Is Revelation 21:9-22:5 presenting the Millennial Kingdom or the Eternal State? The following two articles relate to this question, presenting two views for you to carefully consider in coming to a conclusion on the interpretation of Revelation 21:9-22:5. The purpose of presenting opposing views is not to create controversy nor to generate division, and it is not merely for you to assess who formulates a better argument. The purpose is to help you to understand the viewpoints, and to encourage you to study it more deeply yourself in your own time. Our two writers have read and considered the opposing view and continue to happily respect each other.
– Matthew Cain
In Revelation 21:1-5, John is given a further vision of “a new heaven and a new earth,”(KJV) i.e., “new” in the sense of abidingly fresh and never growing old: “Behold, I make all things new” (v5, KJV). This is the eternally abiding new heaven and new earth of the eternal state, “wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2Peter 3:13, KJV). The present heavens and earth are waxing old, like a perished piece of clothing about to be folded up and cast aside (Heb 1:11-12), but this new heaven and new earth will be eternally pristine.
In chapter 21:9, the angel tells John he will be shown “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” and from the high mountain is shown “the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of the heaven from God” (v10, Darby New Translation), but not reaching the earth, clearly distinct from earthly Jerusalem in the land of Israel. Similar language is used to describe the city in verse 2 as “New Jerusalem”, i.e., suitable for the eternal state, with its new heaven and new earth. The emphasis in verse 10 is “the holy Jerusalem,” “Having the glory of God” (v11, KJV), depicting the unblemished “glorious Church” (Eph 5:27, KJV) as the Bride of Christ, having been presented to Him at the marriage of the Lamb (Rev 19:7).
For the marriage and marriage supper in chapter 19, and in 21:9 (KJV), Christ is “the Lamb” and the Church is “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” emphasizing the Church as the fruit of His sacrifice at Calvary. For eternity, the Church is “as a Bride adorned for her husband” (21:2, KJV), with an eternal freshness, beauty, and attractiveness, forever the object of the unceasing love of Christ.
In chapter 21:11-23, there is a detailed description of a literal city, the physical abode in which the Church will rule with Christ in the Millennium. Christ has presented His Bride to Himself at the marriage of the Lamb (19:7), and then to His friends at the marriage supper (19:9). Now in chapter 21, He delights to further present the Church to the nations and kings of the earth in the Millennial Kingdom, displayed with Him in this day of His revealed glory.
In all the beautiful details of this great celestial walled city foursquare, the number 12 is prolific (vv12,14,16-17,21), linked in Scripture with divine rule and administration. This city will be the center of administration of the Millennial Kingdom reign of Christ, a glorious administration of justice, when “a King shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment” (Isa 32:1, KJV).
The “names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” are linked with the “twelve foundations” of the city wall (v14, KJV). The Lord assured His 12 disciples they would “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30, KJV), actively participating in His coming kingdom. Those 12 apostles formed the link between Israel and the Church; for the administration of the Millennial Kingdom, they will provide the link between Israel as the head of the nations on earth, and the Church as it reigns with Christ. Believers of the Church age will share in this millennial administration, actively participating in Christ’s righteous rule, when “the saints shall judge the world/angels” (1Cor 6:2-3, KJV), and “reign with Him” (2Tim 2:12, KJV).
The Church in the Millennium, associated with Christ in the administration of His earthly kingdom, will be radiating “the glory of God” (vv11, 23, KJV) to a wondering world. We read, “the nations,” and “the kings of the earth … bring their glory and honor into it” (vv24, 26, KJV). In the Millennium, Israel will be the head of the nations of the earth, and their kings will acknowledge Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords: “Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him” (Psa 72:11, KJV). This will be the glorious fulfillment of Ephesians 3:21, “Unto Him be glory in the Church in Christ Jesus unto all the generations of the age of the ages” (Newberry).
In contrast, in the eternal “day of God” (2Peter 3:12, KJV), God shall “be all in all” (1Cor 15:28, KJV). He will eternally dwell with mankind in an intimate relationship of undisturbed bliss, not requiring human rulers or any administrative authority. From God’s perspective, “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Rev 21:3, KJV).
In the eternal state (21:1-5), there are no time references; in the kingdom age in 22:2 (KJV), the tree of life “yielded her fruit every month;”so, time is still operating in this literal time period of a “thousand years” (Rev 20:2-7, KJV). Further, “the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations,” similar to the millennial scene depicted in Ezekiel 47:12 (KJV): “the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine,” when health still has to be maintained. In the eternal state, the concept of health will not be relevant.
After man sinned, God brought a curse upon creation (Gen 3:17-19). In the Millennial Kingdom, “there shall be no more curse” (ch 22:3, KJV); creation will be restored (Isa 55:13, Rom 8:19-21), productivity (Amos 9:13) and longevity (Isa 65:20) will be the rule. But there will still be the need for divine judgment, and the Millennium ends with a final rebellion and devouring judgment (20:7-9). Only in the eternal state will all sorrow, suffering, tears, and death be forever banished for redeemed humanity, detailed delightfully in chapter 21:4.
The reverse chronology of the eternal state (21:1-5), before the Millennial Kingdom reign (21:9-22:5), continues in chapter 22, when Christ gives promise of His coming again (vv7, 12, 20), which must precede the beginning of His reign. It is to be expected that the character of the Millennial Kingdom will foreshadow that of the eternal state to follow, and certainly, for the Church, millennial blessing will seamlessly transition into eternal blessing. Whichever exact perspective one takes, this passage of God’s Word is surely a great encouragement, as we think of the glorious future which awaits every believer in Christ, knowing “the time is at hand” (Rev 1:3, KJV).