Jesus, Jews, and Jerusalem

Jesus, Jews, and Jerusalem

February 2nd, 1975 @ 10:50 AM

Luke 21:24

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Related Topics: Jerusalem, Jews, Prophecy, 1975, Luke
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Jerusalem, Jews, Prophecy, 1975, Luke

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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Matthew 23:37-39

2-2-75    10:50 a.m.


I welcome you on radio and on television to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  And this is the pastor bringing the message in keeping with our days of prophetic conference—the message entitled Jesus, Jews, and Jerusalem.

As a background, not in any wise as a text to exegete or to expound, but just as a background, I read the lament of our Lord that closes the twenty-third chapter of Matthew:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, but ye would not!

Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

For I say unto you, that Ye shall see Me no more henceforth, until you shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.

[Matthew 23:37-39]

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!”  That is the name of the most famous city in the earth.  It is situated on the most famous site in the earth.  In the first Roman century, Pliny said that by far the most famous city in the Orient was Jerusalem.

It is the city of the great king David [1 Chronicles 11:4-5].  It is the city of the greater King when He cometh [Matthew 23:37-39].  It is the city of the mighty prophets, as Isaiah was a mighty prophet [Isaiah 1:1].  It is the city of the sanctuary, the temple, the house of the Lord, Solomon’s temple [1 Kings 6:1-38].

It is the city of the Savior.  He was born in a little town about five miles away, called Bethlehem [Matthew 2:21-2:1].  In that city of Jerusalem He was presented to the Lord [Luke 2:22].  In that city He suffered and died [Matthew 27:26-50].  He was buried [Matthew 27:57-61].  The third day He rose again.  He ascended into heaven from Jerusalem [Acts 1:9-10].

In that city the church was quickened with a breath from heaven: it is the city of Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4].  In that city went out the great ambassadors and missionaries and preachers of the gospel of the grace of the Son of God [Acts 1:8].  In that city, in Acts 15, was the first convoking council of the Christian church [Acts 15:1-19].  And in that city Paul was arrested, and from that city sent to Rome [Acts 25:1-12], there by the Spirit of God to bear witness to the eternal tidings of grace in Christ Jesus [Acts 28:16, 30-31].

The name is most interesting.  The first time in secular literature that we find the name mentioned is in the famous Tel El Amarna tablets.  Amarna was the name of one of the ancient capitals of Egypt.

And in about 1400 BC, the governor of the city of Urusalim—when you take an “I” out of a Semitic tongue and place it in English, it becomes a “J.”  Like the name of Jesus is Iēsous, I-e-s-o-u-s—Iēsous.  Put it in English it will be “Jesus.”

The first reference to the ancient city in secular literature is in 1400 BC, when the governor of Urusalim writes to the pharaoh saying he’s pressed by enemies and needs help.  Urusalim: a Semitic word that means “the city of Salim” or “the city of peace”—in our language, Jerusalem, the city of peace.

The first time it is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures is in about 2000 BC.  In the days of the ancient patriarch Abraham who, coming back from the slaughter of the kings, stopped at Salem and there did obeisance before the priest—and that’s the first time the word “priest” is used in the Bible—did obeisance before Melchizedek, the priest of Salem, the city of peace, Jerusalem.  And there did Abraham offer himself with a tithe before God [Genesis 14:17-20].

It is an unusual and amazing thing that story.  Before the nation of Israel was founded—for Israel is the name of Jacob—before the nation of Israel was founded, there do you find the worship of the true God.  And at least a thousand years before David took the city are men calling upon the name of El Elyon, the great high God, in Jerusalem.

It is located in a strategic place in God’s sight; not on a great caravan, not on a navigable river, not on any body of water; up there high by itself, thirty miles east of the Mediterranean, fourteen miles west of the Dead Sea, nineteen miles north of Hebron, thirty miles south of Samaria; on a high ridge 2,550 feet in elevation.  No matter what direction you come from, you never see the city until suddenly it bursts upon your sight.  “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about them that fear Him” [Psalm 125:2].  “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion [Psalm 48:2].

