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.
Previously: Making everything new – Revelation 21:5-6
Rev. 21:7 – The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. 8 But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars – their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (HCSB)
The victor will inherit these things
The words of God complete this section as He speaks in verses 7-8: “The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars – their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
This expresses the intimate relationship that exists between the saints and God in the eternal state. We are joint-heirs with Jesus. We are God’s adopted sons and daughters. And the full expression of God’s work for us and in us will be realized when we are resurrected and glorified, and when we enjoy everlasting face-to-face intimacy with Him in the new heavens and earth.
The words “the victor” are translated “he who overcomes” or “the one who conquers” in other versions. This refers to the perseverance of the saints during a time of terrible persecution, and it links the promises of Jesus in the opening chapters of Revelation to their fulfillment in the return of the King.
Remember that in each of the seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor Jesus offers a word of encouragement to the overcomer:
To Ephesus: “I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise” (Rev. 2:7).
To Smyrna: “The victor will never be harmed by the second death” (Rev. 2:11)
To Pergamum: “I will give the victor some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:17).
To Thyatira: “The one who is victorious and keeps My words to the end: I will give him authority over the nations – and he will shepherd them with an iron scepter; he will shatter them like pottery – just as I have received this from My Father. I will also give him the morning star” (Rev. 2:24-26).
To Sardis: “In the same way, the victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev. 3:5).
To Philadelphia: “The victor: I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God, and he will never go out again. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God – the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God – and My new name” (Rev. 3:12).
And to Laodicea: “The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev. 3:21).
Rev. 21:3 – Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. (HCSB)
God’s dwelling is with humanity
In verses 3-4 John hears a loud voice from the throne: “Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.”
The greatest joy of the new heaven and new earth is restored intimacy with our Creator. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden and spoke with Him face to face. But sin shattered that closeness. The first humans hid themselves among the trees from the presence of God. Shame and separation haunted them, as it did their offspring and every person after them. While we see examples of righteous people who walked with God – Enoch and Noah, for example – the norm for human beings is to hide ourselves from Him.
And, frankly, God so often seems to hide Himself from us. We seek Him in times of trouble and seasons of great need, and so often He seems unwilling to be disturbed. When pain and suffering, loneliness and alienation, despair and grief – all consequences of the Fall – engulf us, we cry out to the Creator and hear only the faint echo of our own voices.
Where is He? Does He not hear? Does He not care? Why has He forsaken us? It’s hard to admit it, but we routinely experience a loss of intimacy with God because that’s the kind of world in which we want to live. The sin nature – that inbred tendency to live independently of God – churns within us and drives us to live as if we are the masters of our destinies; we seek our Creator only when we come to the end of ourselves.
Rev. 21:2 – I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. (HCSB)
The Holy City
John moves from the vision of a new heaven and a new earth in verse 1 to a New Jerusalem in verse 2: “I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.” The name “new Jerusalem” is used in only one other place in the Bible. In Rev. 3:12 Jesus says, “The victor: I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God, and he will never go out again. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God – the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God – and My new name.”
We should note that the New Jerusalem is called “the Holy City,” in contrast with the earthly Jerusalem, which spiritually is compared to Sodom in Rev. 11:8.
John writes that the city is prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. We see the bride in Rev. 19:7-9 and we understand her to be the church, as in other New Testament passages. But in what way is the bride also the New Jerusalem?
This is the ninth in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.
In the previous column we saw how Scripture describes heaven as the intermediate state between death and resurrection for followers of Jesus as they await future resurrection and glorification. Now, we look in more detail at heaven as well as the new heavens and new earth.
What about heaven?
The New Testament reveals many truths about this intermediate state for followers of Jesus. Here are 12:
(1) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reside in heaven, yet they have immediate access to earth (Matt. 3:16-17).
(2) God’s will is done completely in heaven – and one day will be done on earth (Matt. 6:9-10).
(3) Angels surround the throne in heaven (Matt. 18:10), as do majestic heavenly creatures and redeemed people (Revelation 4-5).
(4) The heavenly throne is the heart of God’s authority and majesty (Mark 16:19).
(5) Heaven is the place from which Satan fell and has no future part (Luke 10:18; Rev. 20:10).
(6) Heaven is where believers’ names are written down, providing assurance of everlasting life (Luke 10:20; Heb. 12:23).