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Gordon Fee: The point of all this, of course, is to indicate how great is the “new Jerusalem,” where God and the Lamb sit enthroned, and God’s people, “his servants, will serve him.”

John MacArthur: By the way, everything has perfect symmetry. Everything has perfect balance. Everything is in perfect order. That reflects a God who demands symmetry, balance and order. That’s the way the mind of God operates. The mind of God is incredibly balanced and ordered; very different than the chaotic kind of art and music that’s characteristic of our culture.

Albert Mohler: This passage marks the beginning of the final vision (21:9 – 22:5).  Another angel, holding one of the seven bowls, invites John to see the bride of the Lamb, and he is carried away in the spirit to a high mountain (21:9-10).  This vision constitutes an expanded presentation of the new Jerusalem introduced in verses 1-8 and portrays the dazzling beauty of the holy City coming down to earth from heaven.  This passage parallels much of Ezekiel’s vision of the glorious new and final temple (Eze 40-48), which Ezekiel also saw from a high mountain (Eze 40:2).  The new Jerusalem, however, is itself a temple city (Rev 21:22) because it is where God and the Lamb will dwell with the holy people forever.  While it is described as a city, it is also the glorified people of God, who are the bride of Christ.  Christians are the “living stones” forming the true temple of God in Christ, who is the chosen and precious cornerstone (1 Pe 2:4-7).

Alan Johnson: In John’s description of the city, precious stones, brilliant colors, and the effulgence of light abound.  The problem of the literalness of the city has received much attention.  If the city is the bride and the bride the glorified community of God’s people in their eternal life, there is little question that John’s descriptions are primarily symbolic of that glorified life.  This in no way diminishes the reality behind the imagery.  In the most suitable language available to John, much of it drawn from the OT, he shows us something of the reality of the eschatological kingdom of God in its glorified existence.

Buist Fanning: As he resumes this theme [the glorious appearance of the Lamb’s bride], John launches the final major section of Revelation, parallel to 17:1 – 19:10, in which he completes the contrast between the great prostitute representing Babylon, Satan’s evil city, and the Lamb’s bride representing Jerusalem, God’s holy city.  These sections begin and end in corresponding ways to reinforce the contrast. . .

The surprising correlation that the angel makes in vv. 9-10 (“the bride, the wife of the Lamb” is “the holy city Jerusalem”) shows that what these symbols represent is both a people and a place.  Despite the figurative language used in both phrases and throughout the following description, we are not forced to choose between these two symbols.  The two ideas of people living in intimacy with the God who loved them and chose them to be his forever (the bride) and living in vibrant community with one another, enjoying God’s abundant provision and security (the city, a place), easily cohere.  Both figures bring something important to our understanding of the future reality they point to.  This does not require an either-or-choice.


A.  (:9-10) Bride / Holy City Makes her Appearance

  1. (:9)  Presentation of the Bride

And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls

full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying,

‘Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’

John MacArthur: Why is it called a city that is a bride? Because it draws its character from its occupants. And its occupants are the eternal bride of Christ, now enlarged beyond the church to encompass all the redeemed of all the ages. When you go back in to chapter 19, verses 7 to 9, and you talk about the bride there and the marriage supper of the Lamb, of course, the bride is the church. We find that very clearly in Ephesians chapter 5. But as you move along in the unfolding of the eschatological plan, the bride enlarges to encompass all the redeemed. . .

The city is like a bride, because the people are forever united to God and to the Lamb. It takes on the character of its inhabitants. It is a city with virgin beauty, virgin virtue, and intimate relationship to the living God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Robert Mounce: The angel is undoubtedly the one who in 17:1 summoned John to witness the judgment of the great prostitute. This seems to be the purpose of the identical introductions.  It also draws attention to the contrast between the great prostitute (the wicked city Babylon) and the bride of the Lamb (the holy city Jerusalem).  One is of the earth, symbolizing the unbridled passion of evil, and the other descends from heaven, the epitome of all that is pure and beautiful.