Situated there, it is a city with a wall around it—always has been, is today.  On the south wall: indented by the Dung Gate, just beyond the Gate of the Fountain.  The east wall: the Golden Gate that is closed up, through which the Prince of glory shall someday come [Ezekiel 43:1-5, 46:12].  Just beyond that, on the east side: St. Stephen’s Gate, named for the first Christian martyr.  Then turning to the north wall: Herod’s Gate; the famous Damascus Gate; up toward the end, the New Gate.  And then on the western wall, one gate: the Jaffa Gate, the road that leads down to Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean.

The history of the city has been filled with turmoil, and blood, and darkness, and light, and glory, and blessing.  In the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis God says to Abraham: “Take your son, your only begotten son, Isaac. . .and offer him up on Mount Moriah” [Genesis 22:1-2]—which is the temple mount in Jerusalem.  In the tenth chapter of Joshua it is in the hands of the Jebusites [Joshua 10:1], and the conquering tribes of Israel were not able to take it [Joshua 15:63].  In about 1000 BC, David said, “The man who takes it shall be captain of the host” [2 Samuel 5:8; 1 Chronicles 11:6].  And Joab his nephew overwhelmed it, and there did David, the king of God’s people, set his throne and made it his capital [1 Chronicles 11:7].

In the days of the great transgression, when the Lord was visiting judgment upon Israel, David saw the angel of the Lord with his sword drawn over Jerusalem [2 Samuel 24:16].  And bowing down before God in contrition and confession, he prayed God to spare the city [2 Samuel 24:17].  And the Lord said to David, “Go up to the threshing floor of Araunah on Mount Moriah”—where Abraham had offered up Isaac—“and there build an altar [2 Samuel 24:18].  An expiation shall be made for the sin of the people and propitiation before the God of judgment.”  And David bought—on that site where Abraham offered up Isaac [Genesis 22:1-12]—from Araunah the threshing floor, and built an altar, and there entreated the mercy and grace of Almighty God [2 Samuel 24:19-25].  And upon that place, holy and sacred, did Solomon build the temple of the worship of the Lord [1 Kings 6:1-38].

After the death of Solomon [1 Kings 11:42-43], in the next three hundred years, eight different times was the city pillaged.  The most famous instance in the life of that ancient Jerusalem was when Sennacherib shut it up like a vise [Isaiah 36:1-2].  More is told about that siege than even the destruction under Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king.  And Hezekiah, the king of the people of God, bowed before the Lord and laid before Him the insults and the blasphemies of Sennacherib, the king and general of the bitter Assyrian host [Isaiah 37:14-20].  And the Lord spoke to Isaiah and said, “Go to Hezekiah, down on his knees in the house of the Lord, and tell him to be quiet, to rest, for the battle is Mine, and the city will be saved” [Isaiah 37:21-35].  And that night, the angel of God passed over the host of the Assyrians, and the next morning they counted one hundred eighty-five thousand dead corpses [Isaiah 37:36].  Thus did God deliver Jerusalem in answer to the prayer of a great good king: Hezekiah [Isaiah 37:14-20].

But the days passed and the people and their rulers fell upon evil.  And in 605 BC, Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried to the people, “Repent.  Get right with God” [Jeremiah 31:12].  They mocked God’s voice, and Nebuchadnezzar came and took away Daniel and others of the royal seed [Daniel 1:1-6].  Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried, “Repent.  Turn to God.”  The people mocked the voice of the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar came in 598 BC and took away Ezekiel and the priests and the flower of the land [2 Kings 24:11-14].  Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried, “Repent.  Get right with God.”  And they not only mocked the voice of the Lord, they took God’s prophet and placed him in a miry pit that he might die of exposure and starvation [Jeremiah 38:6].  And Nebuchadnezzar came in [597] BC, and there’s no need for him ever to return again, for the walls of the city were torn down, and the site was plowed up, and the holy temple destroyed, and the people carried away in the Babylonian captivity [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21].

