A New Heaven and a New Earth (Part 16)
A New Heaven and a New Earth (21:1)
“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” (21:1).
Our earth obeys the second law of thermodynamics, which is the concept of entropy, in other words, left unchecked disorder increases over time. Chapter 21 sees the end of an earth that is vulnerable to decay, and the beginning of an earth that is eternal and that is not governed by time.
The implication from Scripture then, is not that there will not be a renovation of the present earth, but that there will be a brand-new heaven and a new earth. Jesus made this clear when He made the statement “heaven and earth shall pass away, but my Word would live forever (Luke 21:33). There is also, clarification in the prophecies of Isaiah 65:17, where God promised that He will create a new heaven and earth. The word used by Isaiah for “create” is Bara, the Hebrew word that means to “create out of nothing,” indicating that God is not going to remodel the earth, but rather He will create a new earth as only He can do, from nothing. The author of Psalm 102 describes the process to be like a person having worn out a garment, replacing it with a new one:
“Of old, you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; yes, all of them will grow old like a garment, like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will have no end” (Psalm 102:25-27).
The word for “new” that John uses in verse 1 is the Greek word kaine which means “new in character”, it doesn’t mean “new in time”. Peter indicates in his second letter that the earth and its atmosphere are destroyed by fire, so, with regards to the earth, the old earth will dissolve away in flames, and a new earth will be created to replace it:
“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 dissolve, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed… the heavens will be set on fire and dissolve, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn” (2 Peter 3:10, 12b).
There are three heavens in Scripture:
- The Atmosphere.
- The Universe.
- The dwelling place of God.
Both the atmosphere of the earth and the universe are identified as being replaced, Peter makes it very clear that the universe will be destroyed when he writes: “and the heavenly bodies will be burned up” (Vs10).
The bad news for surfers that make it to the New Earth, is that there will be no sea. 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, not only do the oceans take up most of the surface area of the earth, but they also separate mankind, the oceans are a barrier to overcome, and there has always been the threat of great storms that curtail travel and batter the coastlines of continents. The New Earth will be a relatively dry planet. Scripture however, does indicate that there will be fresh water rivers flowing on the New Earth (Rev. 22:1-2).
So, the first heaven and the first earth are replaced by a New Heaven and a New Earth, the present earth and universe will thus be cleansed from all the effects of sin. The sky being the domain of Satan [Eph. 2:2], must also be replaced before the heaven of God can come down to the New Earth. The earth having no oceans means an increase in land space, to be able to handle the large numbers of redeemed people from all ages. God created the earth for mankind, and His intension is to dwell with man on earth, the tree of life is restored and is watered by a stream that flows from God’s throne. Scripture starts with the Garden of Eden, an ecosystem in perfect balance, and ends with a city in a perfect environment. What is done in Genesis is brought to completion in Revelation:
|Heaven and earth are created, 1:1||A New Heaven and a New Earth, 21:1|
|Sun established, 1:16||No need for the sun, 21:23|
|The night established, 1:5||No night there, 22:5|
|The seas formed, 1:10||No more seas, 21:1|
|The curses announced, 3:14-17||No more curses, 22:3|
|Death enters creation, 3:19||No more death, 21:4|
|Man driven from the garden, 3:24||Man restored to paradise, 22:14|
|Sorrow and pain begin, 3:17||No more tears or pain, 21:4|
A New Jerusalem (21:2-4)
”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 shall 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”.
The New Jerusalem, which is “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” will one day house the Bride of Christ, and was what Jesus was referring to when He said “In my Father’s house are many rooms… I go to prepare a place for you”.
With the effects of the curse having been removed, and all things being made new, the City of God may now descend to earth. The New Jerusalem is the Tabernacle of God, “Tabernacle” means the dwelling place of God, and it is the city where God is going to tabernacle with His people. There will no longer be a separation between heaven, the dwelling place of God, and earth, the dwelling place of man; heaven will come down to earth as the New Jerusalem. God’s place will then be among His people for eternity, He will once more walk and talk with the sons and daughters of Adam. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God, “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”.
The shortest sentence in the Bible is “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), which describes the emotions of Jesus at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. Death is the consequence of sin, and Jesus weeps at the pain and suffering that Lazarus’ friends and relatives had to bear because of it. Jesus also weeps over Jerusalem, because of their continual sin and rebellion, which resulted in their not recognising their Messiah. The tears of Jesus are because of His concern for others, while most of mankind’s tears are selfish; ultimately, all tears are as are result of sin, but with the earth destroyed by fire, and the New Jerusalem coming down onto a New Earth, there is an end to sin, and an end to tears.
