The Reign of Christ, 17:1-22:5
2. The dawning of the City of God, 21:9-22:5
ii] Paradise regainedSynopsis
John continues his description of the City of God as the assembled people of God. There is no temple in the city, but since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb reside in the city, the city is itself the temple. The city provides its own light, a splendor that radiates; its gates are always wide open, although nothing impure enters; within the city flows the river of life for the tree of life. The city is made up of all those whose names are in the book, a people no longer cursed, a people who will "reign for ever and ever."
The Kingdom of God is at hand; the Lord is with his people and with him they reign for eternity.
i] Context: See 21:9-21.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8.
iii] Structure: Paradise regained:
Life in the city, 21:22-27:
The city is God's temple, v22;
The city is its own light, v23-24;
A city with gates that never close, v25-26;
A city free from sin, v27.
Eden reclaimed, 22:1-5 (cf., Gen2:10, Ezk.47:1-12:):
The river of life, v1-2a;
The tree of life, v2b-3a;
We again walk with the Lord, v3b-4;
The blessing of our eternal reign with the Lord, v5.
John's description of the City of God, the community of the redeemed, continues with an important observation. The temple is usually depicted residing in Zion, but in the heavenly city there is no temple because the Lord is not segregated from his people; The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are an integral part of the city such that the city itself is the temple of God. The city of God / the people of God, are a people within whom divinity resides, 21:22.
John's image of a city which radiates its own light probably draws on the idea of light serving to illustrate the radiation of divine truth, a light that enlightens, prompting a faith that generates moral goodness, v23. Israel's task of being a light to the nations is realized in the city of God. As the Queen of Sheba was drawn to the splendor of Solomon's kingdom, so this city brings adoration from afar, v24. Of course, the image doesn't make literal sense, unless we imagine the lost looking on from the lake of fire, but it does serve to fulfill Israel's call to be a light to the nations, a call that reminds the Christian community today of its responsibility to shine the truth of the gospel into a broken world. As for the radiant ones themselves, those in the Lamb's book of life, v27, their light always shines, v25.
In describing the city, John draws on Eden typology, focusing on Ezekiel's imagery of the river that flows from the temple, a river that brings forth the tree of life, an orchard that give life to a parched world, 22:1-2. Here we have the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham, of "healing" / forgiveness = salvation ("putting right what was wrong", Richardson) for the world, Gen.12:3. So, the curse of sin in Eden is reversed, v3a. More particularly, that time when humanity walked with God in the garden is restored - "the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him" and see him face to face, v3b-4. So it is that Eden lost is now Eden regained, and this with the restoration of the divine/human compact - an eternal relationship with our Creator God in Christ Jesus, the Lamb.
John summarizes his vision in v5. The divine light, his eternal truth, transforms us, and in and through Christ we will reign for eternity.
Text - 21:22
Paradise regained, 21:22-22:5: i] Life in the city, 21:22-27: a) The city is God's temple, v22. Given the strong Jewish tradition for the restoration of the temple, it is interesting how John reveals that there is no temple in the city of God. Assumptions that he is anti-temple, or that his community was anti-temple, are misplaced. He has simply found the realization of the temple's restoration in the existence of God's redeemed people who are the holy city, a people who are the dwelling place of the divine - the holy city, in its completeness, is the sanctuary of God, so Hughes. "The presence of God in all his power constitutes the city-temple of the new creation in union with Christ", and this "the final dwelling place of God's presence with his Church", Smalley.
gar "because [the Lord]" - [and a temple I did not see in it] because [the lord god the almighty is temple of it, and the lamb]. Here introducing a causal clause explaining why John didn't see a temple in the city, namely, because the presence of God in the city is the temple itself.
oJ qeoV (oV) "God" - As with "the Almighty", this noun stands in apposition to the subject "Lord". The subject also includes to arnion, "the Lamb"; "The Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb."
estin "are [its temple]" - is [temple of it]. As is typical in Gk., the singular verb to-be is used to agree with the singular person of the first member of the combined subject; see Mathewson. "The Lord God is its temple, and so is the Lamb", Cassirer.
b) The city is its own light, v23-24. John draws on Isaiah 60:19 for the imagery, a prophecy fulfilled in the divine presence (the Shekinah glory) realized in Christ / Lamb. God's presence with his people radiates the heavenly temple-city, v23. Still drawing on chapter 60 of Isaiah, John goes on to note how the "nations", "kings", are drawn to the light, just as the Queen of Sheba was drawn to the wonder of Solomon's kingdom, and how they come bearing gifts, cf., Isa.60:3, 5. As noted above, a literal fulfillment of this prophecy is not possible given that the establishment of the eternal city follows /aligns with the dissolution of the powers and authorities of this present age. Of course, John's imagery is not supposed to be taken literally; it is an apocalyptic image illustrating the glory of the city of God in the future shaped by using Old Testament imagery from the past. None-the-less, there is an application for the present. The image reminds the Christian community of its task of being a "light unto the Gentiles", the task of shining the light of the gospel into God's broken world.
