The last stage of the final stages of God’s plan that the Bible reveals to us is the stage called “The New Heavens and the New Earth.” Yet in my title for this message I have put a question mark after “Final,” not because I think I know of another period after this, but only because the Bible does not tell us for certain that this is the final time. This is simply the last time we have revealed to us in the revelation we have been given. If there are further periods and advances after this, we are unaware of them. I cannot say one way or the other, of course. Ultimately, I do not think God will ever run out of plans and purposes.
The record of this period, the New Heavens and the New Earth, can be found in the next chapter of Revelation after the “Little Season” which is revealed in Revelation 20. Thus to study this period we will consider what is said about it in Revelation 21.
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.
Now John sees a new heaven and a new earth. This is the fourth Scriptural reference to this time, for Isaiah mentions it twice, and Peter once.
Isaiah 65:17. For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
Isaiah is the first to mention this new heavens and new earth. He says that it will be so great that no one will commemorate or look back with regret on the former heavens and earth, for all will acknowledge that the new is better.
Isaiah 66:22. “For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord, “So shall your descendants and your name remain.”
Isaiah again mentions the new heavens and the new earth. He does so in passing, for his topic really is the kingdom of God. Yet what he says about it here is that it will remain. Once these new heavens and this new earth come, they will not be destroyed or replaced with an “even newer heavens and even newer earth.” No, the new heavens and the new earth remain, and are never replaced or improved upon.
II Peter 3:13. Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Peter speaks of the new heavens and new earth. What he tells us about them is that righteousness dwells there. Wickedness is no longer a problem in the new heavens and new earth. The planet earth has been redeemed, and it will never see sin and death again.
So this is what John sees when he sees the new heaven and the new earth. He tells us that they are present because the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Perhaps that had something to do with them “fleeing away” at the face of the One Who sat on the Great White Throne. At any rate, they are gone, and this new version is in their place. The heaven and the earth were not destroyed, notice, but rather were remade.
John also says there is “no more sea.” We might wonder, is this literally so? If so, what is meant? Is it just that the Mediterranean Sea is gone? Are the great oceans that were probably formed in the flood no longer present, and instead there are just the shallow seas of the pre-flood world, with much more land mass on earth? Or are there no seas on earth at all? Or is this not talking about topography? Sometimes, the “sea” is used for the mass of humanity. Could this mean that there is no longer a “mass of humanity” that acts and reacts apart from God, but instead that every man on earth is personally and individually in relationship with God? What exactly this means we cannot say for sure. Indeed, many things about this new heaven and new earth are mysterious.
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.
Now John sees a supernatural city, the heavenly New Jerusalem, coming down out of the sky from God. This city is “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Does this mean the city is prepared for God, so He is the husband? Or does this mean it is adorned and prepared for its inhabitants, so the husband is Israel and the Jerusalemites? Many assume God is the husband, but I am not at all sure that that is what is intended here.
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.
What does it mean that “the tabernacle of God is with men”? What is the idea of this “tabernacle”? We realize that a “tabernacle” is a kind of tent, yet more is meant than this. The tabernacle was not just a dwelling place like a house, but it was also a place of activity. The tabernacle of a commander in the field would be the center of all activity for the army he commanded. So when the tabernacle of God is with men, that means that His center of activities will be with men. He will no longer center all He does in the heavens, as He does now. Instead, His center of activity will be on earth among His redeemed people.
Here we have what I believe is one difference between the Parousia of Jesus Christ and the New Heaven and the New Earth. That is, when Jesus Christ is on earth during the Parousia, the focus of His presence seems to be on the earth. He is here to reign on earth for a thousand years. Yet in the New Heaven and New Earth, the earth becomes His tabernacle or center of activities. A center of activities is where the activities originate, but they are then focused outwards. Christ will still dwell on earth, but now the earth becomes the launching point for activities elsewhere in God’s creation. God works from earth to accomplish His plans everywhere else. So the focus is outward FROM the earth, rather than inward ON the earth, as in the Parousia.
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.”
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. This does not mean He will outlaw crying, or make them forget how to do it, or take away their tear ducts. Notice that in order for someone to dry your tears, you have to be crying in the first place. But I believe what is meant here is that He is going to truly fix every sorrow. Once everything that would make you cry is fixed and fixed for good, then your tears will be wiped away indeed.
We are told how He dries tears. There is no more death. There is no more sorrow nor crying, meaning there are no more things that would cause sorrow or crying. There is no more pain. Why? The former things will have passed away, and these things have no place in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
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.”
The One Who sits on the throne, Jesus Christ, speaks to John, and tell him that He makes all things new. This is the truth of the New Heaven and the New Earth: everything will be made new! John is commanded to write, for he is assured that 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.
