It is here that we get the greatest picture of what we have in store for us. We have seen the eternal reward and the eternal city and now we are ready to enter a little closer into the Holy of Holies itself. Unfortunately, we are still only able, due to the limitations of our sinfulness and our own capacities, to describe it in negative terms. We await the day that we will see it in all of its positive glory. We will now look at four dimensions of this eternal fellowship; no temple, no sun, no denial of access, and no sin.
First, we see that there is no temple. “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” There is no temple there. This removes our text from Ezekiel’s Temple which described the millennial reign. Since the creation of man there is no parallel to what we read here. When Christ died He took away the veil. Because of Christ we can now boldly go before the throne of grace. Now Christ takes away not only the veil but also the temple. It has been thought by some that there is no temple in the city because the city is the temple. It is the place that we will dwell and the place that God dwells. We will be in the presence of His glory always. Gone will be the days that we say as David did, ‘let us go to the house of the Lord’ for we will reach the day that David hoped for where we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. The text makes it explicit that the presence of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple and we are ever with them. See again how the Christ is equal with God. The object of our worship which is the Lord God Almighty and the great sacrifice that bought us to that God make up the eternal fellowship which we will enjoy. Forever we will worship and dwell with God through Christ. There is no specific place anymore that it called the Holy of Holies for all shall be holy. If the church and the city are now synonymous than the idea of the church being the temple of God where He dwells will finds its greatest fulfillment here (I Cor. 3:17, 6:19).
There is also no sun. “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.” Let us first consider an indirect implication of this. If the city had no need of sun or moon to shine then this means that there is no need for the measuring of time and seasons. When God created the heavenly bodies He said “let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years…” (Gen. 1:14). We are so constrained by time, especially in western culture. We stress ourselves with schedules to keep. We have to plant and then we have to reap. We have to work and then we have to rest. Time defines all that we do. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace” (Ecc. 3:1-8). There is ultimately an anxiety to our time here on earth. It is fleeting, it is even a vapor that appears for a short time and then vanishes away (James 4:14). “Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain” (Ps. 89:47). “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away…. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Ps. 90:10, 12). We just never seem to have the time to do what we want to do, not to mention the things that we need to do. However, there is no sunrise and sunset. There is no passing of days in the normal sense of the words in that city. There is nowhere that we need to be other than to be in the presence of God. And sense there is no need for the telling of time in that eternal day so there will be no need for signs and figures and shadows of the true. We no longer need anything to lead us to God for we are with God. “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (I Cor. 13:9-12).
The need for lesser lights is swallowed up by the greater light. We have little need of the light of the candle when standing in the light of the sun. And so it shall be when we get to that shore that we will have no need of the sun when the presence of God is there. It is always interesting that the first day of creation began with the declaration, “Let there be light….” That light was not the light of our sun or any stars for those were not created until the fourth day of creation. God is light (I John 1:5). “The Lord is my light and my salvation…” (Ps. 27:1). Again, “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Ps. 36:9). There is a sense in which nothing could be seen or known without the revelation of God. That is the great point of the first day of creation. It is the point in which God made Himself known in this world and the world knowable through Him. It is the point at which God touched His creation and brought distinctions of knowledge through Himself. There is a reason that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me…” (Ps. 43:3). Brethren, we are headed toward a greater light than anything that we have ever known. “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18). Before Christ we were in darkness (Eph. 5:8, I Pet. 2:9). Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12). When we met Christ the light broke in: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6). And as we get further from the sinfulness of this world we got closer to the light of God. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7). There is coming a day in which we will dwell with perfect righteousness; we will dwell with He “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can [present tense] approach unto…” (I Tim. 6:16). The glory of God will be our light and will never set upon us. We will know Him and be known by Him and through Him. We will see everything in the light of His singular glory and will come to know the true nature of things. There will be an immensity of knowledge that will be at our access in and through the light that He gives. We know little in the distorted light we now have but then we will have a perfect light. This is the promise prophesied by Isaiah, “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory” (Isa. 60:19). Again, we see the deity of Christ. The glory of God lightens the city and the Lamb is the light thereof. This is yet another plain declaration to the nature of Christ as the one true God and the one true revealer of God (see Isa. 42:8, 48:11).
So it is in that light that there will be perfect unending felicity. “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.” Once again we run into the truth of preserved identity. We are not melded into nothingness. We do not lose our identity and our individual consciousness when entering into that perfect fellowship. Walking denotes fellowship. We shall know even as we are known. The nations shall walk (7:9, see also Isa. 60:3). The nationalities and all of our God given differences will still be there but there will be a unity of purpose. The nations of saved men shall all walk in the light. We shall be sinless and holy and there will be no darkness to cause us to stumble. And we will, as kings with Christ (1:6), shall bring our glory into that city. The glory that God has given us will go with us there. We will shine as stars and He shall shine as our sun. There will be perfect fellowship between us (as us) and God, walking in His light together forever. They will freely bring their glory under His forever and walk therein.