tou hJliou (oV) gen. "[the city does not need] the sun" - [the city has no need] of the sun [nor of the moon]. As with "of the moon", genitive complement of the noun creian, "need, use", which takes a genitive indicating the need to be supplied, BDAG,1088.1.
iJna + subj. "to [shine]" - that [they may shine]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that ...."
auth/ dat. pro. "on it" - The dative is locative, of place / space.
gar "for [the glory]" - because [the glory]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the city does not need the sun and the moon; "for the splendor of God illuminates it", Barclay.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - of god [illumined it]. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, "God's glory", or attributive, idiomatic, "the glory which radiates from God", or verbal, subjective, or ablative, source / origin.
authV gen. pro. "[the Lamb is] its [lamp" - [the lamp] of it [is the lamb]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "its radiance is the Lamb", Phillips.
dia + gen. "by [its light]" - [and the nations will walk] by [the light of it]. It seems likely that an instrumental sense applies here, expressing means; "by means of its light the nations will walk", probably in the sense of "walk" to the city, if we give weight to Isaiah 60:3. Mathewson opts for the spacial sense of "through" in spacial terms; "the nations will walk through its light", so possibly just "walk in its light." Koester treats the verb "to walk" in the sense of behavior and so we end up with "the nations will come to learn God's ways." He thinks John has dispensed with the idea that the nations will be annihilated at the end of the age, but this seems unlikely.
thV ghV (h) gen. "[the kings] of the earth" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / subordination, "the kings who rule over the earth."
ferousin (ferw) pres. "will bring" - bring. Given "will walk", the present tense here is future referencing. John is focused on durative aspect, the kings will keep brining their splendor.
thn doxan (a) "[their] splendor" - the glory [of them into it]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to bring." Isaiah has the nations brining their "wealth" to Zion, and this is surely what John has in mind. Smalley argues that John is leaning toward a spiritual sense, but it is more likely that the "glory" of the kings is everything they possess as kings, and it is this they present in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy.
c) A city with gates that never close, v25-26. John continues to draw on Isaiah chapter 60, here verse 11, noting that the gates of the city are always open, and this because the divine light of the city never dims / there is no night, and therefore no need to close the gates, v25. Mounce makes the point that in the eternal city, security measures like closed gates are unnecessary. John goes on to repeat the attractive force of the city's radiant light, v26. Boring brings out two points from John's imagery of the city of God and its open gates, namely, its radical openness, and its eternal accessibility, but John is probably only reinforcing the fact of the city's ever-present radiance - it's always daytime; there is no need to close the gates.
hJmeraV (a) gen. "on [no] day" - [and the gates of it no no would be shut] of day. The genitive is adverbial, temporal, of the duration of time, "during the day"; "the gates will never be shut by day", Peterson.
ou mh + subj. "no [day will its gates] ever [be shut]" - A subjunctive of emphatic negation; "its gates will never ever be shut." In Isaiah the gates are open day and night. For John this fact is realized in the continuation of daylight, such that the gates stay wide open.
gar "for" - because [night will not be there]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the gates are never shut, namely, because there is no night. In ancient times, the city gates are closed at night. "The gates will never be shut by night because there will be no night there."
twn eqnwn (oV) gen. "[the glory and the honor] of the nations" - [and they will bring the glory and the honor] of the nations [into it]. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, identifying items of dependent status possessed by the nations; "and the nations will come bringing their treasure and their wealth", NJB. Possibly ablative, source / origin, "from the nations" - the kings bring "splendor and honor" / wealth and treasure from the nations; "the splendor and honor arises from the people", Smalley. As noted above, it is unclear whether John is spiritualizing Isaiah's imagery, or just giving it an apocalyptic twist. As a gesture of adoration in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, the nations will offer everything to the city of God (although they will have to do it from the lake of fire!!!).
oisousin (ferw) fut. "will be brought" - they will bring. The verb oisw is the irregular future of ferw, "to bring"; the compound direct object being "glory and honor."
d) A city free from sin, v27. The city of God is made up of those found in the Lamb's book of life. The rest, "those who are shameful or deceitful", "will never enter it." These are the ones marked with the sign of the beast, those dedicated to the secular city,which for John's day amounted to "those who accommodate themselves to the lordship of Rome and therefore participate in cultic, social, political and economic activities celebrating that lordship (cf., abominations, 17:4-5), or who lie to (deceive) others and themselves about the truth of such behavior (eg., Jezebel and Balaam, 2:14, 20-23)", Blount. It is easy to see how such applies to us today, given that most democratic, theocratic, or socialist states have abandoned the notion of Christian civilization.
