CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE - NEW HEAVENS, NEW EARTH, NEW JERUSALEM
(1) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; (2) for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and (3) there is no longer any sea.
1. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth = begins with the typical introductory vision formula that signals a new vision description. This vision concerns a new heaven and earth, which one would expect to follow the general judgment of all the wicked of the ages. The sequence of this event is logical in light of the overall structure of Revelation 19-21. This reinforces the notion that John’s depiction of the earth fleeing away in Revelation 20:11 is accurate. New (kainos) pertains "to having been in existence for only a short time – new, recent (Louw-Nida, § 67.115)."
2. For the first heaven and the first earth passed away = explains why John sees a new heaven and earth at this point. The first heaven and earth passed away. Louw-Nida indicates that the sense of the text is "to go out of existence." This is a clear reference to the final destruction of the present earth. One will notice the apparent absence of any reference to a fiery destruction of the earth. There is explicit biblical proof that God will destroy the wicked with fire (Zeph 1:18; 3:8; Isa 66:15-16).
There is no biblical basis for the conclusion that God will destroy the physical earth with fire. The closet possible biblical support for this conclusion might be II Peter 3:5-7, 10. However, it is clear that Peter is contrasting the destruction of the wicked in the days of Noah with that of the wicked during the Day of the Lord. Clearly, the physical destruction of the earth did not concern earth itself, but the people who dwell upon it. Equally, the Day of the Lord will remove the wicked from the earth and cause severe damage to the physical earth, but the earth will not cease to exist during the Day of the Lord.
The strongest verse that seems to support a fiery destruction of the physical earth is II Peter 3:10, which states,
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up."
This verse has caused some to argue that the Day of the Lord extends until the end of the millennial reign of Christ. However, this conclusion is unwarranted.
The translation of 2 Peter 3:10 in the English Standard Version better reflects the intent of the text. Notice, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed."
Notice that instead of "burned up," the better reading is "will be exposed." The quality of the work is exposed by fire, but the physical earth is not burned up. There is no biblical basis for the physical earth being burned up.
3. There is no longer any sea = argues strongly that the period described by John in Revelation 21:1 must follow the temporal kingdom. The absence of the sea, but the presence of a new heaven and earth signals a difference between this period and the kingdom period. The sea is present during the kingdom.
(1) And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, (2) made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
1. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God = will again be repeated in Revelation 21:10 with a slight variation. This has lead some to suggests that the New Jerusalem comes down twice. One cannot be dogmatic either way.
2. Made ready as a bride adorned for her husband = describes the New Jerusalem. This New Jerusalem is in stark contrast to the "woman" of Revelation 17. This New Jerusalem comes as bride for a new earth.
(1) And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and (2) He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and (3) God Himself will be among them, and (4) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and (5) there will no longer be any death; (6) there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; (7) the first things have passed away.
1. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men = continues the unrecognized voice that declares from the throne. In this case, the voice announces that "the tabernacle (dwelling) of God is with men." Long promised, God is finally among his people (Ezek 37:27).
2. He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people = refers to God in the third person. Someone is describing the new situation on the new earth. In a way unparalleled in history, God will live among His people.
3. God Himself will be among them = adds a note of emphasis. God the Father will live among His people. Separated in the garden, men had lost the ability to commune with God. However, God finally returns to live with man on earth.
4. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes = is the fist listed benefit of this new earthly relationship with the God of heaven. The cessation of weeping and mourning is an eschatological promise (Is 35:10, 65:19) finally realized.
5. There will no longer be any death = is the second item of relief the new creation will experience when God’s eternal rule is established on earth. The phrase is absolute. Death will cease. In the new heaven and earth with a New Jerusalem, there will be no death.
6. There will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain = indicates the absence of all those human conditions which produce outcomes of mourning, crying, and pain.
7. The first things have passed away = restates the reason why the human condition has improved. This clause refers back to Revelation 21:1, which indicated that a new heaven and earth had come. Those aspects of the creation that produced hardship and suffering for mankind have been removed. This is not restoration, but re-creation.
(1) And He who sits on the throne said, (2) "Behold, I am making all things new." (3) And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."
1. And He who sits on the throne said = is a direct reference to God the Father. This is one of the few direct references to the Father in the Revelation. The Father speaks.
2. Behold, I am making all things new = is a bit strange at first glance. One would think that given the context that this sentence would read, "I have made all things new." However, as it stands, it appears that God is still in the act of creating all things new.
3. He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true" = applies to the whole book of Revelation and not just this section.
(1) And He said to me, "It is done. (2) I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. (3) I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
1. And He said to me, "It is done…" = indicates completion. Unfortunately, it is not clear what is finished. In context, one would assume that God’s new creation is finished, but this is guessing.
2. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end = basically is two ways of saying the same thing. The phrase focuses on the absolute power and sovereignty of God.
3. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost = is metaphorical way of referring to eternal life. What was promised for thousands of years is now fulfilled. Progressive sanctification finally results in absolute glorification.
