The Heavenly City

The place the saints are going to dwell with the Lord forever after is not some fanciful dreamland way off in outer space, but an even more amazing dream city that's going to come down from God, out of Heaven, to the New Earth! God's going to come down and live with the saved, and they with Him. We have a down-to-earth God Who's going to come live with us, and make Heaven on Earth!

John the Revelator tells us some fascinating details about our amazing future heavenly home.

Then one of the seven angels … 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.—Revelation 21:9–11

The Heavenly City is so beautiful that the angel likens it unto a gorgeous woman at her wedding, so he figuratively called it "the bride, the Lamb's wife." Earlier in verse 2, John said that he saw the Holy City descending "as a bride adorned for her husband." We can be pretty sure that the City itself, as heavenly and beautiful as it is, is not going to be Jesus' bride; rather the inhabitants of that City, both individually and collectively, are His bride.

The apostle Paul once wrote that we should "be married … to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God" (Romans 7:4). The believers in Jesus are His bride. The City is the home of Jesus and His bride, and is undoubtedly to be the venue of the wonderful Marriage Supper of the Lamb, where all the believers of all ages are to be formally married to Jesus. Kings who were rich and wealthy often built palaces in honor of their queens. Well, our King has built His queen the greatest palace that has ever existed. Nothing in this world, nothing man has ever built or could build, would even hold a candle to this City.

Earlier, in Revelation chapter 4, John had described what he saw when he was taken up in the spirit to God's throne room.

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in Heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.—Revelation 4:2–3

John compares God in all His glory and His brilliance to a jasper or sardius stone. Jasper is a type of quartz that is usually red in color, and sardius is also a red stone.

As John was watching this Heavenly City descend to Earth, he also described it as looking like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. So at least from a distance it looked like a brilliant, transparent red jewel. So it looked to him not only like a bride, but also, perhaps because of the red color, like a royal bride, a queen fit to marry the King of kings. Later we find out that the walls of this amazing City are transparent gold.

Also she [the City] 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 [most likely layers] and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.—Revelation 21:12–14

Why would the City have a big tall protective wall like that and each gate guarded by an angel unless there were some people outside whom they didn't want to get in? This is another indication that there will be people outside who are not qualified to enter the City.

The names of the 12 apostles are inscribed on the various foundations of the wall and the names of 12 tribes of Israel are inscribed on the gates. What better way could the Lord immortalize and honor them for their great work in laying the foundation and preparation for the whole Church than to put their names on the gates and walls?A

John writes:

And he who talked with me had a gold reed [measuring rod] 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.—Revelation 21:15–16

The original Greek word translated here in the English as "furlongs" is stadios. In its singular form stadion, it is the measure of a standard racetrack in the old Greek and Roman world and has given us the English word "stadium." "Furlong" is an old English word not used much these days except in horse racing events in some countries. It is an eighth of a mile. However, there is a difference in measurement in a stadion and a furlong. For the sake of translating this text into something relatable to an English-speaking audience, the original English translators rendered the term "furlongs," and this is the term still found in the New King James Version of the Bible. Some other modern versions more correctly translate it as stadia, which is the Latin rendition ofstadios.

The length of a stadion in classical times differed, but it was about 185 meters (607 feet). So 12,000 stadios equals 2220 kilometers or about 1380 miles. So we have a city whose base area is 2220 kilometers by 2220 kilometers, which equals 4,928,400 square kilometers, or nearly 5 million square kilometers. To put that in perspective, that is approximately half of the land area of Europe. And on top of that, it rises to an altitude of 2220 kilometers! Intercontinental passenger airlines usually fly their planes around eight to ten kilometers high, which is around 20–30,000 feet. Talk about out of this world! This City is going to jut right out into space.

There are only so many shapes that fit the description of being "laid out as a square. … Its length, breadth, and height are equal." One is a cube, another is a pyramid, and a third is an object with a square base but whose sides arch in to form a dome at the top. The most popular concept among Bible commentators who believe in a literal acceptance of this passage is that it is a cube. However, other Bible scholars, such as the authors of the Wycliffe Bible Commentary, posit that it is a pyramid.

There are Scriptures that seem to support the pyramid idea. Hebrews 12:22 says, "You have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem." That certainly indicates it is mountain-shaped. And several other Scriptures speak of "the Mountain of the Lord's House" (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1). And if there's anything that would look like a mountain, in fact the most mountainous mountain ever, imagine a 2220-kilometer-high pyramid!