  1. (:10)  Personal Tour of the Holy City

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain,

and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,

Robert Mounce: Verses 10–14 in the Greek text comprise one compound sentence that describes the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven.

John MacArthur:  It is not the creation of heaven here, it is simply the descent of what already existed from eternity past. God creates a new heaven and a new earth in the sense of a created universe. But descending into that created universe is an already eternally existing dwelling place that has always been the abode of God and the abode of the redeemed and the holy angels. And even once was the abode of Satan and demons who fell and were cast out.

B.  (:11) Brilliant Glory

having the glory of God.

Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.

John MacArthur: So the first thing that strikes John as he is taken to this high mountain and he looks up and sees the holy city, the new Jerusalem, is that it has the glory of God; that blazing out of the middle is this light. He is the light of heaven, He is the light of the city. And it comes out of that city, and I believe it’ll fill all of the new heavens and the new earth. And it calls attention to His majesty and His wonder and His character. . .

Now when you think about jasper you’ve got to think in terms of ancient understanding, because our modern jasper is opaque; but this one is not. Iaspis is the Greek word; and the Hebrew word is almost identical, yashepheh. And what you have here is not a translation, but a transliteration. The best understanding of that term is that it’s a diamond, crystal clear; it is a diamond. . .

So the city is like one massive perfect diamond gem, flashing the reflection of God’s glory in infinite light – the ultimate light show, believe me. All of eternity then becomes bathed in the radiating splendor of God. And that is the remarkable general appearance. It is like a massive – and when I say massive, I mean massive, because it is fifteen hundred miles squared, or cubed really, fifteen hundred miles cubed, one massive crystal-clear diamond gem, with the glory of God shining out from the center of it and splattering its rainbow colors all over the new heavens and the new earth.

Albert Mohler: John first gives a description of the outside of the new Jerusalem as an eternal Most Holy Place, shining with the glory of God.  The glory of God radiates with the sparkling and dazzling beauty of precious gemstones (cf. 4:3).  John compares the glory of God to the greenish or reddish hue of jasper, but he describes it as crystal clear, unlike the translucent character of normal jasper, suggesting something more like a diamond.

Charles Swindoll: Nothing on earth even begins to compare to what God has prepared for us because any choice of words fails to capture the breathtaking intensity of His glory.


A.  (:12a) Fortress Type Wall

It had a great and high wall,

Albert Mohler: The city is surrounded by a massive wall with 12 gates named after the 12 tribes of Israel, and each gate is protected by an angel (21:12-13).  The wall with its gates indicates that the city is totally secure and safe from all threats (Isa 26:1-2; Eze 40:5-6; Zec 2:5).  The 12 tribes of Israel – the original 12 sons of Israel who represent the redeemed people of God in the Old Testament – serve as the entry point into God’s city (Eze 48:31-34).

Kendell Easley: For any ancient city, one sure sign of importance was the magnificence of its wall and its gates. For all other cities, they served an important military defense function; this city needs no such protection. John’s initial impression is of a wall great and high. The exact specifications are delayed until verse 17. Earthly cities often had military guards for the gates, especially in times of security alerts. The heavenly city has guardians to beautify its appearance: twelve angels at the gates.

B.  (:12b) Number, Guarding and Naming of the Gates

  1. Number of the Gates

with twelve gates,

  1. Guarding of the Gates

and at the gates twelve angels;

  1. Names on the Gates

and names were written on them,

which are those of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.

Robert Thomas: It is significant that John brings together the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles here, and makes a distinction between them. Jesus did the same earlier (Mat. 19:28Luke 22:30). This distinction shows the wrongness of identifying the twelve tribes in Rev. 7:4-8+ with the church.

C.  (:13) Location of the Gates

  1. East

There were three gates on the east

  1. North

and three gates on the north

  1. South

and three gates on the south

  1. West

and three gates on the west.

D.  (:14) Foundation Stones of the Wall

  1. Number

And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones,

Albert Mohler: The city rests on 12 foundation stones named after the 12 apostles (Mt 10:2-4).  It is established on the sure foundation of the gospel of Jesus delivered faithfully by the apostles (Eph 2:20).

