THE NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH

(Revelation 21:1-8)

Chapters 21 and 22 of the book of Revelation really form one unit although in chapter 22:6 begins in an appendix to the book. What has been demonstrated in most of technical commentaries is that there is a background to most of the elements of the closing section dealing with heaven in Rabbinical Judaism particularly apocalyptic sections of the inter-testamental period. However, there are some strikingly new elements that make it unique and separate from this Jewish background. Although obviously John was familiar with this literature, and along with the Old Testament drew its imagery from some of these extra-canonical books. “Then I saw…” – now obviously there’s a thousand year gap between chapter 20 and chapter 21. If you take that literally , as far as the Thousand year reign, there’s some gap anyway. “a new heaven and a new earth,” – the word here for ‘new’ in quality not particularly in time. This concept goes back to Isaiah 65:17; 66:22, and 2 Pet. 3:13 in the New Testament. Now the idea here of a recreated earth is not something new; you can see it in Isaiah 11:6-9. In Romans 8:18-25, and in 2 Peter 3:12 we see the concept of a new heaven and a new earth. This is much like the city not made with human hands that Abraham looked for in Hebrews 11:10-16. It is obvious John is drawing his metaphors from two particular Old Testament backgrounds: the Book of Isaiah, and Ezekiel chapters 40 through 48 for the nest chapter, 22 about his view of an eschatological temple. Notice where it says, “for the first heaven and the first earth passed away,” – now, we learn of this ‘passing away’ particularly from 2 Peter 3:10-12 (and also 2nd Baruch 31:5). “…and there is no longer any sea.” – there’s been much discussion about this; some say it’s the place of evil because this is where the beast comes out of in Rev. 13:1, others think this may be an allusion back to Isaiah 57:20 where the wicked are likened to the troubled sea. Some say no, it’s a holding place for the dead going back to Rev. 20:13. Still others say it refers to the uproar of the nations, particularly the background of Psalms 2; also in Isaiah 17:12-13 which is quoted in Revelation 17:15. So it’s the idea of one of those, which it is, we cannot be really certain. But the ‘sea is gone’ at this point.

Verse 2, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,…” – now, this new Jerusalem which was mentioned earlier in one of the letters to the seven churches (cf. 3:12) is an Old Testament idea about Jerusalem being symbolic of all the people of God. You might want to see Hebrews 11:10; 12:22; and 13:14. Now the Holy City goes back to a title for earthly Jerusalem in Isaiah 52:1. Now, when it says, ‘coming down out of heaven’, there’s two different uses of the word ‘heaven’ here in verses 1 and 2 – the new heaven refers to the atmosphere much like the use of the term in Genesis 1, the earth and its atmosphere. The second use of the term is in the sense of the ‘abode of God’ which the rabbis would call the third heaven of the seventh heaven. So it’s two different uses of the same term. Now when it says, “…made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” – this ideal of a ‘bride’ goes back to Isaiah 61:10. We can see it was also used to the church in Revelation 19:7. There is somewhat of a mixing of metaphors here, and i think this is talking about the entire people of God. They’re called a ‘city’ and now they’re called a ‘bride’. It’s interesting back in 19:7, they’re called a ‘bride’, while in 19:9 they’re called ‘wedding guests’, and now here in 21:2 it’s called a ‘city’. So, obviously this is symbolic; i think sometimes we describe heaven like it’s almost that verse where Paul says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9). As we had seen the great Whore dressed in jewels and gold, heaven is so much better than that. This is not the idea of earthly luxury and opulence like in Islam, but this is describing heaven in human terms of beauty, and splendor, and wealth – it’s a description which is beyond human terminology.

Notice in verse three, ” And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men,…” – this has been the promise from Genesis chapters 1 through 3. God wanted to live with man in an earthly setting of animals, and plants, and creation, and God is going to do it. The Bible begins with God and man in a garden, and the Bible ends with God and men in a garden – this is precisely the word in Isaiah 7:14, Immanuel which is ‘God with us’. John 1:14 describes Jesus as ‘God with us’, dwelling with us. The basic idea goes back to Leviticus 26:11-12, as God dwelt and lived with His people, and that’s the understanding here. The Greek repeats the same phrase, ‘God is with us’. John chapter 1 verse 14 describes Jesus as “God with us, dwelling with us”. It’s beautiful and its basic idea goes back to Leviticus 26:11-12 as God dwelt and lived with His people, that’s the understanding here. The Greek repeats the same phrase, “God is with us, God is with us” – it’s a covenant phrase that God will be our God and we will be His people. But the idea that He is with us goes back to several Old Testament passages especially in Ezekiel 37:27 and 48:35, “God is with us!” Hallelujah. What an exciting thing. I think it’s very similar to the concept of we being the ‘temple of God’. It’s a little different phrase but the same idea of the fellowship and intimacy of God with His people – this concept of the people of God as God’s temple (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16;6:19; Eph. 2:20; and 1 Pet. 2:5).

