Second Reading: Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
The Heavenly Jerusalem
10 One of the seven angels carried me in God's Spirit to the top of a very high mountain. Then, he showed me the holy city of Jerusalem that came down out of heaven from God himself. 11 The city shone God's glory. Its light was like the many colors that come through an expense jewel, a stone that sparkled like crystal. 12 The city had huge, tall walls with twelve gates. There was an angel that guarded each one of the gates. And each of the gates had one of the names of the tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates in the east wall, three gates in the north wall, three gates in the west wall, and three gates in the south wall. 14 The city wall had twelve foundation stones. One name of the Lamb's twelve Apostles was written on each of the stones.
22 I didn't see a Temple in the heavenly Jerusalem. Instead, the Lord God All-powerful and his Lamb were the Temple. 23 The city didn't need the sun or moon for light. The glory of God lights the city. And the Lamb is its lamp.
10 (One of the seven angels) carried me in the Spirit to (the top of) a large, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down (out of) heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, her light (was) like a most precious stone, jasper, crystal- sparkling. 12 Having large, high walls, having twelve gates, and, on the gates, having twelve angels and the names having been inscribed, which are the names of the tribes of the sons of Israel. 13 On the east (wall), three gates; on the north (wall), three gates, on the west (wall), three gates; on south (wall), three gates. 14 The wall of the city having twelve foundation (stones) and on them the twelve names of the Apostles of the LAMB.
22 I saw no Temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty is its Temple and the LAMB. 23 The city has not need of sun nor moon so that they might shine on it, for the glory of God lights it, and the LAMB (is) its lamp.
21:12-14 There are twelve foundation stones described in 21:19-20. Each of the foundation stones supports one of the twelve gates. Hence, these stones form the foundation of the city's walls, three stones for each wall.
21:12-13 The twelve gates, three per wall, was a direct reference to Ezekiel 48:30-34: "These shall be the exits of the city: On the north side, which is to be four thousand five hundred cubits by measure, three gates, the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah, and the gate of Levi, the gates of the city being named after the tribes of Israel. On the east side, which is to be four thousand five hundred cubits, three gates, the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin, and the gate of Dan. On the south side, which is to be four thousand five hundred cubits by measure, three gates, the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar, and the gate of Zebulun. On the west side, which is to be four thousand five hundred cubits, three gates, the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher, and the gate of Naphtali. The circumference of the city shall be eighteen thousand cubits. And the name of the city henceforth shall be, The Lord is there."
21:23 This verse echoed Isaiah 60:19-20:
The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. (RSV)
These verses presented a shortened version of John's take on the new Jerusalem. John the Elder took Ezekiel 40:1-47:12 for his primary inspiration. The Ezekiel text described a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem with its perfectly symmetrical Temple. John echoed this notion in measurement of the city (see 21:15-17). John's use of the number "twelve" reinforced this notion, for the number indicates fulness, completion. The dimensions of the city and the life giving water that flowed from the city's center (the Temple in Ezekiel, the throne of God and the Lamb in Revelation, see 22:1-2) focused on this sense of perfection.
The difference between Ezekiel and John the Elder lay in the place of God's glory. Ezekiel saw the Temple as the source. But John saw the city itself as the source, for the city was now God's Temple. In John's view, the presence of God was not confined to the Holy of Holies. Instead, the presence lay among the common people. (See Paul's comments on the community as the Temple of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 6:19.)
Clearly, the heavenly Jerusalem was the Church. The Church was built on the Apostles (the twelve foundation stones) and continued the faith of God's people (the twelve gates inscribed with the tribes of Israel). Like the open city in 21:25, the Church would welcome all peoples into its ranks. The invitation to enter and the reason to remain would be the presence of God himself.
John described the Church in the fullness of God's presence. While the Church is blessed with the divine presence, it is still on a journey to fullness, to the perfection that the end times promise. As members, we are on that road. The end is within sight. But, until then, we take one step at a time.
How does the thought of the heavenly Jerusalem inspire you?