The day is coming when a great explosion will occur and a cleansing fire will sweep across our entire planetary system. This catastrophic event will mark the end of time, the final defeat of Satan, and the ushering in of eternity. After describing the millennium, the apostle John said:
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them (Rev. 20:11).
The apostle Peter also described this day of judgment when he wrote:
The heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up (2 Pet. 3:10).
In this manner the material of our present universe will be purged, purified, and transformed. Out of this all-encompassing conflagration will emerge a new planet which John called “a new heaven and a new earth.” The heavenly Jerusalem, where the saints of the ages now dwell with Christ will then descend from a region untouched by the flame and come to rest on the new earth, where it will remain forever as the capital city of heaven. It will then be called the New Jerusalem. The apostle John described this great event in Revelation 21.
When we think about the eternal home of all who believe in Jesus as personal Savior, some questions naturally arise: “What kind of place will it be?” “What will we do there?” Many of our questions are answered in Revelation 21 and 22. Included is a description of the beauty of the heavenly city from without and its glory within. In this chapter we will consider these two aspects of our eternal home.
ITS BEAUTY FROM WITHOUT
Let’s imagine we’re standing on a vast plain with the heavenly city towering above us in resplendent beauty.We see a brilliant, shining city, with light streaming through its jasper walls and pearly gates, and a full spectrum of color gleaming from its jeweled foundation.
Its Jasper Wall. As we gaze in awe on the city, the first thing to attract our attention is its massive jasper wall. The apostle John described it as follows: “Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall” (Rev. 21:11-12). In verse 17 he said this wall measures 144 cubits in height (216 feet). Even though we may not be able to identify exactly what kind of jasper this is, we do know that these semi-precious stones are translucent in composition, so that light is able to pass through them. From these jasper walls, therefore, radiate brilliant rays of dazzling color for all to see. The glory of the city will thus be visible from afar, and even the dwellers in the area outside the walls will share in its brightness.
Although the wall around the city is real, it is also symbolic. The purpose of the wall is not to preserve the city against invaders, for God will have no enemies in the new earth. Being 216 feet high, it impressively signifies that no one will enter the city apart from God’s grace. The wall is too high to be scaled by human effort, and the only portals are the 12 guarded gates. The requirement for admittance is salvation, and no one who has rejected God’s plan will be able to go in. Salvation is the gift of God’s grace to those who humbly acknowledge their need of forgiveness and who receive Jesus Christ as Savior.
Its Jeweled Foundations. The next thing to catch our vision as we look at the city is its jeweled foundation. Normally, foundations undergird the walls of a city and lie below the ground where they cannot be seen. But this is not the case in the New Jerusalem, for the foundation supporting its walls is fully visible to all and is indescribably beautiful. Comprising 12 layers of different precious stones—from sapphire to emerald—the wall stretches all the way around the city.
Many Bible students believe that these jewels reflect all the colors of the rainbow, though we do not know the precise characteristics of each stone. Beginning at ground level, these were probably the colors seen by the apostle: the jasper stone may have been a light green or yellow; the sapphire, a sky-blue or azure; the chalcedony, containing a combination of colors, was mostly green and blue; the emerald, bright green; the sardonyx, red and white; the sardius, reddish in color; chrysolite, golden yellow; beryl, sea-green; topaz, yellow-green and transparent; chrysoprasus, golden-green; jacinth, violet; and amethyst, either rosered or purple. The radiating light of the city, shining out through the jasper wall and blazing through the open gates, reflects from these precious stones in splendrous color.
The beauty of the city to the observer from the outside will be magnificent, as described in Revelation 21:19-20. In the foundation stones will be inscribed the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb (v.14), those valiant men of Israel who first proclaimed the message of a risen Christ to the Gentile world.
Its Pearly Gates. In the walls of the heavenly city are 12 gates of pearl, and they will never close. Here is John’s description:
Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel . . . . The twelve gates were twelve pearls; each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass (Rev. 21:12,21).
Some Bible scholars believe that these gates of pearl suggest salvation by grace. Even as a wound to an oyster results in the formation of a valuable pearl, the gates of heaven can be entered only because the Lord Jesus was “wounded for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:5). Although men wickedly rejected Him and crucified Him, it was through this death that salvation was made possible. Now, all who believe on Him can look forward to entering the pearly gates of heaven. Jesus Himself said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (Jn. 10:9).
The gates are open at all times and in every direction, for salvation is still offered freely to everyone. The angels who keep watch at the open gates, therefore, are a wonderful contrast to the cherubim who guarded the closed gate of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned. These angels keep the way of access open, while the cherubim kept the Garden closed to fallen humanity.
In the gates are inscribed the names of the 12 tribes of Israel, for “salvation is of the Jews.” The Lord Jesus Christ was born of the seed of Abraham and David, and only those who come through the blessedness of His “Messianic gate” can pass through the pearly gates into heaven.
