June 6 2021
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts around 19:45 in the audio file.
Or, All Glory All the Time
Series: Just Conquer #61
This coming Thursday is the anniversary of Mo and I’s move to Marysville twenty years ago. Marysville hasn’t always been as great of a city as it is these days, and Lord willing will be still to come. But one of the things it’s always had going for it in my mind, other than the number of auto parts stores, is how often it rains.
We moved from the Los Angeles area, having lived all our married life up to that point in Santa Clarita. Not only is it hot in the summertime, it only rains 34.1 days annually, one of the least rainy places in CA. Near the end of our time there, I would wake up and lament that it was sunny again. Twenty years in this Western WA cloudy-skies climate has caused an increase in my gratitude to God for sun, but when the sun comes up at 4am and goes down at 10pm, I don’t mind finding some dark.
Our future as God’s people is brighter than any southern California imagination.
The sun shall be no more your light
nor for brightness shall the moon
give you light;
but the LORD will be your
and your God will be your glory.
This comes near the end of Isaiah’s prophecies, and John’s vision near the end of Revelation picks up the same thread. God will be the everlasting light, our everlasting light. There will be no night. It will be all glory all the time.
John began to describe what he saw about the New Jerusalem coming down in verse 9 of chapter 21. He saw the walls, the gates, the measurements, the materials, all with radiant glory. Now John moves to some of the internal features of the city, and four significant things are not found.
An angel invited John to see in verse 9 and took him to a high mountain in verse 10. He sees here in verse 22, and again at the start of chapter 22. He starts with an astounding absence.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
The word temple typically refers to a sacred location where God/a god met with worshippers. After the (temporary tent) tabernacle, the Jews had two separate temples (the first built by Solomon and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the second temple rebuilt by Zerubbabel after the exile and destroyed by the Romans in AD 70). Ezekiel saw an eschatological temple (Ezekiel 40-48), and the Jews “consistently affirmed the hope of a final, material temple structure on a scale greater than any before” (Beale). Either that temple is rebuilt around and during the Millennial kingdom (and not carried over into the new heaven and new earth), or, as others claim, the City-Bride in Revelation 21 is the temple.
But why would Ezekiel’s vision center on the temple and then John go out of his way to say that he saw no temple?
Note that the people are the city, and God dwells with them (verse 3). Then God Himself is the temple, and men enjoy His presence. He is the Lord God the Almighty (ὁ παντοκράτωρ) and the Lamb. Again the divine nature of the Lamb is put in the spotlight.
There is no temple made of materials or of men, which argues against a spiritual application of Ephesians 2:20-22. That really is a fantastic passage, which figuratively describes the church as the dwelling place of God. But in Revelation, the redeemed are a City, the wall around the city has apostle foundations, but that does not make us the eternal temple, and in fact, John says explicitly that God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple.
When it comes to the light of the world, God and His Son are it.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
The city itself is lit by the glory of God, and we’ll see in the next couple verses that the glory shines for the benefit of others outside of the city.
The phrase has no need has caused some to say that there actually will be a sun and moon in the new creation, but that they won’t be light sources, or at least they won’t be depended on as light sources. Perhaps. But the day/night cycle will be no more according to verse 25 (and compare that with the original assignment of the sun and moon in Genesis 1:14-18), and repeated in 22:5 – “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light….” Since God’s glory will be on display, there’s no on/off switch. Our glorified, resurrected bodies will be ready for going all day.
God wraps Himself as it were with light (Psalm 104:2); He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16). Jesus said He was “the light of the world” (John 8:12). We give thanks to God for qualifying us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:11).
Perhaps because the perfect fulfillment of submission is now seen between the Lamb and His Bride, the sun and moon are mentioned as no longer necessary as additional, external illustrations.
Verse 24 picks up with the light, but explains what will be happening with the light.
By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day–(for) there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.
The first question is who are those who live outside the city? The redeemed of the Lamb are the City-Bride, those who live in and are part of the city, and all the rebels were thrown into the lake of fire. These cannot be a new group of unsaved men.
John does not provide their identity in Revelation. The most satisfying idea is that the kings and these nations are believers (whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, verse 27), who were saved and lived to the end of the thousand years but who were not deceived by Satan. They will be transformed for eternal life, but they will not have died and then returned (Thomas).
Kings bring in their glory and honor, their grandeur, their drip, as told in both verse 24 and 26. God’s glory lights up the new earth, and men, who are now glorified image-bearers, are bringing what they’ve made to Him as glory. It’s not just that they walk around in an entourage, they bring wealth and riches and gifts.
This also suggests the ideas of work, production, economics, (international) trade, high (and low) quality goods, and not zero sum, since nations will “walk” by the light outside the city. It’s not all glory inside leaving no glory outside.
Bringing in glory will be like tribute, in a way, yes, but satisfying tribute. The nations, drunk with Babylon’s offers, used to bring her gifts. This is not tribute imposed by the Almighty to remind these kings who the true king is, as if they resented the special place of the Lamb. Their work, and their work product, is a means of their worship.
As Isaiah 60:19 was repeated, the descriptions here repeat a few other verses in Isaiah 60:
Your gates shall be open continually;
day and night they shall not be shut,
that people may bring to you the wealth
of the nations,
with their kings led in procession.
But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Verse 27 doesn’t mean that there will be both truth-doers and false-doers around, but the false-doers exist outside the city. The statement emphasizes what is completely other than our experience, and certainly for Jews who knew their history, city and temple. At this point it is all clean, all the time.
It also functions as an exhortation to all who hear the words of this prophecy: you must love and serve the Lamb or you will have no place in this glorious future.
As with much of the Apocalypse there are too many details that become problems for those who think this passage is describing the church. A future state (because it certainly doesn’t apply for the present state) of the church doesn’t need sun or moon? The church won’t need closed gates? The church will at some point only have those who are truly saved in her midst?
Here is glory the saints won’t have to hide from, contrasted with Moses who asked to see God’s glory, and he had to be hidden in the cleft of a rock while God passed by and Moses got to see God’s back (Exodus 33:18-23).
We are promised a future of light. In his first letter, John wrote that when we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. When we walk in God’s light, we will be walking in fellowship. Might as well get started enjoying it now.
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:11, 14, ESV)