This passage gives John’s interpretation of the vision. This vision is not a mystery as the previous visions were (17:5, 7) nor is John puzzled (17:6) and he needs nothing to be explained to him (17:7-18). John is a prophet who has been given sufficient insight by the Spirit (who has brought him to this point) to perceive, understand, interpret, and communicate this vision and its interpretation.
The first thing John mentions is a paradox. This holiest of cities has no temple (v. 22). The paradox is resolved when we see that “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (v. 22). The vision of Ezekiel’s temple in Ezekiel chapters 40-48 is summed up in a similar statement at the very end of Ezekiel 48:35: “the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.” This is the final fulfillment of that vision and of the promise made to the church in Rev. 3:12: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God.”
The Lord and the Lamb are also the light of the city (v. 23). There is no need for sun, moon and stars for light, for worship, or to determine sacred festivals and feasts; every day will be holy days filled with worship and service.
The city’s gates, unlike earthly cities, are never closed (v. 25). There is no danger of attack because the enemies of this city are in the lake of fire. The former enemies have been destroyed and the nations that they once ruled now submit to the scepter of the Lord’s Anointed. These nations now will glorify and honor the Lord and bring glory and honor into it (v. 26).
J Ramsey Michaels writes:
In short, John finds in this vision the realization of the “song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb” sung by the redeemed in chapter 15: “All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (15:4). Here too the hopes of the biblical prophets for Jerusalem have come true, above all Isaiah 60:3: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” and 60:11: “Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations–their kings led in triumphal procession.
This city, however, is an exclusive city. It is not open to everyone (v. 27). It is open only to those whose names are written in the book of life. Those whose names are written there are those who submit to the Lord’s Anointed and embrace God’s truth as he has revealed it through his prophets and apostles in his Word.
This means that there is hope. There is hope for the nations, even the rebellious ones, that they will find redemption through the blood of the Lamb. In eternity, all nations, Israel and the Gentiles will worship and serve the Lord together.
You must not wait until then to reflect God’s glory and holiness and you do not have to wait until then to enjoy God’s joy and to know his presence. In fact, those who will live in this city are those whose lives now demonstrate the holiness, glory and joy of eternity.
You must demonstrate these things now not only as signs that you belong in that heavenly city, but as part of your assurance that you belong there. The lie that says that you can say a prayer or get dunked or go in front of the church and shake the pastor’s hand and that guarantees that you will be in this city is just that, a lie. It may give you great comfort but it will comfort you all the way to hell.
One who truly belongs in that city will demonstrate now, in this life, that they are fit for it. They will not be perfect but they will mature as they walk through their Christian life and will grow more in their demonstration that they belong there rather than in this world. Those who show no evidence of love for the Savior or his people or his Word but cling to their love for the world show that they belong here, in this world and they will have no part of that heavenly city.
Just as you can live the life of that city now so you can enjoy the blessings of that city now, too. We will never know God’s presence or his joy in this life as we will in that city, but we can know them. We can live above this world by meditating on our place in that city and by clinging to the hope that this city is ours. We must “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1) and “be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience (Heb. 4:11).