Rev. 22:6 – Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent His angel to show His slaves what must quickly take place.” 7 “Look, I am coming quickly! The one who keeps the prophetic words of this book is blessed.” (HCSB)
The time is near
John notes in verse 6, “Then he [the angel] said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent His angel to show His slaves what must quickly take place.’” This is followed immediately by the words of Jesus, who declares, “Look, I am coming quickly” (v. 7). Again, in verse 12, the Lamb says, “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.” Once again in verse 20 Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” The angel adds to this sense of urgency the following command in verse 10: “Don’t seal the prophetic words of this book, because the time is near.”
Both Jesus and the angel assure John that what he has seen should be shared immediately because the fulfillment of these visions is imminent and the coming of Jesus is soon.
Rev. 22:1 – Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the broad street of the city. The tree of life was on both sides of the river, bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, 3 and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His slaves will serve Him. 4 They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever. (HCSB)
The Source of life
The first five verses of the final chapter of Revelation describe four prominent objects in the New Jerusalem: (1) the river of living water, (2) the broad street of the city, (3) the tree of life, and (4) the throne of God and of the Lamb. Each of these relates in some fashion to God, who is the Source of life. Let’s take a closer look at these elements.
The river of living water. John describes the living water as “sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the broad street of the city” (vv. 1-2). In Rev. 21:6, the One seated on the throne says, “I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life.” This promise draws deeply from the Old and New Testaments and speaks of eternal life received by God’s grace through faith. We see that promise fulfilled in Revelation 22. The Greek word potamos is translated “river,” “flood,” or “stream” and is used metaphorically in John 7:38 to describe the blessing of eternal peace and satisfaction found in Christ. That same figurative application is used throughout Revelation, pointing us to the Source of eternal life.
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.
Rev. 21:18 – The building material of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone: the first foundation jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 The 12 gates are 12 pearls; each individual gate was made of a single pearl. The broad street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (HCSB)
Every kind of precious stone
John notes in verse 18 that the wall is made of jasper, and the city is pure gold like clear glass. This amplifies the information already given to us in verse 11, where the city is radiant “like a very precious stone, like a jasper stone, bright as crystal.” The city itself – the bride, the people of God – is so thoroughly purified as to become transparent. This is an image used in other scriptures to describe the refined character of God’s sanctified people:
Job 23:10 – “Yet He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold.”
Zech. 13:9 – “I will put this third through the fire; I will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say: They are My people, and they will say: Yahweh is our God.”
Mal. 3:3 – “He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.”
1 Peter 1:7 – “So that the genuineness of your faith – more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Rev. 3:18 – “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.”
Rev. 21:12 – The city had a massive high wall, with 12 gates. Twelve angels were at the gates; the names of the 12 tribes of Israel’s sons were inscribed on the gates. 13 There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. 14 The city wall had 12 foundations, and the 12 names of the Lamb’s 12 apostles were on the foundations. (HCSB)
The number 12
The number 12 is repeated many times in this passage:
- The city walls have 12 gates.
- Twelve angels are at the gates.
- The names of the 12 tribes of Israel’s sons are inscribed on the gates.
- The city wall has 12 foundations.
- The 12 names of the Lamb’s 12 apostles are on the foundations.
- The city measures 12,000 stadia.
- The wall’s thickness is 144 cubits (12 x 12).
- The 12 gates are 12 pearls.
What is the significance of the number 12 in this passage, and throughout scripture?