NO MORE NIGHT
The very first thing that John said about the city the New Jerusalem when he first saw it was that it shown with a great brilliance. Then, after writing about some of the other aspects of the city as we have read, he now returns to that theme of the light of New Jerusalem. John writes, “The city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23 NAS).
The verses in this section have led to a few people teaching some misconceptions about eternity. The first of these misunderstanding concerns questions about the sun and the moon. Because of what John said, some people teach that there will be no sun or moon at all in the new creation. I will get to that point in a moment.
First however, I would like to mention another misunderstanding that some people have about this section. This misconception is that John is speaking merely in a figurative manner, and that the subject at hand is not actually speaking of a physical light at all. The thinking concerning this is that since John was living in the day before artificial lighting for the streets of cities, when darkness came, people usually went nowhere. In those days and in those places, with darkness came insecurity. That is why the cities of his time had walls with gates that they closed at night. The people did not want invaders to have the chance to enter their cities under the cloak of darkness. Families also closed themselves inside their own homes.
In those types of environments, there is a special feeling of sequestering and even shielding oneself in protection. About forty-five years ago, I lived in a village such as this in a rural area of India. It was not such a small village. If I recall correctly, it had a population of about 50,000 people. We did have electricity in the village, but it came on only occasionally during the day. Usually, shortly after dark, it was always shut off. There were no streetlights, so the village lay in complete darkness at night except for whatever light might be coming from the moon and the stars and from the oil lamps inside of the dwellings.
When darkness began to fall, everyone knew that they should be getting home because soon the electricity would be off, and no one wanted to be out in the streets at night. It was not that it was particularly dangerous in that village. Certainly, I never felt insecure there, but it was just very disorientating to be out wandering the little pathways in the darkness. After it became dark, everybody just stayed in their homes, or perhaps visited in a neighbor’s house.
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In John’s experience in the first century cities and town, it was not only the disorientation at night, but security was also a problem after darkness. Thus, when he spoke of the brightness of the New Jerusalem, many people think that he was merely speaking symbolic or figurative terms to demonstrate that this will be a place of complete security. I am quite certain that John did indeed see a city of total peace and security when he saw the New Jerusalem, but I do not think that his mentioning of there being no night in the city was merely a metaphor for this security. John makes such a point in saying that the city was a city full of illumination, it truly must be so.
In fact, he says that it was so bright in that city, that there was no need for the sun or the moon. This brings us again to the first misunderstanding that I mentioned – the misinterpretation of his words that is used to give the teaching that there will be no sun at all in that place, nor a moon.
There are two things to say to this. First, it is important to remember that John was speaking here about the city of New Jerusalem only. He was not speaking of the entire New Earth. Second, John did not say that there was no sun or moon, he merely said that there was no need of a sun or a moon for illumination, since the city itself had light that illumined it. As far as I understand, the sun and the moon will still be in the sky, since these were part of the original creation of God which he called “very good.”
There is a song that used to be popular in Christian circles called “No More Night.” It is a song that speaks of this day when the glory of God is providing the illumination for the New Jerusalem. However, the illumination that comes from that city does not illumine all of creation, at least not in the sense of giving light. It is just that the city itself will be a city full of illumination.
Thus, for those of us who enjoy looking at sunrises and sunsets, who like paddling a canoe or kayak on a moonlit night on Lake Nokomis or the Spirit River or some other lake or river, we do not need to feel disappointed that those experiences will end. There is very much that we do not yet know about our eternal existence, but I am certain that there will be no moment when we will remember wistfully some of our experiences in this present existence and wish that we could return to this time. Of this I am confident – everything that we experience today that is based in a pure desire will not only be present in the new creation, but will be further purified and accentuated.
A City of Glory
The New Jerusalem will be a city full of glory. We have already read how the glory of God illumines the city, but glory is one of those terms that are difficult for us to grasp. What is glory? We now also read of the kings of the earth and of the nations that they will also bring their glory into the city. What is it that they are bringing?
Perhaps the best example that we can use to help us define the word glory is an experience that the disciples Peter, John and James at one time had when Jesus had taken them up on a mountain to pray. While there, they witnessed a striking change in the appearance of Jesus. While he was praying, his face became different and even his clothing became a dazzling white. The Gospel writer Luke even says it “flashed like lightning.” John was no doubt thinking of this experience when he would later write of Jesus, “We beheld His glory” (John 1:14).
Peter also relays his thoughts on this when he later wrote, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain (2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV).
When Jesus was born as a human baby and as he grew to be a man, there was much about him that was not apparent to those who saw him. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Although he [Jesus] existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7 NAS).
When on the mountain, Jesus allowed his appearance to be changed, for those short moments the three disciples saw Jesus as he really was, unveiled in his glory. In a bit of the same way, even you and I do not appear today as we really are. There is something about us that is veiled, but which will be taken away when we are living in the New Earth. I want to be very clear that in our own case, it is not exactly how it was for Jesus, since he is the creator and we are of the creation. This will always be the case. However, like Jesus, our appearance will also be changed in some fashion.
Paul also talks about this in another one of his letters. Speaking of the resurrection, when he says those believers who have died in the Lord rise from the dead out of their graves, he says “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52 NAS).
These will be our glorified bodies, that is, these will be our bodies as they really are without anything corruptible or perishable about them. “For,” Paul says, “this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53 NAS).
Thus, when John spoke of the kings of the earth bringing their glory into the city, and also the glory of the nations, he speaks of these people with their resurrected and imperishable bodies coming into the city. That is why he says that nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it.
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