Revelation 21 – A New Heavens, A New Earth, and A New Jerusalem [A.] All things made new.

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Revelation 21 – A New Heavens, a New Earth, and a New Jerusalem

[ONE] (v.1) The new heaven and the new earth.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

(a) Now I saw:

We can say that Revelation chapter 21 begins a new section of the Book of Revelation:

• Jesus, the Lord of the Churches (Revelation 1:1 to 3:22)

• Jesus, the Lion over the nations (Revelation 4:1 to 20:15)

• Jesus, the Lamb among believers (Revelation 21:1 to 22:21)

{i.} The new perspective of this last section is glorious.  “From the smoke and pain and heat it is a relief to pass into the clear, clean atmosphere of the eternal morning where the breath of heaven is sweet and the vast city of God sparkles like a diamond in the radiance of his presence” (Moffatt)

(bA new heaven and a new earth:

The idea of a new earth, with a new atmosphere and sky is a familiar theme in the Scriptures.  Many of the prophets, both Old and New Testaments, spoke to this new heaven and new earth.

{i.}For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create a Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. (Isaiah 65:17-19)

{ii.Of old, You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You will endure; yes all of them will grow old like a garment, like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed.  But You are the same, and Your years will have no end.  (Psalm 102:25-27)

{iii.Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat . . . Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:12-13)

{iv.} It’s worth remembering that the new heaven referred to doesn’t mean the heaven where God is enthroned.  The Bible uses the word heaven in three senses. The first heaven is the earth’s atmosphere, the “blue sky.”  The second heaven is outer space, the “night sky.”  The third heaven is the place where God lives in glory.  When the Scriptures speak of a new heaven, they mean a new “blue sky” and a new “night sky,” not a new heaven where God dwells.

(cNew heaven . . . new earth:

The ancient Greek word translated new here (kaine) means “new in character, ‘fresh’.”  It doesn’t mean “recent” or “new in time.”  This isn’t just the next heaven and the next earth; this is the better heaven and better earth replacing the old (the first earth had passed away).

{i.} Though some disagree, such as Seiss, who argues passionately that this earth will never be destroyed – we should also understand that this is truly a new heaven and a new earth, not merely a “remade” heaven and earth.  We know this because Jesus said that heaven and earth shall pass away, but His word would live forever (Luke 21:33).  Also, in Isaiah 65:17 God says prophetically that He will create a new heaven and a new earth, and the ancient Hebrew word for “create” (bara) means to “create out of nothing,” instead of re-fashioning existing material.

{ii.} Some take this “newness” as only a spiritual and moral change.  But there seems to be a genuine physical transformation in mind: there was no more sea.

(d) Is this new heaven and new earth:

The Millennial earth shown in Revelation 20, or is it something beyond?  It definitely seems to be past the Millennial earth.  This is what we think of as “heaven” and “eternity.”

{i.} “In this chapter we see that the history of time is finished; the history of eternity is about to begin.” (Barnhouse)

{ii.} “The eternal state is clearly indicated in the absence of sea, for frequent mention of bodies of water occur in millennial passages (cf. Psalm 72:8; Isaiah 11:9, 11; Ezekiel 47:10, 15, 17, 18, 20; 48:28; Zechariah 9:10; 14:8).  The evidence of Revelation 21:1 is so specific that most commentators do not question that the eternal state is in view.” (Walvoord)

(eNo more sea:

To the Jewish mind, the sea was a place of separation and evil.  Already in the Book of Revelation it is shown to be the source of the Satanic beast (Revelation 13:1) and the place of the dead (Revelation 20:13).

{i.} In other passages of Scripture, the sea is associated with the heathen (Isaiah 57:20) and in a more general sense, with the opponents of the Lord that must be conquered (Psalm 89:9).

[TWO] (v.2 – v.4) THE NEW JERUSALEM DESCENDS FROM HEAVEN.

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

(aThe holy city, New Jerusalem:

This is the Jerusalem of hope (Hebrews 12:22), the Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26), the place of our real citizenship (Philippians 3:20).

{i.} The terms holy and new distinguish the city.  Because it is holy and new, it is different from any earthly city.  The name Jerusalem gives it continuity with earth, especially with the place of our redemption.

{ii.} It is significant that this glorious dwelling place of God and His people is described as the holy city.  Cities are places where there are many people, and people interact with each other.  This isn’t isolation, but a perfect community of the people of God.

{iii.} The Christian concept of heaven as a city – a place of life, activity, interest, and people – is very different from Hindu conception of a blank “Nirvana.”  “The consummation of the Christian hope is supremely social.  It is no ‘flight of the alone to the Alone’ but life in the redeemed community of heaven.” (Hunter)

{iv.} Man has never known a community unmarred by sin.  Adam and Eve only knew a limited community, and community in a larger context only came long after the Fall.  Here, in the New Jerusalem, we have something totally unique: a sinless, pure, community of righteousness, a holy city.

{v.} Problems arise when believers expect this kind of community now, or fail to realize that it only comes down out of heaven.  This city is not, and never can be, the achievement of man, but only a gift from God.

