1 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. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 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. 4 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.”
5 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.” 6 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. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 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.” – Revelation 21:1-8 ESV
In a way, this chapter provides a link all the way back to the opening chapter of the very first book of the Bible, where we read the words, “In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1) . The universe and all it contains once had a beginning, a starting place, a point in history when God stepped into time and space and created ex nihilo – out of nothing. And all that He made, He deemed good. But that creation was eventually marred by sin. The good that God had made was made wicked because of man’s choice to rebel against the sovereign will of God. And the apostle Paul reminds us that the entrance of sin into God’s creation left its mark on all that God had made, including mankind and the world it inhabited.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. – Romans 8:20-21 ESV
But with the opening of chapter 21 of Revelation, John is given the privilege of seeing what will be a brand new beginning. In a sense, it will be Genesis 1 all over again. Take a look at the amazing similarities. In Genesis 1:1, God made the heavens and the earth. In Revelation 21:1, John is shown a new heaven and a new earth. In the Genesis account, we are told that God created the sun, but in Revelation 21:23, John notes that there will be no need for the sun, because the glory of God provides all the light needed. And while God originally created night, with the new beginning, there will be no place or reason for its existence. Darkness is the absence of light and, since God is light, and His righteousness will rule the new creation, there will never be a lack of His pervading, illuminating presence. In Genesis 3:19, we have the entrance of death into the original creation account. But in verse four of this chapter, we are told “death shall be no more.” And John states quite matter-of-factly, “the former things have passed away,” which includes all mourning, crying and pain.
Back in chapter 20, in verse 11, John described seeing Jesus seated on the great white throne and he stated that, “From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.” Now, with the opening of chapter 21, we get a better idea of what he meant by that statement, because he “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” (Revelation 21:1 ESV). He does not tell us how this will happen, but just that it will. The old will be replaced with the new. Peter provides us with some insight into the nature of this radical transformation. He describes how God made the original universe and how “the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God” (2 Peter 3:5 ESV). And then he goes to describe how, at one time, God spoke again and “by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (2 Peter 3:6 ESV). Finally, Peter lets us know what will happen when God chooses to make all things new.
“…by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” – 2 Peter 3:7 ESV
But wait, there’s more.
“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.” – 2 Peter 3:10 ESV
We don’t know exactly how God is going to accomplish all of this, but we can rest assured that it will be done. He will make all things new. He will re-create His creation. And the prophet Isaiah quotes the words of God Himself, speaking of the very day John is being given the privilege of seeing in advance.
17 “For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.” – Isaiah 65:17-19 ESV
And John states, “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2 ESV). The information John provides us about this city is quite sparse at this point, and he doesn’t immediately give us a detailed description. He simply states its arrival. But John does hear a loud voice, emanating from heaven, and shouting, “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” (Revelation 21:3 ESV). With the arrival of the New Jerusalem, the presence of God returns to the earth in a permanent form. The unbroken fellowship Adam and Eve enjoyed with God as they walked in the garden will be recreated as God sets us His tabernacle and His Holy City on earth. Again, one of the Old Testament prophets, this time Ezekiel, wrote down the words of God, promising to keep the covenant He had made with His people, return them to the land and return to their midst in all His glory.
26 “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” – Ezekiel 37:26-28 ESV
This is an important promise made by God, because earlier in the book of Ezekiel, the prophet was given a vision of God’s glory leaving the sanctuary. He was abandoning the place in Jerusalem where His glory had dwelt above the mercy seat for generations, but because of the sin and rebellion of the people of Israel, God would no longer tolerate living in their presence.
18 Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. – Ezekiel 10:18-19 ESV
But with the vision of John, the glory of God returns. And John pronounces the good news that, with His return, “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” (Revelation 21:4 ESV). The presence of God brings joy, peace, life, contentment, fulfillment, comfort, and a sense of unbroken, undiminished love to the earth. And there will be no Satan or sin to mar this scene. Those who live under the new heaven and on the new earth, will be redeemed and glorified. Their bodies will be new and in their eternal, glorified states. Their natures will be sinless and perfectly righteous. And that is why Jesus, the one seated on the throne can boldly declare, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). Notice the interesting contrast between this statement and the one that follows. Jesus first says, “I am making…” and it is a present active verb, indicating an action that is in process. And yet, in the very next verse, Jesus says, “It is done!” It carries with it the idea of completion. He has accomplished all that He has set out to do. In a sense, throughout the entire book of Revelation, John has been seeing the work of God unfolding in all its intricate details. And when Jesus states that He is making all things new, He follows it with a command for John to “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). At this point, John is still in note-taking mode, chronicling all that is going to happen. Remember, this is a prophetic book. But John also hears Jesus say that it is done, because the final outcome of all that is going to happen is assured. It’s going to happen just as John has been shown, down to the very last detail. And Jesus adds yet one more statement and this time it appears to be a promise for the future.
“To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” – Revelation 21:6 ESV
As the events of the tribulation come to a close, we can find ourselves overwhelmed by all the imagery, including the description of a city descending from heaven. But Jesus reminds us that the real miracle of all this has to do with eternal life. He is going to quench the spiritual thirst of all those whom come to Him. It recalls the promise made to the Samaritan woman who Jesus met at the well one day.
13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13-14 ESV
And the prophet Isaiah provided us with this reassuring promise from God:
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.” – Isaiah 55:1 ESV
Jesus lets us know that all those who conquer, which is simply a reference to all those who will be standing in the presence of God the Father and God the Son, because of Christ’s victory over sin and death, will inherit all that has been promised to them. And they will enjoy their permanent position as children of God – for all eternity.
But there is devastating news for all those who refused to accept the grace of God in the form of His free offer of unblemished righteousness, made possible through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. With His death, Jesus offered up His righteousness in exchange for our sin. He took on our debt and paid our penalty with His own life. But for all who refused His offer, their eternity is secure, but in a very different way.
“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.” – Revelation 21:8 ESV
The book of Revelation provides us with a stern warning and a comforting reminder. There is a judgment to come. And God’s offer of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone is not just a nice gesture on God’s part. It is the determining factor to every man’s eternal state.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.