ITS BEAUTY WITHIN
Having envisioned the beauty of the New Jerusalem from the outside, let us now pass through one of those pearly gates and enter the city. As we cross the threshold, we gaze in wonder, for before us lie a golden street, a crystal river, and the tree of life.
Its Golden Street. One of the characteristics of the heavenly city is the abundance of gold. A precious commodity throughout man’s history, gold has been used as an overlay in works of art and as a standard of value, and has been the means of a great amount of both good and evil in society. It served the purposes of God in the tabernacle and temple, for much gold was in evidence there; it was also used by idolaters in the making of images. On earth, men have fought, suffered, and died for it. But in the New Jerusalem, gold will be so plentiful that it will be used for cobblestones and building blocks. And it will be like glass, possessing transparent qualities, so that the glorious light of the holy city will both shine through it and be reflected by it. Here is John’s description:
The city was pure gold, like clear glass. . . . and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass (Rev. 21:18,21).
Traditionally, gold has symbolized purity. In the wedding band, for example, the circle speaks of endlessness and the gold stands for purity. The golden street of the New Jerusalem, therefo re, might we ll suggest the pure and holy walk of God’s redeemed in their eternal home. And the brightness of the city, reflecting from the gold that abounds everywhere, w ill have its uncorrupted counterpart within the heart of every citizen of heaven. Yes, holiness and purity will pervade the eternal city.
Its Crystal River. A river clear as crystal will flow through the New Jerusalem. The apostle John declared:
He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 22:1).
Just as in Eden there was a river to water the garden, so also in the New Jerusalem there will be a river of life. It will begin at the throne of God, the very uppermost part of the city, and it will course downward through the entire area.
Cities have always been dependent on a good water supply, providing for their inhabitants freshness, cleanness, and life. Even today the river continues to be an emblem of fruitfulness, vitality, and abundance, its waters being fed by melting snows from mountain ranges and refreshing springs, and constantly purified as they tumble downward to be used by people. In fact, our Savior very fittingly used the words “rivers of living water” (Jn. 7:38) to indicate the outflow of blessings from the life of the believer through the work of the Holy Spirit.
In the New Jerusalem, a river of crystal will flow forever, reminding us for all eternity that God has graciously and abundantly provided for our every spiritual need.
Remember, life in eternity will not be a nebulous existence in some nameless place. No indeed! We will lead rich and full lives in glorified bodies.We’ll dwell on a renewed earth in a real city of gold, and our lives will be filled with significance and meaning as we give praise to our Redeemer and gladly do His bidding.
This crystal river flowing through our eternal home will be of sparkling beauty and of clarity beyond the purest water man has ever seen. Think of it! All who believe in Christ will walk the banks of this glorious crystal river. What a blessed joy will then be ours!
Its Tree Of Life. A third item of special interest in the New Jerusalem will be the tree of life. When Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord God drove them from the Garden of Eden. One reason He did this was to prevent them from having further access to the tree of life. You see, they had rebelled, bringing the curse of death on themselves. The tree of life was therefore out of bounds for them. But in our eternal home we will once again be free to partake of the fruit of this tree, for Revelation 22 says:
In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life (v.2).
The term tree of life does not refer to one single tree, but to a species. Apparently there will be many such trees, for we are told that “on either side of the river, was the tree of life.” While only one tree of life stood in Eden’s garden, here in the New Jerusalem—man’s eternal paradise—a multitude of these trees are seen lining the river and producing fruit continuously. Their leaves will be a special blessing to mankind, for John said that “the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
It’s difficult to envision just how the trees, the crystal river, and the street of gold will be related. Some excellent Bible teachers feel that a river will flow through the middle of a broad street, and that alongside the river on each bank will be the trees. Others believe that a grove of trees is centered between the avenue of gold on one side and the river on the other. Regardless of which view you may choose, it’s evident that those who conceive of heaven as a place where the redeemed will do nothing but sit on golden stairs playing harps are grossly mistaken. Life in heaven will be filled with beauty and variety.
Christian friend, we’ve been concerned with what the Bible tells us about our eternal home. We have seen its beauty from without: its gleaming jasper walls, its jeweled foundations, and its gates of pearl.We have also seen its glory within as we have envisioned the street of gold, the crystal river, and the tree of life.
This glimpse of our eternal home should bring two responses to the heart of the true believer in Christ. First, there should be a renewed determination to place top priority on the spiritual and eternal rather than on the physical and temporal. May we therefore, in anticipation of the glory and beauty of our eternal home, begin right now to “lay up . . . treasures in heaven” (Mt. 6:20) by putting the Lord first and by a constant willingness to serve Him.
Second, the thought of heaven should cheer us when we become discontented with life and discouraged about the future. No matter how badly things may be going or how difficult the struggles, the prospect of that wonderful abode awaiting us should be a source of encouragement and hope.
Remember, in heaven we will live forever in the presence of our loving Savior. Life will be rich and full, and we will know a purity, bliss, and love such as could never be experienced here.