Revelation 21 New Jerusalem: The Glorious Home of the Bride

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Bible Study Series: Revealing Jesus in Revelation

Revelation Chapter 21: New Jerusalem: The Glorious Home of the Bride

by I Gordon

We have been working our way through Revelation and the end is nigh. Argh, of the book... but yeah, also the age in which we live. Revelation 21, which we are in today, gives believers an incredible glimpse of what is to come. It is a glimpse of something that even Abraham longed to see - the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city! Or, for the believer, home sweet home! C. S Lewis once said:

“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”

Well we may not 'in' just yet, but we sure can sneak a peek through the crack in the door and see what lies beyond. And what we'll glimpse is a glorious city prepared by Jesus for all believers. So what shall we see in this city that we'll focus on in this study? Well see:

  • The wife of the Lamb and the inhabitants of this city - who would you like to meet?
  • The size and materials of this glorious city - Ready to walk on gold?
  • The person and presence of Jesus - what is the best part of this city?

The bride - a city or people?

Rev 21:9-10  Then 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 will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." (10)  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, 

When John is shown 'the wife of the Lamb', he is given a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem. This has caused some confusion amongst believers. For example, a question came into the website recently asking about this passage saying 'If the church is the bride, why is John shown a city, which is said to be the wife of the Lamb?' We should be clear that Jesus isn't marrying a city in and of itself - it is the people that live in that city, and are eternally linked to it, that is His bride. But because they are eternally linked John was given this vision of the home - portraying the incredible beauty that Jesus has prepared and made for His bride.1

This imagery of the holy bride and city is just one of many contrasts in the book of Revelation. For example Revelation speaks of Christ and the antichrist; the woman clothed with the sun and the woman clothed in scarlet; the mark of the beast and the seal of God. And so here we have another - The bride/wife of the Lamb contrasted with the false harlot of Babylon seen in chapters 17 and 182. Even the language to introduce the two is the same:

  • Of the harlot, symbolizing a false religious system (pictured both as a woman and a city) we read: "Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters... And he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness..." (Rev 17:1,3) 
  • Of the true bride, made up of true church age believers (pictures both as a woman and a city) we read: "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb... And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain..." (Rev 21:9-10) 

Mystery Babylon will have its headquarters in a city which will encapsulate all that is wrong with that religious and financial system. The bride of Christ will have her headquarters, forever linked and associated with the most amazing city ever seen. It is the home of the bride and just as the current heavens declare the glory of God, so the pure beauty and light that proceeds from this city will declare the purity, holiness and glory of those that dwell there - Christ and His wife.   

So John is given the best vantage point to see this wonder. He was taken into the wilderness to see mystery Babylon but was taken up a high mountain to see this glorious city coming down out of heaven. Now you'll note that it doesn't say that the holy city makes it to the earth. It may, but many, myself included, believe that it is suspended between heaven and earth. As I mentioned in the previous study and we'll see again later, there is no sun in this eternal state and yet the nations will walk by the light of this city. It will shine like the sun giving light to the world. You will also note that its called 'the holy city' because it is totally set apart for God and His people. There will be nothing impure, in thought or deed, that will ever enter this city. Yeah I know... you're thinking 'that sounds like my current city' right? Ok, maybe not! So imagine living in a city like that for the contrast with what we know today couldn't be greater. As I quoted in an earlier study3, in the New Jerusalem...

"There will be no funeral homes, no hospitals, no abortion clinics, no divorce courts, no brothels, no bankruptcy courts, no psychiatric wards, and no treatment centers. There will be no pornography, dial-a-porn, no teen suicide, no AIDS, no cancer, no talks shows, no rape, no missing children . . . no drug problems, no drive-by shootings, no racial tension, and no prejudice. There will be no misunderstandings, no injustice, no depression, no hurtful words, no gossip, no hurt feelings, no worry, no emptiness, and no child abuse. There will be no wars, no financial worries, no emotional heartaches, no physical pain, no spiritual flatness, no relational divisions, no murders, and no casseroles. There will be no tears, no suffering, no separations, no starvation, no arguments, no accidents, no emergency departments, no doctors, no nurses, no heart monitors, no rust, no perplexing questions, no false teachers, no financial shortages, no hurricanes, no bad habits, no decay, and no locks.
We will never need to confess sin. Never need to apologize again. Never need to straighten out a strained relationship. Never have to resist Satan again. Never have to resist temptation. Never!"
HEAVEN HELP US! Truths About Eternity That Will Help You Live Today by Steven J. Lawson

