What Is Heaven Like?
The Character Of the City
Stephen Caswell © 1999
What Is Heaven Like?
Thinking About Heaven
In His classic devotional book titled, The Saints Everlasting Rest, English Puritan pastor and author Richard Baxter wrote: “ Why are not our hearts continually set on heaven? Why dwell we not on there in constant contemplation?... Bend thy soul to study eternity, busy thyself about the life to come, habituate thyself to such contemplations, and let not those thoughts be seldom or cursory, but bathe thyself in heavens delights. ” We should so focus our thoughts on the eternal that our grip on the temporal is loosed. Baxter points out four benefits for thinking this way. 1. It protects us from temptation, since we want to please God. 2. It helps us maintain our zeal for the Lord. 3. It provides medicine for our afflictions, cheering our spirits and easing our suffering. 4. It makes us an encouragement to our fellow pilgrims.
Abraham looked for heaven. Hebrews 11:9-10: By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he looked for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Last Sunday night we discussed the subject, What Is Heaven Like? In particular we saw,“ The Comfort Of The Citizens. ” Tonight we will talk about “ The Character Of The City. ”
I. The Greatness Of The City — Having The Glory Of God
After the apostle John saw the comfort of heaven’s Citizens he was shown the character of the city. John had seen the New Jerusalem descending in verse 2. Now he saw it in detail from a high vantage point. Revelation 21:9-11 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. In Revelation 17:1, Babylon the great is called the great harlot. This wicked city is the wife of the Antichrist. But the New Jerusalem is far greater. New Jerusalem is pure. It is the wife of the lamb. The Lamb dwells there and so does His people.
The first thing that makes the city great is: Its Splendour
The architecture of the New Jerusalem is one of precision. Revelation 21:15-17 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The angel measured it, and found that its length was 12,000 furlongs. This is approximately 1,500 miles, or the distance from Adelaide to Darwin. This city is enormous and will easily be able to accommodate all of God’s people. The angel called it the great city.
These dimensions are perfectly symmetrical with its height, breadth and length all being equal. The design of the city is either a cube or a pyramid. God has prepared a wonderful place for His people and I am sure that design of it will be just as amazing as the materials that it is made of. The number 12 is used 9 times in these verses describing the New Jerusalem. 12 is the number used in Scripture to describe perfect government. The city has a wall that is 144 cubits high, which is also 12 x12. This is approximately 216 feet high. Unlike our cities where bits are added on here and there, the New Jerusalem has been planned from start to finish. God has designed it using precise measurements. It is absolutely perfect.
The city is made from the finest materials. Rev 21:18-21 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
The cost of these materials on today’s market would be exorbitant. Gold, pearls and precious stones are all placed together to form an exquisite masterpiece. John must have struggled as he tried to describe it for us. The city is made of pure gold and so are its streets. The wall around the city is made of jasper and the 12 foundations are also precious stones of similar value. 12 giant pearls form the gates to the city.
The light that radiates from it is described as that of a precious stone, a jasper stone. The city is said to have the glory of God. I was told that if you placed the 12 stones described here together that the most beautiful light is emitted from them. Certainly, these materials are pure and would reflect any light that shone on them. All of this highlights the fact that the city has the glory of God in her. The precise design of the city and its precious materials give the city a splendour all its own. It is the perfect dwelling for God’s people to live throughout eternity.
Because God has made the New Jerusalem from the finest materials it will remain that way. Gold, pearls and precious stones are pure, they won’t corrupt. No sin or corruption will be allowed to enter this city. It will remain this way forever. The perfect tense is used to speak of the city being prepared and adorned like a bride. This all speaks of permanent perfection.
Buying A Good Brand Product
When you want to buy something at the shops usually you have to choose between a number of products. Shops sell a variety of brands that range from cheap and nasty up to expensive. You have to weigh up what you can afford with how long you want the product to last. The old saying, You get what you pay for has some truth to it. When it comes to the new Jerusalem, God has made it from the most precious materials to be found. That is why it will last. It is worth waiting for. God’s precise design and precious materials make it superior to our cities. God will make to be permanent.
