For a person who grew up in the country going to a modern big city for the first time and seeing massive skyscrapers and towers might seem awe-inspiring or overwhelming. Or, imagine peasants in medieval Europe traveling to a city and walking into a cavernous cathedral such as Notre Dame or any of the great Gothic cathedrals. They may have imagined they were in God's presence.I . . . saw the holy city, New Jerusalem.—Rev. 21:2.
Revelation chapter 21 compares the 144,000 to an extremely beautiful city called “New Jerusalem.” This city is based on 12 foundation stones that have written on them “the 12 names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb.” (Rev. 21:10-14; Eph. 2:20) This symbolic city looks like no other. It has a main street of pure gold, 12 gates of pearl, walls and foundations adorned with precious stones—and with perfectly balanced measurements. (Rev. 21:15-21) Still, something seems to be missing! Notice what John next tells us: “I did not see a temple in it, for Jehovah God the Almighty is its temple, also the Lamb is. And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp was the Lamb.” (Rev. 21:22, 23) Those who make up the New Jerusalem will have direct access to Jehovah.—Heb. 7:27; Rev. 22:3, 4. w22.05 17-18 ¶14-15
But the symbolic city of God is way more impressive. The city is as big as a country and has towering walls 200 feet high. And forget about bricks, wood, and chiseled blocks of stone, the city of God is constructed of otherworldy materials, like a jasper stone shining crystal clear. The main street of the city of God is made of pure gold. Each of the foundational stones is adorned with different gems and has the names of the 12 apostles inscribed upon them. It has 12 gates, three on each side that are gigantic pearls with 12 angels standing guard at each entrance, not unlike the Garden of Eden. Each gate has the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel, except we should not imagine these are the literal tribes, but rather they are the symbolic 12 tribes of 12,000 spiritual Jews who stand with Christ on Mount Zion.
The throne of God and the Lamb are located in the jeweled city. Jehovah's radiance provides illumination. Those who conquer will see Jehovah's face. Here is what Revelation 22:3-5 says: "But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his slaves will offer him sacred service; and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Also, night will be no more, and they have no need of lamplight or sunlight, for Jehovah God will shed light upon them, and they will rule as kings forever and ever."
Having the name of God on their foreheads signifies that Jehovah bought them from the earth with the blood of his Son. Revelation 14:1 pictures the same thing, revealing 144,000 have the name of Jehovah and Christ written upon their foreheads: "Then I saw, and look! the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who have his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads."
When does this holy city come down from heaven, before or after Armageddon? The answer is before. How do we know? Because when the Kingdom is complete and extends its domain over the world the wicked ones of Satan's world will still be on earth. Again, how do we know? The Scriptures reveal that only the holy will be allowed into the city and the light from the resplendent city will only shine upon the righteous. The rest will be debarred. The last verse of the 21st chapter says: "But anything defiled and anyone who does what is disgusting and deceitful will in no way enter into it; only those written in the Lamb’s scroll of life will enter."
Revelation 22:14-15 confirms this: "Happy are those who wash their robes, so that they may have authority to go to the trees of life and that they may gain entrance into the city through its gates. Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and those who are sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying."
Those who gain authority to go to the trees of life gain the true spiritual paradise.
This article has been slightly expanded and edited from the original published in May 2012 “Is it really so that God has said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” With that seemingly innocuous question the father of the lie – the
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On a personal note, I met the songwriter who sings Beautiful City. He was a coffee house singer in Toronto 25 years ago. His backup singer was my wife's secretary.