Revelation 21 - "He is Glorious"

What does it mean for something or someone to be glorious? We heard the word from the beginning of our book in Revelation 1.6: “To him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” The word occurs 19 times in the book. So what does it mean? 

The word for glory in the Old Testament originally meant that something or someone had weight to them. For someone to have glory, literally meant they were weighed down with gold. Where did this gold come from? It came from proper ruling of the economic affairs of their country. It came from being victorious over enemies. A king could not be glorious if he had no kingdom. If he had nothing to point to and show that he could be relied upon. One king would show that he had more glory than another. This is what happened between God and Pharaoh when God promised to free his people: “I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.”

Glory meant someone’s reputation. What they claimed they made real. For after being redeemed from Egypt, Israel sang in Exodus 15: ““Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”

Scripture doesn’t define “glory” as much as it shows what it is. God’s glory filled the Tabernacle in the Wilderness (Exod 40). His glory filled Solomon’s Temple so much that the priests couldn’t minister (2Chron 5). God’s glory is greater and longer lasting than all other kingdoms. Isaiah 13.19: And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.”

So glory is the effect of what is inherent to the person. That is, glory is the result of the character. Glory is the external evidence of the internal qualities. To say that this king is more glorious than that king, means that the more glorious king is wiser, stronger, more reliable than the less glorious one. This doesn’t negate the fact that Babylon and Egypt and Rome were not glorious. It simply means that God is more glorious. His glory is longer lasting. His glory is of a different quality. My hope is that we will grasp this as we walk through Revelation 21.

Revelation 21.1-4
God’s Eternal Purposes

In vv. 1-4 we see the temporary nature of what we currently see. John sees a “new heaven and new earth”. This is the same thing God promised to usher in in Isaiah 65 and 66. This is the same new heaven and new earth that the Apostle Peter in 2Pet 3.11-13: Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, {live holy lives now in light of his return…last week} 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 

Purified by fire. Like a wrinkled shirt—ironed. Like a stained shirt—bleached white.

The pain and problems of this world will be no more. Although they consume the nightly news, they will not even exist. “The sea will be no more”. To the people of John’s time, the sea represented chaos and uncertainty. It represented toil and hardship that had to be endured. Just to make a living, people had to venture out on boats to stay alive. //  V.4 What are these former things? The same things Paul has in mind in Romans 8:  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved.

When you get sick—labor pains. When you lose a loved one—labor pains. When you suffer any loss or experience any frustration—labor pains. Labor. Pains. Pains because these things hurt. Labor because it is working out an eternal weight of glory. Like Adoption Process. Agonizing. Waiting for final papers.

Vv. 5-8 are the ground—the basis upon which vv.1-4 stand. Where do I get that? Well, because there is someone speaking. Speaking in Scripture typically highlights the point of a narrative. But it’s not just anyone speaking, it’s God. And what does he say? // Vv.5-8 //Notice the verbs. Who is doing the action? I am making all things new. I will give. I will be his God. Even when the action is of the believers—the one who conquers—his conquering is through the blood of the Lamb. Rev 12.11 taught us this: They triumphed over Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

But it’s not as though history is unimportant. That’s not what Scripture means when it says that it’s passing away. The world is the very place that God has revealed himself. He didn’t transport each of us into some portal and reveal himself. He revealed himself through faithful and perpetual and patient activity in the world for our benefit and for his glory. 

Passing Away = Served its purpose. Sun & Moon. Temple. —> Shadows of the Eternal.

God’s Proven Record

The OT is not set against the NT. We see here that they complement each other. The twelve tribes of Israel formed the foundation for God’s redemption and presence with his people. The twelve Apostles also form the foundation of redemption. This is what Paul talks about in Ephesians 2.17: And Jesus came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 

This is really key to understand God’s purposes in the world to secure a stable and eternal and unshakable kingdom. Paul was at pains to show that God was always in the business of redeeming the world—all tribes, tongues, people, kingdoms, and ethnicities. When God called out to Abraham, he said would be the father of many nations. God is not only the God of the Jews, but he is God over all Gentiles. All the purposes in saving Israel were to point to God’s weightiness. His gravity. His reliability. His ability to do what he said he would do. The point was never to be the God over a few circumcised tribes in the Ancient Near East. The point was much grander. Much larger. Much more glorious. 

We begin to see this…

God’s Manifold Generosity & Diversity

The measuring that is being done by the angel with a gold measuring rod speaks of the sureness of what he is measuring. The structure is secure and stable. What is he measuring? He’s measuring the holy city of the New Jerusalem that has just come down from heaven. We don’t build the city, God establishes the city. It is a gift from him to his people. It is perfect. Remember the significance of the number 12 and 1000? They show up here to show that not one of God’s purposes will fail. Not one stone is missing. Not one little bit of mortar is out of place. 1500 miles in each direction. Greenville to Albequerque. Rome to Glasgow. Greater City! Greater Kingdom!

But we see this city is not merely a greater city. Look at its dimensions. V.16: The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. This is a box. But it is more than that too. These dimensions tell us that the heavenly city of God is a Temple. // We see these jewels. They don’t fade. They don’t rust or rot. They are pure and pristine and clear. And its not simply a monolithic temple where everything is the same color. The perfection and beauty of this Temple is seen in the diversity of color. 

Isn’t this what makes the redeemed people of God magnificent? If God were only the God of the Jewish people. If he were only the God of the white people. Or only black people. Or only any other ethnicity, then he would cease to be God. Indeed, God has made every color of people. And this beautiful picture of the redeemed people of God is beautiful because the living stones of this Temple (the Apostle Peter talks about) are from every ethnic group imaginable. Every tribe. Tongue. People. And Language. The picture of this redemption is sure because it encompasses every single stone God has created. 

No ethnic group has God’s ear more than any other. Every single ethnicity teach us something beautiful about God.

God’s manifold generosity. His glory. Is reflected in these faces and stories. We see this in the last section of the chapter.

The Brightness of God’s Glory

Just like there would be no sea or crying or death, there will be no need for the sun because the brightness of God’s countenance that shines upon us will enliven every dark corner. Every nook. Every cranny. There will be nothing lurking in the shadows any more. No night terrors. No bad dreams. 

What is more, we see that God’s glory is great and has overpowered all other rivals to his throne. Kings will stream into the New Jerusalem and lay all their tribute at his feet. Why is God more glorious than the kings of the earth? God’s glory is more glorious because it is evidenced in eternal and invaluable souls.

Haggai 2 - Ezekiel 43 - Isaiah 60 —> Glorious Temple Because of Souls!

Every time we talk with others, we have the opportunity to honor and bring glory to the One who redeemed us. We aren’t simply trying to convince people to believe. We are inviting them into this glorious Temple to behold the One in whose image they were created. And in so doing, they find the longings of their souls fulfilled. 

And they, with us, will sing the song of Moses which the Redeemed ones in the New Heavens and New Earth sing: 

“Great and amazing are your deeds,

O Lord God the Almighty!

Just and true are your ways,

O King of the nations!

4 Who will not fear, O Lord,

and glorify your name?

For you alone are holy.

All nations will come

and worship you,

for your righteous acts have been revealed.”