The New Heaven and New Earth
The New Heaven and New Earth
Brad Mills / General
In 2008, a Dutch newspaper poll voted the city of Charleroi to be “The Ugliest City in the World”. Honestly, I can think of plenty of places in worse shape. The voting was weighted to places in the Belgian region, but it still felt like a low blow to those who lived there and appreciated its charm.
No doubt, everyone could see that the city had been trending downward in terms of its aesthetic beauty. Buildings throughout the downtown area were in a perpetual state of repair. There seemed to be as much exposed scaffolding as there were businesses in operation. Newspaper and magazine articles pointed out the growing piles of litter and run down buildings with exteriors covered in graffiti.
Ironically, all of the negative publicity began to attract tourists. The increasing popularity of the city captured the attention of savvy investors. The result has been a recovery and renewal at the heart of the rust belt of Northern Europe for more than a decade.
We really cannot fathom how different this world is from when God first created it. It is difficult to imagine the impact that the fall had upon it. We do not know the pristine beauty of the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve enjoyed. We certainly have our ideal locations where we can get away and appreciate creation or culture. But, the fall introduced the intrusion of sin and corruption into this good world that God made, and it has left all of us longing for something more.
This theme spans the Bible from beginning to end. God created a good world but, our first parents lost the paradise they were born into. The rest of the Bible is about how God is going to restore paradise and ensure that it would never be lost again.
Read Revelation 21:1-8.
I. What Is New ? (1-3, 5-6a)
A new heaven and a new earth replace the first heaven and the first earth (Rev 20:11). What is removed in order for the “new” to appear? Peter provides the best commentary on this subject…
2 Peter 3:10–13 ESV
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
This present world will receive a total makeover. But, that does not suggest an utter discarding. This world is dissolved and cleansed in order to be rebuilt and renewed. The word for “new” implies a change in quality. It is remodeled and reinforced rather than completely destroyed.
This is consistent with the effects of the worldwide flood that occurred in Noah’s time (Gen 6). The world was not destroyed but cleansed. We see something similar in the concept of resurrection. The body that is raised is a new and glorified body, but there is still some connection with the original body. Otherwise, why resurrect anything at all?
The purpose of this renovation is to create a place for the holy city, New Jerusalem, to descend from heaven “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (2). The New Jerusalem represents God’s dwelling with the saints in perfect harmony. It represents the restoration of the perfect fellowship that had been lost back in Genesis 3.
A voice from the throne declares this holy city to be a permanent dwelling place for God with man (3). Abraham “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). This communion between God and man was what the tabernacle and temple alwaysforeshadowed. God provided temporary measures of maintaining a relationship with his covenant community throughout the Old Testament age.
Then, under the new covenant, God inaugurated the blessings of relating to him through Jesus Christ—who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Because of our union with Christ by faith, we become “the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16).
All things will be made new (5). Creation will arrive at her ultimate completion. The work that began at Christ’s first coming is now consummated following his return. “Making” is a prophetic present which speaks so confidently of a future fulfillment, it is as if it is already happening.
At that time, God will declare his work to be fully and finally complete. “It is done!” (6a). Again, through Christ, this work has already been inaugurated on the cross when Jesus cried out “It is finished!” The work has already been fully accomplished in an objective sense. Now we await the fullness of our subjective experience of that great work.
But all of it is truly the work of God who is the “Alpha and Omega”. This is a merism, which means that God is the beginning, end, and everything in between. He is “A to Z”—sovereign over all time.
In Christ we taste the future inheritance that is described in its consummated state here. It is the Spirit of Christ “who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Eph 1:14). The author of Hebrews says that the church is “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb 12:23). We have already been granted access through the blood of Christ into a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb 12:28).
That is why Paul describes anyone who is in Christ as “a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). They are no longer identified with their old nature, even though they remain hindered by it.
Jesus revealed his love for his bride, the Church, when he “gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:26). Christ is now doing a work of sanctification and renewal in each one of us, “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor” (Eph 5:28)—or “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev 21:2).
This passage also emphasizes the corporate aspect of our communion. The universal church is made up of individuals who are collectively the bride of Christ. Because of our union with Christ, we have an intimate communion with God and one another. The Lord’s Supper is a sacred representation of that covenantal blessing.
We ought never allow our differences among one anther to carry on to the point that we misrepresent the Savior who died to bring about that unity! Our fellowship should never become so strained that we fail to pursue the fulfillment of Christ’s high priestly prayer that we “become one” even as the Father and the Son are one (Jn 17:11). That goal must propel us to persevere through the most challenging trials.