ou mh + subj. "nothing [impure will enter]" - [and anything profane and the one doing abomination and falsehood, except the ones having been written in the book of life of the lamb] no no = never [may enter into it]. Subjunctive of emphatic negation.
pan adj. "-" - anything [profane]. The adjective serves as a substantive limited by the attributive adjective "profane", introducing the combined nominative subject of the negated verb "will enter." "Nothing unclean shall ever come into it", Cassirer, cf., Isa.35:8, 52:1 - the city is bared to the unclean.
oJ poiwn (poiew) pres. part. "anyone who does" - the one doing [abomination and falsehood]. The participle serves as a substantive, part of the combined nominative subject of the verb "will enter." "Nor anyone who does shameful things or tells lies", TEV.
ei mh "but only" - except. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception.
oi gegrammenoi (grafw) perf. mid./pas. part. "those whose names are written" - the one's having been written. The participle serves as a substantive, part of the combined nominative subject of the negated verb "will enter." For "the Lamb's book of life" see 13:8. "Those recorded / inscribed in the Lamb's book of life."
ii] Eden reclaimed, 22:1-5: a) The river of life, v1-2a. John now explains the fulfillment of Ezekiel 47:1-12 in the New Jerusalem / city of God, of a life-giving river that flows from the throne of God and the Lamb down the main street of the city. Ezekiel, of course, draws this image from the river flowing out of Eden, cf., Gen.2:10. In Ezekiel's prophecy, the river flows from the temple, but in John's vision there is no temple. Ezekiel doesn't call his river a life-giving river, but it inevitably brings forth life wherever it flows. For John, this brings us full circle to the tree of life, v2b. This life-giving water, water of eternal life, now flows into the city from the throne, not just of God, but "of the Lamb" as well. So, for the city of God / the Christian community, eschatological sustenance is provided by the reign of God in Christ.
moi dat. pro. "[the angel showed] me" - [and he showed a river of water of life bright as crystal coming out from the throne of god and the lamb] to me. Dative of indirect object.
uJdatoV zwhV gen. "[the river] of the water of life" - The genitive nouns are adjectival, "of water" being epexegetic, limiting by specifying the river in mind; "he showed me a river, that of the water of life", Cassirer. The genitive noun "of life" is probably attributive, limiting by describing the water in mind; it is life-giving water; "its waters gave life", CEV.
wJV "as [clear] as [crystal]" - [bright] like [crystal]. Comparative; "sparkling like crystal", Barclay, Phillips.
ekporeuomenon (ekporeuomai) pres. mid. part. "flowing from" - coming out [from]. The participle is best classified as adjectival, attributive, limiting "river"; "a river ..... which comes out of the throne of God." The preposition ek, "from", expressing source / origin, serves as a stylistic repetition of the prefix of the verb "coming out of."
tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the throne] of God" - [the throne] of god [and of lamb]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.
en + dat. "down" - in. local, expressing space. The prepositional phrase "in the middle of the street of it (the city)" is taken by the NIV to modify the flow of the river, v1, ie., the river of life flows down the middle of (= through) the city's main street, so Osborne. On the other hand, the prepositional phrase may identify where the tree of life stands; "In the middle of the street of the city and on either bank of the river grew the tree of life", Phillips. Mathewson argues for the second option given that the allusion is consistent with Gen.2:9 where the tree of life is in the midst (LXX en mesw/) of the Garden.
thV plateiaV (a) gen. "[the middle] of the great street" - [middle] of street, square. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
authV gen. pro. "of the city" - of it. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.
b) The tree of life, v2b-3a. John first mentions the tree of life in Christ's word to the church in Ephesus, 2:7. Christ promises that those who conquer (persevere in faith) will be given the right to eat from the tree of life in the restored Eden, in paradise. The city of God, the new Jerusalem, is that paradise, a place where crops abound for nourishment. Ezekiel in 47:12 tells us that the fruit of the trees growing beside the river that flows from the temple is always in season. John develops the same image. The leaves for healing are "for the nations." Paradise is not exclusive, it is open to all who accept the sovereign reign / lordship of God and the Lamb. The "healing" in mind is explained in the clause "no longer will there be anything accursed", ESV. The healing has eradicated all "cursed things", BDAG, 517.
enteuqen kai ekeiqen adv. "on each side" - [and] from here and from there. The meaning of this idiomatic adverbial construction is "on each side", BDAG, 339.1.
tou potamou (oV) gen. "of the river" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
zwhV (h) gen. "[tree] of life" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting tree, "the life-giving tree", possibly idiomatic / producer, "the tree which gives life", Wallace. In alluding to Genesis 2 there is one "tree of life", but John envisages a forest in line with Ezekiel 47:7; "trees of life", Cassirer.