Now that all is made new, He testifies that His great work on earth is done! Now He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first letter and last letter of the Greek alphabet. He is the Beginning and the End. He promises to give the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
7. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
He promises that the one who overcomes in the Revolt shall inherit or have his portion in all these things John has seen. The Lord will be his God, and the overcomer shall be His son, representing Him in whatever way He gives him to do so.
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.”
Not so the wicked. Those such as listed here: the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolators, and all liars; shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Thus they shall never make it to the glorious New Heaven and New Earth, for they will be destroyed.
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.”
John is now to be shown the bride, the Lamb’s wife. This is not our primary topic, so we will only comment briefly on these verses.
10. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
We are not left in doubt as to the identity of the “bride, the Lamb’s wife.” It is not “the church.” It is the great city, the holy Jerusalem, that supernatural city which descends out of heaven from God.
11. having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
This city has the glory of God. What greater thing could be said of it?
12. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
This Jerusalem is meant to be populated by Israelites, and will be populated by Israelites. It is not “the heaven of the eternal state,” as some have fatuously tried to make out. It was never meant for those of us who are not descendants of God’s nation and people of Israel.
13. three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.
There is a gate for each tribe, three on each side, in perfection.
14. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The names of the twelve apostles are on the twelve foundation stones of the city. There can be no doubt but that these twelve men will dwell there. Of course, Judas’ place is taken by Matthias, for Judas will have his place in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, as we had it in verse 8.
15. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.
The angel who is talking with John is going to measure the city.
16. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.
He describes the city as a square with its length as great as its breadth. The measurement of the city with the reed is twelve thousand furlongs. This tells us little, since we do not know how far a furlong might be. The Greek word is stadion, which was the length of a stadium, or about 600 feet. Twelve thousand stadia, then, would be about 1,364 miles. This is a gigantic city indeed! But then an even more staggering fact is given: the city’s HEIGHT is equal to its length and breadth.
Well, if we try to imagine a city that is a cube over a thousand miles tall, we will end up with an unbelievable picture. A city that tall would have no atmosphere at the top. Actually, it would not have atmosphere even halfway to the top. Moreover, it would stick so far off the earth that it would throw the entire planet off its axis and destroy its orbit. If this city really is like this, and it really comes down from heaven to earth, then physics are going to have to be entirely different then than they are now.
Ultimately, I do not know if this city really will be over a thousand miles tall and will stick off the earth to this incredible degree. But the greater point we need to see here is in the fact that this city is a perfect cube. Its length, width, and height are the same. And in the perfection of that cube is symbolized the perfection of the city. The important point of it is that this is the perfect Jerusalem. There can be no better Jerusalem. There can be no improving it. This city is perfect, and it is the perfect end God is bringing His city and His people to. Whether or not it really is a perfect cube over a thousand miles tall is irrelevant compared to that great fact. The reality of its shape, its height, and its physics we will have to see when the time comes. But the reality of its perfection we can be assured of in advance. This truly is the ultimate Jerusalem.
17. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.
The angel measures the city wall, and finds it one hundred and forty-four cubits thick, according to the measure of a man, in other words, of the angel. We believe a cubit was a measurement from the elbow to the fingertips, so this means that the cubit was according to the angel’s arm. As far as we can estimate it a cubit is about eighteen inches, so this wall is two hundred and sixteen feet thick. I guess there are no windows in the wall, if it is that thick! Again, is this literal? Perhaps not. The fact is that the wall of a city was its means of safety at the time. And this city has a wall so incredibly thick that no power on earth could breach it. The thickness of the wall tells us that the city is completely safe, safer than any city on earth has ever been or could be. That is the important lesson of the wall.
18. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
These things are no doubt all symbolic as well. The gold probably stands for the heavenly glory of the city.
19. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,
These twelve precious stones again connect the city with Israel and its twelve tribes.
20. the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.
Continuing the twelve precious stones. Twelve is also a number God seems to use for perfection in government.
21. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
Here we have the famous “streets of gold.” Many ignorantly ascribe these to heaven, not realizing they are a part of the New Jerusalem. I suppose again that the streets of gold symbolize heavenly glory. I don’t suppose they symbolize wealth. I cannot imagine anyone grabbing gravel off a gold street and running into a nearby shop, hoping to spend it. They would tell him to go and throw that back in the street where it belongs. So the real point is the heavenly glory. That said, if I got there and the streets were not gold, I would be disappointed. Where are the streets of gold promised? But what I would really be taken up with is the heavenly glory, not the golden streets.
22. But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
For all the glory of this city, there is no temple in it. Why not? Because the temple is a place for an intermediary to approach God on behalf of the people, and no such thing is required in the New Jerusalem. The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are right there in the city, and anyone who wants to approach God can approach Him directly. Thus there is no need for a temple.
23. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.
This does not say necessarily that there will not be a sun or moon, only that they will not be necessary for the city. The glory of God lights the whole place. The Lamb is its light. Notice: the glory of God IS the Lamb. Jesus Christ is the glory of God.
24. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.
The nations of those who have been preserved and blessed enough to come into the New Heaven and the New Earth shall live their lives in the light provided by this glorious city. The rulers of the New Earth shall bring their glory and honor into the great city.
Some try to show that this picture cannot be total perfection since there are kings here, and they do not believe there should be kings with total perfection, but everyone should be exactly the same. Apparently these people get their idea of perfection from Karl Marx rather than from the Bible. There is nothing in the Word of God to suggest that everyone must be at the same level to be perfect, or that kings are somehow a sign of imperfection. Even in God’s perfect system there are rulers and authorities. We must not take modern philosophies and mix them in with the Bible record to create problems that are not there.
25. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).
Its gates shall not be shut at all by day, and, since there shall be no night there, its gates are never shut at all.
26. And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.
It shall truly be the glorious center of the New Earth, for the glory and honor of all nations shall come into the New Jerusalem. This is the final destiny of God’s beloved city of Jerusalem.
27. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
There shall by no means enter this New Jerusalem anything that defiles, or that causes an abomination or a lie. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life shall enter this great city.
Many people get excited here and start jumping to conclusions. They decide that, if things that defile or that cause an abomination or a lie are not allowed to enter the New Jerusalem, that those things must still exist on earth outside the New Jerusalem. Therefore, the New Heaven and the New Earth must not be perfect. There must still be sinners there. This must not be the perfect, final state after all. Usually such people have themselves safely off in “heaven,” so it matters little to them, but they dump on the earth, as they always tend to do, exalting their pie-in-the-sky hope of heaven by doing so. Those who take this foolish line act like, while everything will be glorious in the New Jerusalem, there will be wicked men hanging around outside the walls of the New Jerusalem like dogs. Is this really what this verse is saying?
Yet such people prove how short their attention span is, and how hard it is to get truth through a hard head that simply does not want it. Remember what we learned in verse 4. There shall be no more death, there shall be no more sorrow, there shall be no more crying in the New Heaven and the New Earth. How could this be, if there are defilements, abominations, and lies in it? Such things cause pain. Such things bring death. If these things are truly gone, then there cannot be wicked men there.
We also saw in verse 8 that men who are abominable; that defilers like murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, and idolaters; and that all liars will have had their place in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. If these have all been destroyed, then how could defilement, lies, and abominations not have been destroyed?
Moreover, we saw in verse 25 that the gates of the New Jerusalem shall not be shut at all by day, and there is no night there, so they shall never be shut. If there are defilers and those that cause an abomination and a lie hanging out around the walls outside the city, how are they to be kept out of the city if its gates are never shut to them? Does not the fact that the gates are never shut indicate clearly that all on the New Earth are welcome to enter there? This shows that all those who would defile the city must have been removed from the earth at this time.
What this verse is doing is just reinforcing the glory of the city by assuring us that no defilement, not a particle of wrong, will ever enter it. It is not trying to tell us that such things exist elsewhere on the New Earth. We have already been assured that they do not. This is to reassure us of the glorious reality. We must not take verse 27 and jump to conclusions as if verse 4, verse 8, and verse 25 did not exist.
Revelation 22:1. And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
A river flows out of the throne of God and of the Lamb in the New Heaven and the New Earth. There is a similar river in the Premillennial Kingdom of God, as we see in Ezekiel 47:1-12. There is also a river like this in the Parousia of Jesus Christ, as we see it in Zechariah 14:8. This river, whether or not it is literal, has a great symbolic meaning: it is the Life of God, flowing out from His throne to all His blessed people. We will all receive and partake of His life freely in that day.
2. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
The tree of life of the Garden of Eden is restored, and in more than one copy, it seems. This tree provides perfect health and healing to the nations. There is no injury it cannot heal, no ailment it cannot mend.
3. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
The curse shall be no more, for all effects of sin and of the fall will be ended. The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in this glorious new creation, and His servants shall serve Him freely in this perfect condition of things.
4. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
No more shall His servants be distant from Him. They shall see His face, and His name, His very reputation and the stamp of His character in them, shall be on their foreheads.
5. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
Again, we are told that there is no time of darkness there, and lamps and sunlight are not needed, for the Lord God provides all the light they need. Indeed, of all the glories listed, the constant presence of God the greatest glory of all! So His servants who are there with Him shall reign with Him in respect to the eons of the eons.
There are three stages of God’s plan beyond the Revolt Against the Kingdom. These are the Parousia of Jesus Christ, the Little Season, and the New Heaven and the New Earth. We can learn some things about these coming times from the last few chapters of the book of Revelation. Yet much of what will take place then remains hidden to us. The plans of the Lord grow more mysterious and beyond our understanding the further we go into the future. We cannot fully grasp what these glorious times will really be like. All we can do is praise God for His marvelous plan! And then we can live in light of all He has promised to do for us.