The inhabitants of the glorious city

Rev 21:11-14 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (12) It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. (13) There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. (14) The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

As John sees the glory of the new Jerusalem, think for a moment of his own personal joy in viewing this. You see, John is in his 90's at this time and his preaching of the gospel has seen him exiled on the prison island of Patmos, as an enemy of the state. Yet his body is not what it once was. Not everything is working like it once did. Everything is slower. Everything is blurrier. Most things ache. It's fair to say His earthly life is fading yet he is given a vision of what his future holds. And how amazing that future is! Of course his hope and joy is also ours, as believers in Christ, as well. What is there on earth to compare with what God has planned for those that love Him? So an amazing and joyful John does his best to describe what he sees but how can he describe such glory? He says the only things that he knows on earth that can be used to compare such a scene. This city is like the brilliance of a precious costly stone shining with God's glory. This city is both the masterwork and masterpiece of our great creator, Jesus Christ. 

A thousand years before the marriage of the Lamb had taken place (19:7-8), and now after a thousand years of unspeakable glory, she is still seen “as a bride adorned for her husband.” And yet all these things are given in figurative language. What will be the reality! The masterwork of God is at last fully manifested; what He accomplished through Him, who left the glory to die on the cross, is made known. The eternal, never ending riches, purchased by Him who was rich and became poor for our sakes, are beginning to be displayed in all their unfading splendor. Then the saints of God will learn to know the full meaning of Eph 2:7, “that in the ages to come He might display the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.”
A.C Gaebelein

Now you will also note that the 12 gates of this holy city have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and the city also has twelve foundations upon which are written the twelve apostles of the Lamb4. Thus, it is the home of Israel and the church all together. It is the home of:

  • Moses - who spent 40 years thinking he was a somebody, then 40 years learning he was a nobody, then 40 years seeing what God can do with a nobody!
  • Ruth - the widowed Moabite who left her home saying to Naomi 'Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.'
  • Daniel - who would rather to thrown into the lion's den than compromise his faith in God 
  • Rahab - the prostitute who hid the Israelite spies and through faith found salvation and became the great, great grand-mother of King David
  • Job - who suffered so much yet will find eternal rest and glory
  • Esther - who was willing to place her life on the line saying 'if I perish, I perish', for the sake of her people
  • Abraham - who longed and looked for the heavenly city whose maker is God
  • And so many, many more including all the New Testament saints. And including you and me I trust. So who would you like to talk to?  
The wall of division is broken
As a related side note, it is good to remember that in Christ, the partitioning wall has been broken down. 

Eph 2:13-15 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (14) For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups (Jew and Gentile) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, (15) by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.

There is a Rabbinical teaching going back to the time of the New Testament saying that male Jews should pray the following daily: “Blessed art thou, O God, for not making me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” And what did Jesus do? He broke down all of these barriers! So Paul uses the same three examples mentioned in this well known Jewish prayer (even in order) to show how it all changes in Christ:

Gal 3:28-29 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The size and shape of the glorious city

Rev 21:15-17 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. (16) The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. (17) He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man's measurement, which the angel was using.

Now God wants us to know the specific size of this glorious home so the angel gets out his measuring rod (as you do!) He must have had a long rod to measure with for it is 12,000 stadia in length, width and height.  So that clears that up then! Ok... so this is approximately 1,500 miles (2,414 km) in length, width and height. As a comparison, if you are from the United States, your country is 1,650 miles from north to south (represented in the following image). If you are from China, your country is 3,400 miles north to south. If you live in Antarctica, well, you may want to consider moving. While there are some that believe the heavenly city may be a pyramid structure, it is far more likely to be a cube just as the Holy of Holies was in the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple. This city is literally the Holy of Holies on an incredible scale! And just as the most holy place contained the very presence of God, so it will be again in this ginormous holy place.

