Revelation 21:10, 21:22 – 22:5
Chapters 17-20 introduced a vision of God’s triumph over evil. An angel told John (the author of this book—the one who sees this vision):
“Come here. I will show you the judgment
of the great prostitute who sits on many waters,
with whom the kings of the earth committed sexual immorality,
and those who dwell in the earth
were made drunken with the wine of her sexual immorality.” (17:1b-2).
John saw a vision of ten kings who made war on the Lamb, but were soundly defeated (17:14).
Another angel presented John with a vision of the destruction of Babylon (chapter 18)—and a vision of rejoicing in heaven over the end of that evil empire (19:1-10).
Then John saw a vision of a rider whose name is “the Word of God.” He was mounted on a white horse (19:13) and was leading an army mounted on white horses “to strike down the nations” (19:15). He has on his garment and on his thigh a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (19:16).
Then John saw a vision of “a great white throne, and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There was found no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne” (20:11-12). The books were opened, to include the book of life, “the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works” (20:12). “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire” (20:14-15).
Chapter 21 begins with John’s vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1a)—the first heaven and earth having passed away (21:1b). He “saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2). God promised that “he will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more,” (21:4) and “Behold, I am making all things new” (21:5). The faithful will receive water “from the spring of the water of life” (21:6-7), but the faithless will be “in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (21:8).
In the verse just prior to our lectionary reading, an angel said, “Come here. I will show you the wife, the Lamb’s bride.” (1:9).
Our lectionary reading is focused on the new heaven and earth—a vision that has given Christians great hope. Christians have often been criticized for paying too much attention on the next world, and ignoring the problems of our present world. However, there is no reason to believe that a focus on the new heaven and new earth detract from efforts to redeem our present world. C.S. Lewis, in his book, Christian Behavior, says:
“If you read history,
you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world
were…those who thought most of the next.
It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world
that they have become so ineffective in this (world).
Aim at Heaven and you will get the earth thrown in.
Aim at earth and you will get neither.”
That comment might seem natural for a Christian author, such as C.S. Lewis—but Gordon Allport, an eminent psychologist and longtime member of the Harvard faculty, expressed similar sentiments in his book, The Individual and His Religion:
“We could probably prove that throughout history
those Christians who have accomplished
the most practical benefit in this world
are those who have believed most fervently in the next.”
REVELATION 21:10. THE HOLY CITY, JERUSALEM
10He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
“He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain“ (v.10a). In both Old and New Testaments, mountains are places where people encounter God or experience some sort of revelation from God. Moses met with God on Mount Sinai and received the tablets of the law there. Jesus went up a mountain to teach his disciples what we now know as the Sermon on the Mount.
“in the Spirit“ (v.10a). The angel (see v. 9) carries John away “in the spirit.” This phrase, “in the spirit,” is used often in the New Testament—and by a number of authors (Acts 19:21; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 14:2; Ephesians 4:23; 6:18; Philippians 2:1; Colossians 1:8; 1 Peter 3:18; 4:6; Revelation 1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).
There are three possible meanings for “in the spirit,” and we can’t be sure which John intended in this verse. The first possibility is that the Holy Spirit inspired this vision and/or accompanied John on this journey. The second possibility is that John went on this journey “in the spirit” as over against “in the body.” The third possibility is a combination of the first two.
“and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God“ (v.10b). The picture here is not the movement of the faithful from this world to the next, but rather the redemption of this world. “The righteous…do not ascend to the new heaven; rather the new heaven descends to earth in the form of the New Jerusalem” (Wright, 767).
REVELATION 21:11-21. NOT IN LECTIONARY
11having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, as if it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12having a great and high wall; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. 13On the east were three gates; and on the north three gates; and on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. 14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. 15He who spoke with me had for a measure, a golden reed, to measure the city, its gates, and its walls. 16The city lies foursquare, and its length is as great as its breadth. He measured the city with the reed, Twelve thousand twelve stadia. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. 17Its wall is one hundred forty-four cubits, by the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. 18The construction of its wall was jasper. The city was pure gold, like pure glass. 19The foundations of the city’s wall were adorned with all kinds of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; 20the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprasus; the eleventh, jacinth; and the twelfth, amethyst. 21The twelve gates were twelve pearls. Each one of the gates was made of one pearl. The street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
It seems unfortunate that the lectionary skips these verses, which describe the “holy city, Jerusalem” (v. 10) in detail:
• For one thing, this description is quite vivid, and easily captures our imagination. It thus possesses homiletical potential.
• For another, John presents the holy city as a stunningly grand place—a fact that we should celebrate.
