What Happens Next? Revelation 21: The New Heaven, Earth & Jerusalem

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.

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

  • “Then” – meaning after the millennial reign of Christ.
  • “new” -pertaining to that which is new or recent and hence superior to that which is old. As in ‘New & Improved’.
  • “Whether he meant a transformation of the old elements of the universe and a renovation or whether this is a brand new universe is not clear. What he saw, however, transcends anything that could exist in the universe as we now understand it” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 394). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • “heaven” – meaning sky.
  • “passed away” – meaning ‘fled away’.
  • “sea was no more” – Absolute clarity on what John intends here is not to be found. However, in Jewish thought, the sea was mysterious and dangerous. As can be noted by the fact that the first great monster came out of the sea (Rev. 13:1). Isaiah used the sea as a metaphor for wickedness, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud” (Isa. 57:20). Thus, John probably intends it to be used as a metaphore for an absense of evil, wickedness, and sin.

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

  • “the holy city, new Jerusalem” – Is this a literal city or a metaphor for something else? 2 Thoughts:
    • 1) Many expositors regard the promise of Christ in John 14:2, “I am going there to prepare a place for you,” as referring to this city…”Though the city is compared to a beautifully dressed bride, it actually is a city, not a person or group of people.” – Walvoord, J. F. (1985). Revelation. 
    • 2) “She is obviously the counterpart to the wicked prostitute Babylon. If Babylon was Dame Civilization in her final embodiment as a wicked city, then New Jerusalem is “God’s People” in her eternal flowering as a holy city. The symbols John uses to picture the eternal state exceed our ability to understand them.” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 394). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • “coming down out of heaven” – THEO: The final destination for God’s people will be the new earth. It will be populated by resurrected physical bodies. See 1 Cor. 15.
  • “adorned” – an old Gk. word, meaning embellished or furnished with ornaments. Our eternity will be a constant, enduring display of the redemptive work of Jesus. The glorified people of God are “adorned FOR her husband.” We exist for and by Him.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,and God himself will be with them as their God.

  • “the dwelling place” – literally, “tabernacle”. What was forshaddowed during the wilderness wanderings is reality in eternity.
  • “after the exodus, God’s presence was evident through the tent (Exod. 40:34). Part of the reward for Israel’s obedience to God was, “I will put my dwelling place [tabernacle] among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people” (Lev. 26:11–12). Israel’s disobedience, of course, led finally to the destruction of the temple.” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 395). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  • Jesus permanantly cures the disruption in Gods’ desire to tabernacle with his people. It began during his incarnation…John says, “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). It culminates in his 2nd coming.
  • “He will dwell with them” – “In eternity saints will enjoy a new intimacy with God which is impossible in a world where sin and death are still present. The new order will be without sorrow. God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death with its mourning, and pain with its crying will vanish, for the old order of things will have passed away. –Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. (Vol. 2, p. 985). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  • “people” – literally, “peoples” – emphasizing the ethnic diversity of the redeemed.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

  • “death shall be no more” – Paul tells us that death is “the last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Cor. 15:26). John tells us that is is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).
  • “the former things have passed away” – These things are no more because God has done away with sin and all of its effects. Thus joy in God is every believers eternal inheritance.
  •  “this means that the old mode of existence, in which death, mourning, weeping, and pain were an inescapable part of the human situation, will be replaced by a new manner of life that does not include them.” – Robert G. Bratcher and Howard Hatton, A Handbook on the Revelation to John, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 299.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

  • “he who was seated on the throne said” – the speaker here is clearly Jesus.
  • “trustworthy and true” – take it to the bank.

And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

  • “it is done” – lit., ‘they are done.’ Jesus’ mission of complete redemption of humanity and creation is now accomplished.
  • “Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” – Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega is the last. This description is explained to represent, “the beginning and the end.” This self-description emphasizes the eternality and diety of Christ. We exist because of and for Him. (Col. 1:16). He created the world and will oversee it’s complete restoration.
  • “spring of water” – John uses two metaphors here suggesting complete satisfaction. The first is here and is that of thirst.
  • “without payment” – This statement by Christ could not emphasize more clearly the free nature of salvation through grace, if it were of works, it wouldn’t be without payment.

The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

  • “the one who conquers” – a reminder of the letters to the 7 churches. Lit. , “the victorious ones.”
  • “heritage” – to receive something of considerable value which has not been earned
  • “be my son” – John’s second satisfying metaphor is that of family.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

  • “But” – in contrast to the eternal life Jesus offers, where there is satisfaction (water) and belonging (family).
  • In this list, we are reminded to remain loyal to Jesus and be obedient to His commands.

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,

11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—

  • “twelve gates” – perhaps symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel. Meaning God’s saving grace for mankind began in each of these tribes.

13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.

14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.

16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal.

  • The base of the city is perfectly square.
  • “12,000 stadia” – circa 14oo miles.
  • The city forms a perfect cube. The emphasis here would be on size and perfection. There is room for everyone. It is a perfect place.

17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement.

18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass.

19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald,

20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

  • John offers us a guided tour.
  • If these stones, so valuable here on earth, are used for building materials, then what is valuable must be something else. See next verse.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

  • “no temple” – in the OT, the temple was the sole place where God’s presence was made known. In the NT, however, the temple is not understood as a building, but as God’s people (Ephesians. 2.21).

23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

  • Highlighting the perfection of God and the complete doing away of sin.

24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,

25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.

  • peace will be pervasive.

26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

  • All achievements of the redeemed will point to God’s glory.

27 But 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.

  • Holiness, perfection, joy, etc. will endure for eternity.