SS Lesson for 08/07/2022
Devotional Scripture: 2 Cor 5:1-10
The book of Revelation (not “Revelations”) is fittingly the last book in the Bible. It is likely the final book that was written, penned by the apostle John near the end of his life. A very early tradition places the writing in about AD 96. That was the final year of Roman Emperor Domitian’s 15-year reign, the year he was assassinated. John was on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea (Revelation 1:9a). The island was a barren, rocky place of fewer than 14 square miles in area. It is generally believed that John had been exiled there as punishment for conducting forbidden evangelistic work in the city of Ephesus (see 1:9b). The book of Revelation has three parts. The first chapter relates an appearance of the risen Christ to John on Patmos. Christ told John that he (John) was to receive visions of glorious and mysterious things. John was to write them down for sending to the churches of seven nearby cities (1:11). The second part of the book consists of personalized messages to those churches (Revelation 2–3). We sometimes refer to these messages as “letters to the seven churches,” but they are more than that. Each serves as an introduction to the book as a whole for the named congregations. The third part, Revelation 4–22, is John’s record of the series of visions he experienced. These are visions of Heaven and its activities, along with prophetic words delivered to John by angels who served as his guides. The book of Revelation features a type of literature known as apocalyptic. The root word apocalypse does not mean “worldwide catastrophe” (as the word is often used in popular media today), but “uncovering of the hidden” and thus “revelation.” This book reveals the hidden workings and plans of the Lord God Almighty in the midst of the church’s trials and tribulations, to give hope to the persecuted. It has been serving this function for nearly 2,000 years, showing readers that evil will not triumph. God has a plan for ending the power of evil emperors and of Satan and his allies.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away
21:1. The opening verses of chapter 21 describe the creation of the new heaven and the new earth, which chronologically follows the thousand-year reign of Christ described in chapter 20. Chapter 21 begins with the familiar words I saw, an expression repeated in verse 2 (cf. v. 22, “I did not see”). This new creation is described as a new heaven and a new earth. That it is a totally new heaven and a new earth, and not the present heaven and earth renovated, is supported by the additional statement, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away (also see 20:11). An amazingly small amount of information is given about the new heaven and the new earth. But one major fact is stated in this verse: there was no longer any sea. In contrast with the present earth, which has most of its surface covered by water, no large body of water will be on the new earth. The Bible is silent, however, on any features of the first heaven except the statement in 21:23 that there will be no sun or moon and, by implication, no stars. The new heaven refers not to the abode of God, but to the earth’s atmosphere and planetary space. No landmarks whatever are given concerning the new earth, and nothing is known of its characteristics, vegetation, color, or form. The implication, however, is that it is round and is the residence of all who are saved. A few other references are found in Scripture in relation to the new earth, including Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; and 2 Peter 3:10-13. Because in some of these passages the Millennium is also discussed, expositors have often confused the eternal state with the Millennium. However, the principle is well established in Scripture that distant events are often telescoped together. Examples of this are Isaiah 61:1-2 (cf. Luke 4:17-19), which speaks of the first and second comings of Christ together, and Daniel 12:2, which mentions the resurrection of the righteous and of the wicked together even though, according to Revelation 20:5, they will be separated by a thousand years. Sometimes even the chronological order is reversed, as in Isaiah 65:17-25 (vv. 17-19 refer to the new heaven and new earth whereas vv. 20-25 clearly refer to the Millennium). End-time events are all also brought in close proximity in 2 Peter 3:10-13, where the beginning and the end of the day of the Lord are mentioned in the same passage. Though expositors have differed on this point, the principle that clear passages should be used to explain obscure passages supports the conclusion that the second coming of Christ is followed by a thousand-year reign on earth, and this in turn is followed by a new heaven and new earth, the dwelling place of the saints for eternity. With the absence of any geographic identification and the absence of a sea, the new earth will obviously be entirely different. By contrast, the sea is mentioned many times in relation to the Millennium (e.g., Ps. 72:8; Isa. 11:9, 11; Ezek. 47:8-20; 48:28; Zech. 9:10; 14:8). The evidence is conclusive that the new heaven and new earth are not to be confused with the Millennium.
