Then one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” So he took me in spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. — Revelation 21:9-10
A British parliamentarian once said, “I smell a rat, I see it floating in the air, and I’ll nip it in the bud.” What he meant was that he suspected something was not quite right, and he intended to find out what was wrong and put an end to it. But he unwittingly bequeathed to literature a superb example of mixed metaphor. What he said made up in color what it lacked in clarity—something that metaphors, both mixed and unmixed, tend to do. But if clarity suffers, the point may be missed.
John recorded a fine mixed metaphor when he wrote about an angel saying to him, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9). We have no way of knowing what John expected to see, but the angel, he tells us, “showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” (21:10). So the bride was a well-known city situated in a historic geographical location, and yet it was descending out of heaven. John’s description certainly was not lacking in color!
The dimensions of the city show quite clearly that this was no literal Jerusalem: “It was in the form of a cube, for its length and width and height were each 1,400 miles” (21:16). The twelve gates bore “the names of the twelve tribes of Israel,” and “the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (21:12, 14). So the “city” in some symbolic way was built upon the historic people of Israel and the apostolic work of the early church’s leadership. The link with the apostles’ city gives a clue that the city is related to the church—something that becomes very clear when we remember that the church is described in Scripture as “the bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5:25-27)—which is just how the city was described!
So John saw a vision of the future glory of the people of God, the bride of Christ. This glory is something that can only come from God, because only He can make those who by nature were estranged from Him into His own people. God was telling us that despite the turmoil of this world’s struggles, the church will survive and triumph. It will be a glorious church, as suggested by the proliferation of jewels in its description. It will also be a global church, for “the nations of the earth will walk in its light” (21:24). And it will be a grateful church made up entirely of “those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (21:27). And there are no mixed messages about that!
For further study: Revelation 21:9-27
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.