The grand moment has arrived; the end has come. John has seen the end of the whore Babylon in Revelation 17:1-19:10, the end of the beast and the false prophet of Revelation 13:1-16:20 in Revelation 19:11-21, the end of Satan, the one behind it all, in Revelation 20:1-10, and the final judgment of everyone and the condemnation of the ungodly to hell in Revelation 20:11-15. Jesus will now show John a beautiful picture of the wondrous glory awaiting the faithful, foreshadowed in Revelation 11:15-19, 16:17 and consistent with the promises of Romans 8:17-25, 2 Corinthians 2:9-10, and 2 Peter 3:13.
Revelation 21:1-8 set the tone for the rest of the passage. John will see the new heavens and the earth, the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God and man, a place of life and joy, where all is new, assured by God in Christ for those who will drink freely of the water of life, inheriting the promises, full and unbroken association between God and redeemed mankind, where sin and its practitioners no longer exist.
In Revelation 21:9-27, John is shown the Bride as the holy city, the new Jerusalem, foreshadowed in Revelation 19:7-9. We are invited to see the contrast between the Bride, the new Jerusalem, and the whore Babylon, throughout. The city is described as having wondrous glory, expressed through heavenly light, twelve gates of pearl, a perfect cube of a city of great size, a wall, a city of gold, with twelve foundations of precious jewels (Revelation 21:9-21). The city has no temple in or heavenly lights to shine upon it, for God and the Lamb are its Temple and Light, and the nations and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it; its gates are never closed, since there is no night there, and nothing unclean is in it (Revelation 21:22-27).
In Revelation 22:1-5, the imagery shifts toward paradise, the river of water of life proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb, and the tree of life on both sides of the river, with the fruit that leads to the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2). There is no curse there, the throne of God is there, and His servants shall see Him face to face (Revelation 22:3-5).
Revelation 22:6-21 serve to conclude the Revelation, assuring the reader/listener of the authority and authenticity of the prophecy, as well as the imminent fulfillment of what has been recorded. The words are not to be sealed up, unlike in the days of Daniel, since the time is near (Revelation 22:10; cf. Daniel 8:26, 10:14, 12:4, 9). The Lord attests to the prophecy; He is coming soon; the book should not at all be distorted by any later scribe on pains of the the plagues of Revelation (Revelation 22:11-19). The letter ends with the expectation of the Lord’s return and a standard conclusion to a letter (Revelation 22:20-21).
Thus the canon of Scripture ends, and it does so in a spectacular fashion. All of the hopes and expectations built up since the beginning of Genesis find their fulfillment in the glorious vision of the Bride of Christ in her glory. The “new heavens and earth,” a promise seen in Isaiah 65:13-25, 66:22-24, come about either from the conflagration (2 Peter 3:1-13) or the transformation (Romans 8:18-25) of the old. God is making all things new: this is the hope of the resurrection and life in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-58, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:16-18, 5:16-17, Philippians 3:20-21, Colossians 3:1-4). In this life, the people of God are reckoned as the new Jerusalem, envisioned previously in Isaiah 60:10-20 and Ezekiel 48:31-35, coming down from heaven: the ideal city built by God (Hebrews 11:10, 13-16), not the distortion of man at Babel or the shadow of old Jerusalem (Genesis 11:1-9, 1 Kings 11:36). God now dwells among His people, without a need for a temple, in a perfect cube, as expressed in a shadow in the Holy of Holies and the intended relationship between God and Israel (Leviticus 26:11-12, 1 Kings 6:20). Most of Revelation has featured God’s judgments upon the nations; those that remain now fulfill the desire God had for Israel, that all the kings of the earth and nations would bring their glory into the city of God (Psalm 72:10-11, Isaiah 60:2-5). Finally, and ultimately, the end is as the beginning: as God made man in the Garden of Eden, through which a river ran and in which could be found the tree of life (Genesis 2:8-16, 3:22-24), so now, through the perspective of Ezekiel on the river in Ezekiel 47:1-12, man now can live in the presence of God in Christ forever, face to face, and drink of the water of the river of life and eat the fruit of the tree of life forevermore, images pointing to unbroken association between God in Christ and His redeemed people in the resurrection through the empowerment and enlightenment of the Spirit (cf. John 4:10-11, 7:38-39). The curse of mankind, leading to sin, death, and suffering, is no more, brought to nothing by the Tree of life on which the Savior was crucified and overthrown through His resurrection in power and the resurrection of the believers on that final day (Genesis 3:17, Romans 8:18-25, Galatians 3:13, Hebrews 12:22). The nations find their healing there; we find God’s ultimate purpose in the Garden of Eden, in Abraham, Israel, the prophets, Jesus, and the church, all brought to complete fruition on the day of the glorification of the Bride, the church, the people of God, and their eternal home in the presence of God in the new heavens and the new earth!
Perhaps Revelation 22:6-21 seems incoherent, but it firmly assures us that these things will come to pass. The victory has been won in Christ; sin and death can be defeated through Him; the day is coming when God will redeem the body, release the creation from bondage, destroy death the final enemy, and God will be “all in all” (Romans 8:17-25, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28). The final day has not yet come, but it is coming; it is nearer now than it ever has been (Romans 13:11). We have every reason to trust in God’s promises; as we can see, literally everything which God has been working on and toward will find their fulfillment and satisfaction on that great and glorious day. We do well to join with John and Christians throughout the ages in the grand cry: Amen! Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20)!