“There in Babylon did they weep.  They hung their harps upon the willow trees.  For they that carried them captive said, Sing us a song of Zion.  But how do I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?  If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not thee above my chief joy” [Psalm 137:1-6].

And in pity and in mercy, God heard the cries of His people.  And Cyrus, in 536 BC, having overwhelmed the Babylonian Empire, gave a mandate that the Jew was free to return [2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-3].  So Zerubbabel, a prince in the house of David, and Jeshua, a descendent of Aaron the high priest, with about forty-two thousand pilgrims returned back to the city [Ezra 2:64, 3:2].

The site, grown up in weeds, buried in rubbish, was disheartening.  They almost staggered before the prospect of attempting to rebuild the house of God.  About sixty years later, Ezra and Nehemiah, the prime minister of the Persian Empire, under order of Artaxerxes Longimanus Nehemiah returned to the city and with Ezra brought great hope and revival.  And under the exhortation and preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, the prophets, they built the temple [Ezra 5:1-2].  And the people began to turn their faces in pilgrimage to the holy city of God.

In the interbiblical period is the story of Alexander the Great, a magnificent story in Josephus.  As you know, the great Macedonian general was overrunning and overwhelming the entire civilized world.  And he came with his army to Jerusalem to destroy it.  And Jehoiada the high priest had a vision from heaven telling him what to do.  And Jehoiada did it.  When Alexander the Great, with his vast army, came up to destroy Jerusalem, Jehoiada, dressed in the beautiful garments of glory, with miter and ephod and bell and pomegranate and with the breastplate of the twelve tribes of Israel, he came forth, opening the gates of the city—and behind him followed the priests dressed in white, and behind them the people of the Lord, praising God!

What a way to meet a general bent upon the destruction and slaughter of the city: to meet them in song, in glory, and in praise!  And Jehoiada, the high priest, took the Holy Scriptures and read to Alexander the prophecies concerning him in the Book of Daniel.  And so overwhelmed was Alexander that he bowed down and worshiped in the temple and house of the Lord, and spared the city and beautified it and glorified it.

After the death of Alexander in 320 BC, the Seleucids took Syria, the Ptolemies took Egypt, and Jerusalem was a football between them until finally the Seleucids prevailed.  And in 169 BC, one of their kings, Antiochus Epiphanes, sought to desecrate the Holy City and the house of the Lord.  He turned the temple into a worship of Jupiter Olympus.  He offered a sow on the holy altar and took its juice and scattered it over the holy house that it might be unclean.

Modein, a priestly town nearby, had in it a priest named Mattathias.  He had several sons—one Judas “the Hammerer,” Judas Maccabeus.  And in the Maccabean revolt they won their liberty.  And the first thing Judas and his victorious army did was to cleanse, to rededicate, the house of the Lord on the twenty-fifth day of our month of December.  And they have reveled in that victory ever since, calling it “the Feast of Lights” or “the Feast of Dedication” or Hanukkah.

After the Maccabean revolt, there was such dissension in the Maccabean family that in 64 BC, Pompey, the Roman general, took it without a battle and added the nation and the city to the Roman Empire, making it a province of Rome.  In 40 BC, the Idumean, the Edomite, who had become a Jew, Herod, was appointed vassal king under Caesar.  And in the days of that Herod the Great, the Savior was born [Matthew 1:20-2:1].  In that holy city of Jerusalem some of His greatest ministries blessed the people.

Our Lord spoke of Jerusalem four times and in all four of them He spake of it with sadness and infinite pity.  One time the Lord said, “It would not be possible for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem” [Luke 13:33].  And He set His face steadfastly to go up to the Holy City—there to die for the sins of the world [Luke 9:51].

The second time He spoke of it is in the passage that I read to you: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, behold, your house is left unto you desolate!” [Matthew 23:37-38].