It also has walls that are 144 (12 x 12) cubits thick. With the 12 tribes, the 12 apostles of the Lamb and the 12 foundation stones, it is fair to say that 12 is all over this city. 12 is in Scripture the number of God's authority and government and God will be all, in all, in this holy city! Concerning the walls Pastor Ray Stedman writes:

The high wall of the city speaks of separation and of intimacy. If you want to have an intimate garden party, you meet in the yard behind a wall. That wall shuts out other things and people. It speaks of intimate fellowship and separation from intrusion. The whole of Scripture with one voice speaks of God's desire to have what he calls "a people for my own possession." Everything in the universe is, in a sense, his possession. All animals, all creatures, are his. There are billions of angels and they all belong to him. But the saints are peculiarly God's own possession. That is because he has made them to correspond to himself. He can share with them the deepest things in his life and in his heart. They satisfy him and fulfill him just as a bride satisfies and fulfills her husband.
Ray Stedman

The materials of the glorious city

Rev 21:18-21 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. (19) The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, (20) the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. (21) The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

Yes. This is the verse that has spawned countless jokes about Peter and the pearly gates of heaven. Clearly, under no circumstances, do I want to add to them. But... you may have heard about the pastor and politician who both died and arrived at the pearly gates in Heaven. When the pastor arrived, he was put into a small, ordinary house. The politician however was allocated a massive mansion, with a pool and servants. The pastor, somewhat miffed at his humble abode after a life of service to his Lord, asked what was going on. "Well" said Peter, "we have lots of pastors up here, but this is the first time we've ever had a politician!" Hmmm ok! : )  

The colors and stones in the foundations of this city will be a sight to behold! It is hard to even fathom the beauty of this place, but try if you can to imagine all the colors and stones listed as the glory of God floods through this entire city! Think about the size of this city all lit up with the glory of God shining in the heavens and giving light to the world. It will be the most spectacular thing Jesus has ever made. Bible teacher A.C Gaebelein describes the stones mentioned here stating:

The jasper again stands first; the wall itself is of jasper, while the first foundation stone mentioned is also jasper. It stands for the glory of God. Then the stones follow in their order. The sapphire (blue); the chalcedony (a combination of grey, blue and yellow); the emerald (green); the sardonyx (a pale blue); the sardius (blood red); chrysolite (purple and green); the beryl (bluish green); the topaz (pale green or golden); the chrysoprasus (mixed blue, green and yellow); the jacinth (combination of red, violet and yellow), and the amethyst (purple). And what must be the deeper meaning of all these precious stones! What varied aspects of the glory of God they must represent! And the redeemed in their heavenly city shall know, understand and enjoy it all. What wonderful, unspeakable glory is ahead of us! May we look forward to it every day and willingly serve and suffer the little while down here.

The color and stone variation in this city also reminds us of the layers to the grace of God. Peter tells us 'As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.' (1Pe 4:10) This word translated 'manifold' literally means 'many colored'. God's grace is many colored and varied and this will literally be seen visibly with the New Jerusalem! And we shall go in and out through pearl gates. If the colors and glory remind us of the incredible grace of God, the pearl gates will be an ever reminder of what is cost to bring forth this beautiful bride. 