21:2. John’s attention was then directed to a specific feature of the new heaven and new earth, namely, the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. The New Jerusalem is called “the Holy City,” in contrast with the earthly Jerusalem (which spiritually was compared to Sodom in 11:8). As early as 3:12 the New Jerusalem was described as “the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from My God.” The fact that the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven and that it is not said to be created at this point has raised the question as to whether it has been in existence during the Millennium (see 21:9). 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. The suggestion has been made that if the New Jerusalem is in existence during the millennial reign of Christ, it may have been suspended in the heavens as a dwelling place for resurrected and translated saints, who nevertheless would have immediate access to the earth to carry on their functions of ruling with Christ. J. Dwight Pentecost, for instance, quotes F.C. Jennings, William Kelly, and Walter Scott as supporting this concept of the New Jerusalem as a satellite city during the Millennium (Things to Come. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958, pp. 577-79). In the Millennium the New Jerusalem clearly does not rest on the earth, for there is an earthly Jerusalem and an earthly temple (Ezek. 40-48). The New Jerusalem then will apparently be withdrawn from its proximity to the earth when the earth will be destroyed at the end of the Millennium, and then will come back after the new earth is created. Though this possibility of a satellite city has been disregarded by most commentators and must be considered as an inference rather than a direct revelation of the Bible, it does solve some problems of the relationship between the resurrected and translated saints to those still in their natural bodies in the Millennium, problems which otherwise are left without explanation. Here, however, the New Jerusalem is described as it will be in the eternal state, and it is said to be “a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Because the church is pictured in Scripture as a bride (2 Cor. 11:2), some have tried to identify the New Jerusalem’s inhabitants as specifically the church saints, excluding saints of other dispensations. However, the use of marriage as an illustration is common in Scripture, not only to relate Christ to the church but also Yahweh to Israel. Though the city is compared to a beautifully dressed bride, it actually is a city, not a person or group of people.
21:3-4. Following this initial revelation of the New Jerusalem John wrote, I heard a loud voice from the throne. This is the last of 20 times that the expression “a loud voice” is used in Revelation (first used in 5:2). The final revelation from heaven states that God will then dwell with men, that the saints will be His people and He will be their God. 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. Some have wondered if grief and sorrow will exist for a while in heaven and then be done away with here at the establishing of the new order. It is better to understand this passage as saying that heaven will have none of the features that so characterize the present earth.
21:5-6. The dramatic change to the new order is expressed in the words, I am making everything new! This revelation is trustworthy and true, and John was instructed to write down that fact. The One bringing about the change is Christ, who calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega (cf. 1:8; 22:13), the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, interpreted by the phrase the Beginning and the End. Those who are thirsty are promised that they will be able to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. Apparently this refers not to physical thirst but to a desire for spiritual blessings.
21:7-8. Christ explained that he who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be My son. This expresses the intimate relationship between the saints and God in the eternal state. By contrast, those who practice the sins of the unbelieving world will be excluded from the New Jerusalem and will be destined for the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This judgment is a righteous punishment for their sins, eight of which are itemized here. He adds, This is the second death. It should be obvious that this passage is not affirming salvation by works, but rather is referring to works as indicative of whether one is saved or not. Obviously many will be in heaven who before their conversions were indeed guilty of these sins but who turned from them in the day of grace in trusting Christ as their Savior. Though works are the evidence of salvation or lack of it, they are never the basis or ground of it. Similar lists of sins are found elsewhere in Revelation (cf. v. 27; 22:15).
21:9-11. One of the angels of chapter 16 who had poured out a bowl of wrath on the earth then invited John to see the New Jerusalem as a bride. Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. Carried by the Spirit to a high mountain, John saw the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, shining with the glory of God. Expositors have raised questions about the additional revelation of the New Jerusalem, beginning in verse 9. Some believe that this section is a recapitulation and pictures the New Jerusalem as it will be suspended over the earth during the millennial reign of Christ. A preferred interpretation, however, is that the passage continues to describe the New Jerusalem as it will be in the eternal state. Obviously the city would be much the same in either case, but various indications seem to relate this to the eternal state rather than to the Millennium. The overall impression of the city as a gigantic brilliant jewel compared to jasper, clear as crystal indicates its great beauty. John was trying to describe what he saw and to relate it to what might be familiar to his readers. However, it is evident that his revelation transcends anything that can be experienced. The jasper stone known today is opaque and not clear (cf. 4:3). It is found in various colors, and John apparently was referring to the beauty of the stone rather than to its particular characteristics. Today one might describe that city as a beautifully cut diamond, a stone not known as a jewel in the first century. As in the earlier references to the New Jerusalem as a bride, here again is a city, not a person or group of people. This is confirmed by the description of the city which follows.