A great failing of man in his relationship with God, is that he continues to believe that he can achieve a utopia on earth without God. The pride of man is his greatest weakness, and can be observed throughout the Scriptures as being a cause for his continual downfall. From the building of the Tower of Babel, where man attempted to elevate himself to heaven, to the Antichrist, where a mere man, attempts to replace God; pride is continually shown to be not only the greatest barrier to our relationship with God, but also our active antagonism against God. The pride of man will never attain utopia, but the humble will be able to attain heaven on earth.
I am the Alpha and the Omega (21:5-6a)
“5 And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making everything 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’”.
The gift God has for His children is not just a repaired second-hand house, that carries the memory of a previous owner who abused and neglected the home. God gives a brand-new mansion (The New Earth), with all the bells and whistles! A home that meets all our needs and that is beyond anyone’s imaginings, and which is to be enjoyed for eternity. This is a promise that is given to John directly from the Throne of God – not relayed via an angel – in doing this God is affirming His statement as true, it is not hearsay, it is direct communication. God is in a way speaking eye-to-eye with John, saying “listen to me, I will do it!” God ends His statement with the phrase “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,” He represents the sum of all things, from the ages past to ages future. There can be no greater assurance given regarding the fulfilment of a promise, than this statement by God. John is required to write down the promise, for it is “trustworthy and true,” because the Great, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Eternal God has said it will be so.
Some commentators take the statement “I am making everything new” (21:5), which is written in the present tense, as meaning that God has been at work since the fall of man with His plan of redemption and restoration. Paul wrote of this promise of restoration to the Corinthians in his second letter:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day… Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 4:16, 5:17).
The New Earth will be greater than the Garden of Eden, not just in creation but in relationship. The relationship Adam had with God was Creator with Created, the relationship mankind will have with God on the New Earth is, the Redeemed with their Saviour.
A Stark Contrast Between Believers and Unbelievers (21:6b-8)
“… 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, 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 sulphur, which is the second death.”
There is no better metaphor to describe receiving eternal life, than the image of drinking from the River of Life. I have done many long hikes over the years, some of them in blistering hot conditions, the heat saps your strength and you become tired and weary. To come across a mountain stream, and to find a shady spot to rest and drink the cool, crystal-clear water of a flow that has travelled only a short distance from the heights above, is totally rejuvenating and revitalising, plus the water is free! Verse 6 connects directly to the promise of Jesus which was given during the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those that thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). The drinking of the waters of life establishes an eternal relationship; the person becomes the child of God.
Those who are allowed entry to the New Jerusalem will be:
- Pre-Old Covenant saints like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph.
- Old Covenant saints such as Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon.
- New Covenant saints (the Bride of Christ).
- Tribulation saints.
- Those that died before the age of accountability.
- Those with “eternity in their hearts” (Ecc. 3:11), i.e., men and woman who out of contact with the Old and New Covenant teachings, and through their own consciences sort after righteousness, and God revealed Himself to them (Romans 2:14-16).
Heaven is the opposite of the Lake of Fire; whatever the presence of God provides for those in heaven is absent from Gehenna, for example: God is love and peace – there will be no love and peace in a place of torment. So, those on the New Earth will be able to drink the cool waters of life, while those who are of “the second death,” will have no waters to cool their tortured state.
The list of those who are refused entry into the New Earth, includes:
- The cowardly are those who kowtow to the ways of the world, they are too afraid to make a stand for righteousness, they would rather be one of the crowd.
- The faithless are those who are not strong enough to believe in a salvation freely given, they trust that their own good works will see the gates of heaven open for them.
- The detestable are the proud, whose selfish existence has continually seen them abuse others for their own benefit.
- Murderers are those who take life for selfish gain, not those who have killed for self-preservation, or country.
- The sexually immoral are those that use others for self-gratification. Sex within marriage should be with the goal of bonding with your partner, with an aim to be a blessing to them, and for procreation.
- The sorcerers are those who practice magic arts, and dabble in the occult.
- Idolaters are not only those who worship graven images, but also those that put pleasures of the world before God. When an activity or possession becomes more important than a relationship with God, it has become an idol in that person’s life.
- All liars, are deceivers, they are the children of Satan, the father of liars.
Because the unrighteous have spent their lives imprisoned by their sin, they will spend eternity imprisoned in Gehenna. The contrast given between the righteous children and the condemned sinners in verses 6b-8 is very dramatic, a warning to all.
The Lake of Fire is referred to as “the second death,” as there is a resurrection of the unrighteous; they shall stand before the White Throne of Judgement in their perfect resurrected bodies. On being shown that their name is not written in the Book of Life, the unrighteous sinner will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. When this happens, their resurrected bodies will be destroyed by the flames, and the person’s spirit will be left in torment. Thus, we have the expression “born once, die twice, born twice, die once”.
The New Jerusalem (21:9-14)
“9 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”.