The Pearly Ever-Lasting Reminder
You will hopefully remember the parable that Jesus gave where He said: 

Mat 13:45-46 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, (46) and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Who is that man that sold all he had to purchase this one great pearl? It is Jesus. He was the One who gave up all to gain what was precious to His heart. The treasure that was in the field, which Jesus gave in His previous parable, represents Israel. But the pearl of great price, coming from the sea, represents the church. One reader of the JPN website once wrote in well concerning the pearl of great price saying:

"Christ is like a merchant, seeking something of value, something fine that would satisfy Him. He found one very precious pearl, so He went to the cross, sold all and purchased us, to be His church, His fine pearl, very precious. How is a pearl formed in nature?  A grain of sand injures the oyster and out of the oyster flows a secretion that covers the grain, time and time again, until the pearl is formed. We sinners are the grain of sand that "injured" Christ, He suffered because of us. But out of Him flows something that covers us, He flows out a secretion, a "life juice" that covers us, washes, sanctifies and transforms us from a grain of sand, from an earthen vessel, from clay to a precious pearl. As we behold Him with an unveiled face, we are transformed into His image. We become a precious pearl, in His image, bone of His bone, now we match Him, so He can marry us as His bride."

So each entrance and exit through these pearl gates5 in the New Jerusalem will remind us all of the price Jesus paid and the perfection that resulted from His suffering. We will never get used to what He did for us! 

The temple in the glorious city

Rev 21:22-27 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (23) The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (24) The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. (25) On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. (26) The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 

Now I love the thought at the start of this passage that there is no temple in this city because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. What does this mean? It emphasizes again what I said earlier - that the whole heavenly city is a temple and is a glorious huge Holy of Holies with God's presence throughout the city! God's glory has been seen at various times throughout history and scripture6, but none shall exceed what is to come. This is also the fulfillment of Jesus' promise and prayer on the night of His betrayal.  

The Place, Person, Promise and Prayer
Consider the following two statements of Jesus on the night of His betrayal: 
Joh 14:3 "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.
Joh 17:24 "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
Taking these two verses together, Jesus emphasized three things:
  1. The place He would prepare for believers
  2. The desire that His believers will be with Him, where He is
  3. The desire and prayer that believers would see His glory - a glory He had even before the foundation of the world
All three of these points find their fulfillment in one place - the New Jerusalem. This is the place He has prepared. This is where we will be with Him. And this is where we will see Him as He really is. There we will see the glory of the One who became nothing on our behalf! Let me just say that the most incredible thing about the holy city is Jesus. It is not the stones (as amazing as they will be). It is not the streets of gold (as freaky as that will be!) It is not the size of the city (as mesmerizing as that is!) It is the person. It is being with Jesus, God, for all time!

Now it also says that in that place the gates will not close for there will be perfect security and no restriction of access for only the holy will be there. And there will be no night for how could there be any darkness in the presence of God? Scripture tells us 'God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.' (1Jn 1:5) In fact Revelation says that the Lamb is its light. This thought puts a different emphasis on the following verse:

Joh 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

So Jesus, quite literally, will be the light of the world as His glory through the holy city illuminates the new earth.

A Warning...

The Call for Unbelievers for Salvation

Rev 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Now the chapter ends with a timely reminder and warning. Nothing impure will ever enter this city. The only ones that will enter are those whose names have been written in the Lamb's book of life. That is, all those that have been born again and belong to Him. God places these little warnings and reminders, right in the midst of the glories to come, so that those that don't know Him will do so while there is time. And if that is you, maybe today is your time? 
The Bible says that our own righteousness is as filthy rags before God. We are not pure. We are impure. We don't deserve an eternity with God. But God loves us and offers to clothe us with His perfect righteousness as a gift for those that see their great need, believe in the Lord Jesus and cry out to Him for salvation. If you don't know Him, make today your day of stepping into eternity and knowing the One who both created you and died for you!


As we conclude, it needs to be stated that our little minds can only go so far in trying to imagine this glorious scene, this glorious city, this glorious home. However great you think it will be, it will exceed that thought! But God has given us this glimpse, this sneak peek beyond the door as it were, so that we, as believers, would have hope and would keep our minds on eternity and the things to come. This world drives us to despair. The coming world will exceed every hope. Let me share the quote of C.S Lewis that I began with once more:

“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.” 

And 'in' we shall be, if we are 'in' the Lord Jesus. He has prepared this place for us, is coming to receive us, to reveal His glory to us. If you are a believer, you haven't seen anything yet!     