1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
2 Then I, John, 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 heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
17 "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create,
22 "As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the Lord, "so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says the Lord.
13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
1 Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.
10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,
12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—
7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
11 I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people
23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God."
4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."
6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
10 and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
13 Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you,
9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
6 But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.
7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife."
12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
10 he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.
20 But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.
9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
6 But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
There is very little revealed about the character of the new heaven and earth in Scripture (cf. Isa. 65:17; 66:22). The main emphasis is its uniqueness; it is quite different from the old. The new heaven and earth is not simply the old renovated but an act of new creation (cf. Rev. 20:1f with 20:11 and 2 Pet. 3:10, which describes the dissolving of the old heaven and earth). The word “new” here is kainos which means fresh, new in quality and character. Further, in the Greek text the words “heaven” and “earth” are without the article stressing the aspect of quality rather than identity. Literally, it is “heaven, new, and an earth, new” not “the new heaven …” The use of the adjective kainos plus this anarthrous construction (absence of the article) serves to further emphasize the qualitative difference even though we aren’t told a great deal about this difference.
One striking statement is made, “there was no longer any sea.” “Sea” refers to a lake, sea, or body of water. Most of the earth is now covered with water which is vital to man’s survival, but apparently in the new earth there will be no bodies of water except for the one river mentioned in 22:1-2. Man in the eternal state and in his glorified body evidently will not need water as he does today to sustain him physically. There will be water, but it will speak of power, purity, and eternal life in the eternal city which has its constant source of life in God.
Unfortunately it appears (or fortunately depending on your outlook) there will be no fishing. Man will be able to eat and drink, but it will not be necessary for survival as it is today, at least not in the same way. It also indicates a completely different type of climate. Only a few passages in the Word deal with the new heaven and new earth and these are often in a context dealing with both the Millennium and eternal state which causes some confusion due to our limited understanding (cf. Isa. 65:17f; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13).
This kind of thing is not uncommon in prophetic literature and should not cause confusion. A prophetic passage will often mention two events together which, chronologically in their fulfillment, are separated by a large interval of time. Some illustrations of this are: (a) Isaiah 61:1-2a describes the ministry of Messiah at His first coming and verses 2b-3 describe His second coming. So in Luke 4:18-19 Christ quoted Isaiah 61:1-2a and then said “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). But He stopped in the middle of Isaiah 61:2 since, as Ryrie points out, “at His first coming He preached only ‘the favorable year of the Lord’ (vs. l9). The ‘day of vengeance of our God’ (Isa. 61:2b) was reserved for His second coming.” (b) The resurrection of the just and the unjust are both spoken of in John 5:29 as though they are one event, yet Revelation 20 clearly reveals they are separated by an interval of a thousand years (cf. also Dan. 12:2). (c) 2 Peter 3:10-13 speaks of the Day of the Lord, the Tribulation, and of the destruction of the heavens and the earth as though they were one and the same or close together, yet Revelation shows they are separated by a thousand years. The mention of two prophetic events together does not mean that they are one and the same or that they occur together or should be confused. We must consider all of Scripture together and when all the passages dealing with certain events are considered, then the sequence and chronology become evident.
Regarding this new city, the Greek literally says, “and the city, the holy one, new Jerusalem, I saw descending out of heaven from God.” The emphasis by the word order is on the character of the city. It is the holy city, new Jerusalem and this is seen in striking contrast to the Jerusalem of the Tribulation which is called “Sodom and Egypt” (Rev. 11:8). Revelation 21:2b-22:5 will develop and describe the special holiness of this new Jerusalem.
The second point of emphasis according to the word order of the Greek is the word “prepared” which stands first in the attached descriptive clause. In John 14:2 our Lord said “… I go to prepare a place for you.” The verb there and here is the same, it is the verb Jetoimazw, “to prepare, make ready.” The indication in John 14:3 is that when Christ would come for His bride, the church, this place would at that time be prepared as her dwelling place. This teaches us that the new Jerusalem is prepared during the church age as a place for the bride and will be in existence at the rapture, during the Tribulation, and the Millennium. It will be the home of the church and our eternal abode there begins right after Christ comes for His bride. The author of Hebrews speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem as the abode and hope of the saints (Heb. 12:22-24).