(bPrepared as a bride adorned for her husband:

John uses the most striking, beautiful image he can think of.  The most beautiful thing a man will ever see is his bride coming down the aisle, ready to meet him.  John says that this is how beautiful the New Jerusalem will be.

(cThe tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them:

Moses’ tabernacle represented the dwelling place of God on earth.  This is past there presentation of the dwelling place of God; this is the reality of His presence.

{i.He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people: This succinctly states essence of God’s desire and man’s purpose.  Simply, God’s desire is to live in close fellowship with man, and man’s purpose is to be a people unto God.

{ii.}This is the greatest glory of heaven, and the ultimate restoration of what was lost in the Fall.  “I do not think the glory of Eden lay in its grassy walks, or in the boughs bending with luscious fruit-but its glory lay in this, that the ‘Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day.’  Here was Adam’s highest privilege, that he had companionship with the Most High.” (Spurgeon)

(dThe former things have passed away:

The New Jerusalem is distinguished by what it does not have – no tears, no sorrow, no death or pain.  Later it will be shown that the New Jerusalem has no temple, no sacrifice, no sun, no moon, no darkness, no sin, and no abomination.

{i.} “Man comes into the world with a cry; and goes out of it with a groan, and all between is more or less intoned with helpless wailing . . . But the Halleluias of the renewed world will drown out the voice of woe forever.” (Seiss)

(eGod will wipe away every tear from their eyes

“‘Every tear,’ for they be many; – tears of bereaved affection, such as Mary, and Martha, and the widow of Nain wept; – tears of sympathy and mercy, such as Jeremiah and Jesus wept over the sins and the calamities of Jerusalem; – tears of persecuted innocence, tears of contrition and penitence for faults and crimes against the goodness and majesty of heaven; – tears of disappointment and neglect; – tears of yearning for what cannot now be ours; – these, and whatever others ever course the cheeks of mortals, shall then be dried forever.” (Seiss)

{i.} But the idea of “tears in heaven” should never be used as some kind of guilt-manipulation on this earth.  “There is no just ground for imagining from this text that the saints will shed tears in heaven concerning the failures of their former life on earth.  The emphasis here is on the comfort of God, not on the remorse of the saints.” (Walvoord)

[THREE] (v.5) ALL THINGS NEW.

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

(a) He who sat on the throne said:

This is an authoritative announcement, coming from the throne of God itself.  This is one of the few times in Revelation where we clearly see God speaking directly from His throne.

(b) Behold, I make all things new:

This statement is in the present tense, “I am making everything new.”  This is the consummation of God’s work of renewal and redemption, having begun here and now in our present time.

{i.} Paul saw this transformation at work on this side of eternity: Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day . . . Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 4:16, 5:17)

(c) All things new:

This is a brief glance at the thinking behind God’s eternal plan – to allow sin and its destruction in order to do a greater work of making all things new.  At this point in His plan of the ages, the plan is complete.  

All things are new.

{i.} Our instinct is to romantically consider innocence as man’s perfect state, and wish Adam would have never done what he did.  But we fail to realize that redeemed man is greater than innocent man; that we gain more in Jesus than we ever lost in Adam.  God’s perfect state is one of redemption, not innocence.

{ii.} When God finally completes this work of making all things new, they will stay new.  “Presumably this means not only that everything will be made new, but also that everything will stay then new.  The entropy law will be ‘repealed.’  Nothing will wear out or decay, and no one will age or atrophy anymore.” (H. Morris)

(d) Write, for these words are true and faithful:

John is probably so astounded by these words that he forgot to write – and must be told to do so.

[FOUR] (v.6 – v.8) THE INVITATION AND A WARNING.

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

(aIt is done!  

God’s eternal purpose in Jesus is now accomplished.  Ephesians 1:10 has been fulfilled: that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; in Him.  At this point, all things have been resolved or “summed up” in Jesus – it is done!

(b) I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts

Drinking and thirst are common pictures of God’s supply and man’s spiritual need. Drinking is an action, but an action of receiving – like faith, it is doing something, but it is not a merit-earning work in itself.

{i.} “What does a thirsty man do to get rid of his thirst? He drinks.  Perhaps there is no better representation of faith in all the Word of God than that.  To drink is to receive-to take in the refreshing draught-and that is all.  A man’s face may be unwashed, but yet he can drink; he may be a very unworthy character, but yet a draught of water will remove his thirst.  Drinking is such a remarkably easy thing, it is even more simple than eating.” (Spurgeon)

(cHe who overcomes shall inherit all things

Those who overcome (by faith in Jesus, as in 1 John 5:5) enjoy a special relationship with God (I will be his God and he shall be My son).

(d) But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable . . . have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone

But the Jesus-rejecting and apostate are specifically prohibited from entering the New Jerusalem.

{i.} Cowardly: Is cowardice enough to send a person to hell?  “John is not speaking of natural timidity, but of that cowardice which in the last resort chooses self and safety before Christ.” (Morris)  John Trapp spoke of these “Cowardly recreants, white-livered milk-sops, that pull in their horns for every pile of grass that toucheth them, that are afraid of every new step.”

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