There are at least seven promises given to us in Revelation 22 that confirm Jesus’ victory over Satan, sin and death. These promises also assure us that all the effects of the Fall are reversed in Christ’s finished work and the salvation He has provided for us by grace through faith.
In this regard, we should view Revelation not merely as a book of frightening – and often confusing – imagery, but as a book of warm and assuring promises about God’s sovereignty over human affairs and angelic conflict. In the end, we who read, hear and heed the words of this prophecy are indeed blessed because we know the God who created all things is faithful.
Promise No. 1: Living water (v. 1; see also Rev. 21:6; 22:17)
There was a river in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10) that served as the source of four other rivers. But when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden they lost access to this pure source of water and drank from streams now affected by the Fall. A person may live for up to 40 days without food but only three days without water. The body itself is made up largely of water, so water is absolutely essential to life. Jesus often spoke about water as an image of eternal life supplied by the Holy Spirit (see John 4:10-14; 7:37-39).
In the New Jerusalem, we see a river of pure, living water flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life may drink freely from it. Ezekiel also had a vision of pure water in the glorious future temple (Ezek. 47:1-12; see also Zech. 14:8). This living water depicts the Holy Spirit who inhabits the human spirits of believers but is cut off from unbelievers (Rom. 8:9).
Rev. 22:14 – “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. (HCSB)
Outside are the dogs
In verses 14-15, Jesus speaks directly to readers with a blessing and a curse: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.”
This is the seventh and last of the beatitudes in Revelation, the others being found at Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; and 22:7. The one who reads this book, hears the words of this prophecy, and keeps what is written is blessed (1:3). The one who perseveres in keeping God’s commands and faith in Jesus to the death is blessed (14:13). The one who is alert and remains faithful is blessed (16:15). Those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb are blessed (19:9). The one who shares in the first resurrection – the resurrection of the just – is blessed (20:6). And the one who keeps the prophetic words of this book is blessed (22:7).
In this final beatitude (22:14), the Lord assures believers – those who demonstrate their faith by keeping His commands – that they are welcome in the New Jerusalem, where they enjoy complete security and boundless provision. The basis of their entry is the shed blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14), which cleanses from sin and replaces the filthy rags of sinners’ self-righteousness with the white robes of Christ’s righteousness (see Rev. 3:4; 7:14; 19:7-8; Isa. 1:18).
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?