Then there is no shutting of the gates or rather there will never be a separation or a denial of access. “And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.” There is a great difference here between the Garden of Eden and the heavenly city. After the fall of man the angel guarded the way to the tree of life to keep man out. Here the same angels stand at the gates to minster the entrance eternally. The gates shall never be shut and we shall in no wise ever be cast out. We will never have to fear being lost again. Eternally secure in our fellowship. Again there is an illusion to the prophecy of Isaiah regarding Mt. Zion. “Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought” (Isa. 60:11). There will be nothing between us and God. There will be nothing that will ever be between us and our Savior again. We notice that that the gates shall not be shut by day. It is the eternal day for there shall be no more night. The gates cannot be shut due to the night being forever banished. The Bible anticipates the coming of the perfect day (Prov. 4:18). “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness…” (Rom. 13:12). It is described as the day of Jesus (I Cor. 1:8, 5:5). There is a day dawning that will not end. And we know that we will freely go in and out of the gates. The 26th verse teaches us that. We will go out into the new heaven and the new earth and come back with glory and honor to share under the light of God with one another. I cannot even find the words to describe that. We, the nations of the saved, will travel in and out for the continual glory of God. I imagine that we will go out of the gates to search out God’s world, to know Him better, and we come back in to worship at His feet with the glory and honor that we have found. The open gates infuse us with eternal security and eternal purpose focused on God and the Lamb. We will go in and out searching for His glory and honor and will always find it and bring it back like sheaves of the harvest to praise the Lord of Harvest. What a great day awaits us, the day that the Lord has made.
Finally there will be no more sin. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” First, this declaration sets the parameters of heaven and teaches us the nature of that city where the church shall dwell. You cannot have your sin and heaven as well. You will, in this life, have to make a choice on whether or not you want heaven or you want sin. Those that die in their sins will be excluded and will never enter that place. They shall “in no wise” enter there as sinners. There is no stronger claim to exclusion than those words purport. There is no conceivable scenario which will allow sinners to enter. This is a re-declaration of a warning that we have already seen in this chapter (21:1) and stands as a stark declaration of the holiness and justice of God. There is no temple in the city because the city is the temple and as such we see the parallels between Old Testament law and this declaration. The priest was to be washed and free from all defilement before he could enter the holy place. Those that have been written in the Lamb’s book of life, which we have already studied at length, are the antithesis of defilement and abominations and lies. They have, through their part in the Lamb and through the merit and character of the Lamb, been made free forever from those sins. The inverse position of this text is that those written in the book of life, the saved, will forever be able to enter in and out of the open gates that are ministered to them. Matthew Henry wisely summed this up: “Nothing sinful or unclean, idolatrous, or false and deceitful, can enter. All the inhabitants are made perfect in holiness. Now the saints feel a sad mixture of corruption, which hinders them in the service of God, and interrupts their communion with him; but, at their entrance into the holy of holies, they are washed in the laver of Christ’s blood, and presented to the Father without spot. None are admitted into heaven who works abominations. It is free from hypocrites, such as make lies. As nothing unclean can enter heaven, let us be stirred up by these glimpses of heavenly things, to use all diligence, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God” (see II Cor. 7:1).
Let us end by considering the three categories of sin that is excluded from heaven. First, nothing that can defile and does defile can enter into heaven. This speaks of a perfection of environment. We are defiled by things that outside of ourselves. In the Old Testament one could be defiled by touching things that were unclean or that were dead. Now this is the place that righteousness dwells. There is nothing there that can make us unclean. With the perfection of our environment also comes the perfection of our bodies and spirits. Jesus pointed out that things that are without are not the things that defile us but things that are within us defile us or make us unclean. “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23). There will be nothing left in the nature without or the nature within us that can stain us. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20, 21). It will be wonderful when all the fleshy lusts will be subdued by Christ.
Secondly, nothing can enter into heaven that works abominations. This speaks of the perfection of heavenly endeavors and the human will at large. All that we do will be sanctified unto God. It will not be after those things that are not God. They will not be after those things that are against Him as our Creator and Lord. All will be unto Him. There will come a day that all that we do will be unto the Lord and for His glory.
Lastly, nothing will enter heaven that makes a lie. This speaks of the perfection of faith or doctrine. There will we be forever free from error. We will not contradict the truth in our lives for our lives will be fully consecrated unto God. We will not contradict the truth in our words for we will learn of God what is true and live forever perfectly conformed to truth.
This is the apex of this eternal fellowship. We will be like Christ and therefore will be in a place that we can walk in perfect unity with God. We will have a perfect environment and perfect bodies. We will have a perfected will and a fully sanctified work for all eternity. We will live in perfect truth forever free from errors that keep us from knowing God. And there shall we dwell in His light and His presence with full access to God forever.