It is of interest to note that the angel of verse 9 seems to be the same angel that introduced John to the Great Whore in Revelation 17. The angel is tasked with revealing the great contrast between the two women being introduced – the one an apostate prostitute, the other a pure spotless bride. The one dressed in the opulence of pride and greed, the other dressed in the Glory of God, the one drunk on the blood of martyrs, the other saved by the Blood of the Lamb.
The fact that the New Jerusalem descends already constructed from heaven implies that the city is not new in age, but rather new in succession, the city has existed from eternity past. Jesus told the disciples that He was going to prepare a room for them, not build a room (John 14:2).
Just as the face of Moses glowed from his being in the presence of God (Exodus 34:29-35), so too the “holy city” has a radiant glow, having the Glory of God.
Abraham was promised a city by God, that city is the New Jerusalem:
“10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:10; 16).
Abraham in faith looked forward to a time when God would triumph over sin and death; the promise of a city constructed by God, made it clear for Abraham that God’s purpose for him was not temporal but heavenly. The author of Hebrews writes about the great faith of the men of God, such as Abraham, and we learn from Abraham that our understanding should be that this life should be a life of service for God, so as to gain eternal rewards which will be significant in both the Millennial Kingdom, and the eternal existence within the city that God built.
“12 It had a great high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed – 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 walls of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”.
The number twelve is repeated six times in verses 12-14, twelve in Bible numerics represents a perfect government:
- The twelve tribes of Israel, in the Old Covenant.
- The twelve apostles, in the New Covenant
The New Jerusalem will be under the perfect rule of the Son of God, and the twenty-four elders (12 X 2), will represent the Church before His throne (Revelation 4). The number twelve being repeated six times is significant, as six represents man in sin, so man in sin is able to enter into perfect government through the Lamb of God.
With the White Throne Judgement having been completed, and the unrighteous having been identified and cast into the Lake of Fire, it is reasonable to query the need for the high walls, and the gates to the city being guarded by angels. Who is going to try to breach the city’s defences? The structure of the city and the presence of angels at the gates are symbolic, representing an exclusive group, only those that are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb may enter. Although grace was freely given, the cost of discipleship was not cheap for many, and that seems to be what is recognised in the design. The cube shape structure is also symbolic in that it represents “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the Love of Jesus (Ephesians 3:18).
The layout of the gates in the New Jerusalem is reminiscent of the way the twelve tribes camped around the tabernacle in Numbers 2 and the allotment of tribal lands around the Millennial Temple [Ezek. 48]).
The walls of the city have twelve foundations, and on them are engraved the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, these stones commemorate God’s covenant relationship with the Church of which the apostles are the foundation of. The layout of New Jerusalem’s gates and foundations covering both Old Covenant saints within the twelve tribes of Israel, and the New Covenant saints in the apostles, picture God’s favour on all His redeemed people from both the Old and New Covenant.
The Holy Cube (21:15-16)
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 angel measured the city with a golden measuring rod, and reveals that the New Jerusalem is laid out as a cube, equal in all its dimensions, being 2414 kilometres wide, high and long. The use of a measuring rod by the angel symbolises God’s ownership and protection of the city. The area the city will cover is an immense distance, an example on the earth today would be from Jerusalem to Rome, overlaying the Eastern Mediterranean and all the Black Sea. There are always those that try to find fault with Scripture, and some wise geophysicist worked out that the size of New Jerusalem would be so great that it would interfere with the rotation of the earth, which would cause the earth to sin out of its orbit. The secular world does not take into account that the New Earth is a new creation, and that we are not informed of the dimensions of the New Earth. The New Earth could be bigger than Jupiter (11 times larger than earth) – the increase in gravity would not have an effect on heavenly bodies. The details regarding the New Jerusalem must be understood from the fact that it is a city whose architect and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10), it is going to be beyond our limited comprehension.
The Holy of Holies in the Temple was also a perfect cube, which indicates that the entire city is a Holy Place. This is confirmed by the use of a golden measuring rod by the angel, and by the New Jerusalem being made of transparent gold (vs.18). All the objects within the Temple were overlaid with gold, in contrast to the implements used for the sacrifices which were made of bronze. While bronze is associated with judgement, gold is associated with royalty, and purity, and the use of gold in the Temple symbolized the value of the God, that the Israelites were worshipping. Gold requires purification in intense heat, and it is fitting that those who have lived through the fires of trial and testing should reside in a home of gold, with the King who is above all kings:
“The purposes of these troubles is to test your faith as fire tests how genuine gold is. Your faith is more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise, glory, and honour to God. This will happen when Jesus Christ appears again” (1 Pet 1:7).
The Jewelled City, with the Pearl Gates (21:17-21)
“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”.
