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Revelation 21:9–21

“The one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal” (vv. 15–16).

Popular-level expositions of biblical prophecy, particularly those that look to specific current events as being predicted in Scripture, frequently spend much time on texts such as Revelation 21:9–21 and Ezekiel 40–48. In so doing, they often take the dimensions of the new Jerusalem given in these texts as literal measurements of an actual physical city to come. But such expositions miss the point of these texts. These chapters employ symbolic language to make their point about the nature of the coming new creation and restored people of God, not to describe the dimensions of an actual city.

This should be clear from Revelation 21:9, which introduces the description of Jerusalem’s measurements by calling the city “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” We know, of course, that the bride of Christ is none other than the church (Eph. 5:22–33; Rev. 19:1–8), so these descriptions of the new Jerusalem in today’s passage tell us something important about the church. It is also important to note that the measurements given describe a city that is more than 1,300 miles wide, 1,300 miles long, and 1,300 miles high, with those numbers being as high as 1,500 miles on each side depending on the exact modern equivalents of the numbers John gives (Rev. 21:16). This is a city that is impossibly large in terms of its physical dimensions. The point is that God will not have a people few in number when all is said and done but that His church will include a vast number of men and women. Moreover, the dimensions of the new Jerusalem give us a city that is a perfect cube, just like the Most Holy Place of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:16–20). God’s people will be holy enough for God to dwell among them, just as the Most Holy Place was the dwelling place for the Lord under the old covenant.

The walls of the new Jerusalem have twelve gates inscribed with the twelve names of the tribes of Israel and twelve foundations bearing the names of the twelve Apostles (Rev. 21:12–14). The point is that the bride of Christ will include all believers from both the old and new covenants and that the foundation of the church is the testimony of the Apostles to the person and work of Christ. The twelve foundations are also adorned with jewels that essentially match the twelve stones on the breastplate of the old covenant high priest (vv. 19–20; see Ex. 28:17–20). The church in glory will be a beautiful community of priests to our God.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

The depiction of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 22 tells us that the church in glory will be incredibly beautiful, encompassing people from every nation; perfectly holy, a community of priests; and eternally secure, protected from all dangers. Today, we are to strive to make the church reflect what it will be on that final day by preaching the gospel to all people and striving for holiness and truth in the church’s life and ministry.

For Further Study
  • Exodus 19:1–6
  • 2 Chronicles 3
  • Ephesians 2:11–22
  • 1 Peter 1:13–25

The Promise to Those Who Conquer

The Eternal Light of God

Keep Reading The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

From the December 2020 Issue
Dec 2020 Issue