• Finally, we often hear phrases derived from these verses—”streets of gold” and “pearly gates”—so people are primed to hear preaching related to those images.
The list of the jewels in the foundations of the wall (vv. 19-20) appears to be derived from the jewels adorning the priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:15-21; 39:10-14).
Note the frequent occurrence of the number twelve in these verses. There were twelve tribes of Israel and twelve apostles. The number twelve appears frequently in other contexts (Exodus 24:4; 28:11; Leviticus 24:5; Numbers 13:1-16; 17:2; Joshua 4:9; 1 Kings 4:7; 18:31). The number twelve seems to indicate a kind of spiritual completeness. When Judas died, the apostles asked God for guidance, and then cast lots to determine a successor apostle, which restored the number twelve. As Dale Bruner puts it in his commentary on Matthew, “the number eleven limps.”
REVELATION 21:22-27. I SAW NO TEMPLE IN IT
22I saw no temple (Greek: naos) in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. 23The city has no need for the sun, neither of the moon, to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24The nations (Greek: ethne) will walk in its light. The kings of the earth bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 25Its gates will in no way be shut by day (for there will be no night there), 26and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it so that they may enter. 27There will in no way enter into it anything profane (koinos), or one who causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
“I saw no temple (naos) in it“ (v. 22a). There are two Greek words for temple—hieron, used for the temple and its grounds, and naos, used for the sacred sanctuary. The word used in this verse is naos.
In their wilderness wanderings, the Israelites (at God’s direction) made a tent-like place of worship called the tabernacle that represented the presence of Yahweh in their midst. Once they had established themselves in the Promised Land, Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem to take the place of the tabernacle.
Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Solomon’s temple in 587-586 B.C. and took most of the Israelites into captivity in Babylon. When Cyrus, the Persian king, allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland, they rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem—work that they completed in 516 B.C. This second temple was much more modest than Solomon’s Temple, but served the same purposes—symbolizing the presence of God in the Israelites’ midst, and providing a place to bring their offerings and to conduct their sacrifices.
In the eighteenth year of his reign (20-19 B.C.), Herod the Great began an ambitious reconstruction of the temple—enlarging it and making it much more majestic. That reconstruction took more than eighty years, and was finally completed in 63 A.D. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D.—less than a decade after the reconstruction of the temple was completed—and more than two decades prior to John writing the book of Revelation.
John’s vision was not of the old Jerusalem, but the new Jerusalem—the ideal Jerusalem—the perfected Jerusalem. Even in this heavenly city, however, he saw no temple.
“for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple” (v. 22b). The temple is missing from the new Jerusalem, because it is not needed. The “Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb” serve as its temple. In the new Jerusalem, people need no designated building where they can worship God, because they will worship continually. It is the place where “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).
Paul said that Christians are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; see also Ephesians 2:19-22). The implication is that Christians should “Come out from among (the unbelievers, and)…. touch no unclean thing” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
“The city has no need for the sun, neither of the moon, to shine“ (v. 23a). In our present world, the sun and moon are essential to life. The sun provides the light that makes life possible. Without sunlight, no plants could grow and no animals could survive.
God has provided abundantly for our sunlight needs. The sun has been shining for billions of years, and promises to continue to shine for billions more. It is just the right size—and just the right temperature—and at just the right distance from the earth to allow life as we know it to exist. Nevertheless, it uses nuclear fusion to create heat and light—and it will someday exhaust the fuel that allows it to do so. When that happens, life as we know it will not be possible.
But we need not fear, because the glory of God will light the new Jerusalem—and the glory of God is limitless—eternal.
“for the very glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb“ (v. 23b). When John refers to the Lamb, he means the Christ—the risen Messiah.
This imagery has its roots in the book of Isaiah, where the prophet said, “The sun shall be no more your light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light to you: but Yahweh will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory” (Isaiah 60:19; see also Isaiah 60:1-2).
In the Prologue to the Gospel of John, we heard, “The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:9). The context makes it clear that the author was talking about Jesus. Later, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
“The nations (ethne—nations or Gentiles) will walk in its light. The kings of the earth bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. Its gates will in no way be shut by day” (v. 24-25a). John appropriated the language of Isaiah 60:10-11 for use in verses 24-25a. That passage from Isaiah reads as follows:
“”Foreigners shall build up your walls,
and their kings shall minister to you:
for in my wrath I struck you,
but in my favor have I had mercy on you.
Your gates also shall be open continually;
they shall not be shut day nor night;
that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations,
and their kings led captive.”
In its original context, Jews who had been exiled in Babylonia had returned to their homeland—to Jerusalem. However, they soon discovered that Yahweh, who had made their return possible, had not made it easy. They experienced opposition from local people, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple ground to a halt (Ezra 4; Nehemiah 4-5).