Note that the city comes down out of heaven from God and is in some way related to the earth. But it is nevertheless a heavenly city, not an earthly city. Because of its heavenly nature it may be like a satellite city which will orbit or hover above the earth and will finally settle upon it during the Millennium (cf. 20:9). This idea of Jerusalem as a satellite during the Millennium is of course only by implication and not by definite statement. If this is so, then this heavenly city will be withdrawn at the end of the Millennium in connection with the destruction of the old heaven and earth.
“Made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” compares the city to a bride, but this does not limit the city to the church. All saints will ultimately live in this city (cf. Heb. 11:10, 16). The figure of the bride simply emphasizes the following: (a) as marriage is designed to be permanent, so this will be our permanent or eternal abode, (b) as a bride is beautifully adorned for her wedding, so this stresses the beauty of this city as it is adorned for the saints, and (c) as the bride is to be pure, it portrays the purity of the holy city.
While John is beholding the descending city, his attention is diverted by a loud voice—the last time of 21 times that either a “great” or a “loud” voice is mentioned. This is always an indication of an important piece of revelation that is about to be unfolded. It is significant that the last loud voice announces the dwelling of God among men. Though God is the independent God of the universe, He, in His love, longs to dwell among us in order to have fellowship with us and to bless us with His personal care. This ought to touch our hearts and cause us to draw near to Him.
“The tabernacle of God is among men …” “Tabernacle” stands for “dwelling place, a place of abode,” or of one’s “personal presence.” And where is that? “Among men.” The word “among” used here and in the next clause is the Greek preposition meta, which is used of association or companionship or fellowship. Note that the verse goes on to emphasize “God Himself shall be among them,” and “they shall be His people,” a result of the other. This verse denotes the most intimate and close fellowship with God in a perfect and unbroken way and on a face-to-face basis. This will be far beyond the knowledge of His presence and indwelling which believers can know today. Today we speak to Him in prayer and He speaks to us in His Word, but then He will be openly and visibly in our midst, personally ministering to our needs. The full scope of this is far beyond our comprehension today. What follows is a result of this personal presence of God in the most personal way among men.
In this life certain sorrows and perplexities are always with us. And from the nature of this life we may wonder how they could ever be removed, that they must follow us into eternity. It’s perhaps hard to imagine life without our sorrows and pain. Take for instance the sorrow and regret that one might have over sin and failures. What about the loved one who never trusted in Jesus Christ, say a father or sister or son or daughter? How can the pain of their eternal separation ever be removed? These verses give us God’s assurance that our present perplexities and sorrows, and indeed even their remembrance, will be wiped away, which undoubtedly includes answers with understanding. Note that “tear” is singular, every single tear.
Verse 4 promises us no more tears, mourning, crying, or pain. This means perfect, uninterrupted happiness and peace. It appears that with God visibly and personally in our midst, there will be absolutely no possibility of unhappiness. Today we all experience pain, sorrow, and misery to some degree. Even with believers who are walking intimately with the Lord and know the joy of His care there are still many times of pain and sorrow. That is life as we know it today. Of course, the more we walk with the Lord and rest in His goodness and care, the greater our peace and joy even in extreme pressure, but even then, there will still be pain.
The emphasis of these verses is that it is God’s visible and personal presence that gives this perfect happiness and blessing and not simply the removal of the sources of our problems. Oh, how this should be a reminder and an exhortation to us now to put fellowship with the living Christ as our number one priority. We need to practice awareness of and faith in the personal presence and care of our Lord (Heb. 13:4-5; Matt. 28:20; Phil. 4:5b-7; Josh. 1:51).
“The first things have passed away” refers to all the conditions of this present world—Satan, sin, a sinful nature, and death, etc. Everything associated with Satan and his rebellion and man, his fall and rebellion, everything except believers themselves, will be removed, put away. In fact, “the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind” (see Isa. 65:17b).
With the passing away of the old something new must take its place, so we are now presented with the new things which God will create for His people. Interestingly, however, these verses begin with the words “the One sitting on the throne.” Why mention this? To stress God’s permanent sovereignty, especially in a context dealing with creation. Creation has always been a mighty display of God’s sovereign power, but man one way or another, under the delusions of the evil one, has sought to remove God from His throne and tried to enthrone himself as a god. In one system after another—mysticism, communism, atheism, scientism, and humanism, etc.—man has sought to ignore and reject the God of creation.