The third time He spoke of it was, when coming over the brow of Olivet He saw the city spread out before Him and burst into tears.  Seeing the city, He wept and cried, saying, “If only thou hadst known the day of thy peace! but now it is hid from thine eyes” [Luke 19:41-42].

The last—the fourth time the Lord mentioned it was in His prophecy of the destruction of the city under Titus in 70 AD.  And the Lord said, “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” [Luke 21:24].

That awesome prophecy of the treading down of Jerusalem came when Vespasian was sent in 66 AD to quell the rebellion in Galilee that spread throughout all of Palestine.  Vespasian was called back to be crowned Caesar of the Roman Empire, and he left the destruction of the nation and of the city to his son, Titus.  And the Roman legions with their great battering rams destroyed the wall, burned the house of God, plowed it up, and renamed the city Capitolina.

For years and centuries the Jews were forbidden even to approach the site.  In the days of Constantine, the Roman Caesar who became a Christian, his devout mother Helena—he had met her as a Roman general when the British Isles were placed under his rule.  She was a British girl and a devout Christian.  Helena—they call her St. Helena—Helena went to Jerusalem and there sanctified the holy sites.  And it became a Christian city.  Christian pilgrims by the thousands, and all over the civilized world, turned their faces to the city of God.

Then in 637 AD, Omar the Caliph, the Mohammedan—Muslim Caliph of Egypt—with his army stormed the city, put the Christians to the edge of the sword, and on the Mt. Moriah, on Solomon’s holy temple site, there they raised a Muslim shrine called the Dome of the Rock.  They purported to say—which is a sheer fiction—that Mohammed was miraculously brought there, and from that place he was miraculously wafted up into heaven on a white fiery steed.  Mohammed never saw Jerusalem in his life, nor did he ever visit it, but they had to have some kind of a fictitional myth linking the prophet with the Holy City.  So in 637, Omar the Caliph took it by the sword and made it a Muslim shrine—that holy temple, that holy site, that place of the altar of David and of Abraham.  As the days passed, in 1000 [AD] the Seljuk Turks took it.  In 1000 AD, the Turks took it.

In 1100 AD was the first Christian crusade, and they won back the city from the Muslim.  But they kept it only about eighty-seven years.  In about 1200 AD, Saladin, the Arab general, one of the greatest military geniuses of all times, overwhelmed the Crusaders, won it back to the Muslims.  In 1500, the Ottoman Turks took it and made it a part of the Turkish Empire.

And in 1917 General Allenby, representing the Allied forces of the Western world, liberated it from the Ottoman Turks and opened it for the pilgrims and the people who loved God and who turned their faces to that holy place.

The British kept it for a mandate for a generation.  But because of the seething turmoil in it, in May 1948 the British turned the mandate back to the United Nations.  Immediately there was war in the Holy Land, and the state of Israel was proclaimed and recognized immediately by sixty-five nations of the earth.  So the days have passed in turmoil and in terror and in bloodshed.

In June of 1967 was the Six-Day War.  We were there not long after.  I was eating lunch with two of the Israeli leaders: [Moshe Kol], the minister of tourism, and his most capable and gifted guide, Israel Sulkovich.  And they were saying to me, “We were standing on the brow, on the other side, looking down into the old city and the wall of wailing and the temple site.  And we were saying to one another, my grandfather, and my grandfather said how it was to go up to that wall and put my hand on the stones that Solomon laid—the nearest to the sanctuary where God said His name shall be there [1 Kings 8:29].  But I’ll never get to do that—prohibited, kept out.”

“It will never be in my lifetime,” said [Moshe] to Israel—[Moshe Kol] to Israel Sulkovich.  “Maybe my children will have opportunity to do it.  Maybe my grandchildren will have opportunity to do it, but we will never do it.”

The amazing turn of that Six-Day War!  And [Moshe] and Israel said to me, “Within a few days after that lamentation, did we walk arm in arm”—[Moshe Kol] and Israel Sulkovich—“and we put our hands on that wall.  And we stood there in that sacred place, and we worshiped God.”

