Summary: Jesus, the king of all creation, is with his people for eternity.
Chapter 21 can actually be subdivided into two large sections. The first deals with the new heaven and new earth in verses 1-8, The second deals with the new Jerusalem in verses 9-26.
Vision three of Revelation contrasts the two rival cities, the prostitute Babylon and the bride New Jerusalem. In chapters 17–18 John foresaw the prostitute city’s doom. In chapters 19–20 the Lamb-Bridegroom’s wedding was announced. Now, at last, the third vision concludes with a brief scene of the holy bride city. At once John is ushered into his fourth and final vision (21:9–22:5). This time, he is shown the bride city in detail. The most wonderful part of the final vision, however, is his portrait of Jesus among his people throughout eternity. – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 393). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
“The two competing major solutions should be summarized briefly, even at the risk of oversimplification. The first one that developed in Christian history usually goes by the names millennialism (Latin mille, “thousand,” and annus, “year”) as well as premillennialism. In this solution, the return of Christ will be followed by the visible, earthly kingdom of Christ and his people on earth that lasts numerous 365-day years, probably a thousand. After this, there will be one final battle in which the last human rebels will be crushed, the devil will finally be cast into eternal torment, the final judgment of humanity will occur, and at last there will be a new heaven and new earth. Chapter 20 is a central point in this view, especially the perceived literary unity between the closing verses of chapter 19 and 20:1–3, where the “demonic trinity” meets its judgment. This solution faded into obscurity for more than a thousand years of Christian history but has reemerged in the past two centuries in several forms.
The second major solution was urged by Augustine in the early medieval period. It completely dominated Christian thinking both throughout the Middle Ages and throughout the Reformation era. It still finds many devout, Bible-believing proponents, and is usually called amillennialism. In this solution, the return of Christ described in Revelation 19 is preceded by the invisible, spiritual kingdom of Christ and his people that lasts throughout the period between his First and Second comings. After this, there will be one final battle in which the last human rebels will be crushed, the devil will finally be cast into eternal torment, the final judgment of humans will occur, and at last there will be a new heaven and new earth.
Bitter theological battles have been fought over which view is correct. The more this writer has studied Revelation and the rest of Scripture on the millennial question, the more difficult it has been to decide. Both views have strengths. Both views have weaknesses…” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 367–368.
In chapter 19 we see the beginning of an exciting finish for the book of John and for the timeline of history as we know it. Christ is celebrated. The church is purified. Satan is defeated. Jesus executes righteous judgment and is the supreme victor.
When God destroys the final product of civilization, a great wicked city, its commerce and culture will vanish forever because it enticed people away from true religion and holiness and into false religion and impurity.
Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 325.
- Chapters 17 and 18 go together as a unit. 17 focuses more on what was seen, 18 more on what was heard.
- The chapter can be understood from two different perspectives. A heavenly one in verses 1-8, and and earthly perspective in 9-ff.
John has a vision of human civilization, religious but independent of God, blossoming for one last time as a splendid city supported by Antichrist. The city is personified as a gorgeous prostitute drunk on the blood of God’s people yet doomed to be destroyed by Antichrist and his forces. – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 302.
- Chapters 17-21 feature the personification of two systems, worldview, and allegiances. The first, here, described as a prostitute, the other, later, described as a virtuous bride.
In six scenes, bowls of divine wrath demolish the realm of nature and the realm of Antichrist. In the seventh scene the whole world is engulfed in one final catastrophic judgment. – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 282.
1-9 – Wrath Upon Creation
10-16 – Wrath Upon The Beast
17-21 – Final Consummation Of Wrath (Armageddon)
One commentator noted that this chapter begins the “final exodus”. A parallel probably intended by John, where he makes obvious connections to God’s deliverance from his people from the hands of Egypt. There are multiple mentions of plagues and a song of Moses as well. Through Moses, God delivered his people from the Egyptians, through Christ he will deliver them from the domain of darkness and the consequences of sin.
“Revelation 15, the shortest chapter in the entire book, is remarkably parallel to Exodus 15. The victorious saints are gathered on “the other side” and stand beside the sea. They praise God for their great salvation. They have participated in the final exodus.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 269.
“In Revelation 14, John continues describing vision two that began in chapter 4. He is now describing the end of a great drama (12:1–14:20) that explains why the consummation is necessary. This chapter has four scenes. The first one is in heaven, where the perfected 144,000 have arrived to worship the Lamb; the second is in the skies where three angels tell of coming judgment. The last two scenes describe Christ’s return for his people as a gathering of grain and his judgment on the wicked as a gathering of grapes for treading.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 244.
“In Revelation 12, John describes the beginning of a theatrical presentation he saw in the sky and on the earth. The protagonist is a sun clothed woman (God’s people); the antagonist is a dragon (the devil); the hero is the woman’s child (the Messiah). Other players move on and off the stage, all showing that throughout the ages the devil has been in combat against Christ and his people.”