The Language of Heaven
The Bible consists of many types of writings: historical (e.g., 1, 2 Kings), wisdom (e.g., Proverbs), songs (e.g., Psalms), prophecy (e.g., Daniel), biography (e.g., Luke), and apocalyptic (e.g., Revelation). It is a testament to the oversight of the Holy Spirit that all these literary styles produced a consistent revelation of the story of redemption (2 Pet. 1:21).
The most challenging portions of Scripture to interpret are those written in apocalyptic language—specifically, the book of Revelation. Often called “the Apocalypse” (Greek apokalupsis means “revelation”), the Revelation given to the apostle John has come to define what apocalyptic literature is: dramatic, cataclysmic, figurative, exaggerated, symbolic—and difficult to interpret. Specifically, how literally should the images in apocalyptic literature be interpreted? No part of Revelation’s meaning holds more interest for Christians than the portion describing their eternal home, the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2).
The picture given to the apostle John of the eternal home of the righteous in Christ is . . . breathtaking! And that is exactly the result the language is intended to have. Whether describing evil earlier in his vision, or eternal glory and beauty in this portion, John pushes the human language to its limits to paint a picture of a heavenly reality. The city is always pictured as coming down out of heaven (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10)—it is a gift from God. It is measured in specifics—meaning it is set apart and protected. It is in the shape of a cube—as was the Holy of Holies in the Temple. There are twelve gates and twelve foundations—uniting the sons of Jacob with the apostles of the church. There are precious stones of every description—establishing its value as immeasurable. There is no sun or moon—for the glory of God and the Lamb of God are its light. And only the righteous may enter to partake of the tree of life—linking it to the original garden home of the righteous in Genesis.
We need not interpret every jot and tittle correctly in order to benefit from John’s revelation of heaven. It is enough to know that even the grandest apocalyptic language is not sufficient to describe the glory and beauty awaiting the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem.
God’s Promise to You: “No words can describe the home I have prepared in heaven for you.”
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