Then came the Yom Kippur War.  And now, what does the future hold?

I come to the last part of my message: Jerusalem in prophecy.  The Holy City has always been a subject of God’s foreview and God’s prophetic revelation.  In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, for example, six different times does God say, “I shall choose a place, and My name shall be there, and I shall be worshiped there” [Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 14, 21, 27]  And that referred to Jerusalem.  In the days of Sennacherib, God said, “I will spare the city,” and He did [Isaiah 37:35-36].  The destruction of the city under Nebuchadnezzar was prophesied [Deuteronomy 28:36].  The desecration of the city under Antiochus Epiphanes was prophesied [Daniel 11:31].  The destruction of the city under Titus, the Roman legionnaire, was prophesied [Matthew 24:2].

And the prophecies that concern Jerusalem today are coming to pass.  In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Zechariah, it says, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling . . . In that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people” [Zechariah 12:2-3].  The United Nations and the nations of the earth don’t know where to turn.  They don’t know what to do.  Shall you make Jerusalem an international city?  Shall you give half of it to Jordan—the Arab—or half of it to the Jew?  What will be done?  Nobody knows—in keeping with the prophecy of God, ”I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone around the necks of the people of the world” [Zechariah 12:3]

God says the Jew will return there [Ezekiel 37:12].  He’s returning.  He’s still returning.  He’s setting his face toward that holy city.  And the Lord says that there the nations of the earth will be confronted [Revelation 16:13-16]—Megiddo to the north, Bozrah of Edom to the south, one thousand six hundred furlongs between and blood up to the bridles of the horses [Revelation 14:20], in the day when the wrath of the judgment of Almighty God is tread and the rich crimson of life pours out.  In that place is the great confrontation of the nations and Almighty God [Revelation 19:17-21].  And whatever a man says to say, “I don’t believe it.”  And whatever the prophets say, the answer is, “It is idiocy.”  And whatever people say, who refuse the Bible and the revelation of God, the Lord says the attention of the earth will be turned and riveted and concentrated there!

Whether you like it or not—whether you want to or not, when you read the headlines of the newspapers, the great city of confrontation is not Peking, or Moscow, or London, or Paris, or Washington.  It is the Middle East.  The economic life of the nations of the world are being framed there.  The great nuclear confrontation of the earth will be there.  God says it!

In your daily newspaper every great headline you read is that!  Whether we like it or not, whether President Ford or the Senate or the Congress can say yea or nay, they are forced to face it.  It is there in the Middle East at the very economic strangulation of our lives.  Our jugular vein is held there.  God says it.  We will not escape it, for “The word of God endureth for ever” [1 Peter 1:25].  And it is in that place that the great final confrontation will be made.  Tonight, when Tom McCall presents our prophetic speaker, he’ll have a book in his hand: The Future Invasion of Israel by Russia.

After those awful days, there will be a cleansing of the city.  God Himself will make it holy.  And in that awful holocaust of the war of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16], the Lord Jesus intervenes; that’s when He comes down with His saints and the legions of glory [Revelation 19:11-21].  And there does the Prince of Peace set up His glorious capital [Revelation 21:1-2].  And thither do the nations of the world repair, thus to be taught and instructed and blessed in the law and in the grace of the Lord [Micah 4:2].  “O beautiful for situation, the glory of the whole earth, is Mount Zion” [Psalm 48:2].  For the King who reigns in that millennial age is named Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6].

After a rebellion, after a thousand years when Satan is loosed from his abyss and he goes forth to spread destruction and blood over the face of the earth [Revelation 20:7-9], God shall, for the last time, intervene [Revelation 20:10-15].  And in the awful period of that intervention, there shall be a cleansing fire!  And all ugliness, and unrighteousness, and hurt, and violence, and evil will be taken from the whole creation of God.  There will be a new creation, and a new heaven, and a new earth [Revelation 21:1-22:21].  And in that glorious and beautiful day, there shall descend from God out of heaven a holy and beautiful city, the city where all of God’s saints are being gathered home.  And in God’s time, when the plerōma, the full number, is made up and all the children of the Lord are gathered in glory, that Holy City shall come down from God out of heaven and shall be upon this earth [Revelation 21:2].

