Dogs on the Inside, Dogs on the Outside
In the two closing chapters of Revelation, John portrays for us the beauty and splendor of the new heavens and new earth, and especially the grandeur of the New Jerusalem. One thing that he repeatedly emphasizes is who is in and who is out.
He first tells us in Revelation 21:8 that “the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable,” along with “murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” will not have a place in the New Jerusalem but rather “in the lake of fire that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Later in Revelation 21:27 he reaffirms that “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Finally, once more, in Revelation 22:14-15 we read this: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
Reading texts like this has the potential to evoke in some hearts a response of arrogance, pride, and self-righteousness. Christians are prone to think: “Well, I’m certainly not a ‘dog’ and I’m not ‘detestable’ and I’m not ‘faithless’ and I love the truth, not ‘falsehood.’”
Tragically, we fail to realize that were it not for the cleansing blood of the Lamb that by God’s grace we have trusted for forgiveness of sins, that is precisely who we were. All of us were “dogs and sorcerers.” All of us were given to sexual immorality and lying and idolatry. The fact of the matter is that there are “dogs” both outside and inside the New Jerusalem. The only difference between the two is that some have washed their robes (v. 14) in the blood of the Lamb and the others have spurned and scorned and repudiated any need for cleansing that comes through faith in the sacrificial and atoning death of Jesus.
As I preached this past Sunday on this passage in Revelation 22:14-15, it hit home hard that the only reason I am on the inside and others are on the outside of the New Jerusalem is because God in sovereign mercy inscribed my name in the Lamb’s book of life before the foundation of the world (Rev. 21:27; see Rev. 13:8; 17:8). I was a “dog”, an unbeliever, a filthy and detestable idolater whose only hope for eternal life in the New Jerusalem is that by God’s grace the Spirit enabled me to “wash” my “robes” in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb (Rev. 1:5; 22:14).
Don’t ever think that it is only outside the New Jerusalem that one may find detestable “dogs” who deserve eternal damnation. They are inside too. But those who are inside have been cleansed and forgiven and redeemed and adopted into God’s family and made heirs of this glorious and eternal inheritance.
We were all by nature and choice “dogs” and “idolaters” and “liars” and profoundly “unclean.” How then, why then, are such “dogs” now the sons and daughters of the Most High God and given access to the blessings of the New Jerusalem on the new earth? There is only one reason. When the invitation was issued to all mankind, “let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Rev. 22:17), the Holy Spirit powerfully regenerated us and effectually drew us to invest our hope in Jesus as our most precious treasure and to trust him alone as the one whose shed blood can wash our filthy robes white as snow.
So, yes, there are “dogs” on the outside of the New Jerusalem and also “dogs” on the inside. And the only thing that differentiates the two is that the latter have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. Praise be to God for his indescribable grace!