Don Carson, Plenary Session Eight

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Don Carson


Revelation 21 and 22


This sermon is bound to be a review. Revelation 21 and 22 reference themes from throughout the Bible. Revelation rarely quotes the OT, but nearly every verse alludes to it.


The symbolism in apocalyptic writing seems strange to us, almost science fiction. Why did God choose to disclose huge chunks of Scripture to us in this form?

Imagine attempting to explain electricity to a pre-Stone Age tribe in Papua New Guinea. You would simply attempt to explain what it does, but they have no categories into which to put this information.

In the same way, how would we talk about the throne room of God? He uses symbolism because we are so without the vocabulary and categories with which to describe them. The symbolism opens the doors to the categories with which we can discuss the glory of the Father.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Sometimes we misunderstand this. Not guard your heart, choose your treasure. Whatever your treasure is, that’s where your heart will go.

If we are to treasure the new heaven and new earth, then we must hold a high evaluation of our destiny. We don’t treasure heaven much because we don’t have a right understanding of what the Bible actually says about heaven. There are no puffy clouds and harps. White night gowns don’t suit my complexion. This is not where I want to go.

But in Scripture, there is a multitude of descriptions of Heaven.

Hard work, challenges we cannot conceive. But FUN! Happiness! Not resting on clouds, knowing all things. We will not be omniscient. We will not know everything, but will have a new level of learning. If it takes me a million years to learn Mandarin, who cares?

  1. What is New? (21:1-8)
    1. New Heaven and Earth, New Jerusalem
    2. Images are from Isaiah 65-66 and 2 Peter 3 and
    3. There was no more sea… Not hydrological statement, theological. The utter destruction of the end of chaos and muck and mire.
    4. Jerusalem, the city of the great king, the home of the Temple. This is a social vision. God has already gathered His people as the New Jerusalem. Cities represent the best and worst of humanity.
      1. “A Tale of Two Cities: The Harlot and the Bride.” There is a bifurcation of humanity, but at the end, there is only the New Jerusalem.
      2. The city is like a bride…
      3. God will dwell with them! All of the same language is used, pointing forward from the Old Covenant, in the terms of the New Covenant, coming to fulfillment.
      4. What does it mean? “He will wipe every tear from their eyes… for the old order of things has passed away.” This is not how it is now, but how it will be. The old order has been cursed with sin, despite all of the mediating grace of God, we are still under the curse. But after the earth is melted away, that is gone.
      5. I can’t imagine the pain and tears and horror represented by 3,800 women. But then… there will be no more tears, for the old order has passed away.
      6. What will no longer be there? Death and sorrow and decay. But what will be there?
        1. Isaiah 35– Everlasting joy and gladness.
        2. Revelation 7–
        3. 1 Corinthians 15– real connection, but spectacularly different.

This is weighty. Every phrase seems to hold a pause for us to consider the words and work addressed.

When Christ says, “It is finished,” on the cross, the wrath of God is satisfied. But that does not mean there is no more struggle. Satan knows his time is short, and he is filled with fury. We wrestle against powers of darkness because of this.

We have enjoyed in taste and anticipation the grace of the Gospel, but now we enjoy in consummation. He says, “It is done…”

Now he promises water for those who thirst: Isaiah 55 fulfilled. It is without cost for those who receive it, but it was not without cost for him who provided it.

21:7– He will be my son… Important symbolism which flows throughout the Bible. The identity and heritage is passed along from father to son. The son follows in the footsteps of the Father. We learn from our fathers. Son of God language is remarkable, because it indicates that the son is following in the footsteps of the Father. Now, there are no caveats; to the one who overcomes, I will be his father and he will be my son. Those who have overcome will so perfectly reflect God and His restored image that we will be like Him in every way we were created to be so.

We are His sons now, through adoption, but at this point, we haven’t been in the family long enough to reflect the family. We will look like the Father. No more apologies, no more tension.

As far as I can see in Scripture, there is no indication anywhere that people in Hell genuinely repent. The rich man and Lazarus. Still ordering around Lazarus from Hell and arguing with Abraham. Hell is full of people still shaking their fists at God. There are no friends in Hell. Get a bunch of sinners together with no common grace and all you have is back biting and division and jealousy and destruction.

Compared to this, the New Heaven and New Earth is polarized and beautiful.

What is symbolic about the New Jerusalem? (21: 9-21)

John focuses in on specific elements of the symbolism. Just as in Chapter 5 the Lion IS the Lamb, in Chapter 21, the Bride IS the City.

“I’m going to show you the bride…” and John is taken to a high mountain and shown a city. There are word pictures, not paintings. They would be laughable in mural form. They are word pictures that you’re not supposed to paint.

Marriage supper of the Lamb is a typology found throughout Scripture.

Apostasy= Adultery in the OT and NT. Ezekiel 16 and 23, Hosea…

Look to the details of the Lion that is the Lamb that is the Son that is the Bridegroom marrying the Bride that is the Church that is the City…

Intimacies and joys, even in marriage, is merely a picture of the rapturous intimacy to come between Christ and the Church.

If you are single, 50 billion years from now, the thought, “I was robbed,” will never occur to you. Your intimacy with Christ will completely overshadow all intimacy here.

It is a city, God providing. God supremely manifests Himself. Sparkling, refracted light. Stop and consider. Scripture is trying to find something to help us understand the brilliance of God’s glory.

Twelve Gates, 12 Tribes of Israel.

Twelve Foundations, 12 Apostles

12,000 Stadia= 1,400 miles

City built like a cube. There’s only one cube in the OT. The Holy of Holies.

This cannot be confused with the Jerusalem in the Middle East. The city of the great king, come down from heaven. Now the entire city is the holy place. No separated courts. The new city is the whole place the Lord dwells. Massive and room enough for all.

12 Tribes, 12 Apostles… 12 x 12= 144, completed family of God. All the people of God brought together.

What is missing from this City? 

  1. 22- No Temple. The whole city is the most holy place. There is no mediating structure necessary. God is THERE.
  2. 23- No sun or moon.
  3. 25- No night.
  4. 25- No gate

What is present in this city? 

Tree of Life. Leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Water of Life.

The Beatific Vision– The Blessed Vision of the Blessed One. We will see his face.

In Isaiah 6, the seraphim could not see His face. Isaiah cannot describe him. Ezekiel’s description of the chariot is incredibly detailed, but the one who sits upon it is indescribable. But we will see His face.

The culmination of everything is not to see loved ones gone before. It is to see God. Every picture, every taste we have of glory is to see His face.

This book ends in spectacular invitation. And so do we. “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

I deserve this lake of fire, but I long for the New city. I believe, help my unbelief.

2 Responses

    • Kimberly

      We will get it up soon. That was a tough one!