The last two chapters of Revelation give us great hope and anticipation. God allows John to see just a little of what He has prepared for those who believe in His Son and accept Him as Savior and Lord. What John sees will not take place for at least 1,007 more years. The Tribulation has not begun, and the new heavens and earth are revealed after Jesus’ thousand-year reign on earth, so we have a little while to wait for it. For the redeemed who will serve God in the Millennial Kingdom, I believe that time will pass more quickly than we realize. Once we are granted immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53-54), time as we know it will not be as relevant to us.
We learn a lot about our new home in these two chapters. Some see the descriptions as figurative, but I don’t see a reason not to accept them literally. The Garden of Eden, where God first had perfect communion with Adam and Eve, was a real place. Jesus’ glorified body was perfect, able to move and transcend natural laws, yet He intentionally made it clear that it was physical as the disciples were able to touch Him and He ate in front of them. Why would our final home not be a physical place as well where we will dwell forever in glorified bodies like Jesus?
The holy city is absolutely huge by the measurements given. It is shaped as a cube, “12,000 stadia” on each side, or 1500 miles in length, width and height. One commentator describes it this way:
For perspective, one corner of that cube could be placed in Los Angeles CA, another in Minneapolis MN, another in Miami FL, and the other near Ixtapa, Mexico. Due to its height, about 95% of this cube would be in outer space. Its volume would be about two-thirds that of the moon.
This chapter has mentioned twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve tribes of Israel (verse 12), twelve foundations, twelve apostles (verse 14), twelve precious stones, and twelve pearls (verse 21). The dimensions of the city (length, width, and height) are each given as twelve thousand stadia. Early in the next chapter, we will also see twelve crops of fruit (Rev 22:2).
All of these references to the number twelve cannot be coincidental. In fact, the number twelve is a prominent number throughout the Bible. Like the number seven, it too carries a meaning beyond just the number itself. The symbolic meaning associated with the number twelve may be inferred by reviewing the instances in which it is used. Some of these instances are listed below:
Gen 17:20 – Abraham’s son, Ishmael, is promised to be the father of twelve rulers.
Gen 35:22 – Jacob had twelve sons (from which come the twelve tribes of Israel). There are many instances of the number twelve that are related to these tribes, including the different utensils in the temple (Num 7:84-87), staffs (Num 17:2), animals (Num 29:17), the garments worn by the priests (Ex 28:15-21), and even the twelve stars on the head of the figurative woman in Rev 12:1.
Matt 10:1 – Jesus chose twelve disciples, who became (replacing Judas with Matthias), the twelve apostles. There are other references to twelve related to them (such as the twelve baskets of bread and fish).
For marking time, there are twelve months in a year (1 Kings 4:7, Rev 22:2), twelve hours in a day, and twelve hours in the night (John 11:9).
From these cases, we see that the number twelve is associated with God’s design for governing, or granting His authority to people. Some commentators point out that there is a mathematical connection between the symbolic numbers seven and twelve. Specifically, that 7 = 3+4 while 12 = 3×4. Another interesting observation is that the Holy of Holies and the new Jerusalem are described as being in the shape of a cube (1 Kings 6:20, Rev 21:16), and a cube has twelve edges.
It seems then that while the number seven is associated with the perfection of the purposes of God, the number twelve is associated with the perfection of the purposes of mankind, as stated by God. His people Israel began with twelve tribes. His people the Church began with twelve apostles.
This may explain why the number twelve is so strongly connected with this new Jerusalem: It represents the kingdom of God which is full of God’s people, and they are in perfect harmony with His government.
Of course, beyond the beauty and majesty of this new city, is the presence of God the Father and Jesus the Son. God will dwell with man again when all is complete.
Revelation 21:3 – And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.
Revelation 22:3-4 – There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bondservants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.
The final message given by the angel bookends the story of mankind. In Genesis 3, man lost his place in the Garden and was banished so that he would not partake of the Tree of Life and live forever in his sinful, condemned state (Genesis 3:22-24). Now, because of Jesus, we are invited into our new home, which is beyond description, to partake of that same Tree of Life – fully restored, fully redeemed, back to what God intended from the very beginning.
Revelation 22:14 – Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
Where do we wash our robes? In the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). Only Jesus can grant entrance into His Father’s house. He alone paid the price of admission – His own blood that washes our sins and makes us whiter than snow (Isaiah 1:18). The white robes are the wedding garments that Jesus told us about in His parable in Matthew 22, given to all who respond to His invitation to enjoy the marriage supper of the Lamb as His bride.
Do you have your wedding garments?
Have you washed your robes in the blood of the Lamb?
If you have, then all that is described in these last two chapters are God’s promise to you. Those who refuse the offer of the white robe of salvation will not see this kingdom. They will not be admitted entrance into the beautiful new holy city but spend eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8). The choice is ours to respond to God’s call. May we read and hear and heed the words of this prophecy, for the time is near.
Revelation 22:20 – He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.