MAY ENTER THROUGH THE GATES OF THE CITY
“Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” This is the final beatitude of the Bible. It promises the eternal heavenly blessing in the afterlife for those who keep God’s commandments. This has always been God’s plan (Matt. 7:21-27; 2 Thess.1:7-9; Heb.5:8-9). The blessings afforded by this beatitude are the “right to the tree of life” and entrance “through the gates into the heavenly city.” What a comfort this was to John and the other saints of that day! Regardless of what the consequences were to be as a result of the great tribulation, they had the assurance that victory was theirs with eternal life in heaven if they kept God’s commandments.
Only those who were clothed in clean wedding garments will be saved, and they “have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the [heavenly] city” (Rev. 22:14; Matt. 22:11-13). You can almost hear Jesus’ words, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved” (John 10:9).
To understand the open-gates situation, we need to think about what it was like in ancient cities when their gates were open. It is not an unprotected entrance. There are gate-keepers (angels) there at the heavenly city. Those who are outside because of their wickedness and spiritual uncleanness will never be allowed to enter (they are barred forever into another realm –The Lake of Fire). But the righteous will freely enter with no opposition from the gatekeepers (also see Rev. 21:12, 27).
Recall from Study Series 16 Lesson 9 that Rev. 21 and 22 are talking about the effect of the one Eternal Kingdom upon both the SEEN and UNSEEN realms (i.e., the whole cosmos – both the heavens and the earth). That is clear from verse one of chapter 21, where it mentions both the heavens and earth.
It is important to keep this in mind as we look at Rev. 22:14-15 –> there is “both” an earthly and heavenly aspect of the one eternal Kingdom to this passage. God’s Kingdom is fully active in both realms (seen and unseen).
Earthly realm aspect:
The earthly Kingdom’s realm existence is in the church. This earthly realm aspect is much like Isaiah was prophesying about in Isaiah 65:20-25, 66:18-24. This also corresponds to the earthly life in the Kingdom as spoken of in Ezekiel 47 where the river of life will grow and bring life wherever it goes, but that there will always be the evil and darkness around us (swamps and marshland) (Ezek. 47:11).
This aspect is speaking about us as true members of Christ’s body in the church à we have free unhindered entrance into the earthly aspects of the Kingdom city, God dwells with us, we are blessed with His Holy Spirit living with and guiding us, and we have the guarantee of the inheritance of eternal life in the heavenly city once we leave this earthly life. No “unsaved” person can truly enter the body of Christ in the earthly church, nor have these rights or access to the Tree of eternal Life in the heavenly city upon physical death (they must first be born again. John 3:5). (Outside of the gates of the earthly church body are the “dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolater, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”)
Heavenly realm aspect:
The New Jerusalem is in the heavenly unseen realm where God dwells. The Tree of Life is in this heavenly city. Jesus brought this heavenly city down with Him when He returned at His Parousia. At His Parousia He raised the dead righteous souls in the unseen realm out of Hades/Sheol, changed the living righteous into the unseen realm, and gave them all new immortal heavenly individual bodies, and they inherited their eternal life and entrance through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem with access to the Tree of Life.
It is in the heavenly afterlife aspect of the New Jerusalem where the Tree of Life is. And like Jesus prayed in His model prayer, the Kingdom has both earthly and heavenly aspects: “May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It is NOT an either/or situation, but rather a both/and situation.
And this dual aspect to the New Jerusalem and Kingdom is even more clearly seen when we consider the audience relevance of Rev 21 – 22 to those first century saints. Recall that the “overcomers” (Rev. 3:12, 21, 21:7) and faithful saints (Rev. 22:14) have the right to enter into the city. Those “overcomers” were already Christians long before they overcame the trials of the great tribulation. And it was their faithfulness unto death which made them overcomers and enabled them to enter into the Heavenly City. They did not enter into it until after they died. Therefore, entry into the gates of the New Jerusalem is not talking about becoming Christians. It is instead talking about faithful Christians dying in the persecution and entering into the heavenly Jerusalem.
Do we see what this would have meant to those faithful first century Christians in the middle of the Neronic persecution, when so many of the lukewarm Christians were “cowardly” and apostatizing and lying and ending up in the Lake of Fire? Those saints who remained faithful unto death were overcomers who then exercised their right to enter into the gates of the Heavenly City. It was one thing for them to be an “heir” and to have the “rights” to eternal life which they had promised to them during their lives, but totally another thing to now after death be able to finally “inherit” and take possession of that eternal life in the heavenly city in the “face to face” presence of God. (Outside of the gates of the heavenly city (in another separate realm of The Lake of Fire) are the “dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolater, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”)
See also related “Topic Studies & Terms”:
Related full “Study Series” (available upon request if not hyperlinked):
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 9 Rev. Chapter 21”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 10 Rev. Chapter 22”]