Opening illustration: This is an article written in 1967 by Arnold Fruchtenbaum a Jew who converted to Christianity, “Walking outside after the war with Jordan was over, I saw a car pass by with the words ‘Rebuild the temple!’ painted on its side. One Israeli soldier told me that they still have one wall of the temple, the Wailing Wall, and all they need to do is to build three more walls and a roof and they would have the temple back. All this talk about the temple must have caused some concern in the rabbinate for soon after they issued a decree that the temple mount is off-limits for Jews except for the Wailing Wall since the area was desecrated and that the area is to remain off-limits until the Messiah comes and the temple is rebuilt.” Things of course have changed a bit there now. But that was an interesting thing that right after that victory there is evidence of the fact that deep down lying deep down in the Jewish consciousness is the desire to rebuild the temple, prepare for the visitation of the Messiah and experience His glorious everlasting light.
Introduction: These verses return to the imagery of light and glory with which the chapter began. But the tone shifts dramatically. While the previous verses were in highly poetic language, the historical background of the post-exilic restoration of Jerusalem was evident. Here, the historical background is no longer apparent. Although the language is still poetic, it no longer describes changed historical conditions but a future reign of God on a cosmic scale.
Some scholars have identified these verses as similar to a particular variety of poetic description called apocalyptic. Apocalyptic literature is a style of writing which portrays God’s activity in the world in terms of two ages, this present evil age and a new ideal age to come. One feature of apocalyptic is its vivid and imaginative descriptions of the coming age of God’s reign. The style of apocalyptic was most popular after the Old Testament era into the period of the early church (200 BC-AD 100). Still, both Testaments contain apocalyptic books (Daniel and Revelation) as well as shorter sections which resemble apocalyptic writings.
How will the Lord be an ‘Everlasting Light’ to His people?
1. God makes Himself available (vs. 19-20a; Ref: Revelation 21:23)
In the OT God did not make Himself available to His people continually but only to a chosen few on occasions. The promise in the NT is fulfilled to validate God’s continual availability and fullness through the Holy Spirit.
God shall be all in all in the joy here promised; so he is always to true believers (Isaiah 60:19): The sun and the moon shall be no more thy light. God's people, when they enjoy his favor, and walk in the light of his countenance, make little account of sun and moon, and the other lights of this world, but could walk comfortably in the light of the Lord though they should withdraw their shining. In heaven there shall be no occasion for sun or moon, for it is the inheritance of the saints in light, such light as will swallow up the light of the sun as easily as the sun does that of a candle. "Idolaters worshipped the sun and moon (which some have thought the most ancient and plausible idolatry); but these shall be no more thy light, shall no more be idolized, but the Lord shall be to thee a constant light, both day and night, in the night of adversity as well as in the day of prosperity."
Those that make God their only light shall have him their all-sufficient light, their sun and shield. Thy God shall be thy glory. Note, God is the glory of those whose God he is and will be so to eternity. It is their glory that they have him for their God, and they glory in it; it is to them instead of beauty. God's people are, upon this account, an honorable people, that they have an interest in God as their sin covenant. The happiness here promised shall know no change, period, or allay (Isaiah 60:20): "Thy sun shall no more go down, but it shall be eternal day, eternal sunshine, with thee; that shall not be thy sun which is sometimes eclipsed, often clouded, and, though it shine ever so bright, ever so warm, will certainly set and leave thee in the dark, in the cold, in a few hours; but he shall be a sun, a fountain of light to thee, who is himself the Father of all lights, with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning." (James 1:17)
We read of the sun's standing still once, and not hasting to go down for the space of a day, and it was a glorious day, never was the like; but what was that to the day that shall never have a night? Or, if it had, it should be a light night; for neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; it shall never wane, shall never change, but be always at the full. God is always/continually available as His light is everlasting. There is not a time when He is unavailable to us.
Illustration: There was a saying that the sun never set in the British Empire. On a similar tone the light of Christ never sets as He is the light and the everlasting. It is always and ever beaming. Similarly the sun will not set in the New Jerusalem.
2. End of Mourning (v. 20b)
In this verse it’s also possible that our sun not setting nor the moon waning is a figure of speech for “the days of your mourning will be over.” In other words, since God will wipe away every tear (Revelation 7:15-17) and sorrow and mourning will be no more (Revelation 21:4) that is like constant light of day in our souls. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
The comforts and joys that are in heaven, the glories provided for the soul, as the light of the sun, and those prepared for the glorified body too, as the light of the moon, shall never know the least cessation or interruption; how should they when the Lord shall himself be thy everlasting light - a light which never wastes nor can ever be extinguished? And the days of thy mourning shall be ended, so as never to return; for all tears shall be wiped away, and the fountains of them, sin and affliction, dried up, so that sorrow and sighing shall flee away forever.
One of the most encouraging parallel verses in the bible for believers is Revelation 21:4. In this verse God promises us that one day in heaven the things of this earth that have brought us to tears, brought sorrow and pain, have brought death, will be wiped away by God Himself. It is indeed a great comfort to know that one day we as believers will no longer have to deal with the troubles of this fallen world. But while this verse is indeed true, and a day will one day come when all of these things are fulfilled, do we really understand its meaning? Many misinterpret this verse to mean that once we die, and come into the presence of Jesus Christ, all of these things will be fulfilled. Sadly, this is not the case.
