“And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies four square, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement (Revelation 21:15-17).”
“No trespassing,” “private property,” “restricted access”: these are not the most inviting words, and yet these are the concepts that might come to our mind when we think of the holy of holies of the tabernacle or temple in the Old Testament. As the author of Hebrews reminds us: “only the high priest entered the inner room and that only once a year and never without blood which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance (Hebrews 9:7).”
In the passage from Revelation mentioned above, we are told of an angel measuring the city of the New Jerusalem. While much could be said concerning this, what I want us to note is the shape. When we are told that “its length and width and height are equal,” the shape is unmistakable; it’s a cube. The significance of this shape would not have been lost on John. In the tabernacle as well in the temple there was only one cubical space – the holy of holies.
In both the tabernacle and temple, the holy of holies could only be entered by the high priest, and then only once a year. But now as John describes the New Jerusalem – the place where all of God’s people dwell securely for eternity – he makes sure we see it as the holy of holies. What was once off limits to practically everyone is now the eternal dwelling of all of those who belong to the LORD. Ever since Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden back in Genesis 3, we have been missing the ability to dwell with our LORD. Now in Revelation 21 we have returned – restricted access no longer!