II. What Is Past ? (1, 4)
At the end of the first verse we learned that “the sea was no more” (1). I have previously pointed out how the ancient audience considered the sea as the realm of chaos and evil. The absence of the sea points to the elimination of evil. There will not be any destructive body of water like the lake of fire in the new heaven and new earth. That means there will be no possibility of a future challenge to Christ’s reign. Nor will there be any possibility of sin and evil arising ever again (such as the beast who rose out of the sea in Rev 13:1).
Also, the removal of the sea represents the removal of any barriers to fellowship. Remember, John was writing from Patmos, separated by the great chasm of the sea, far away from his beloved flock in Ephesus. That longing for a deep and abiding fellowship will be fully and finally achieved in the new heaven and new earth.
The figurative elimination of the sea is related to the further effects of the fall that are reversed. In v.4, “passed away” is repeated. Dwelling with God means that there are no tears, no death, no mourning, no crying, no pain. All these “former things have passed away.”
Isaiah (Isa 65:20-25) prophesied of a time when infant mortality would never occur. No lives would never be cut short. The earth would always yield its produce. God’s people would live in a place where no foreign enemy could ever enter their houses and plunder their goods. God would always answer their prayers. Conflict, even among the animals, would disappear. No pain would ever be experienced. No destruction would ever fall. The fullness of Isaiah’s vision will not be experienced until saints enter into the new heaven and new earth.
Those who belong to Christ by faith have already been assured that they are presently under no condemnation (Rom 8:1). However, the knowledge that our sin still infects everything we do—even our best works—means that grief and regret remain our constant companions in this life.
But that will no longer be the case in our eternal state. There, we will forget what is past, no longer influenced by anything that might reduce our full enjoyment of God. If you have placed your faith in Christ, you can be assured that your everlasting joy will be entirely unhindered by sin.
III. What Is Required ? (6b-8)
In the second half of v.6, God promises to satisfy the thirsty with “the water of life”. The psalmists convey a thirst for God’s presence (Ps 42:2; 143:6). The language alludes to…
Isaiah 55:1 ESV
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
How can God quench our thirst without payment? It can only be satisfied through Jesus Christ. In fact, that is what he said to the woman from Samaria (Jn 4:13-14) and again to the crowd gathered on the last day of the Feast of Booths (Jn 7:37). When we come to Christ by faith we immediately know something of the joy of our salvation, but we can also be confident “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).
The hope of our eternal reward increases the joy of every heart that thirsts for Christ.
Do you thirst? Do you long to be in the presence of God?
The purpose in revealing all of this to believers now, is so that we might persevere until we have fully received our heritage (7). Those who conquer will receive all the benefits and privileges of our adoption into the family of God.
Derek Thomas: The guarantee of heaven for the redeemed does not lessen one whit the need for a diligent pursuit of holiness. Heaven is gained through perseverance and not apart from it.
In contrast, John concludes with a warning to those who cowardly give in (8). Those who do not persevere will not enter the new heaven and new earth (1 Jn 2:19). Those who choose to remain in their sin will be eternally condemned. Those characterized by a life of sin will not “inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:10).
Even though believers once walked in these very same sins, and they remain vulnerable to committing them still, they have also been washed, sanctified, and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11).
Believers are no longer identified by their union with sin, but their union with Christ. They are no longer enslaved to the power of sin, but they are characterized by the work of God’s Spirit who has set them free.
The theme of this chapter is really not so much about the renewal of a place as much as it is about the renewal of a people, in order that they might be fit for eternal fellowship with God. It is the unlimited fellowship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God in the Garden of Eden that made it so wonderful. But, once they sinned, they sought to hide themselves from him. They immediately knew they were naked and felt shame for the first time. They were no longer fit for that communion. Since then, humanity has had a longing for the recovery of that perfect harmony with their Creator. But sin has marred their ability to find it.
There is an ugliness to the city of man—presently marred by depravity—that makes the gospel such good news! Our neighbors desperately need to hear that a renewed city awaits. It will be a city that is missing what so often characterizes this present world. It will be a city without conflict and division. It will be a city that has no need for hospitals or sick beds. It will be a city in which a funeral will never take place. It will be a city in which our deepest longings are quenched.
Since God is the “Alpha and Omega” of our salvation, he alone is capable of making us fit for heaven. And it is all the more remarkable that his only requirement of us, is that we recognize our need and turn to him. You have the opportunity to do so, even now!
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 4:03 PM March 2, 2020.