Just as the original Israelites had grumbled and doubted when they experienced obstacles in the wilderness, so also these former exiles experienced obstacles that created a similar crisis of faith. They wanted to know if Yahweh would prove faithful. Would he keep his promises?
Isaiah 60 promises that “Nations (Hebrew: goyim—Gentiles) shall come to your light” (60:3)—and that “foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you” (60:10)—and “that men (shall) bring to you the wealth of the nations” (60:11)—and that the nations that refuse to serve Judah “shall be utterly wasted” (60:12). It promises that “Yahweh will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory” (60:19).
Christians of the first century also experienced obstacles, such as persecution, that caused them to doubt—to need reassurance. John’s vision appropriates for Christians some of the promises given through the prophet Isaiah to Jews centuries earlier.
The idea in these verses is that the new Jerusalem will include ethne—Gentiles—those who had largely been excluded from Yahweh’s covenant people, the Israelites. They will be excluded no more, but will walk by the light of the glory of God.
“Its gates will in no way be shut by day (for there will be no night there)” (v. 25). There are two promises here, and they work together. The first promise is that the city’s “gates will in no way be shut by day.” The second promise is that “there will be no night there.” Putting those two promises together, we find that the gates of new Jerusalem will never need to be shut.
Walls and gates are intended to provide security against enemy forces. We know about walls and gates. People increasingly choose to live in gated communities, where no one can enter without a resident’s approval. In large cities, people try to protect homes and businesses with a plethora of steel bars, gratings, walls, and gates. We install increasingly sophisticated electronic security systems to warn of intruders. We must use passwords to prevent theft. We must employ police forces to keep criminals at bay—and armies to provide security from threats abroad. We must keep hundreds of thousands of people behind bars to restrict their access to innocent people whom they might otherwise harm.
But in the new Jerusalem, none of that will be needed. Gates will stand open all the time. There will be no need for security systems—or prisons——or locks on our doors—or police—or military forces. Just imagine! In a place where everyone is honest, we won’t need to worry about the security of our money or credit cards or bank accounts. We won’t need passwords. We will be able to dismantle all our walls and gates—even the electronic ones. The new Jerusalem will be absolutely safe and secure.
“for there will be no night there“ (v. 25b). Nighttime can be frightening. When it is dark, we are more likely to stumble and fall. Criminals prefer to do their evil deeds under the cover of darkness, so there is a genuine threat associated with night. People often awaken in the middle of the night, troubled by a problem that they are helpless to resolve until daylight comes. Winter darkness often contributes to depression, especially in the far north and south latitudes.
In both Old and New Testaments, but especially in the New Testament, “night” and “darkness” are used metaphorically to symbolize evil or danger or judgment (Micah 3:5-6; Zechariah 14:7; John 9:4; 11:9-10; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:6-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5). Nicodemus came to visit Jesus by night, presumably to avoid detection by his peers (John 3:1-10). Judas left to betray Jesus at night (John 13:30).
But there will be no night in the new Jerusalem, because “the very glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (v. 23).
“and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it“ (v. 26). This cannot mean that the nations (Greek: ethnon) can add to the glory and honor of new Jerusalem. It must mean that the nations will bring what they have to make an offering to God—to will do their best to honor God.
“There will in no way enter into it anything profane“ (koinos) (v. 27a). The word koinos means unclean or defiled or unholy. The Bible uses the words “clean” and “unclean to speak of spiritual rather than physical cleanliness. Israelites could be rendered unclean by eating animals proscribed by the law (Leviticus 11)—by giving birth (Leviticus 12:2ff.)—by contracting leprosy (Leviticus 13)—or by coming into contact with certain bodily discharges or dead bodies (Leviticus 11:39; 15:18). But the Torah also prescribes remedies for various unclean states so that unclean people might become clean. The purpose of these laws was to establish Israelites as a holy people—separate from other people—set apart to be God’s people (Leviticus 20:26).
“or one who causes an abomination or a lie” (v. 27b). Earlier, when describing “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH,” we saw that her cup was filled with “abominations and the impurities of the sexual immorality of the earth” (17:4). When describing her fall, we heard that “all nations were deceived” by her (18:23). It is that sort of uncleanness and deception that will not be present in the new Jerusalem.
This verse serves as a warning. While we are saved by grace, we are also called to be a holy people—and there is an eternal penalty associated with lives that persist in unholy living—that revel in abominations or falsehoods.
“but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life“ (v. 27b). The book of life is mentioned on several occasions in both Old and New Testaments.
