Finally Utopia has arrived. The stuff the cherry-pickers use for poems and songs. V 1 says that the old earth and the old heaven have disappeared, but v 10 says that an angel took John to a high mountain to watch the New Jerusalem descend from heaven. What planet is the mountain on, then, and from which alternate ‘heaven’ is the city descending… I’m trying too hard to make sense of it, apparently. Shouldn’t think too much…
V 4 is known for inspiring poets and musicians.
Predictably, the usual gang of non-conformists are excluded from this paradise (v 8). But look at v 12 – the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel are written on the city gates. Does that mean only descendants of those tribes may enter? No – an apologist site comments that since the names of the 12 Apostles are written on the foundation stones, this indicates that both Jews and Gentiles will take up their place in the Holy City. I wonder which 12 apostles were chosen.
V 15-17 establish that the New Jerusalem is a cube, with each side 1400 miles long/wide/tall, and walls 200 feet thick. This sounds like Ezekiel 40-41 (measuring the temple). What difference does it make? Is the author just pulling big numbers out of his ass to try to sound impressive?
The wall of the city (v 19) is built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones: a carnelian, an emerald, a jasper, an onyx, an agate, an amethyst, a beryl, a jacinth, a sapphire, a chrysolite, a topaz, and a chrysoprase.
Just for comparison, the chestpiece of the priest in Exodus 28:15-18 also contains 12 precious stones –a red carnelian, an emerald, a green jasper, an onyx, an agate, a purple amethyst, a blue-green beryl, an orange jacinth, a pale-green peridot, a turquoise, a blue lapis lazuli, and a white moonstone.
Interesting that 8 of these 12 are the same, but quite frankly, I’m surprised that they are all not the same. So much of Revelation is patterned on OT stories and prophesies, and there’s a definite resemblance between the Holy City and Solomon’s temple.
And what the 12 gates are made of? I should’ve known! But honestly, I had never once before given a thought to where the expression ‘pearly gates’ originated. V 23 is – don’t laugh – a lyric from The Holy City, a very old favorite song of my parents and their friends. Mom used to play it so beautifully on the piano and her friends would sing. I always thought of it as a fairy tale or fantasy (like Puff the Magic Dragon); I had no idea that it was based on this chapter. I found a recording on YouTube, and like all old classical music, it brings tears of nostalgia to my eyes… even now as I realize how absurd the words are. Another bubble burst in my memory.
A fanciful artist’s conception of the Holy City! And is it just me, or does this remind you of another fictional city?
V 1-5 describe paradise in heaven, or the Holy City. Apologists believe that this is Eden, and that now the curse in Genesis 3 has been revoked. So we’re essentially back to square one. Which suggests an interesting possibility – are all these saints in heaven gonna behave now? What if one of them doesn’t? The logical conclusion of the apologist argument I described in chapter 20 is that people will begin screwing up all over again. Will god toss the naughty saint(s) out of heaven and start the events of the bible over from the beginning? Doesn’t bear thinking about…
Yet believers spend time discussing whether or not the saints in heaven will physically eat the fruit on those trees – do they need to eat, or is it just for show? Or perhaps they will eat it just for enjoyment and not out of necessity. And what about the mention of ‘healing’ in v 2? There should be no need for that since there is no more illness, so the fundie site claims that this will just be a way of promoting general health or implying that life in heaven will be rich and exciting. The apologist acrobatics is mind-boggling!
The phrase “I come quickly” appears 3 times in this chapter (v 7, 12, and 20). Ha! Apologists get around it by declaring that it doesn’t mean Jesus will be arriving soon; rather that he will arrive suddenly and without warning. “Having knowledge that Jesus could return at any moment shouldn’t lead Christians to a life of idle waiting for His coming. Instead it should produce diligent, obedient, worshipful service to God, and urgent proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers.” Spare me!
In v 15 we get the obligatory warning for the umpteenth time about who will be excluded from the Holy City. It doesn’t even make sense at this point – these people are already dead, aren’t they? Wasn’t that the point of the last couple of chapters? And ‘dog’, BTW, refers to homosexuals (dog was once a slang term for male prostitute).
In v 16, Jesus refers to himself as the ‘morning star’; but that term, in Isaiah 14:12, was associated with Lucifer (although, if you have read Isaiah, you know that the association is sketchy at best). Then there are a bunch of dire warnings about taking Revelation seriously and not altering any of its prophesy. We’re right back to fear tactics to keep believers in the fold. What a way to end – but kind of appropriate, isn’t it?
This completes the entire standard Protestant bible. If you’ve completed the whole project, then give yourself a pat on the back and have a stiff drink when you’re done! Final exam, anyone?
No, seriously, no exam. But I have a few more notes to wrap up the project.