The angel measures the thickness of the wall, and reveals it to be a massive 66m thick, implying both strength and security. John then goes on to describe the city; in chapter 4, John is required to describe the brilliant array of colours of God’s throne, and he does so using the colours of gem stones. Now John has to rely on gemstones once more to describe the brilliance of the New Jerusalem, a difficult task, as his goal is to describe a city of spellbinding beauty, that has the observer transfixed. The gleaming city is prepared as a “bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2) The closest example there is in Scripture to the array of gemstones is the High Priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:15-21).
To enter the city, a saint will be required to pass through one of the twelve pearl gates of the New Jerusalem. Pearls are formed as a natural defence to an irritant, such as a grain of sand, or a wayward food particle becoming trapped in the oyster. The mollusc, slowly, over time continually secretes layers of aragonite and conchiolin, to cover the irritant and thus forming a pearl. So, a pearl is symbolic of the beauty that may come from suffering, and the gates of the New Jerusalem highlight that it was the suffering of the Lamb of God that enables entry to the city.
Silver is not included in the structure of the New Jerusalem as silver is symbolic of redemption and the saints within will have already been redeemed.
David Pawson states that the gemstones listed by John are proof that God is the author of Scripture. Pawson describes how when pure light is shone through cut sections of gemstones it makes beautiful colours. Pawson then explains that the 12 stones mentioned by John in Revelation 21 are all anisotropic, meaning that the atoms are arranged in regular lattices, so they are direction-dependent, allowing light to pass through and shine out great beauty. Pawson then points out that precious stones such as diamond, ruby and garnets are not included in the New Jerusalem, the reason possibly being that they are isotropic, meaning that their atoms are arranged irregularly, so they are independent of the direction, and so when light attempts to pass through them it gets blocked, and so there is no beauty revealed at all. There is no explanation as to how John would know about this modern scientific discovery when writing the list of gemstones, unless God the Creator had revealed it to him.
No Temple (21:22-24)
“22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 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. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it”.
The cities of John’s day, would boast of their loyalties to a number of deities, each of whom would have their own temples, which would be major gathering points for the citizens. Temples were one of the main distinguishing features of a city, for example, the Acropolises in Athens, so for John to describe a city that was devoid of a temple, would certainly be most unusual. John, I am sure, understands that there would not be any need for anyone to go somewhere to worship God, the very city is the Holy of Holies, and holds the presence of God, in fact anywhere on the New Earth a person travelled to, they would be in the presence of God, so there is no need for a temple.
The New Earth will not have a solar system, it will be held in place by the power of God, and the light of His presence will shine through; everything in heaven is transparent to let the light of God’s glory blaze unrestricted. In Scripture light is symbolic of wisdom, knowledge and God’s revealed truth, also holiness, goodness, grace and hope; all of these things will be present in abundance in the New Jerusalem, along with the light of His great Love.
Since Jesus promises the Church that we will be given crowns, sit on thrones and that we will rule with Him during the Millennial kingdom, I have no problem in suggesting that the kings of the earth referred to by John is verse 24, are the Bride of Jesus, who will come from all nations.
Open Access (21:25-27)
“25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. 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”.
Once again, for John to see a city that did not close its gates at night, or restrict entry would be unheard of in his time. Travellers would have to ensure they reached the city before dusk, or they risked being shut out of the city, and having to camp at the gate, a very vulnerable place to be. There is no threat to the eternal city, so the gates remain open at all times. Also, with the light of God’s presence shinning throughout the city, there be no night, there will be one eternal day.
All ethnic groups will be represented in the New Jerusalem, and nothing that is impure will ever be able to enter the city. Only those who are covered by the blood of the Lamb, and have their name recorded in the Book of Life will attain entry into the city.
What does heaven lack?!
What a wonder this will be – to continually see God’s face (Rev. 22 v.4) and to walk in the light of His presence (Rev 21 v.23 and 22 v.5) What need could you have for a temple when everywhere you go is God? But a temple is not the only thing missing in heaven. What else does it lack?
Consider the following short list:
- No more sea (21:1)
- No more tears, death, sorrow, crying or pain (21:4)
- No more sinners (21:8)
- No more sun or moon (21:23)
- No more night (21:25)
- No more sin or evil (21:27)
- No more disease or injuries (22:2)
- No more curse (22:3)
We know from other Bible texts that New Earth (heaven) will be a place of:
- Rest (Heb. 4 v.1-11; Rev 14:13)
- Full knowledge (1 Cor. 13:12)
- Holiness (Heb. 12:14; Eph. 2:21)
- Joy (1 Thess. 2:19; Jude 1:24)
- Glory (2 Cor. 4:17)
- Worship (Rev. 7:9-12; 19:10)
Who would not want to spend eternity there!?