Also, as John was watching New Jerusalem descend, a loud voice from Heaven said, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with man" (Revelation 21:3). The ancient Israelite tabernacle was a tent. That City sure is some big tent. If God regards it only as His camping trip quarters, then there must be other wonderful places still to be revealed. But a common shape of tents is pyramidical, which again points to a pyramid.

No one really knows now why the ancient Egyptians for a long period built the sacred tombs of their kings in a pyramid shape. Could it be that they had some idea that that was the shape of the world to come, so they were trying to imitate it and make sure their kings were introduced into that world in proper form and proper shape? Other cultures, such as the Mayans, built their temples on the top of pyramids.

The capacity of this marvelous Heavenly City is almost beyond comprehension. If it is pyramidical, it would have a total volume of over 3.6 billion cubic kilometers. There is nothing even remotely similar on Earth to compare this with.

So what takes up all the space? We know there are mansions there. Jesus said, "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). The Lord told His prophet Daniel that he would "arise to [his] inheritance at the end of the days" (Daniel 12:13). So apparently those who are faithful to serve God like Daniel did will be receiving an inheritance in this beautiful city, maybe even one of those mansions to call home.

Just think, a mansion that isn't going to cost you anything there—no upkeep, no expenses, absolutely nothing except what it's already cost Jesus in His sacrifice in dying for your sins. Its magnificence, or lack of it, will be commensurate with your works on Earth, what you already did down here to deserve it. Good works and loving deeds often go unrewarded in this life, but you'll find that whatever you've sacrificed here for God and others will be nothing compared with what you'll receive in return in Heaven.

We read in the previous chapter that a river flows through the City, lined with trees on each side. So there will no doubt be large parks, and perhaps all manner of landscapes and terrains available for everyone's enjoyment. What else it contains we don't know. We will just have to wait to see all that God has in store for us!

But why would the City be so high? It would be a waste if it was all empty space. Some have envisioned that it could have levels, or floors spaced very far apart. Or perhaps the various buildings or whatever occupies the City actually are suspended in space. That would be the ultimate in three-dimensional living. Whatever the configuration, one thing is obvious: There is plenty of room for an expanding population.

Some Bible interpreters and translators believe that the word translated as "mansions" in the New Testament doesn't mean large quarters, but something more like different quarters. One translator even claims that our modern equivalent of this word would be apartments—no doubt commodious, luxurious apartments.

Let's look at this idea a little more closely. If, for example, mounted on the walls of the Heavenly City were floors like a multi-story apartment building with each floor having a generous ten-meter floor to ceiling measurement, then there would be room for 222,000 floors. That would be some skyscraper! If we then were to hazard a guess that the population of the Heavenly City was as high as 20 billion people, then this would average about 90,000 people with living quarters on each level. If each level consisted of a single kilometer-wide strip running around the inside edge of the Heavenly City (in the shape of a pyramid), with the remaining inside space open, then the population density on a level would be close to 20 people per square kilometer. By comparison, the population density of Switzerland—not usually thought of as a crowded place—is 182 per square kilometer!

This would mean each occupant in the Heavenly City would have a personal plot of 50,000 square meters, which is about the area of 10 football fields. That's a lot of space. And this is just the density of the "living quarters," not the population density of the actual total City. All this is, of course, a little fanciful, as we are not told how the City is going to be divided up with regards to housing, nor do we know how many people will be there. But it is interesting to do the math on things and see just how enormous this place is, and how commodious it will be for our eternal living pleasure.

We are told specifically that there is one thing that is not there. "But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple" (Revelation 21:22).

Now, back to the angel with the golden measuring reed:

Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits [about 65 meters], according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. 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.—Revelation 21:17–20

It is not clear if these foundations of precious gems are at the bottom of the wall as would be the modern understanding of this description, or if each of these foundations are a layer in the wall. The Greek word themelios translated as "foundations" can in the original Greek give the impression that it is layers. John does say the wall was made of jasper, but that is also what the first foundation is made of, so it is a bit hard to understand. But either way … it is a magnificent wall!

Following is a list of these gems and a description of them.

