The pace picks up: focus on what comes next, after “The End”, an eternal epilogue. Seems that John wasn’t content to describe in detail contents of his vision; had to summarize full scope (in our text) then go back and flesh out details (21:9 to end). Tutoring someone in reading/writing; ongoing issue: ability to formulate ideas and mental images far outstrips writing facility. Can imagine or visualize much more quickly than can write it down. Result: missing letters, words, phrases, skipped over in trying to keep up with mental information flow. Perhaps similar phenomenon for John: saw in vision soooo much, had to write down the outline, then come back and add balance of text.
John already addressed issue of what will happen to the wicked at the end. Now focus shifts to what future holds for righteous after resurrection and judgment. What will life be like, who will be present, where will God be – important questions, to be sure. What John saw in vision, like previous visions, is inexpressible but he gives it a shot. Continues to use figurative symbolic language to communicate spiritual and physical realities, same kind of language used throughout Revelation.
These realities will exist within framework of the universe, heaven and earth (Hebraism). Concept communicated by Gen. 1:1 – “In the beginning God made the universe.” Isa. 65:17 – “I create a new universe.” Rev. 21:1 – “I saw a new universe.” Important to understand “new” does not mean “substitute” as in “the new replaces or was brought in as a substitute for the old”. “New” can be used in more than one sense: can refer to time, what was not there before, young, recent; here it refers to quality or nature, superior in value or attraction to old.
νέος denotes the new primarily in reference to time, the young, recent; καινός, denotes the new primarily in reference to quality, the fresh, unworn. Grim
What John says in relation to new heaven and earth must be reconciled with other portions of Scripture which deal with topic: Gen. 9:11, 15; Rom. 8:19-22; 2 Pet. 3:10-13; also 1 Cor. 15:35-53 Reasonable to believe that universe will not be eliminated, then replaced; instead will be restored and renewed just as the righteous will be.
One last detail: sea in Revelation and rest of Scripture frequently used to refer to something other than oceans. In OT temple worship, laver called a sea; probably because of size, capacity of 11,000 gallons (1 Ki. 7:26CEV), perhaps also symbolic connection too. Later in Scripture, sea came to be associated with danger and evil, place where satanic agents arise, something to be feared and avoided. All those things that would challenge new order of things in God’s kindgom will no longer be present, hence no more sea.
“This is not because God hates the ocean and the creatures who live in it! Rather in the new heavens and earth there will be no place for the dragon to hide, no abode for dead, no unbelieving nations engaging in commerce. No longer will storms sweep the earth. Therefore, in the New Jerusalem there will be no more sea.” Riddlebarger
Oceans in their beauty and grandeur, the creatures which fill them will likely be renewed along with rest of the universe.
A. God’s city – the new Jerusalem v.2 = Rev. 21:10-21
Not a coincidence that major element of the new universe is a new city. Isn’t just any city, she is pictured as a bride in wedding day finery. Holy city/New Jerusalem/bride emphasize different aspects of what we know as the church. City is place where there is community, society, building blocks of family, larger frameworks of neighborhood, various types of activities and interactions among residents.
Bride made ready for her husband speaks of breathless anticipation, thrill of discovery, excitement over beginning a new level of relationship. Union is to be permanent, perpetually increasing in knowledge and intimacy. In contrast to worn and bedraggled appearance in present world, redeemed and restored bride is stunning in her loveliness. She will be the perfect companion for the perfect Lamb of God, possessing a beauty all her own as given her her bridegroom.
B. God’s dwelling – the new Jerusalem v.3 = Rev. 21:22-27
From the beginning God intended that there be no hindrances to fellowship between him and those made in his image. The Garden as designed by God was perfect place of worship, intimate communion between Creator and created. Sin/the Fall changed all that but only temporarily. The goal of history is restoration of that fellowship, fulfillment of repeated promise of God to live with his people.
In John’s vision, not only is fellowship restored and God living with men, nothing will ever change that. All vestiges of sin and its corruption have been removed forever as people of God take up residence in real Promised Land, city for which Abraham longed and waited. God promised Solomon that he would put his name in the house Solomon had built, that his eyes and heart would be there for all time. (1 Ki. 9:3) In New Jerusalem, that promise will come to its fullest expression.
C. God’s world renewed – the river and tree of life v.4, 5a = Rev. 22:1-5
God not simply a presence in new universe; will be actively sustaining his creation as now but with a difference – no more sin. All effects, consequences, complications due to the Fall, original sin and actual sin removed from new heaven and earth. Will be a restored order in contrast to present order of things. Universe will be returned to at least its original state at creation, effects of curse on nature will have been removed and heaven and earth purified.
D. God’s word validated – these words are trustworthy and true v.5b = Rev. 22:6-10
As incredible as all this sounds, what John described was accurate to the extent that words can communicate. Should keep in mind words of Paul, 1 Cor. 2:9 –“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” NIV Both vision and declaration come from one with authority – sat on the throne; one with experience – made all things, certainly can restore all things. God declares his work of transforming creation so it conforms to his sovereign will is fulfillment of his promise. In spite of present circumstances, God and his word/promises can be trusted.
E. God’s work completed v.6a = Rev. 22:11-15
Told in Genesis 2:1-3 God had finished his work of creation. Told in John 19:30 God had finished his work of redemption. Once again in Rev. 16:17 and 21:6 we’re told that God has finished work of restoration – his purpose in human history has been completed. God is the Alpha, who brought all things into existence; he is Omega, who brings all things to state of completion in conformity with his eternal purpose. God’s self-expression as the A-to-Z of all things assures reader of certainty and immutability of God’s character and promises.
F. God’s final blessing v.6b, 7 = Rev. 22:16, 17
Lord Jesus said Matt. 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Our thirst for righteousness, for filling of Holy Spirit, experiencing glory of God will be fully gratified. There will be nothing lacking from eternal experience – everything pictured by John in present vision will be inheritance of the saints. Renewed universe, eternal dwelling of God, intimate fellowship with Christ and his bride, family relationship all part of inheritance promised to those who overcome. Real blessings – every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) – with eternal and immeasurable value, in fact, the entire inheritance awaits each of those who persevere in faithfulness to Christ.
G. God’s final curse v.8 = Rev. 22:18,19
Both warning and guarantee – sin and sinners have no place in restored creation. Once God says “It is finished” for the final time, separation between righteous and reprobate is absolute and irreversible. None of those who made life miserable for Church in this life will be present to harass her in the next. Nor will there ever be a recurrence of the Fall; purity and blessedness and holiness of new city never be tarnished.
As John describes final vision, standing on threshhold of eternity, number of themes running through Scripture take ultimate shape as he weaves them into a tapestry:
creation (v. 1); the holy city of Jerusalem (v. 2); communion with God expressed through marriage imagery (v. 2); dwelling of God, including tabernacle and temple (v. 3; see on 4:1-5:14); saints as God’s own people (v. 3); the end of suffering and death (v. 4); new deeds of salvation (v. 5); trustworthiness of God’s word (v. 5); living water (v. 6); becoming a son of God (v. 7); warnings to the faithless (v. 8); judgment (v. 8). Poythress
A picture of indescribable beauty, happiness, peace and joy that just begins to approximate what reality will be like. No wonder Paul could say: “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” ESV (Rom. 8:18) God has graciously given us glimpse of eternal realities to encourage us in this life – there’s another life coming; what it promises will make everything in this life worth it all. Further confirmation that God does indeed work all things for his own glory and for good of those who love him. (Rom. 11:36; 8:28) May God grant us grace and strength to persevere that we might receive the inheritance that awaits us.