• Moses asked God to forgive the Israelites for their golden calf—but if God were to refuse, Moses requested, “Please blot me out of your book which you have written” (Exodus 32:32). The implication was that God recorded the names of the redeemed in that book.
• The Psalmist asked that his persecutors “be blotted out of the book of life, and not be written among the righteous” (Psalm 69:28).
• The book of Daniel pictures a judgment scene in which “the judgment was set, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:10).
• The prophet Malachi mentions “a book of memory (that) was written before him, for those who feared Yahweh and who honored his name” (Malachi 3:16).
• Paul mentioned his fellow workers “whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3).
The book of Revelation mentions the book of life in five passages (including our current verse):
• Jesus promised the church at Sardis, “He who overcomes will be arrayed in white garments, and I will in no way blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (3:5).
• John saw a vision of a horrible, blaspheming beast, and said, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been killed” (13:8).
• Also, “Those who dwell on the earth and whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel when they see that the beast was, and is not, and shall be present” (17:8)
• The most detailed description of the book of life is found in Revelation 20. “I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works. Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire” (20:12-15).
It is clear from these various verses, then, that the book of life is where the names of the redeemed are recorded. It is these redeemed people—and only them—who will enjoy life in the New Jerusalem.
REVELATION 22:1-5. THE RIVER OF LIFE
1He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations(Greek: ethnon—from ethnos). 3There will be no curse any more. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants serve (Greek: latreusousin—from latreuo) him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5There will be no night, and they need no lamp light; for the Lord God will illuminate them. They will reign forever and ever.
“He (the angel) showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street” (v. 1-2a). These verses bring to mind Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. When he asked her for a drink, she questioned how he, a Jew, would ask a Samaritan woman for a drink. He said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” She asked where he could get such water, and he said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:7-14).
“Springing up to eternal life!” What does that mean? It means that that Jesus’ “living water” is like an artesian well that flows faithfully through summer and winter—through good times and bad. It will slake our spiritual thirst—a thirst that goes to the core of our being.
Those of us who are blessed with running water tend to take water for granted—unless we are complaining about what it costs to water our lawns. It is a much different situation for millions of people today, and it was certainly different for first century residents of the Mediterranean world. They had to draw water from a well and carry it to their homes—a tedious chore. Or they washed their clothes in a nearby stream. Or they searched their pasture lands, hoping that the spring that they had seen earlier in the season would still be there.
The phrase “water of life” occurs four times in the book of Revelation (7:17; 21:6; 22:1; 22:17). In each instance, “water of life” is associated with the satisfaction of deep spiritual needs.
In the verse under consideration (22:1), the angel shows John “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city.” If you have seen a fast-flowing mountain stream on a sunny day, you know what “clear as crystal” means. The water in a mountain stream is beautiful as it splashes across the rocks.
This “water of life” has its origins in “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” It serves as an expression of God’s love and providence. It runs through the heart of the city, making it fully accessible to all the residents.
“On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month” (v. 2b). This language has roots in the book of Ezekiel, where Ezekiel saw a vision of a river bordered on both sides by trees. He said, “By the river on its bank, on this side and on that side, shall grow every tree for food, whose leaf shall not wither, neither shall its fruit fail: it shall bring forth new fruit every month, because its waters issue out of the sanctuary; and its fruit shall be for food, and its leaf for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12).
“the tree of life” (v. 2b). This was the name of the tree in the Garden of Eden—the fruit of which could have made it possible for Adam and Eve to live forever (Genesis 3:22). When God drove the man out of the garden, he placed cherubim there—and a flaming sword—”to guard the way to the tree of life”—to prevent the man and woman from gaining access to it (Genesis 3:24).
Now we see the tree of life once again—no longer guarded—producing fruit for the people of the holy city. No longer will people’s lives be truncated. In the new Jerusalem, there will be no more death.
The idea of the twelve kinds of fruit is that there is a different crop of fruit for each month of the year—a promise of abundant food—a symbol of God’s providence.
“The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (ethnon—from ethnos) (v. 2c). Once again, we encounter the ethnos word—a word often translated Gentiles. No more will there be a division between Jews and Gentiles. No longer will Jews be the chosen people and Gentiles the not-chosen people. As Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
“the healing of the nations.“ What is the nature of this healing? The text doesn’t make that clear. Perhaps it is, in part, the removal of the barrier that kept Gentiles out of the kingdom. Perhaps “healing” in this verse is a metaphor for forgiveness.
“There will be no curse any more“ (v. 3a). When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, God cursed the serpent who had tempted them (Genesis 3:14)—and the ground that the man would till to eat its produce (Genesis 3:17). Sin also produced the curse of death (Genesis 2:17). But in the new Jerusalem, there will be nothing accursed—and none of the pain of living under a curse. There will be no death there. The new Jerusalem will be paradise restored.