1. Jasper. An opaque variety of chalcedony, or quartz, usually red.
2. Sapphire. The modern sapphire, a blue variety of corundum.
3. Chalcedony. A translucent variety of quartz occurring in a variety of colors. Agate, bloodstone, carnelian, chrysoprase, flint, jasper, and onyx are all varieties of chalcedony.
4. Emerald. A deep green variety of beryl.
5. Sardonyx. A red and white variety of chalcedony.
6. Sardius. A red stone, considered by many to be carnelian, a reddish-brown variety of chalcedony.
7. Chrysolite. A yellow stone that could have been the same as topaz or some other yellow gem such as beryl, zircon, or a yellow quartz. Its name comes from a Greek word that means "gold stone."
8. Beryl. A hard mineral, beryl ranges in color from bluish green to yellow, white, pink, and deep green.
9. Topaz. A yellowish-green form of chrysolite
10. Chrysoprase. Chrysoprase had a light green color.
11. Jacinth. A yellow-orange variety of the mineral zircon.
12. Amethyst. A variety of the mineral corundum. Its color varies from light to deep violet.

John the Revelator must have really known his precious stones to be able to give such a detailed description. Whether each of these foundations had these jewels embedded in it or whether each foundation consisted of one solid jewel of these varieties we are not sure, but one thing we do know is that it will be beautiful.

"The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl" (Revelation 21:21). Can you imagine the gates for such a city, whose wall was 65 meters high?—The gates would have to be at least large enough to permit a man to pass standing erect, and probably on horseback, which would mean they would have to be at least 5 meters high—or even higher. If you are wondering about the horseback part, remember that the heavenly armies that descended at Armageddon rode magnificent white chargers, and there is no reason to believe that we will not continue to have and ride these wonderful horses in the Heavenly City.

But can you imagine a pearl that big? It is interesting also to think about the fact that John called them pearls. A pearl is solid. So how is a solid pearl a gate? Perhaps there are doors in them, but it would seem more likely that the heavenly citizenry will be able to pass through the pearly gates similar to how Jesus apparently could walk through closed doors in His resurrected body (John 20:19).

"And the street of the City was pure gold, like transparent glass" (Revelation 21:21).—That's a kind of gold we don't know anything about today. The gold of this world is not transparent and it doesn't look like glass. But the gold of the City will be transparent glass-like golden crystal.

Not only are the streets made of this pure crystal clear gold, but as we read a few verses earlier, the "City was pure gold, like clear glass" (Revelation 21:18). The whole City is crystal gold. So we'll be able to see out of the City through those transparent walls, out onto the beautifully re-created New Earth. We're going to be able to look out there and see and enjoy the view of that beautiful creation.

"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 [Jesus] is its light" (Revelation 21:23). Inside this Heavenly City it will be light all the time, all day and all night, and we'll never have to sleep unless we want to, because we'll never get tired or weary. And even for those on the outside, it will be amazing just to live anywhere within sight of that City, to be able to see it at night and thrill to its gorgeous splendor, resplendent with the golden, supernatural, miraculous light of God. God's Word says that even the Sun and the Moon shall be ashamed in comparison with the glory and the beauty and the light of that holy City here on the surface of the Earth. "Then the Moon will be disgraced and the Sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before His elders, gloriously" (Isaiah 24:23).

The inhabitants of the New Earth will be able to look up and view that beautiful City and know that God is there, that God now lives on Earth with humanity. He's made His dwelling place here, and that's His beautiful City, His capital City. And even if they are not among the citizens living inside the City, they'll be able to look up from the surface of the Earth and be thankful that they are even there at all.

God's City is going to be perfect and pure and beautiful. In fact, it's not going to be beautiful, it already is beautiful. Jesus has been working on it ever since He ascended. Two thousand years ago He told His disciples, "In My Father's house are many mansions. … I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2–3). It will be the culmination, the ultimate of Heaven on Earth, inhabited only by heavenly beings and earthlings made heavenly, in a perfect atmosphere, a heavenly environment, with the most excellent housing the world has ever known, the whole place shining like precious stones and jewels. But best of all, it will be full of billions of people living in harmony and love with God and each other, those who received Jesus through the 7,000 years or so since the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden through the Millennium until the New Earth.

Will you be there? You can be. Jesus is waiting to welcome you there. Receive Him as your Savior by saying a short prayer like this one.

Jesus, I accept that You are the Son of God and I ask You to come into my life. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer with sincerity, then you are now a citizen of Heaven, with full entry rights into the Heavenly City of the future.--And not only a heavenly future but heaven in your heart and mind now. Jesus will be with you now and will be there to welcome you on the day that you pass through Heaven’s gates. See you there!

Notes

A. There were actually 13 tribes of Israel. Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob (later named Israel), was given double honor, and so his tribe became two, the descendants of his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. We don't know which tribe gets left off the list. In the case of the apostles, Judas was one of the original 12, and it is very unlikely his name is written on one of these foundations. Paul explained that he—that is, Paul—was "an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Timothy 1:1). Certainly his name would be a worthy replacement.

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