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"The New Heaven and Earth" Revelation 21:1-8

The Fallen, Cursed Order (vv. 1-2)

A New Heaven and Earth (Isa. 65:17)

There is a new age coming, a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells. This vision describes the blessings of the redeemed that follow the great white throne judgment. We are permitted to look over the horizon of this age and cosmos into the eternal order of our existence. When describing our blessedness then, the Spirit utilizes some of our blessings in Christ now, otherwise we could not conceive of that age. Whatever the points of connection are, the new heaven and earth will be of a vastly different and superior order. For example, our resurrected bodies will resemble our present bodies, but there will be significant differences. “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44). In the resurrection age to come, our physical bodies will have fully spiritual qualities, powers, and modes of existence that will enable us to live in the new heaven and earth. Isaiah prophesied of this new heaven and earth, and he did so in ways that resonated with those living under the old covenant – long life, no diseases, peace, and prosperity. These are true as far as they go, but they are but shadows of the new cosmos that the Lord will create when he returns.

The First Heaven and Earth Ended (2 Pet. 3:9-10)

The present heaven and earth, the physical cosmos, will come to an end. If we believe God’s word that he created the universe, then we should and must accept his word that he will bring its existence to a decisive end. The Christian philosophy is at constant war with atheistic materialism and its faith commitment to the eternity of matter. Scripture describes this ending metaphorically as a “folding up of a garment” (Heb. 1:10-12). Peter wrote that they will pass away with fervent heat, the implication being that a fiery conflagration will end this present order of existence and give way to the new. Godly men are divided over whether or not Peter’s fire is to be taken literally or symbolically as a renovation of the old, but what he describes is not a progressive transition from this age to the next but a jarring and decisive end to the first heaven and earth. The present heaven and earth, cursed and groaning (Rom. 8:22) on account of our rebellion and resulting curse, will not survive into the heavenly age. There will be a physical earth, but a new one. It will not be brought about by the efforts of men but by the creative power of God in Christ. This revealed truth should make us reject completely the various utopias (no-where’s) envisioned by the technocrats, Federal Reserve money launderers, and Babel-builders. All they have is this life, and they do the devil’s work in building man’s city and controlling men with their machines, climate geo-engineering, modifications of foods and seeds, and generally going about as busy bodies trying to enrich and empower themselves. We need not wonder at their hatred of God. We need not fear their schemes. Their wrath serves his purposes, and he restrains them from passing his decreed bounds for them.

No More Sea (Rev. 13:1; Isa. 57:20)

In the new heaven and earth, there will be no more sea. It is possible that the absence of seas and oceans will be a geological feature of the age to come. There will be no night or need of sunlight (Rev. 22:5). But Revelation is an apocalyptic book; literalism is not the best way to interpret its signs and symbols. It is more likely that John means that there will not be a whiff of the devil and his dragon. The dragon arose from the sea (Rev. 13:1). Isaiah wrote that “the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (Ia. 57:20). No more sea means that there will be absolutely no source of evil in the age to come – nothing that will trouble our rest and enjoyment of God and purified souls and bodies. We shall not serve him with the slightest shadow of the former evils that plagued us or our corruption that brought God’s curse upon the entire created order.

New Jerusalem Coming Down from Heaven

John sees another vision – of the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. This new city is a new person – the perfected, glorified church of Jesus Christ revealed in all her radiant glory (21:9-27). John sees the Lamb’s bride (21:9). That she comes down out of heaven means that we do not produce this beauty in ourselves or perfect what concerns us. God our Father does. She is “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The passive verb stresses that God himself prepares his Son’s wife. There is so much emphasis in this age upon what we can do that we forget what our Savior said: “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is only in Christ Jesus that we have strength (Phil. 4:13). Our sufficiency is of God (2 Cor. 3:5). It is Christ who lives in us, and we live by faith in him, drawing from him every bit of strength, wisdom, and guidance we need. God’s working will be much clearer after the great white throne judgment, when the Lamb’s bride is seen in her eternal glory. Then, all the talk and glory will be of God’s grace, not man’s wisdom or works. All the boasting, the exulting, the hands uplifted, and universe-rattling singing will be of God’s great work in Christ to prepare his eternal dwelling place, the church, his wife, with whom our Lord will live in wedded bliss forever.

The Beatific Vision (vv. 3-6)

God’s Fellowship Enjoyed (v. 3)

The dominating blessing of the coming age will be fellowship with God. Each aspect of this vision emphasizes how much God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – desires to live in fellowship with us. He does not need us, of course, but he made us for himself, and us for him. We do not complete him, but we are his image. In communion with him by his grace and mercy, he has a satisfaction in us, a delight in us that causes him to sing (Zeph. 3:17). When most think of heaven, they think in terms of having unending Christmas, whatever their heart desires. It is nauseatingly self-focused. When the Holy Spirit speaks of heaven and the age to come, it is the mutual satisfaction of God and the Lamb’s Bride, in one another’s love, in fellowship. Using Old Testament tabernacle language and the central promise of the covenant, God will dwell with us. Our Savior “tabernacled” with us when he took upon himself our flesh, so this idea should also be included (John 1:14). From the beginning, God made us to dwell with him. Adam’s highest delight was his daily afternoon walk and talk with God. In heaven, this shall be restored – the covenant promise of God’s presence enjoyed will be realized. Redemption restores this fellowship in principle, but we live in this fallen order, and we are fallen. We groan and travail, reach for God and often do not find him, for there is much in us that still offends. He loves us and is reconciled to us through the blood of his Son. In the heavenly order, our relationship with him will be without sin or weariness in holy things, which now plagues us, without the separation and dissatisfaction from him that results from our sinfulness.

