Sermon on Revelation 21:10-14, 22, 23
Text: He carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
A favorite hymn of many Christians is “I’m but a Stranger Here.” The refrain is comforting, because again and again, we sing, “Heaven is my home.” This hope buoys up many a Christian during the dark days of this life. We remember that no matter how hard this life gets, heaven is still waiting for us. We are on a pilgrimage, heading home. Today, in our text, John gives us a picture of heaven. Let us look at it and remind ourselves that OUR RISEN LORD GIVES US A HEAVENLY HOME. 1. Enter Through Its Gates. 2. Build On Its Foundation. 3. Worship In Its Beauty.
Before we can look at John’s description of heaven, we need to remind ourselves that the book of Revelation is written in figurative language. It paints a picture for us. It does not give an actual description, but is designed to leave an impression on us. A good example of this is the continued picture of the Son of God as a Lamb. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that he is a small, wooly creature. Rather, it reminds us of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. It would appear that the same holds true for our text today, as it describes heaven. Let us, then, take a tour of heaven, as John describes it in chapter 21.
First, we will look at the outside. John writes in verse 12, “It had a great, high wall.” There was only one reason that cities at that time had walls, and that was for protection. A good, strong wall provided protection from any enemies. If they came to attack, the gates were shut and the enemy was left outside. This is a picture of the protection that all believers will have in heaven. Because we will be dwelling with God, we will be safe from all things. We are reminded in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” In heaven, God’s people will be completely safe from all threats to body and soul.
The only way to enter the walled city was through a gate. The city of Jerusalem at Jesus’ time had seven gates. The city of God also had gates. John writes, “It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.” The fact that there are twelve gates shows us that this is a large city. The number twelve comes up a number of times in our text and throughout the book of Revelation. This is the number that signifies the Holy Christian Church, that is, all believers of all time.
In this instance, the twelve gates are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Time and again, believers are called Israel. For example, in Galatians 3:29, Paul writes, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” That is another way to say that they belong to the
spiritual children of Israel.
There are a couple of things of note about these gates. In verse 21 of this chapter we are told, “The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl.” Imagine a pearl so large that you could make a gate through it. Secondly, we are told that an angel stands guard at each of those twelve gates. This is to make sure that only those who are supposed to enter the city do so. They keep the unbelievers away from the “tree of life,” which we read about in chapter 22, just as they kept Adam and Eve from the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The third thing of note about these gates is the arrangement of the gates. “There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.” The gates pointed to the four directions, reminding us that people from all over the world will be coming into the city of God.
Just as the people of ancient times could only enter the city through a gate, the same holds true for us. If we wish to enter the city of God, we must do so through the Gate, Jesus Christ. We were born outside of the city of God. Our sins isolated us from God. We deserved to be barred forever from entering the city. Rather we would have spent all eternity outside the city, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12) However, Jesus Christ came into the world to make it possible for us to enter heaven. He says of himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we enter heaven, the city of God. These gates stand as an invitation to the believer to come and enter the
city of God by faith. How we long to enter the gates of heaven!
We turn our attention from the wall and its gates to its foundation. We read in verse 14, “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Again, we see the number twelve come up again, reminding us that in heaven the Holy Christian Church will be assembled once and for all. There is something unique about the foundation. There are twelve layers to the foundation, on each one of them was written one of the names of the apostles. This fact brings to mind a passage from the book of Ephesians (2:20). In speaking of the Holy Christian Church, Paul writes, “[It is] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” We all know how important a good foundation is to a building. If it is faulty, the building will eventually collapse. The Christian Church is built on the foundation of the “apostles and prophets,” in other words, on what they wrote, namely the Bible. That is the foundation of our faith. Only through the words of Holy Scripture can we be led to believe in Jesus.
For that reason, it only stands to reason that we will want to make every effort to build on the foundation that has been laid. We will want to make every effort to use the Word of God and make it our own. Let us build on the foundation, making our hold on eternal life all the stronger. We have a solid foundation on which to build our lives in the hope of the life to come.
Now, as John enters the city, he notices something strange. He writes in verse 22, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” This was especially odd for a Jewish believer. Ever since the time of King Solomon, there had been a temple in Jerusalem in the city of God, namely Jerusalem. John expected to see a temple in the Holy City, for the temple was the heart of Old Testament Jerusalem. It was the center of worship life. The sacrifices were carried out there. All of the important religious festivals were celebrated there. Old Testament believers came to Jerusalem for the celebration of the festivals, such as Passover and Pentecost. We also remember that John was writing this book some twenty years after the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans. He looked for a temple, but did not find one.
Then, John describes why, “because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” In the Old Testament, they needed the temple. It was the place where sacrifices were made. It was the place where the priest interceded for the people. However, these functions are long gone. There is no longer any need for a sacrifice, because all of the Old Testament sacrifices were pictures of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, made on our behalf. We will be with God. We will personally see and know him. There is no temple in the Holy City, because it has been replaced with something far better.
Just because there is no temple, does not mean that we will not have the opportunity to worship our God. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite is the case. We will spend an eternity praising our God for his love and mercy. What a beautiful place it will be. In verse 11, John speaks of heaven, “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” The rays of brilliance will shine forth like a diamond catching the light. The brilliance will come from the glory of God. John goes on to describe the light by saying, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” There will be no need for any created light, because the glory of God will be there.
The light also radiates from the Lamb, the Son of God. This heavenly light does more than dispel physical darkness. This light is the source of life. Just as the sunlight gives life to the plants, so Christ gives light to his Church. He is doing so even at this moment. The Church, indeed every believer, would not survive if Christ did not give life to her. Christ continues to light the path to heaven. He shows us that path in his Word. As we read in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” His light leads me home to heaven.
If you’ve ever been gone from home for a longer period of time, you know how good it feels to finally get home. Your excitement builds as you get closer and closer to home. Finally you pull into the driveway. You open the door. You are home. You and I are on a pilgrimage, heading home to heaven. We start heading home the day we are brought to faith. We are able to call heaven our home, because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He gives heaven to each of us. As we get closer and closer, the excitement builds. Right now, we build on the foundation of faith that Christ laid for us. Soon we will be invited to enter the gates of the Holy City. Then, forever, we will worship in its beauty. This is the firm conviction of every believer: “I shall surely stand there at my Lord’s right hand. Heaven is my fatherland. Heaven is my home.” Amen.
St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches ©2023 All rights reserved.