Notice as it says, “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes;” – there are seven things that are said to be gone; there’s no more sea, there’s no more death, there’s no more mourning, there’s no more weeping, there’s no more pain, there’s no more curse, there’s no more night. Seven things are going to be taken away. Now each of these goes back to the Old Testament particularly Isaiah 25:8 and 65:19 – it’s going to be perfect fellowship, no sin, no curse, no tears. Notice where it says, “…and there will no longer be any death;” – well that’s the last great enemy of man. We’ve seen it destroyed in Rev. 20:14, and it’s alluded to in 1 Corinthians 15:26. Notice as it says, “the first things have passed away.” – they passed away because they were result of the Fall; all of creation was affected by man’s Fall (cf. Hebrews 12:27; 2 Cor. 5:17). Look at verse 5, “And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” – God speaks, God has spoken very much; we know He speaks in chapter 1:8; in 16:1, 17, and here God speaks again in verses 5 through 8. Notice the power of the spoken Word. In Genesis 1, the creation comes by the spoken Word. Now, notice as it says, “for these words are faithful and true.” – we’ve seen that before in Rev 3:14; 19:11; 22:6. “Then He said to me, “It is done…” – now that’s much like chapter 16:17. One reason why it is difficult to interpret the book is, it covers the same ground over and over in a little different way with a little more detail. We see here about ‘the end’ has come again. Now notice where it mentions, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” – now, this is used of God in Isaiah 44:6; it’s used of God in chapter 1:8, and it’s used of Jesus in chapter 1:17, and the same phrase is used of Jesus again in chapter 22:13. so here is another example of an Old Testament title for God used for Jesus in the New Testament. Now the term ‘Beginning’ really doesn’t mean the start of something but the source of something. And the term ‘End’ really means the goal or confirmation of something; what it was purposed to do, and not to mean the last in a series. Notice as it says, “I will give to the one who thirsts…” – this beautiful invitation is going to be expanded in chapter 22:17. It’s an allusion back to Isaiah 41:17. Notice that anyone can come ‘without cost’. O how wonderful God is! The book of the Revelation is not just about the ‘how’ of the 2nd Coming, or the ‘when’. It’s about the sovereignty of God in human history – to encourage the persecuted Christians, but more than that, it’s the love of God for all men. All these plagues were meant to draw them unto Himself. Even in the latter part of this book God’s still offering for lost men to come to Him. O, the Gospel invitation is over and over in chapter 21, and particularly in 22:17. What a God we have! Notice as it mentions, “from the spring of the water of life without cost.” – now this idea of Springs of Living Water, you might think of Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4:10-14, and some Old Testament background in Isaiah 12:3; 44:3; Jer. 2:13.

Now notice in verse, “He who overcomes…” – that’s what we see in the letter to the seven churches over and over and over again, “him who holds out to the end…”. Chapters 21 and 22 are influenced by the fact that Christians were suffering persecution and under the pressure to recant ot to go to emperor worship to save their lives. And the warning is very strong – that’s what verse 8 is all about, ‘cowards and the unfaithful’. this same context is seen in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 where it’s linked with verse 7 about the ideal of inheriting, that nobody like them will inherit the kingdom of God. It’s the idea of ‘hanging in there’. It’s a warning against apostasy in an age of persecution. This little phrase, “…and I will be his God and he will be My son.” goes back to 2 Samuel 7:14; it’s this covenant terms we’ve seen so often. We see it as an Old Testament quote about these covenant terms in 2 Corinthians 6:16, 18. Now notice here in verse 8 where it mentions this list of different people, and it says they’re going to have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone. And here it says the lake of fire is the second death or we would call it eternal separation. It’s not that God’s people have never committed these sins; they have repented and they don’t continue to commit these sins (cf. 1 John 2:6-9). Now there are some unusual elements here because it mentions that there are still some unbelievers, and we thought all of that was taken care of back in chapter 20. Either it’s a flashback or it’s John’s way of talking about the separation between the lost and the saved, or it’s John quoting Old Testament details, or it’s the idea of the redeemed but used in an ethnic sense. We’re going to speak of the kings of the earth, and we’re going to find them in this chapter and in chapter 22.
(TO BE CONTINUED)