Alan Johnson: Foundations of ancient cities usually consisted of extensions of the rows of huge stones that made up the wall, down to the bedrock.  Jerusalem’s first-century walls and foundation stones have recently been excavated.  Huge stones, some of which are about five feet wide, four feet high, and thirty feet long, weighing eighty to one hundred tons each and going down some fourteen to nineteen layers below the present ground level, have been found.

  1. Names

and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Tony Garland: Who will be listed as the twelfth?

  • Judas?
  • Matthias?
  • Paul?

While it is impossible to know, and perhaps not of great importance, we are inclined to think the twelfth name will be that of the Apostle Paul, for it seems impossible that his name would not appear on a foundation as a major contributor to the early church and the New Testament.


Albert Mohler: The purpose of the measuring (as in Rev 11:1-2) is to guarantee it as eternally protected by God’s power.  The city is laid out in a perfect cube shape – with an equal length, width, height, and depth.  The significance of the cube shape is that it is the same dimensions as the Most Holy Place, where God dwelled in the earthly temple, which means the entire new Jerusalem is the Most Holy Place (1Ki 6:20; Eze 45:2-3).  It is 12,000 stadia (about 1,400 miles) in length, making it a massive city with walls 144 cubits (or about 216 feet) thick.  The use of the number 12 conveys the idea of completeness or perfection.  The measurement of the city is a number that represents absolute perfection: 12 times 10 cubed.  The walls are also represented as absolutely perfect since 144 is 12 squared.  Not only is this city larger than the entire Roman Empire of John’s day, it symbolically represents the entirety of the redeemed people of God now perfected in glory.

A.  (:15-17) Cubic Dimensions of the Gates and Its Wall

  1. (:15)  Gold Measuring Rod

And the one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall.

Grant Osborne: The measuring connotes God’s ownership and protection of his people. The city of God is forever guaranteed the presence and protection of God. This is in keeping with the negatives of this section—no tears, no pain, no sinners, no sun or moon, no night, no impurity, no shame or deceit—God has removed them all! In Rev. 11:1–2 the measuring referred to God’s presence spiritually with his people in the midst of their present travails. Here the measuring is God’s final and eternal presence, and the travails are over.

Robert Mounce: The measuring in chapter 11 was to insure protection; here it serves to portray the enormous size and perfect symmetry of the eternal dwelling place of the faithful.

  1. (:16)  Cubic Structure

And the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width;

and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles;

its length and width and height are equal.

Alternate View:

John Walvoord: The city’s shape is not mentioned, but judging from its square dimensions some have assumed it to be a cube.  Inspiration, however, does not indicate the shape; it also could be in the form of a pyramid with sides sloping to a peak at the height indicated. This would have certain advantages, not necessarily because it is smaller, but because this shape provides a vehicle for the river of life to proceed out of the throne of God, which seems to be at the top, to find its way to the bottom, assuming our experience of gravity will be somewhat normal also in the new earth.

  1. (:17)  Wall Measurement

And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards,

according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements.

John MacArthur: Do you realize that an inch is an inch whether you’re a human or an angel? A foot is a foot whether you’re a man or an angel? I love that, that’s put there for the spiritualizers who are going to say, “Well, of course, angelic measurements would be different than human measurements.” No, they’re not.

B.  (:18-21) Costly Building Materials

  1. (:18a)  Wall Made of Jasper

And the material of the wall was jasper;

Tony Garland: Jasper was the last stone in the breastplate of the high priest (Ex. 28:20; 39:13). It was also one of the stones which was Satan’s covering in the garden of God (Eze. 28:13).

  1. (:18b)  City Made of Transparent Pure Gold

and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.

Grant Osborne: The reason both the city and its street are constructed of transparent gold is probably the same theme as the sea of glass in 4:6: its own glory is insufficient, and it can only radiate through its transparency the incomparably greater glory of God himself. The splendor of earthly gold is inadequate; it must be transparent so God’s glory can shine through it.