The foundation to all of this is man’s viewpoint of origins. Was man created by a personal God or did he just evolve? Is man the product of some impersonal force of which he is a part? The Word of God teaches us that God can be known by things which he has made; this gives God-consciousness (Rom. 1:18-20; Psalm 19:1-6), and that he can be intimately known through the Scriptures, God’s personal revelation of Himself and of His Son (1 Tim. 3:16; Psalm 19:7-9). But mankind as a whole rejects the knowledge of God or the light of nature and Scripture because his deeds are evil (John 3:19-21). Because of his ungodliness (negative volition) and unrighteousness (immoral twist) he suppresses the knowledge of God and in its place he inserts his own idea of origins; he deifies himself or sees himself as evolving and becoming god-like in the vanity of his own darkened imaginations and satanic delusions (Gen. 3:3; Rom. 1:18, 21; 2 Thess. 2:10-12).
Through the moral twist by which man rejects the light, he looks at the created universe and comes up with such ideas as the doctrine of uniformitarianism (the theory that all geologic phenomena may be explained as the result of existing forces having operated uniformly from the origin of the earth to the present time), and based on that, evolution. This becomes man’s escape (he thinks) from responsibility to a sovereign God. His claim is that evolution shows us there is no need of God or of the supernatural, i.e., of God who sits on the throne. This is one of man’s ways to stifle (sear) his conscience and deny God His sovereign rights.
It is very important to note that the original exponents and writers of the various “isms” nearly always begin from evolutionary presuppositions. This was true with the militarism of Hitler, with Marx and Engels, and with the mystical religions of the East. Julian Huxley, one of the world’s most famous evolutionary biologists, said, “Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion. Darwin pointed out that no supernatural designer was needed.”
So what does all this have to do with this passage? Everything. This whole passage, verses 1 and following, is dealing with God’s sovereignty in creation. Further, it is the belief of modern man and the new age movement that man can make all things new in his brave new world, a world of peace and prosperity.
But what does our passage promise? “Behold, I am making all things new.” “Behold” is an aorist imperative of the verb %oraw used as a demonstrative particle to arrest the attention. Literally it connotes the ideas of “discern immediately, pay attention, note this carefully and now.” The principle that should be noted is, only God, the One sitting on the throne, can make all things new.
Then we have “I am making.” This is the present tense used as a future present of absolute certainty. This is so certain that it is viewed as even now in the process. And for God who is the eternal I AM, the Alpha and Omega (verse 6), this is so. “Making,” the verb poiew, “to do, make, execute,” is used here in the sense of “create” (cf. Acts 4:24 where the same word is used). “New” is the Greek kainos which stresses new in quality.
So John is told “write, for these words are faithful and true.” “Write” is an aorist imperative in the Greek which means “do it now,” suggesting urgency and importance, i.e., “put it down,” it is to become part of revelation and God’s special promise for His people. As man can believe the words of Scripture regarding the original creation, so he can believe the words of Scripture regarding the new creation.
In verse 6 John was told “it is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” “It is done” is the perfect tense (gegonen) of the verb ginomai, “to come into being, happen, become.” Depending on the context, it may mean, “be made, done, performed, etc.” The perfect may be used to emphasize the accomplishment of something from which a present state emerges (consummative perfect) or it may stress the results, the present state accomplished by the past action (resultative perfect). The question is to what does this refer? Does it refer to the new creation or, as Walvoord suggests, to “the work accomplished throughout the whole drama of human history prior to the eternal state.” It would seem that the context better supports the new creation. This is the view of the NIV Bible Commentary which says, “Using the same word that declared the judgment of the world finished, God proclaims that He has completed His new creation: ‘It is done’” (cf. 16:17). Though the new creation is still in the future, these words solidly affirm the creation of all things new as though already accomplished. And what’s the basis of this? The sovereign independence and eternality of God as the Alpha and Omega, the first and last word on all things.
Now we see some of the new things enumerated (vss. 6b-7).
