Rev. 21:22 – I did not see a sanctuary in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its sanctuary. (HCSB)
I did not see a sanctuary
John notes in verse 22 that he does not see a sanctuary in the heavenly city “because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its sanctuary.” Historical Jerusalem is known as the city of God because His presence resides there in the temple (1 Kings 8:10-13).
The people of God approach Him indirectly through a mediator, a high priest who offers atoning sacrifices for the sins of the people in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. The atoning blood is carried through a thick veil and sprinkled on the mercy seat, above which the Shekinah glory resides. There, the wrath of God is satisfied and His grace and mercy are extended to His sinful creatures. Other sacrifices, offerings, and forms of worship take place on the temple grounds outside the inner sanctuary.
All that takes place in the sacrificial system has a forward-looking importance. The day is coming when God Himself provides a sacrifice – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When Jesus dies on the cross, the veil of the temple is torn in two, from top to bottom, signifying that Jesus has fulfilled the types and shadows of the Old Covenant and through His shed blood has provided direct access to the Father without the need for a human mediator.
Now, in verse 22, we see the promised intimacy fulfilled as the redeemed enjoy face-to-face fellowship with the Father and the Lamb.
The light of God
The apostle further observes that the city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it “because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (v. 23). The HCSB Study Bible notes, “[A]s there was light from the Lord before the creation of the physical light sources of the universe (Gen. 1:3, 14-15), there is no need for light (sun or moon) in the new Jerusalem because God’s glory illuminates it” (p. 2229).
Jurgen Roloff adds, “Light, the medium necessary for life that makes possible orientation and clarity, will now exist directly, continuously, and without interruption. All darkness, obscurity, and alienation have vanished forever” (p. 245).
The light of God is distinct and divine, without earthly origins or natural explanations. We see it at times in human history – in the burning bush; in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night; in the Shekinah glory in the temple; on the Mount of Transfiguration; on the road to Damascus; and in the fiery eyes of the exalted Lord Jesus.
As Joseph A. Seiss observes, “The glory of God’s brightness envelopes it [the new Jerusalem] like an unclouded halo, permeates it, and radiates through it and from it so that there is not a dark or obscure place about it. It shines like a new sun, inside and out, sending abroad its rays over all the earth, and into the depths of space, making our planet seem to distant worlds as if suddenly transformed into a brilliant luminary, whose brightness never wanes. And that shining is not from any material combustions – not from any consumption of fuel that needs to be replaced as one supply burns out; for it is the uncreated light of Him who is light, dispenses by and through the Lamb as the everlasting Lamp, to the home, and hearts, and understandings, or his glorified saints” (Apocalypse: An Exposition on the Book of Revelation, p. 499).
The kings of the nations will walk in this divine light, writes John, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it (v. 24). Evidently there are national distinctions in the new heavens and new earth, as well as authorities over them. There is a clear difference, however, between nations and their rulers today and what they are like after the return of Christ.
National identity and God’s sovereignty
Since all people in God’s kingdom have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life (v. 27), their national identities and their rulers are in perfect harmony with the sovereign will of God. The kings do not seek personal gain or political leverage; rather, they lead their people to honor the King of kings and Lord of lords. At the same time, the nations do not hunger for expanded boundaries or elite status; instead, they are fully devoted to the One who redeemed people by His blood from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9).
The gates of the new Jerusalem never close because daylight is continuous and darkness is a distant memory. “Nothing profane will ever enter it: no one who does what is vile or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life” (v. 27). The people of God – joined under the Old and New Covenants – are safe in the presence of the Father and the Lamb.
Those that have rejected the revelation of God in creation, conscience, Christ, and the canon of scripture have found themselves before the great white throne without excuse (Rom. 1:20; Rev. 20:11-15). They have made it abundantly clear that they do not want a relationship with their Creator, in whose image they are made, but prefer to live independently of God. They have crossed a line known only to God but hinted at in the scriptures as their “measure of sin.”
And now, because they have refused the gracious invitation to have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life, they find themselves in what Jesus describes as “outer darkness.” Like the rich man Jesus describes in Luke 16:19-31, they see a “great chasm” between themselves and those resting comfortably in the fold of Abraham’s robe. And like the disrespectful guest at the wedding banquet in Jesus’ parable in Matt. 22:1-14, they find themselves bound, taken from the king’s fellowship and cast into the dark of night.
In every instance in scripture we find that it is not the will of God that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient to pay the sin debt of all people, and He beckons us to come to Him and receive everlasting life. However, our Creator has entrusted to all people the ability to make choices for which we are held accountable. Those that reject His gracious call to salvation in this life find that their decision has everlasting consequences. The gates of New Jerusalem are open, and it is broad daylight forever. But the unbeliever remains outside in outer darkness, never to enter the portals of the heavenly city to enjoy intimate fellowship with the Lamb.
Joseph A. Seiss summarizes New Jerusalem this way: “Its foundations by their colours speak of grace, mercy, and God’s sure covenant earthward. Its gates of pearl speak of righteousness, obedience, and the heart set on the precious things of the divine kingdom, as the medium of transit from earth to glory. Its cubic form, and its streets and constructions of purest gold, proclaim it the embodiment of all perfection, the supremest seat of the supremest saintship. And within those immortal gates, in the very presence and company of God and the Lamb, surrounded with light, riches, and splendours beyond all that human thought can estimate, amid the liberties, securities, and perfections of the highest of all the material creations of gracious Omnipotence, as the jeweled link between the Eternal Father and his redeemed earthly family, and with a strength that walks unshaken under all the exceeding and eternal weight of glory, the Church of the first-born, the Bride and Wife of Christ, shall live and reign with him day without end, for the ages of the ages” (p. 502).
Next: The source of life – Revelation 22:1-5