“The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it” (v. 3b). Ezekiel closed his prophecy by saying, “And the name of the city from that day shall be, Yahweh is There” (Ezekiel 48:35). The new Jerusalem is that prophecy fully realized. God will be there—and the Lamb!
“and his servants serve (latreusousin—from latreuo) him“ (v. 3c). The word latreuo means “serve,” and a variant, latris, can be used for a hired servant. Our service to God takes the form of worship, such as fasting and prayer (Luke 2:37).
“They will see his face“ (v. 4a). To see a person’s face—to look into his or her eyes—is very personal. Our faces express our feelings. They provide a clue to the nature of our character.
When Moses asked to see Yahweh’s glory, Yahweh replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, …(but) you cannot see my face; for man may not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). The idea is that humans are not equipped to see God’s face, any more than we are equipped to touch a high-voltage electrical line. There is more power there than our mortal bodies can handle.
However, Yahweh continued, “Behold, there is a place by me, and you shall stand on the rock. It will happen, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you will see my back; but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:21-23).
But in new Jerusalem, all strictures will be lifted. We will be able to look on God’s face without penalty.
“and his name will be on their foreheads” (v. 4b). The high priest was required to wear on his forehead a gold rosette engraved with the words, “HOLY TO YAHWEH” (Exodus 28:36-38). In Ezekiel 9:4, God commanded that the foreheads of the faithful be marked so that they might be spared the slaughter soon to be perpetrated on the unfaithful. Likewise, the book of Revelation tells of 144,000 of God’s servants being marked with a seal on their foreheads (7:3). This seal protected them from the torture that was to be inflicted on the unfaithful (9:4). They would also be permitted to stand on Mount Zion with the Lamb and to sing a new song (14:1-3).
Regarding the unfaithful, the book of Revelation also tells of the mark of the beast “to be marked on their right hands, or on their foreheads” (13:11-17).
So the mark on one’s forehead identifies one’s allegiance—whether to God or to the beast. The faithful will be marked with the Yahweh’s name on their foreheads.
“There will be no night, and they need no lamp light; for the Lord God will illuminate them“ (v. 5a). This repeats a promise made in the last chapter, “The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (21:23). See the notes on 21:23-25 above.
“They will reign forever and ever “ (v. 5b). This seems like an odd expression for use in this context. Reigning implies exercising authority. Obviously, God and the Lamb will reign in the new Jerusalem. Over whom would we reign?
However, Jesus earlier promised, “He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne” (3:21). The apostle Paul also said, “If we have died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him (2 Timothy 2:11b-12a).
The idea, apparently, is not that we will reign over other people, but that we will share the blessedness associated with the reign of God and the Lamb in the new Jerusalem.
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
Aune, David E., Word Biblical Commentary: Revelation 17-22, Vol. 52c (Dallas: Word Books, 1998)
Blevins, James L., Knox Preaching Guides: Revelation (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984)
Boring, M. Eugene, Interpretation: Revelation (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1989)
Boxall, Ian, Black’s New Testament Commentary: The Revelation of Saint John (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009)
Gaventa, Beverly R., in Cousar, Charles B., Gaventa, Beverly R., McCann, J. Clinton, and Newsome, James D., Texts for Teaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV–Year C (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994)
Holladay, Carl R., in Craddock, Fred B., Hayes, John H., Holladay, Carl R., and Tucker, Gene M.,Preaching Through the Christian Year C (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1994)
MacArthur, John, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Revelation 12-22 (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 2000)
Mangina, Joseph L. Brazos Theological Commentary: Revelation (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009)
Metzger, Bruce M., Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993)
Morris, Leon, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Revelation, Vol. 20 (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1987)
Mounce, Robert H., The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977)
Osborne, Grant R., Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002)
Palmer, Earl F., The Preacher’s Commentary: 1,2,3, John, Revelation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982)
Patterson, L. Paige, The New American Commentary: Revelation (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012)
Peterson, Eugene H., Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John & the Praying Imagination (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988)
Price, Daniel J., in Van Harn, Roger E. (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts: The Second Readings: Acts and the Epistles (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001)
Reddish, Mitchell G., Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary: Revelation (Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., 2001)
Rowland, Christopher C., in The New Interpreter’s Bible: Hebrews, James 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John, Jude, Revelation, Vol. XII (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998)
Thompson, Leonard L., Abingdon New Testament Commentary: Revelation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997)
Wright, J. Edward, in Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob (ed.), The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: D-H, Vol. 2 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007)
Copyright 2012, Richard Niell Donovan