First, there will be the water of life for all who thirst. Here is the offer of salvation that comes as a free gift, “without cost.” “All who thirst” refers to all who recognize their need, the spiritually parched condition of their soul, and come to Christ as the source of the water of life” (cf. John 4:10; 7:37-39; Isa. 55:1). “Without cost” means of course, by grace, as God’s gift to those who come to Christ by faith (John 7:38). In this context, “the spring of the water of life” ultimately refers to the complete satisfaction of life that will come to the child of God in the eternal state (cf. Rev. 17:17).
Second, there is the promise of a full inheritance to the one who overcomes (vs. 7a). Contextually, the overcomer promises of chapters 2 and 3 suggest added blessings and delights, like reigning with Christ for those who faithfully overcome the particular temptations and testings they face. Here the context is different (vss. 6b, 7b) and views the overcomer as one who quenches his thirst by simple faith in Christ and, as a result, becomes God’s son (cf. 1 John 5:4-5 and Gal. 3:26). All of God’s people, Old and New Testament saints alike, will inherit the blessings of the eternal state, nothing will be lacking.
Finally, another special promise is made to the overcomer. He will have complete and unbroken fellowship with God (vs. 7b), “and I will be his God and he will be My son.”
This verse stands as a point of contrast. Heaven will be everything that this life cannot be because of the presence of sin, darkness, sinful behavior, and Satan’s ever present activity. Today, one of the great sources of pain and misery is the very presence of those who are characterized by the things listed in verse 8. By contrast to the believer who inherits these new things, including a glorified resurrected body without the presence of a sinful nature, is the unbeliever who is permanently excluded by the second death, the eternal lake of fire. In contrast to those who will die in their sins and who must, therefore, continue in their evil character, are believers who, in their glorified state, can never be guilty of such sins. This is clearly the point of this passage where the blessed conditions of our eternal future are being described. Just as Satan will not be there to cause misery and pain, so neither will those who commit such sin. The point of this entire section is the perfect purity and absence of anything impure or evil, not even is there the absence of light (cf. vs. 23-25). Nothing unclean can be there (cf. vs. 27).
Revelation 21:8 is often presented as describing the kind of character that disqualifies one from the new Jerusalem and the eternal state. If anyone is characterized by any of the sins listed, then he can’t be in the New Jerusalem, etc. But this suggests salvation by works and the immediate context has just emphasized receiving the water of life “without cost.” To escape this works mentality, it is sometimes argued that verse 8 is viewed as giving a general picture of the type of things that characterize the unbeliever and demonstrate his lack of faith in Christ and so also his lack of new life. Because the unbeliever has rejected God and is operating on human viewpoint foundations, these things will often overcome him and characterize his life. Further, it is sometimes pointed out that the terms used here are adjectives and describe a habitual pattern versus an occasional sin. It is then argued that such people are not lost because they habitually do such things, but that they habitually act as they do because they are lost. This is the argument of those who promote the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.
But I personally think this approach misses the point of the passage. In the first place, many unbelievers are not characterized by most of the things listed here. Apart from being “unbelieving,” many unbelievers are moral and characterized by integrity, yet they too will be excluded because of their unbelief. Verse 8 is not describing what qualifies or disqualifies people from the standpoint of their behavior while here on earth, but showing what kind of people cannot be a part of the eternal kingdom in the future.
Bob Wilkin of Grace Evangelical Society has a perspective on this passage that better fits the context and thrust of 21:8. He writes:
It is a mistake to think that this verse is describing the way the unsaved behave here and now. The verse says nothing about the current behavior of believers or unbelievers. Rather, it concerns the eternal sinfulness of unbelievers.
A parallel passage is John 8:24: “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Unbelievers die in a state of sinfulness. Forever they remain sinners. Believers, however, do not remain in a state of sinfulness because they are justified by faith: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Rom 4:8; see also vv 1-7 and Rom 8:33-34).
Revelation 21:8 says nothing about whether believers actually sin prior to death or not. Of course we know that they do. However, that is not in view in Rev 21:8. What is actually in view is the continued unregenerate and unjustified state of the lost. Because unbelievers upon death are sealed permanently as those who are unjustified, they remain sinners in God’s sight forever.
There will be no sinners and no sin in the new heavens and the new earth. According to 1 John 3:2, “when He is revealed, we shall be like Him.”