poioun (poiew) pres. part. "bearing [twelve crops of fruit]" - making = producing [twelve fruits]. The participle is best treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting "life-giving tree"; "a tree of life, which yields twelve crops of fruit", REB. Note how the NIV assumes the verb "stood" and so treats the participle as adverbial, expressing manner.
apodidoun (apodidwmi) "yielding [its fruit]" - giving back = yielding [the fruit of it]. The participle is probably adverbial, expressing manner, modifying the participle "bearing"; "bringing forth fruit every month of the year", Cassirer.
kata + acc. "[every month]" - according to [each month]. Distributive use of the preposition.
tou xulou (oV) gen. "[the leaves] of the tree" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, or attributive, idiomatic; "the leaves which grow on the tree."
eiV + acc. "are for [healing]" - to [healing]. Here the preposition expresses purpose / end-view.
twn eqnwn (oV) gen. "of the nations" - The genitive is usually taken as verbal, objective, "for the nations"; "the leaves served to heal the nations", Moffatt. Note that some commentators (eg., Caird) see universalism here. The reality is that those within the nations who do not repent will be destroyed in the lake of fire, cf., ch. 19.
kataqema (a atoV) "[any] curse" - [and every] curse [not still will be = no longer will be]. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. This clause explains "healing of the nations", so Beale. The word means "that which is accursed", cf., BDAG, 517. John is making the point "that nothing accursed is in the city", Koester, cf., 21:27. So, "the healing of the nations" is realized in the full gamut of a renewed and purified humanity resident in paradise - the new Eden. Other meanings are possible: Smalley opts for "the curse of destruction will cease to exist"; cursed in the sense of being placed under a ban and thus ultimately destroyed; So also Beale, "Jerusalem will never again be threatened from the curse of destruction for sin", cf. Zech.14:11 (possibly also Isa.34:1-2, the curse of a ban leading to judgment); So also Osborne, who from Zech.14:11 emphasizes "perpetual peace and safety."
c) The children of God again walk with the Lord, v3b-4. The redeemed exercise a priestly service in the end-time city of God such that the new Eden realizes the original intention of God's creation. In this "walk" with God, as in Adam and Eve's walk with God, the redeemed will "see his face." No one has ever seen the face of God and lived, but the redeemed in the city of God will. This idea of "seeing" entails "a true understanding of who God is and a right relationship with him", Osborne. In mentioning the name inscribed on the forehead of the redeemed, John is again making the point that they belong to God, and because they belong to him they are secure.
tou arniou (oV) gen. "[the throne of God and] of the Lamb" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive. "God and the Lamb share the symbol of authority", Smalley.
en + dat. "in [the city]" - [will be] in [the city]. Local, expressing space; "the throne of God and the Lamb will be found in the city."
latreusousin (latreuw) "will serve [him]" - [and the servants of him] will serve [him]. Some translations have "worship him", so ESV, TEV, REB, NJB, NAB, CEV, .... but the word expresses service, not adoration, as NIV; "his servants shall render him sacred service", Berkeley. Probably a more powerful image than that of God walking with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, but the sense of the divine / human relationship carries over. The verb "to give service to" takes a dative of direct object, as here.
epi + gen. "[his name will be] on [their foreheads]" - [they will see the face of him, and the name of him will be] on [the foreheads of them]. John's favorite spacial preposition; "on, upon." In the city of God the 144,000 / the redeemed have the name of the Lamb and the Father inscribed on their forehead, cf., 14:1. The inhabitants of the secular city, Babylon, have the mark 666 = BEAST inscribed on their forehead.
d) The blessing of our eternal reign with the Lord, v5. John summarizes his description of the city of God by repeating 21:23-25 - a city of perpetual light. "The glory of God and the Lamb [is] the energy source that fuels the eternal illumination", Blount. John, drawing again on Daniel 7:18, reminds his readers of the eternal reign of the saints in Christ.
fwtoV lucnou gen. "[they will not need] the light of a lamp" - [and night not still = no longer will be, and they have no need] of light of a lamp. The noun creia, when expressing "the need of something", often takes a genitive complement to express what is needed, here the need "of a light." The genitive lcnou, "lamp", is ablative, expressing source / origin, "they will need no light from a lamp." The same construction applies to "and they will have no need of light of = from the sun."
oJti "for [the Lord will give them light]" - because [the lord god will give light upon them]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the redeemed in the city of God will not need the light of a lamp, or the sun, "because the Lord will be their light", TEV.
eiV touV aiwnaV twon aiwnwn [they will reign] for ever and ever" - [and they will reign] into the ages of the ages. For this temporal phrase see 1:18.