(1) He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and (2) I will be his God and he will be My son.
1. He who overcomes shall inherit these things = reiterates the promise. The overcomer gets "all these things." This refers to the list outlined in verse four above.
2. I will be his God and he will be My son = is singular, nevertheless it applies to all of those who are overcomers. This is a great promise. Overcomers will be adopted as "sons" of God. All the rights and privileges of sonship come with this promise. This is beyond human comprehension. The road from being the objects of ridicule and scorn to "sonship" is the heart of this revelation. We are sons of God.
But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
This verse actually concludes the chronological development of the book of Revelation. From this point on, the book deals with issues related to the consummation of human history, as we know it. Having reached eternity, God restates his promise to the righteous and his intent to punish the wicked. The righteous become part of the family of God the Father, but the wicked receive eternal punishment, which ultimately refers to the absence of God’s presence.
(1) And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying, (2) "Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
1. One of the seven angels…saying = implies that the final details of the book are about to be added. This is not an advancement of the chronology of the book. That ended at Revelation 21:8.
2. Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb = is clearly metaphorical language. That said, I am not sure of the literal referent intended here. In Revelation 19, the wife of the Lamb consists of believers. In Revelation 21, the wife of the Lamb is the New Jerusalem.
(1) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, (2) and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven form God having the glory of God. (3) Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.
1. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain = is interesting because in Revelation 16:20 all mountains on the earth are removed. This simply means that John is given the view of the New Jerusalem before the actually events occur. John saw the New Jerusalem 2000 thousand years ago before the events actually take place.
2. And showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven form God having the glory of God = indicates an obvious contrast with the city of Revelation 17, which had the glory of man.
3. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper = is an image of God’s glory.
It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are those of (1) the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of (2) the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
1. The twelve tribes of the sons of Israel = will each represent a gate. Thus, each tribe has access to the city. Israel will have her promised restoration.
2. The twelve apostles of the Lamb = includes the apostle Paul. The Lord Jesus also promised the Disciples that they would govern the twelve tribes of Israel during the His temporal kingdom (Matt 19:27-30). Over the twelve apostles will be King David (Ezek 34:23-24, 37:24-25).
The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, (1) fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
1. Fifteen hundred miles = is the dimension of this great city. Fifteen hundred miles is the distance between New York City and Dallas. This city is a perfect cube. If you make a box with Minneapolis, MN as the Northeast corner, Seattle, WA as the Northwest corner, San Diego, CA as the Southwest corner and Little Rock, AR as the Southeast corner you would have a picture of this great city in terms of its breath. A fifteen hundred mile high, wide and long city would equal three billion three hundred seventy-five million cubic miles. Such a city could accommodate one billion believers with each able to have a 14,000 square-foot apartment with room left over.
The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
(1) I saw no temple in it, (2) for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (3) And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, (4) for the glory of God has illumined it, and (5) its lamp is the Lamb. (6) The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. (7) In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and (8) they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and (9) nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, (10) but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
1. I saw no temple in it = is a bit strange. So long a part of the Jewish economy, the absence of a temple in the new heaven and earth is striking. This is evidence that God has indeed created "all things new." The administration of earth will be new and different.
2. For the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple = explains why there is no temple in the New Jerusalem. Shadows have been replaced with reality. Instead of God being housed in a building, the building is housed in God.
3. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it = is a second absent element in the New Jerusalem. The sun and moon are light sources. The New Jerusalem will not need natural light sources. This could mean either the sun and moon no longer exists or that the city has no windows.
4. For the glory of God has illumined it = explains why the sun and moon will not be necessary in the New Jerusalem. The glory of God illumines it.
5. Its lamp is the Lamb = continues the explanation concerning why the city will be absent of natural light.
6. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it = is seen by some as a contradiction. The nations (Gentiles) were destroyed and the kings were as well. Therefore, where come these kings? This is one of the reasons some see the New Jerusalem coming down at the beginning of the millennial kingdom. The idea is that once the eternal future begins ethnic differences fade away.
7. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed = indicates complete safety. Open gates is a sign of confidence in the personal safety of the inhabitants. The absence of night would also mean no need for sleep. This is certainly a characteristic of the eternal future.
8. They will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it = probably refers to the kings. It is not apparently clear what "glory and honor" refer to here.
9. Nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it = is a natural outcome given the nature of the New Jerusalem. However, if the New Jerusalem comes down at the beginning of the eternal future, where come the wicked? That is, the judgment of the damned occurs at the end of the millennium. After the creation of the new heaven and earth, there will be no more wickedness on the earth.
This verse has led some to conclude that the New Jerusalem must come down at the beginning of the millennial kingdom. Else why talk about a problem that does not and cannot exist.
10. But only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life = clarifies who will be able to enter the New Jerusalem. This again argues for the conclusion that the New Jerusalem comes down at the beginning of the millennial kingdom. It appears strange to list those who can enter the city unless there are those who cannot enter it.