It is interesting to note that this basic message is found three times in Revelation 21-22 (Rev 21:8, 27; and 22:15), the section of the book dealing with the eternal kingdom. A comparison of these three passages, and particularly the first and last, supports the conclusion that the sinful state of those in hell is what is in view…
Life seems to gallop by at ever-increasing speed as we age. We cannot slow it down. I have a plaque in my office to remind me of this. It reads:
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
To me to live is Christ.
What does the future hold for us then? John’s vision is that of a genuine, eternal utopia. The New Jerusalem will be the perfect place, for it is the dwelling place of God and of the Lamb. It will be a place of spiritual wholeness, where there will be no more tears and where those who despise God are denied entrance. It will be the ultimate, eternally new city, the city of God for all time. We have confidence, for we believe that the promises of Revelation “are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5). We have a reward, for we are heirs of the riches of God (21:7a). Most of all we have an assured hope, for we will have perfect, eternal fellowship with him (21:7b).
Following the final judgment after Christ's millennial reign (Rev. 20:11-15) and the destruction of the old order (2 Pet. 3:10), the new heaven and new earth will appear, with the New Jerusalem as the centerpiece (Rev. 21:1-2). This is the eternal home of all believers. The Apostle John saw the new heaven and new earth in a vision, and he described it in great detail in Revelation 21. The glorious eternal home of Christ's followers is first described in negative terms. The absence of certain features of the present order were immediately noticeable to John—and noteworthy. John said, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Some have taken this to mean there will in fact be tears in heaven but that God will quickly wipe them away. This does not seem to be the meaning, however, for the verse closes by saying "the former things are passed away." Rather, the expression is simply a way of saying that tears of sorrow or regret will not be present. "The emphasis here is on the comfort of God, not on the remorse of the saints. The tears seem to refer to tears shed on earth as the saints endured suffering for Christ's sake, rather than tears shed in heaven" (Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Moody). Because God Himself will be present (Rev. 21:3), there will be no tears and no cause for tears. There will be no death, sorrow, crying, or pain. In Christ death has been conquered, and there will be no place for it in God's presence. The inhabitants of the new earth will possess immortal bodies uncorrupted by sin, for sin itself wilt have been finally dealt with at the Great White Throne judgment of God (20:11-15). In the absence of sin, the effects of sin will not be present, and thus there will be no sorrow or crying. The Greek word for "sorrow" here is used particularly for mourning over the dead and is a grief that "takes possession of the whole being" (Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, Baker). With death removed forever, there will be no cause for such grief. Likewise, crying will be unknown there. Crying is the "vocal response to sorrow, in contrast to tears which are a silent response" (Walvoord). Pain also will not be present in the eternal state, for there will be nothing in God's presence that will cause suffering of any kind. The "former things," as John noted, "are passed away." By God's grace, we can and do experience joy in this life, but we also experience difficulties, hardships, pain, grief, and suffering. Such experiences are so much a part of our present world that it is almost impossible to imagine life without them. The absence of these negative aspects of our current world are a major factor in what sets off our eternal home as truly new and different and desirable. This world is temporary. Yet here we are being prepared to inhabit a glorious new world that has been lovingly prepared for all who follow Christ.
A New Heaven and Earth - The Book of Revelation, written by the apostle John, covers a portion of what God has in His plans for His children. These verses are to keep the Christians' heads up and a smile across one's face. Many things of the world are cruel, out of control, unfair, and overwhelming. But be encouraged; God plans to make everything new. John saw the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven. Old Jerusalem was where the temple was and where Jesus died and rose again. Jesus will be in the New Jerusalem in person; He will wipe away all tears, death, and sorrow. Pain, regret, loneliness, injustice will be gone! Can you imagine seeing Jesus and having an audible conversation with Him?
All Things Made New - God Himself said, "I will make all things new." That means new bodies, new thinking, new music, new relationships with each other, and a new love for God. Everything will be perfect and last forever. Mark God's words; He never goes back on a promise.
'It's Done!' - Only three times in the Bible does God say that His work is completed—at Creation, on the Cross, and now, with the new heaven and earth. What God begins He can and will complete! There are no loose ends, no unfinished business, nothing random. God describes His people as those who have come to Him and believed, and He lists those who are excluded from the joy of the new Jerusalem, beginning with the cowardly and the unbelieving. All those who prefer sin to Jesus Christ are assured of the second death. The word new is the byword of the Book of Revelation. As believers, our hearts should fill with joy at the sound of God preparing all things fresh, brand spanking new.