The second quality that makes it great is: Its Security
1. Its Protection
Revelation 21:12-14 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The New Jerusalem has a large wall around it. 12 angels will serve as sentries at the gates of the city. Today our cities don’t have walls for protection. But in John’s day they did. In fact it was seen as a necessity for cities to have strong walls. It gave peace of mind at night and security against the onslaught of the enemy. These walls in fact enhance the city’s beauty. The wall has 12 foundations, this speaks of stability. Foundations are laid to give a structure stability. The wall also marks the limits of the city for those coming in. They are not needed for protection since God has already banished sin from the new creation. The cities gates are always open showing how safe the city is. The gates of the city are each made of one large pearl. This reminds those entering how Jesus Christ the heavenly merchant sold all He owned to purchase the pearl of great price, the Church. These walls speak of perfect security.
A Security System
Because of today’s wicked society nothing is safe any more. To protect your car or valuables at home you need a security system. This gives you added peace that should someone try and break in they will probably be caught. Often such security deters thieves from breaking in. But God’s security system is perfect. He has placed all thieves and liars in the lake of fire. Nothing will ever spoil heaven’s beauty.
2. Its Population
The names of the 12 tribes of Israel are inscribed on the cities gates. This points to the fact that saved Israel belongs there. They form part of its population. The names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb are written upon the foundations of the walls. This shows that the church dwells there. Remember that the church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone. [Ephesians 2:20] and I believe that this is like writing your name on the front door of your house. 12 angels serve as sentries at the gates and it seems clear from this and other Scriptures that the elect angels will be present. These declare who dwells in the city. All of God’s people will live in the holy city.
Hebrews 12:22-23 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, Although these three groups of people come from different places over the ages, their common denominator is salvation. All of heaven’s citizens are perfect. Philippians 3:20-21 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
In Roman times, cities kept records much like they do today. They kept a register of the names of the citizens of the city. Roman citizens didn’t pay taxes. They were given special privileges in the empire. They shared the spoils of war when the armies were victorious. They also received Roman justice, unlike many of the conquered peoples. In the same way, the Lord has a register of heavens citizens. It is called the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The population of heaven will be perfectly safe since only saved people will enter heaven. God won’t allow corrupt people into heaven, He will cast them into hell. Heaven has perfect security since the Lamb’s book of life determines its citizens.
II. The Glory Of The City — The Glory Of God Illuminated It
The throne of God will be the source of blessing in the eternal state. From the throne where God and the Lamb are seated will come forth life, light and rule. This will also be the place where worship is continually offered.
1. God And The Lamb Are Its Temple
a. The whole city will be a temple for the Lord. Revelation 21:22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. A temple is a place designated for the worship of God. It is a place consecrated for holy use. The word translated temple here is naos and means inner shrine. This is the word used to describe the holy of holies where God’s presence was. Incidentally this same word is used of us in 1 Cor 3:16-17. Because God and the Lamb are present, the entire city is a holy place, a temple. Solomon said this when he dedicated the temple. 1 Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! God can easily fill the whole city, since the heavens cannot contain Him. In the New Jerusalem there is no separation between sacred and secular.
b. The Nations will bring glory and honour into the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:24-26 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honour of the nations into it. They will bring their gifts before the Lord in worship. Worship will continually take place before God’s throne. The saved nations are probably those who turned to Christ during the tribulation or the Millennium. These people are not a part of the church, but a separate group of believers like the Old Testament saints. During the Millennium the Nations come up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. This seems to be a continuation of this here. They will bring their glory and honour into the New Jerusalem. This is probably an act of worship before the throne.
Kings Bring Gifts To Great Monarchs
In ancient times the kings of an area would bring their gifts to the leading monarch in the country. Sometimes this was payment of tribute. At other times this was done voluntarily out of respect and awe. The Queen of Sheba did this in Solomon’s time.
The Bible says that they will walk in the light of the city. This seems to indicate that they will dwell on the new earth. They certainly have access to it. Walking in the light of the city probably refers to righteous living as well as the physical light that the city sheds. The Nations living on the New Earth will live a life pleasing to God. They will walk in the light of His will and His word.
c. The Lord’s servants will serve Him. The word serve here means to worship, to render religious service. This comes from the same root word translated service in Romans 12:1. They will see Him face to face. Revelation 22:3-4 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. Here our service will not be marred by sin. Having been perfected at Christ’s return we will be free from our sinful nature. We will truly worship the Lord in spirit and truth!
We will see Him face to face. The Lord will place His name upon our foreheads also. This refers to both likeness and ownership. In our glorified bodies we will once more be in the perfect image of God. We will reflect His glory as we were intended to. But this also speaks of ownership. God has brought us for Himself at great cost. The Antichrist copied this in the tribulation where his followers are branded in their hand or forehead. However in the New Jerusalem God and the Lamb will be the temple. They will be the focus of our worship.
