Revelation commentary: chapter 21 - a new heaven and earth

by Don Koenig

 

1  And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

 

At the time of the second resurrection and the judgment, John also sees a new heaven and a new earth. This is still the same planet because scripture says in several passages that the earth is without end. The Greek word used for ďpassed awayĒ can also be used for changing from one condition to another. The earth and all creation were completely renovated by fire.

 

Eph 3:21  Unto him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Psa 78:69  And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.

 Ecc 1:4  One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever

 

As the earth and its atmosphere were changed by water during the time of Noah, the earth and atmosphere will be renovated by fire before its eternal state. The verse says there was no more sea. This may just mean no more Mediterranean sea, or it could mean that there will again be only one continent on the earth and the oceans will be outside of the landmass like they were before the earth was divided in the days of Peleg (1Ch 1:19). The scriptures say the earth will always have seedtime and harvest and for this to happen oceans are likely to be required (Gen 8:22). Of course I could be wrong.

 

2Pe 3:12  Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

13  Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

 

2  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

 

Many people get confused on this passage because they interpret the passage by the allegorical theology they have been taught. They seem to think that because New Jerusalem is prepared as a bride for her husband that New Jerusalem is the Church. Nowhere in scripture does it say that the city of New Jerusalem is the Church or the bride. However, the bride of Christ will be citizens that occupy New Jerusalem because New Jerusalem is the eternal dwelling place of the Lambís wife.

 

Jon 14:2  In my Fatherís house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

 

The Passage says the Holy City comes down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. The husband is not Jesus. If there actually is a husband, it is the people on the new earth but the passage is probably just a figure of speech for what John saw approaching the earth.

 

To understand the passage one might consider some conjecture that is not directly taught in scripture. It is not physically possible for the billions in the Body of Christ to dwell in Israel. The saints will live in the Holy City orbiting above the earth or in the third heaven and they will ascend and descend from it on assignment. Jacob had a dream vision where he saw angels ascending and descending upon the earth from heaven. In the era of the thousand-year reign, the immortal saved people will be ascending and descending to and from the Holy City.

 

Gen 28:12  And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and decending on it.

 

After the new heaven and earth are created, the Holy City takes orbit above the earth in the sight of those who dwell on the earth. The city is so beautiful it is said to come in appearance as a bride adorned for her husband. She will be a beautiful flawless city made by God. The city probably will not actually rest on the earth because of her enormous size. The laws of physics make that extremely unlikely.

 

3.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

 

Up until this point God had his own tabernacle in the third heaven but now it says the tabernacle of God is with men. All mankind in the new creation will be indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and His city will be visible in His creation.

 

4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

 

There will be no more death or sorrow on the new earth because the former things have passed away. The former things were the old creation and all those who corrupted it by transgressing Godís holy law. All creation will be regenerated back to the way God created it before Satan, his angels and fallen man corrupted it.

 

5  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

 

The person that sits upon the throne and that makes all things new is Jesus. He is the creator. He did not make a mistake with His original creation. He will regenerate creation back to the way He created it with the addition of the adornment of the Holy City and the bride who occupies it.

 

6  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

 

From prior passages in this book, we see that Jesus uses the title Alpha and Omega for Himself. Jesus makes it clear that the water of life He gives is a free gift for anyone who is thirsty for it.

 

7  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

 

The scriptures make it clear that we overcome by being washed in the blood of the Lamb. All who accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for forgiveness of their sins and drink the living water that comes from Jesus will become the sons of God and inherit all the things of God. If one inherits all things, it would exclude nothing given.

 

8  But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

 

In other words, those who do not come to Jesus for forgiveness will retain their sins. As a result, they will have their part in the Lake of Fire. Being cast in the Lake of Fire is the second death. (The first death is death of the body of flesh.) I wondered why it said the fearful would get this fate with the rest of these characters, until I understood that it is talking about those that feared the death of the body more than the death of the soul like those that received the mark of the Beast to save their physical lives.

 

9  And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lambís wife.

 

One of the seven angels is about to take John to see the bride of Christ. Some are confused by this because after the angel tells John he will take him to see the bride we see the structures of the Holy City described. They then jump to the conclusion that the Holy City is some mystical metaphor describing the body of Christ. Believing that John saw the Church as a structure by this statement, is equal to me saying I will take you to see the French and when we arrive in Paris you see the structures of Paris and then believe the structures are the French.

 

John can actually see the bride within the structure of the city because the walls of the city are clear as crystal. In fact, the whole city is transparent. There is nothing to hide. It should not even be surprising to anyone that the Holy City would be made to reflect the beauty of the bride of Christ. The city was made to be a perpetual memorial of Godís work in His people.

 

This city actually was created before the foundations of the world but Jesus is the one who prepared it for the arrival of His bride. The actual bride is the people that are one with Jesus within the city. There always has been one abode of God in heaven and one Holy City. God has occupied it ever since He created it. This is the Fatherís house that Jesus talked about; it is where Jesus came from and it is where He went after He rose from the dead. Jesus said in His Fatherís house are many dwelling places and that He will go and prepare a place for believers so that they can be where He is.

 

Joh 14:2  In my Fatherís house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

 

This is the city that Jesus prepared for His bride. New Jerusalem is the city of God adorned for the Lambís wife, the people of faith and the promise. This is the same city that Abraham the father of all people of faith expected to find (Heb 11:10). Jesus prepared it by writing names of the apostles on the foundations and the tribes of Israel on the gates and by adorning it with every kind of beauty, which reflects God in her. The names written on her foundational walls and on her gates are names of twenty-four Israelites, so it should be clear that the entire commonwealth of Israel dwells in the Holy City and not just the Church since Pentecost.