Where is heaven?  It shall be here.  Where shall we live?  We shall live here.  Where will our capital be?  Our great city of glory and God.  It will be here, and its name will be called the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:9-27].  And out of its gates shall the streams of God’s people pour forth, I think, to the ends of the universe.  I think we shall have the quickness of thought.  I’m in Dallas, then I’m in London, then I’m in Hong Kong, then I’m in Stockholm.  I can do that with my mind, and someday my spiritual body can be just like that.  And the whole created universe will be ours to organize, to use, to bless, in which to praise God.  And as I sometimes facetiously say, “May God give me one of those planets.”  I’m going to get me a soapbox and my Bible, and stand on it.  And, “It’s a long time after 12:00 but I’m not going to think about stopping.” Just preaching forever, just preaching forever, just praising God forever!

And our home, and our capital, and the city of the great King will be the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:2].  Ah, with what assurance and what victory do God’s people face any darkening hour, any confrontation, any sorrow or tragedy.  For over and beyond it, we see the coming of our glorious King, the Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6].  That is the King of Jerusalem.

We stand now and sing our invitation hymn and while we sing it, if the Lord has spoken to your heart, on the first note of the first stanza, come.  “Here I am pastor.  I made the decision.  I am bringing my wife and my children.  We are all coming.”  Or just a couple you, or just you, do it now on the first note of the first stanza, while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell

23:37-39, Luke 21:24


I.          Name and location

A.  First secular
reference in Tel El Amarna tablets

B.  First scriptural
reference – Salem, city of Melchizedek(Genesis

C.  In
a strategic place, up high by itself, walls around it(Psalm 48:2, 125:2)

II.         History

A.  Old Testament

      1.  Abraham on Mt.
Moriah(Genesis 22:2)

      2. Conquering
tribes of Israel not able to take it (Joshua

      3.  Captured in
1000 BC by David (2 Samuel 5:6-10)

David purchased Araunah’s threshing floor (2 Samuel 24:18-25, 2 Chronicles 3:1)

      5.  After Solomon,
Jerusalem pillaged eight times over 300 years

      6.  Laid siege in
701 BC by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18, 19, Isaiah

7.  Jeremiahrejected;
Nebuchadnezzar came 605, 598, 587 BC(Psalm

8.  Zerubbabel, 536 BC(2 Chronicles 36:22, Ezra 1:64)

9.  Revival under
Nehemiah, Ezra

B.  Between testaments –
interbiblical period

      1.  Alexander the
Great 330 BC

      2.  Ptolemies and
the Seleucids; Maccabean revolt

      3.  Pompey adds
nation and city to Roman Empire in 64 BC

      4.  Herod the
Great appointed vassal king under Caesar in 40 BC

C.  New Testament

1.  Jesus’
sad statements(Luke 13:33, 19:42, 21:24, Matthew

2.  Acts,
Upper Room, Pentecost, Jerusalem council, Paul’s testimony

D.  Secular history –
from Titus to today

IV.       In prophecy

A.  Fulfilled already

1.  The
Holy City has always been a subject of God’s prophetic revelation(Deuteronomy 12, Daniel 9:11-14, 11:30-37)

2.  Prophecies
today are coming to pass(Zechariah 12:3, Luke

      3.  The return of the
Jews (Joel 3:1)

B.  To be fulfilled

      1.  Armageddon and
the consummation of the age(Revelation 11)

      2.  Cleansing (Zechariah 14:20-21, Joel 3:17)

Nations will come to Jerusalem for ultimate blessing (Psalm 122:6, Isaiah 2:2-4)

C.  Name of our home in
heaven (Revelation 21:26)