2. God And The Lamb Are Its Light
God the Father and the Lamb are described as the source of light in the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:23-25; 22:5 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. The glory of God will illuminate the New Jerusalem. He will provide light in the fullest sense of the word for His people. This is no surprise, since the Scriptures tell us that God is light and has no darkness at all. Jesus said I am the Light of the world.
Isaiah 60:19 The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory. The glory of God will be seen by men in a way that we have not experienced before. Some of the prophets like Daniel and Isaiah saw God’s glory in a vision and could not bear it. But since the saved have received glorified bodies they will be able to behold God’s glory. There will be no night in the eternal state. Night was provided for man to rest and prepare for a new days work. But with glorified bodies we won’t need this. Night with its pain and mystery have been replaced by continual day. God and the Lamb will be the source of all light.
3. God And The Lamb Are Its Life
The river of life and tree of life. Revelation 22:1-2 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. The river of life springs forth from God’s throne. Water is one of life’s necessities. Without water we die. God Himself provides the necessities of His people. God’s water is bright, as clear as crystal unlike our polluted rivers. It sparkled more than any stream that John had ever seen. The water of life that proceeds from God’s throne is pure and life giving. Only water truly satisfies thirst. The living water from the throne will refresh God’s people wonderfully.
David Spoke of this in Psalm 23:1-2 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. Revelation 7:15-17 ”Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger any more nor thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; “for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The tree of life was present in the Garden of Eden. But Adam and Eve were banished from partaking of its fruit in their sinful state. But here on either side of the river of life and the streets are the tree of life. These produce 12 different kinds of fruit. God’s provision is perfect. He provides a wonderful variety for His people. No fruit tree that we know produces 12 different fruits. These trees produce a different kind of fruit each month. These trees are certainly productive since our trees produce one type of fruit once a year.
The leaves of these trees are for the healing of the nations. The word therapeian is a Greek word we derive therapeutic from. Since there is no sickness or pain this refers to health giving. The leaves of these trees will help preserve good health. Adam and Eve would have preserved their good health if they had eaten of the tree of life instead of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The tree of life and the river of life speak of an abundant life. God will care for His Children’s welfare in every way. God and the Lamb will be the source of life for the citizens of heaven.
4. God And The Lamb Are Its Rulers
The Lord will rule over the universe from the throne. The amazing thing is that we will rule with Him. Revelation 22:5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
The Lord will reign over a kingdom of eternal day. And because of His great grace He will share that reign with us. We will be given responsibility in the government of the Christ’s kingdom. What an undeserved privilege. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. God and the Lamb will be the source of rule in the eternal state.
In the eternal state the glory of God will be clearly seen everywhere. The Lamb will also have a particular focus as can be seen by the 7 reverences to the Lamb in these verses. At last God’s people will be complete. As we serve the Lord we will be truly happy, because this is what we were made for. Our lives will have a new purpose that is truly satisfying.
What is Heaven like? It is more wonderful than we can imagine. Put simply Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. Tonight we saw 2 main things.
1. The Greatness of the city.
The City has the Glory of God.
A. The Splendour of the City is seen in its precise design and its precious materials.
B. The Security of the City is seen in its protective walls and its perfect population.
2. The Glory of the city.
The Glory of the City is God and the Lamb. Four things flow from the their throne.
A. They are the City’s Temple. The throne is the centre of worship.
B. They are the City’s Light. The throne is the source of light.
C. They are the City’s Life. The throne is the source of life. The river and tree of life.
D. They are the City’s rulers. The throne is the source of Government.
Are you prepared for heaven? Is your name in the Lamb’s Book of life?
Make Your Reservation
As early as 1995, reservations were being made in fashionable resorts for celebrating New Years Eve 1999. According to writer Calvin Mcdowell in the New York Times, the London Savoy had by then been twice over booked. Although the charge for the evening was $1,000, the Rainbow Room in New York City had a waiting list. So did the Waldorf - Astoria. Reservations were hard to get. The close of the millennium and beginning of a new one has prompted people to spend it some where special.
But how many have made reservations to spend eternity in the New Jerusalem. Is your name in the Lamb’s Book Of Life? Are you prepared for eternity? When Christ comes back it is too late to make a booking. If Christ came for His Church tonight would you be ready?
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.