 

10  And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

 

John is carried in the spirit to a great and high mountain he could have even been taken to the moon. He was probably somewhere in space so he could get an unobstructed view of this city coming out of the second or third heaven toward the earth. The Holy City will be an awesome thing to see. It does not say the holy city will actually touch the earth. It might just remain in orbit. From the earth, it may look like a jeweled moon in the sky. It may cast different colors and light shows on the earth from the light within her and from the light reflected or refracted from the sun and moon through her twelve foundational colors that are studded with all types of precious stones.

 

11  Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

12  And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:

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 wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

 

Some like to make this structure the bride of Christ but what is being described is a city of great beauty that reflects the beauty of the redeemed of the commonwealth of Israel within her. John was looking at this city and describing what he saw. The city is of supernatural design. The names of the twelve tribes of Israel are written on the gates and the names of the twelve apostles are written on the twelve foundations. Nowhere does it say that the gates and foundations are actually those twenty-four men. The gates of the city will be a testament forever that salvation is through the Jews. This is what Jesus told the woman at the well.

 

Joh 4:22  Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

23  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

24  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

 

The access to the city is only through the gates of Israel; angels protect the gates (not St. Peter). The names on the foundations tell us that the saved in the city live on the teachings laid by the apostles. The city has three gates on each side and is four square in design.

 

The foursquare design speaks of Godís incarnation on earth as Messiah, Servant, Man, and Son of God. We also see this in the four creatures that surround His throne that have a face of a Lion, Ox, Man and Eagle. Even the four gospels of his sojourn on earth are written to reflect this truth. Matthewís emphasis is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Lion from the tribe of Judah (Lion); Markís emphasis is that Jesus came as a suffering servant (ox); Lukeís emphasis speaks of Jesus coming as the son of man (man); and Johnís emphasis tells of Jesusí heavenly origin (eagle).

 

15  And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.

16  And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

 

The Holy City is huge! It is 12,000 furlongs or approximately 1,500 miles in length, width and height. With this description, the Holy City either has to be a cube or a pyramid. I lean toward it being pyramid in shape and I would not discount the possibility that the Great Pyramid of Egypt was a scale model of what was once seen in heaven or described as being in heaven. The original Great Pyramid had an outer coating that reflected light. This coating has been plundered so the pyramid does not look as majestic as it once did. If this pyramid is a scale model of the Holy City, it was a model of the city before it was adorned for the Lambís wife.

 

The physical dimensions of the city itself rules out any notion that what is being described is the mystical body of Christ. Those that hold the theology that the Holy City itself is the body of Christ seem to be saying that those who live in this city have become part of a spatial structure Ė something like the Borg did in the Star Trek series. The role these theologians seem to teach that we have in heaven is to be stuck in a structure for eternity playing our harps while continually praising God for sticking us in the walls. Some heaven! No wonder those stuck in the pews of such churches have little motivation to believe and trust God for salvation so they can go to the heavenly city.

 

17  And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.

18  And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.

19  And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;

20  The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.

21  And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

 

Johns gives further description of the holy city. It is breathtaking in beauty. There are twelve foundation colors of jewels and the foundations themselves are garnished with all types of precious stones. The city itself is made of clear gold glass crystal and so are the streets. Each gate is made out of a single pearl. Some of these colors mentioned have changed in meaning over the years so we cannot be certain about all the actual colors.

 

22  And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

 

There will be no place of worship in the Holy City because God and the Lamb are visible to all and worshiped by all. The Spirit of God will indwell all who live there. All in the city will have direct access to the Holy of Holies. God will be worshiped there in spirit and in truth (Joh 4: 23, 24).

 

Notice, the Lamb in this city is equal in status to the Lord God Almighty yet they are distinctly different persons.

 

23  And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

 

The city itself is not the new earth. Scripture indicates that there will be sunshine, moonshine, and seasons on the earth forever (Psa 72:5). The Holy City will not need the light of the sun or moon because it will be lit by the glory of God.

 

24  And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

 

The nations really mean the different tribes of gentiles. All the saved will walk in the light of the Holy City. Notice that it says the kings of the earth will continue to bring their glory and honor into the Holy City so the city is not all that exists. They most likely will bring gifts into the city on special feast days. These passages seem to indicate that there is a distinction between those who live in the Holy City and the saved that dwell on the new earth.

 

25  And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

26  And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.

 

The gates would not even exist if all saved make up the Holy City and the bride as some theologians teach. Someone besides just the Lambís wife is going in and out of the gates.

 

27  And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lambís book of life.

 

Only those written in the Lambís book of life will be allowed to enter the gates to the Holy City. Those in the Lake of Fire will never have access to the Holy City. If those in the Lambís book of life enter the Holy City, it implies that some also go out the gates and leave, so not all in the new creation dwell in the Holy City. If all that have eternal life dwelled in the Holy City there would be no need for these passages about gates to be written at all. It seems to me that most in the Lambís book of life are living on the earth (or possibly elsewhere in the universe see chapter 22). However, they will be allowed to enter the Holy City. Why even have a new earth if no one saved is living on it? The notion most Christians hold that all people will be living in either heaven or hell in eternity makes no common sense from the scriptures.

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