In the beginning God had planted a garden for humanity to live in (Gen. 2:8). In the end he will give them a city. In the New Jerusalem the blessings of paradise will be restored, but the New Jerusalem is more than paradise regained. As a city it fulfils humanity's desire to build out of nature a human place of human culture and community. True, it is given by God and so comes down from heaven. But this does not mean humanity makes no contribution to it. It consummates human history and culture insofar as these have been dedicated to God (cf. 21:2, 14, 24, 26), while excluding the distortions of history
As a city, the New Jerusalem is the seat of the divine kingdom. The throne which has been in heaven (chapter 4) is now in the New Jerusalem (22:1,3). The city is both the light of the world, by which the nations walk (21:24; cf. Isa. 60:3), and the centre to which the nations and their kings come on pilgrimage, bringing tribute (21:24-6; cf. Isa. 60:4-17; Zech. 14:16). But whereas in Isaiah 60:5-17, it is the material wealth of the nations that is brought in tribute to Jerusalem, in Revelation the kings of the earth bring "their glory" and people bring "the glory and honor of the nations" (21:26-7). The intention is probably to contrast with Babylon's self-indulgent exploitation of the wealth of her empire at her subject's expense (cf. 18:11-14), as well as to extend the theme of glory that runs through the whole description. In offering their own glory to God's glory, of course the kings and the nations do not lose it, but acknowledge its source in God to whom all glory and honour belong....
Part 7 in a series of excerpts from Richard Bauckham's The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge University Press, 1993), 135-136.
To be concluded with Part 8: "Truth Worth Dying For"
Part 1: The Politics of Worship
Part 2: Imperial Pretensions Unmasked
Part 3: Political Resistance Literature
Part 5: The Messianic War