The New Jerusalem A New World and a New People[a]
The New Heaven and the New Earth. 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.[b] 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, like a bride adorned and ready for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice proclaim from the throne:
“Behold, God’s dwelling is with mankind;
he will dwell with them.
They will be his people,
and he will be their God,
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will no longer be death.
Neither will there be any mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order has passed away.”
5 The one seated on the throne then said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.[d] To those who are thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of life-giving water.
7 “The one who is victorious will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.[e] 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the depraved, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and liars of every kind, their place is the fiery lake of burning sulfur, which is the second death.”[f]
The New Jerusalem. 9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven final plagues came forward and said to me, “Come, and I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 Then he carried me away in the spirit[g] to the top of a very high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It possessed the glory of God and had the radiance of some priceless jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.
12 Its wall was of a great height, with twelve gates,[h] and at the gates there were twelve angels. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates to the east, three to the north, three to the south, and three to the west. 14 The city wall had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 The angel who was speaking to me was carrying a gold measuring rod to measure the city,[i] its gates, and its wall. 16 The city was laid out like a square, with its length and its width identical. He measured the city with his measuring rod: it was fifteen hundred miles[j] in length and width, and equal in height.
17 Then he measured its wall, and it was one hundred and forty-four cubits[k] high by human measurements, which the angel employed. 18 [l]The wall was built of jasper, while the city itself was of pure gold, as bright as clear glass.
19 The foundations of the city wall were adorned with precious stones of every kind. The first of the foundation stones was jasper, the second sapphire, the third turquoise, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates fashioned from a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
22 I did not see any temple there, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city had no need for the sun or the moon to shine on it, for it was lit by the glory of God, and its lamp was the Lamb. 24 [m]The nations will walk by its light, and to it the kings of the earth will bring their treasures.
25 The gates of the city will never be shut during the day—and there will be no night there. 26 The nations will come into it bringing their treasures and wealth. 27 However, nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does abominable or deceitful things, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.[n]
- Revelation 21:1 A new city for human beings descends from heaven, as beautiful as a new bride; a new universe replaces the old; life gushes up in floods, and an endless feast begins. How can we interpret these marvelous images? We must let ourselves be captivated by the poetic evocation, by the incantation of this exciting symphony. We must project all the attention of people and the Church toward this meeting and this reconciliation, which we regard as the sole definitive condition for humankind—creating a mystical impetus toward Christ, a hope without frontiers.
Let us then strive to highlight some themes that this vision overlaps on one another. At the end of the work of salvation, it is a new creation that God accomplishes (v. 1), surpassing all the images of paradise. Gone are all things that constrained, all limits, imperfections, implacable necessities, evil: the sea, the sun and moon, and the night. Streams spring forth more attractive than those of Eden, for they are a share in the unfathomable life of God; the tree of life finds its power multiplied to infinity (Rev 22:2).
For human beings, this work of salvation is essentially the gathering of the People of God for a definitive Covenant with the Lord. It is presented as a wedding feast in which is realized—in unimaginable fullness—the love of God and human beings, of Christ and the Church, which in keeping with beautiful Biblical texts is expressed as a wedding (see Isa 54:5; 62:4; Mt 9:15; Jn 3:29; 2 Cor 11:2; Rev 19:1-10).
Dreams of the restoration of Jerusalem haunted the Jewish people, and the Prophets wrote about its spectacular resurrection like an image of the coming of God and the salvation of the people (see Ezek 40–48; Isa 65–66; Zec 14); the chant of Jerusalem is a crown-jewel in the Bible (see Pss 87; 122; 137; Isa 33:17-23). One day this movement finds its accomplishment far beyond all warrior or political images. We can think of inexpressible repatriation of human beings in the friendship of God, joy, and happiness. The future city of God’s elect is no longer built up by force of arms—it is a gift and grace coming from on high; it is nothing less than splendor (Rev 21:15-21).
There is no more need of institutions and signs for worship—the temple itself is surpassed: the risen Jesus is the sole place where may be found the joy of really and directly encountering God (see Heb 9:11; Jn 2:21). What extraordinary and joyous celebration in the eternal face-to-face vision of the Lord!
- Revelation 21:1 The sea, the usual dwelling of the dragon and a symbol of evil, will disappear before the victorious march of the new Israel, as it did in the days of the Exodus, but this time for good.
- Revelation 21:3 This verse contains a combination of the classic formula of the Covenant (“You will be my people, and I will be your God”) and the name Immanuel (“God-with-us”), which was regarded as a name of the Messiah (Mt 1:23)—a fine assertion of the divinity of Christ, who is God and man. The complete and definitive Covenant between God and humankind will be accomplished at the end of time (see Isa 12:6; Joel 4:17, 21; Zep 3:15-17; Zec 2:14).
- Revelation 21:6 Alpha, Omega, Beginning, End: on these divine titles see note on Rev 1:4-8. Spring of life-giving water: see note on Rev 7:17.
- Revelation 21:7 He will be my son: this expression is reserved in the Old Testament for the King Messiah (2 Sam 7:14). Jesus reveals its full meaning by proclaiming his own divine sonship. Believers now share in this state of Christ.
- Revelation 21:8 Second death: see note on Rev 20:6.
- Revelation 21:10 In the spirit: see note on Rev 1:10.
- Revelation 21:12 Twelve gates: see Ezek 48:30-35. The number twelve here most likely stresses that the Church of the New Testament is a continuation of the People of God of the Old Testament. See v. 14, in which the twelve foundation stones bear the names of the twelve apostles.
- Revelation 21:15 Measure the city: see Ezek 40–41. The measuring in Rev 11 was to ensure protection; here it is done to indicate the size and symmetry of the eternal dwelling place of God’s people.
- Revelation 21:16 Fifteen hundred miles: literally, “twelve hundred stadia,” about twelve thousand furlongs. In the mind of the ancients the square was the perfect form. When the number twelve, which symbolizes the new Israel, is multiplied by 1000, it signifies supreme perfection. The city possesses the symmetrical dimensions of a perfect cube, which is akin to its earthly counterpart, the inner sanctuary in the tabernacle and temple (see 1 Ki 6:20).
- Revelation 21:17 One hundred and forty-four cubits: a cubit measured about eighteen inches in length.
- Revelation 21:18 The materials used show that this is not an earthly city. The twelve foundation stones of the wall are decorated with twelve precious stones, which correspond to the twelve stones on the high priest’s breastplate (see Ex 28:39). The gems form a magnificent kaleidoscope of colors symbolizing the ineffable glory of God.
- Revelation 21:24 The author is alluding to Isa 60:1-20, which foretells the entrance of the nations into the People of God. The open gates are a sign of an everlasting feast.
- Revelation 21:27 Book of life: see notes on Rev 3:5 and 20:12-15.