  1. (:19-20)  Foundation Stones Made of Precious Stones

The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned

with every kind of precious stone.

Albert Mohler: John continues to describe the beauty, worth and glory of the new Jerusalem in terms of valuable and colorful gemstones (Rev 21:18-21).  The imagery pictures the city stunningly adorned with a variety of precious stones, but it also reinforces the priestly nature of the people of God (1:5-6; Ex 28:3-28).

a.  Jasper — Green

The first foundation stone was jasper;

b.  Sapphire — Blue

the second, sapphire;

c.  Chalcedony – Greenish or Gray

the third, chalcedony;

d.  Emerald — Green

the fourth, emerald;

e.  Sardonyx – Red and White

the fifth, sardonyx;

f.  Sardius – Fiery Red

the sixth, sardius;

g.  Chrysolite – Golden Yellow

the seventh, chrysolite;

h.  Beryl – Aqua Green

the eighth, beryl;

i.  Topaz – Greenish Yellow

the ninth, topaz;

j.  Chrysoprase – Golden Green

the tenth, chrysoprase;

k.  Jacinth — Violent

the eleventh, jacinth;

l.  Amethyst — Purple

the twelfth, amethyst.

John MacArthur: Now what you have, of course, is just a blazing, blazing panoply of these brilliant colors that the light of God’s glory is shining through, as they make up the foundation of the heavenly city. The general picture then is one of just unbelievable beauty, indescribable beauty, a spectrum of color blazing everywhere. The light of the gold, the diamond, transparent city shining through the diamond walls, pushing its light through all of these colored jewels, forms a scene of dazzling, wondrous, incredible beauty.

  1. (:21a)  Gates Made of Pearls

And the twelve gates were twelve pearls;

each one of the gates was a single pearl.

Tony Garland: The pearls may stand as a testimony that the redeemed from among the Gentiles, who responded to God in faith, are no longer considered unclean and can pass through the gates.

John Phillips: All other precious gems are metals or stones, but a pearl is a gem formed within the oyster. It is the only one formed by living flesh. The humble oyster receives an irritation or a wound, and around the offending article that has penetrated and hurt it, the oyster builds a pearl. The pearl, we might say, is the answer of the oyster to that which injured it. And the glory land is God’s answer in Christ to the wicked men who crucified heaven’s beloved and put Him to open shame. How like God it is to make the gates of the new Jerusalem pearls. The saints as they come and go will be forever reminded as they pass the gates of glory, that access to God’s home is only because of Calvary.

Think of the size of those gates. Think of the supernatural pearls from which they are made. What gigantic suffering is symbolized by those gates of pearl. Throughout the endless ages we shall be reminded by those pearly gates of the immensity of the sufferings of Christ. Those pearls hung eternally, as it were, at the access routes to glory will remind us forever of One who hung upon a tree, and whose answer to those who injured Him was to invite them to forever share His home.

  1. (:21b)  Street Made of Pure Gold

And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

Kendell Easley: Because we are so accustomed to clear glass, we have a hard time remembering that ancient glass was usually dark and filled with flaws. Only kings and the extremely wealthy had anything like clear glass. Thus, for the city street to be transparent as glass (revealing that it was flawless) shows that every citizen of the heavenly city will have access to far more than the wealthiest human who ever lived. It is also worth noting that in the ancient temple of Israel, the priests walked on gold floors; now every citizen has the same privilege and beyond (1 Kgs. 6:30).

Charles Swindoll: The streets of the city will be made of pure gold (21:21). Imagine that! In the new Jerusalem the materials we adore the most in this world will be put to common use. The marble-paved streets of Ephesus, where the apostle John lived out his days, were unusually extravagant, earning Ephesus a reputation as one of the most opulent cities of the Roman Empire. But the opulence of the new Jerusalem will far exceed that of Ephesus or any other city. Gold will be trodden upon like asphalt. There will be no vanity, no materialism, no envy or greed. Best of all, no one will be poor in a place that paves its streets with gold.