3. God’s people are Righteous (v. 21)
And finally, Thy people also shall be all righteous. What does he mean by that? Well he means that all who enter the new city of Jerusalem shall be justified. Now no one is righteous inherently. It is by faith in Jesus Christ that we are declared righteous. Paul says that we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. So when I look off to the cross of Jesus Christ and see him as the one who died for me, and I believe in him, I am declared righteous by God, given righteousness. Remember what is God’s righteousness? It is the righteousness which his righteousness requires him to require. Perfect righteousness! And that is given to us when we believe in Jesus Christ. You can say of the church, it is all righteous. Every member of the church of Jesus Christ is justified. Isn’t that wonderful to know that? You know that means that you and I have accepted the God only. We do not come in our merits. We come in his merits. So the door is always open. We are always accepted. We are accepted in him. If we have sinned, we do not lose our acceptance. We lose our fellowship and we confess and are restored, but our acceptance depends not upon us, but upon him and what he has done, and that is settled and finished and complete. And that is going to be true of Israel in that day. Thy people also shall be all righteous. All who enter that kingdom are justified individually. They shall inherit the land for ever, the branch that the Abrahamic promises reach their ultimate fulfillment in the possession by those who are the seed of Abraham of the land that was promised to them.
Those that are entitled to this happiness, being duly prepared and qualified for it, shall never be put out of the possession of it (Isaiah 60:21): Thy people, that shall inhabit this New Jerusalem, shall all be righteous, all justified by the righteousness of the Messiah, all sanctified by his Spirit; all that people, that Jerusalem, must be righteous, must have that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. They are all righteous, for we know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. There are no people on earth that are all righteous; there is a mixture of some bad in the best societies on this side heaven; but there are no mixtures there. They shall be all righteous, that is, they shall be entirely righteous; as there shall be none corrupt among them, so there shall be no corruption in them; the spirits of just men shall there be made perfect. And they shall be all the righteous together who shall replenish the New Jerusalem; it is called the congregation of the righteous, Psalm 1:5. And, because they are all righteous, therefore they shall inherit the land for ever, for nothing but sin can turn them out of it. The perfection of the saints' holiness secures the perpetuity of their happiness.
The glory of the church shall redound to the honor of the church's God: "They shall appear to be the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, and I will own them as such." It was by the grace of God that they were designed to this happiness; they are the branch of his planting, or of his plantations; he broke them off from the wild olive and grafted them into the good olive, transplanted them out of the field, when they were as tender branches, into his nursery, that, being now planted in his garden on earth, they might shortly be removed to his paradise in heaven. It was by his grace likewise that they were prepared and fitted for this happiness; they are the work of his hands (Ephesians 2:10), are wrought to the self-same thing, Colossians 2 5:5. It is a work of time, and, when it shall be finished, will appear a work of wonder; and God will be glorified, who began it, and carried it on; for the Lord Jesus will then be admired in all those that believe. God will glorify himself in glorifying his chosen.
4. God’s hand upon Israel (v. 22)
They will appear the more glorious, and God will be the more glorified in them, if we compare what they are with what they were, the happiness they have arrived at with the smallness of their beginnings (Isaiah 60:22): "A little one shall become a thousand and a small one a strong nation." The captives that returned out of Babylon strangely multiplied, and became a strong nation. The Christian church was a little one, a very small one at first - the number of their names was once but 120; yet it became a thousand. The stone cut out of the mountain without hands swelled so as to fill the earth.
The triumphant church, and every glorified saint, will be a thousand out of a little one, a strong nation out of a small one. The grace and peace of the saints were at first like a grain of mustard-seed, but they increase and multiply, and make a little one to become a thousand, the weak to be as David. When they come to heaven, and look back upon the smallness of their beginning, they will wonder how they got thither. And so wonderful is all this promise that it needed the ratification with which it is closed: I the Lord will hasten it in his time - all that is here said relating to the Jewish and Christian church, to the militant and triumphant church, and to every particular believer.
It may seem too difficult to be brought about, and therefore may be despaired of; but the God of almighty power has undertaken it: "I the Lord will do it, who can do it, and who have determined to do it." It will be done by him whose power is irresistible and his purposes unalterable. It may seem to be delayed and put off so long that we are out of hopes of it; but, as the Lord will do it, so he will hasten it, will do it with all convenient speed; though much time may pass before it is done, no time shall be lost; he will hasten it in its time, in the proper time, in the season wherein it will be beautiful; he will do it in the time appointed by his wisdom, though not in the time prescribed by our folly. And this is really hastening it; for, though it seem to tarry, it does not tarry if it come in God's time, for we are sure that that is the best time, which he that believes will patiently wait for.
Application: God has been and always will be an everlasting light to us. His 24/7 availability to us is unfathomable. He desires that all the old stuff will pass away and everything will be new and there will be no more mourning because He has taken it all. In fact when people separate themselves for Christ and are walking righteously before Him, God is seen to an everlasting light in their lives. Finally His hand upon the spiritual Israel is great and mighty and never ending with His power and might.
God’s Name defines ‘The Everlasting Light.’ There is no other name in heaven or earth or for that matter anywhere which can define this phrase. When He is the Everlasting Light, who else can be?