverance from enemies and from sin both were typified by Jerusalem and the presence in it of the Tabernacle during the time of David and the Temple during the time of Solomon until its destruction during the Babylonian invasion symbolized God’s favor toward his people.

B. Psalm 122 is a celebration of Jerusalem for all that it typifies in God’s favor to his people. In that Psalm the city is “bound firmly together” and to it the “tribes of the Lord” go up. There they “give thanks to the name of the Lord,” and it is there that they are looking to the time when they find “peace within your walls and security within your towers.” The penultimate reflection of that picture of Jerusalem is found in the church, as the people of God redeemed by their priest and ruled and protected by their king, gather to hear from their prophet and sing the praises of him who is all of these in one, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Jerusalem the joy and hope that David felt in contemplating its promise will be fulfilled

C. Chapter 11 has pictured the earthly Jerusalem as synonymous with Egypt and Sodom (11:8), because of the rebellion and rejection of Jesus that dominated its leaders and the purely earthly interests of the people. In that chapter we also envision a temple in heaven, the ark of the covenant, and manifestations of divine holy wrath seething (11:19) until the child of the woman would be received back into heaven. The city now has been remade and it has no temple because the temple is “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (21:22). Instead of rebellious inhabitants “the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it . . . but nothing unclean will ever enter it nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” (21:24, 27).

D. This Jerusalem is endowed with all that earth dwellers can conceive as constituting beauty but like nothing on earth.

1. Its wall was of jasper while the city itself was pure gold, clear as glass. This gold is recognized as such but is so pure that it appears as glass.

2. Its twelve foundations each are a precious gem. The price of each gem of such enormous proportions would be impossible to evaluate.

3. Each gate is a single pearl, breathtakingly lovely, mesmerizing in luster, and again immeasurable in value.

4. In addition to all the edifices of the city being gold as clear as glass, so is the street. The street, the place where dust and grime, the off-scouring of busy travelers falls and where useless things are trodden under the feet of men (Matthew 5:13) becomes a scene of never-ending fascination in its value and beauty.

5. Its light is the uncreated, infinite, all-sustaining, radiance of the glory of God in his redemptive covenantal love for his people.

E. This Jerusalem is perfectly fit for all the elect of God of all ages. It is especially prepared to accommodate them in exquisite splendor and fully satisfy every pleasure consistent with perfectly purified and holy desires.

1. Its twelve gates, gaining entrance into the city protected by a high wall so that only those whose names are in the Lamb’s book of life can enter (27), have the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.

2. Its twelve foundations are inscribed with the names of the apostles of the Lamb.

3. The measurements are 12000 stadia by 12000 stadia making it 144,000,000 square stadia and it is cubed then by another 12000 stadia in height.

4. All of this is to show that it is perfectly suited to all the redeemed of time, those that believed during the shadowy and typological time of the pre-messianic age, represented by the twelve tribes of Israel, and those that believed under the preaching of the apostolic message (1 Peter 1:10-12).

III. Verse 3 – The completion of the eternal covenant of redemption [compare verse 7]

A. God will dwell with them

B. He will be their God

C. They will be his people

D. These conditions give final fulfillment to the covenant announced in several places in the Old Testament.  For example, Jeremiah 24:7 says, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.” Other similar statements are found in Jeremiah 30:22; 31:33; 32:38; Ezekiel 11:19, 20; Hosea 2:23, Zechariah 8:8 and 13:9.

E. Peter applies the passage in Hosea 2:23  to Christians, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10). The writer of Hebrews applies the covenant in Jeremiah 31 to its fulfillment in Christ (Hebrews 8:10; 9:15). Revelation shows its ultimate fulfillment in 21:3 as the New Jerusalem comes down to be the habitation of the people of God.

IV. Verse 4 – Every manifestation of a fallen world will be gone (cf. 22:3)

A.  Sorrows, death etc. – All those things involved in the original curse of Genesis 3:16-19 have now been overturned by the blood of the Lamb. The New Jerusalem will harbor no remnant of the curse at all—all that has to do with death, with pain, with mourning, with sorrow, with distress, with destitution at the level of personal emotions will be gone. All that assaulted the spirit from indwelling sin will no more give shadows and distress to the conscience.

B. Verse 8 – Those that have committed themselves to the values and style of the fallen world will not be in the New Jerusalem (see also 21:27; 22:15)

V. Verses 5-7 – John restates the truthfulness of the prophecy and summarizes several key points

A. John reinvokes the original vision in heaven of one seated on the throne (4:2). He points to the purpose of his action in creation and in revelation.

1.In that original episode, the elders and four living creatures praised God for the manifestation of sovereign power, worthiness of honor as manifest in the creation and sustaining of the world. Now the one “seated on the throne” says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” The first creation, in which his invisible power and attributes were reflected in the things that were made (Romans 1:20), gives way to a new creation in which the splendor of beauty far surpasses even that of the first creation but also in which there is a visible and palpable presence of God Himself in his splendid beauty and power.

2. Also, he instructs John to “write this down” in light of the “true and trustworthy” character of the revelation. He states this again in 22:6 and also restates the blessing on the one who “keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” The original statement of this blessing appeared in 1:3. A curse, likewise, is pronounced on anyone who adds to or takes from “the words of the book of this prophecy” (22:18, 19).

B. God’s wisdom, purpose, power, and beauty constitute the purpose for the creation of the world. When the enthroned one stated, “It is done,” he meant that all that was intended in the covenant of redemption has been accomplished. The flow of history from creation, fall, promise, providence, incarnation, redemption, the calling and completion of the church as a bride for Christ has now consummated in the placing of all things under the feet of Jesus. His reign over hell and his enemies and his redemptive reign in heaven now is established to issue in the eternal manifestation of his moral prerogative, even duty, to “work all things according to the counsel of his own will . . . that we might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11, 12). God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He has created all things for his own glory and according to a purpose conceived as an original and intrinsic impulse in his nature. See Revelation 4:11.

C. God grants eternal life freely “Without payment” – Isaiah 55:1 is illustrated in brilliant colors: “Come every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” This invitation surely supports not on21:6 but also 22:17: “The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” As Paul taught often and clearly, sinners “are justified by his [God’s] grace as a gift [‘freely’] through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23, 24). Those dwelling here will never thirst. Jesus gives freely the living water of which he spoke to the Samaritan woman.

D.  Those who receive life freely also will conquer all that opposes the gift. “He who began the good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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