God Bless!


  1. As Pastor and Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee says on Rev 21: "We must pause here to consider the relationship of the city to the citizens—the city proper to the church. Certainly we are not to infer that the empty city without the citizens is the bride. The citizens are identified with the city in chapter 22, verses Rev 22:3, Rev 22:6, Rev 22:19. Those outside are identified here in verse Rev 22:8 as disfranchised. Although a distinction between the bride and the city needs to be maintained, it is the intent of the writer to consider them together. This passage is a description of the adornments which reveal something of the love and worth that the Bridegroom has conferred upon His bride."

  2. As I noted in a previous study, there are several comparisons and contrasts in Revelation between the New Jerusalem and Babylon:

    New Jerusalem Babylon
    The bride, the wife of the Lamb (21:2,9) The harlot with whom the kings of the earth fornicate (17:2)
    Her splendour is the glory of God (21:11-21) Babylon’s splendour from exploiting her empire (17:4; 18:12-13, 16)
    The nations walk by her light, which is the glory of God (21:24) Babylon’s corruption and deception of the nations (17:2; 18:3, 23; 19:2)
    The kings of the earth bring their glory into her (21:24) Babylon’s luxurious wealth extorted from all the world (18:12-17)
    Uncleanness, abomination and falsehood are excluded (21:27) Babylon’s abominations, impurities, deceptions (17:4, 5; 18:23)
    The water of life and the tree of life for the healing of the nations (21:6; 22:1-2) Babylon’s wine which makes the nations drunk (14:8; 17:2; 18:3)
    Life and healing (22:1-2) Blood and slaughter (17:6; 18:24)
    God’s people are called to enter the New Jerusalem (22:14) God’s people are called to come out of Babylon (18:4)

  3. From

  4. As mentioned, the 12 apostles' names are recorded on the 12 foundations of the name new Jerusalem. People often debate whose the 12 name will be. Obviously it won't be Judas. And it is easy really isn't it? It will be Paul, the one hand picked by Jesus to be His servant bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. 


  5. A.C Gaebelein writes on the gold and pearl of this city:

    The city itself was seen by John as of pure gold. Gold typifies the righteousness of God in His nature and such the holy city is, composed of the saints who were made through grace the partakers of the divine nature. “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each one of the several gates was of one pearl; and the street of the city was pure gold as it were transparent glass.” How suitable the pearl to form each gate, the entrance to the city divine. The Pearl is a type of the Church. She is the one pearl of great price for which the Lord gave all He had (Mat_13:45-46). And the golden street like unto pure glass shows that all the ways and walks in that city are according to righteousness and that defilement is eternally impossible.

  6. Tony Garland gives the following examples of the Shekinah glory in scripture:

    • Illuminated the earth prior to the creation of the sun and moon (Gen. 1:3, 14).
    • Walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden (Gen. 3:8).
    • Ratified the Abrahamic covenant while Abraham slept (Gen. 15:17).
    • Descended upon Mount Sinai at the giving of the law (Ex. 19:18; 24:15-16; 33:18-23; 34:5-6).
    • Filled the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex. 40:34).
    • Filled Solomon’s Temple upon its dedication (1K. 8:10-11; 2Chr. 7:1).
    • Left Solomon’s Temple due to Israel’s sin (Eze. 8:4-6; 9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-23). The Temple is left unprotected.
    • Returned to the Second Temple in the form of the incarnation of Messiah Jesus (Mat. 12:6; 21:12; John 1:14; 2:15).
    • Left the Second Temple desolate upon the departure of Jesus (Mat. 23:38; 24:2; Luke 13:35; 21:6). The Temple is left unprotected.
    • Appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mat. 17:2; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:29).
    • Appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3; 22:11; 26:13; 1Ti. 6:16).
    • Will return to the Millennial Temple (Isa. 60:3; Eze. 43:2-4).
    • Illuminates the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:23‣; 22:5‣).

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