Rev. 21:9 – Then one of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (HCSB)
I will show you the bride
Rev. 21:9-27 provides more details on New Jerusalem, which John describes in verse 2 as “the Holy City … coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” In verse 9, John reports that one of the angels who held the seven bowls with the last seven plagues approaches him, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
There is an interesting parallel here. In Rev. 17:1, one of the angels from the same group – perhaps the very same angel, although the text does not say – comes to John and says, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the notorious prostitute who sits on many waters.” In both cases – the revealing of judgment on Babylon and the splendor of New Jerusalem – John is “carried away in the Spirit” and provided rare insights into the nature of both marvels.
In viewing Babylon, John is taken to a desert, whereas in viewing New Jerusalem he is taken to a great and high mountain. In Revelation chapters 17-19 we see the destruction of the sinful world order, the mourning of unbelievers who watch their treasures go up in smoke, and the rejoicing of the saints in heaven over the true and righteous judgments of God. The coming of New Jerusalem is a welcome event for all those who, like Abraham, look forward to a city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:10).
A great and high mountain
One other parallel of note: When Satan tempts Jesus in Matthew 4, the Devil takes Him on a high mountain and shows Him the splendor of the world’s kingdoms. While the earthly Babylon holds many charms, and no doubt is sufficiently dazzling to test our Savior’s willingness to go the way of the cross, Jesus sees the future judgment of the wicked world system and the surpassingly magnificent splendor of the New Jerusalem. When Satan says, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me,” Jesus responds, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him” (Matt. 4:9-10).
So now, the angel carries John away “in the Spirit,” meaning the exalted spiritual state that John is in as he receives the visions of the Apocalypse. John is taken to a great and high mountain and shown the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. In the last chapter of our study (Rev. 21:1-8), we noted that both times New Jerusalem is mentioned in Revelation (Rev. 3:12 and Rev. 21), it refers to the final destination of God’s people, the heavenly city where they experience the presence of God. Many commentators express their belief that this is an actual city, while others see the New Jerusalem metaphorically, a structure made up of “living stones.”
Those who take New Jerusalem literally cite John 14:2-3, where Jesus promises His followers He is going back to heaven to prepare a “place” for them. Upon death, Christians inhabit this heavenly city with our Savior, and when He returns to earth He brings New Jerusalem and all the city’s residents – true Israel, made up of Old and New Covenant saints – with Him. If New Jerusalem is the city in which the triune God dwells forever with redeemed mankind on a restored earth, then perhaps Jesus’ promise of a “place” for us in John 14:2-3 includes the heavenly city.
Alternatively, some interpreters argue that the “bride” – the church – is New Jerusalem, and therefore we are to read Revelation 21 symbolically rather than literally. Proponents of this view cite 1 Cor. 3:16, in which Paul reminds Christians that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Peter also reminds us that we are living stones, being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices unto God, with Jesus as the chosen and honored cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-6).
So, it may be possible that the resurrected and glorified saints of all time provide the perfect habitation for God as He descends to earth and dwells among His people. Just as a bridegroom leaves his father’s home and establishes a new home with his bride, Jesus one day descends to earth with the redeemed and fully establishes His kingdom on earth, with the imagery of God’s people providing a pure and everlasting habitation for their Savior. By the way, the Old Testament saints are included in this view as they, along with Christians, make up “true Israel.”
As we move forward to study the details of New Jerusalem, we will keep both schools of interpretation in mind.
Next: Arrayed with God’s glory – Revelation 21:10-11