God’s Consolation Received (v. 4)

No small part of his fellowship will be his consoling hand upon us. He will wipe away all our tears. Remember, this is not the consolation of sentimentality, though heavenly sentiment will be a weight of delightful glory. Those who struggle to feel joy now will have no struggle later. Our tears are our own fault, and when the Lord wipes them away, takes away all our dying and sorrow, crying and pain, his consolation will magnify his grace. It will be overwhelming, peacefully overwhelming, joyfully overwhelming, that the One against whom we have sinned has restored us to his full fellowship. We rebelled; he recovered. We sinned against him; he provided satisfaction for us in his Son. We hate him on account of our sin and separation, but he loved us and sent his Son to redeem us. And then, never will there be tears at a funeral or sorrow over sin. We will know Psalm 51 and brokenness before the cross, for we shall never forget what our Savior has done for us and that we have come to this blessedness only because he plunged into our hell to rescue us. But there will be no more guilt crying for atonement and pain pleading for forgiveness. There will be no more sin, only our Savior’s delight in doing the will of his Father. We cannot now imagine this consolation and what it will mean to us. We have never lived without the stain of sin upon the conscience, without some measure of sin’s stress, foreboding, and fear. These things paralyze, cause disease, and create underlying pain and sorrow that is ended for the believer only by death. In the new heaven and earth, we shall exist, serve, love, work, and worship without any of these miseries. This will be heaven – more than the glories we shall see, more than the beloved people to whom we shall be restored, and more than other pleasure. God himself will be our heaven, our comfort, our peace, our delight. We shall be back with him, as he created us to be.

God’s Word in Christ Certain (v. 5)

If there is one reason to doubt the Christian faith, it is because these things are too good to be true. How can it be that you and I should be in such a place as the new heaven and earth, with such a loving God and Father, Savior, and Spirit in whose presence we shall live and serve and worship forever? Therefore, “he that sat upon the throne” gives his own certification to John. “Write these things.” They are true and faithful. This is part of our Savior’s name (Rev. 3:14; 19:11). And since he names himself, “I am Alpha and Omega,” we are here confronted with the certainty of God’s promises in the Mediator of the covenant, the Son of God. By this time he will have handed over the perfected kingdom to his Father (1 Cor. 15:24). Nevertheless, all these blessings are true and certain to us because of him who loved and died for us, the Son of God who humbled himself to become our Surety and Redeemer. Any one of us must doubt our worthiness to come to this place of joy and peace, but we must look upon our Savior to gain assurance. The more clearly we see him, rest upon him for salvation, and trust him as the one in whom all God’s promises are “yes and a-men,” the more peace, certainty, and assurance he will give us. Assurance of heaven is not a feeling, work, or experience; it is a Person, Jesus Christ.

God’s Refreshment Bestowed (v. 6)

And so that we can have some point of reference for our destination, he renews the promise he uttered in John 7:37 – “I will give unto him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.” We begin to taste of this water, the fullness of life we have in him, when we believe upon his name and walk with him. Jesus Christ truly satisfies our thirst, as he said to the Samaritan woman (John 4:14). But do we not often still feel thirsty? The fault is not in the heavenly water but in our sinful selves. The moments we enjoy fellowship with our Savior and a sense of our Father’s favor through him we are truly satisfied. We want nothing else, can imagine nothing else to be needed for our full contentment. But we do not remain in this fellowship – not yet. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.” Here is the promise. He is making all things new for us. There is coming for us a drinking, and such a drinking it will be, when we taste with renewed tongues the water of heaven, the water flowing from God’s throne, the water flowing from Christ. It will wash over us with such complete satisfaction that we shall never long for these present shadow lands and shallow tastes of God’s grace. We shall be complete in our Father’s love and satisfied with his perfect likeness formed in us. We shall drink and feel our completeness in him, his love for us. We shall reach our promised inheritance. Then and only then, raised and perfected, consoled and in fellowship with our God, will we realize the purpose of our existence. The joy will never be diminished, never be disturbed. We shall then have the faculties, body and soul, to live satisfied, to live at peace with God, to work and serve in the joy of righteousness. Our hearts will never grow cold in love or weary in holiness. God himself will refresh us. He will be the life and light of our lives.

Sheep and Goats a Very Different Future (vv. 7-8)

All the Blessings to those Who Overcome (v. 7)

And who shall be with the Lord forever in his kingdom? Those who overcome. This has been a consistent theme throughout Revelation (2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,31). To overcome is to be victorious. This is not the victory of positive thinking but of God’s grace in us. It is by faith that we overcome the world (1 John 5:4), so the Lord is not throwing us back upon our own strength. Faith is looking away from ourselves, not trusting ourselves, not following our own hearts, but looking to God’s word as our guide, his grace in Christ as our worthiness, and his promises as our only strength and sustenance. He is calling us to faithfulness by walking in union and communion with our Savior. Much of overcoming in this first earth and heaven is not seen by results but by persistence in seeking the Lord and abiding in his word. Overcoming does not mean the battle ends in this life – it means we continue fighting the battle in faith, no matter how many times we are besieged by the world, the flesh, and the devil. The Lord gives us strong motivation to overcome. We shall inherit all things. And since this promise is joined to the great covenant promise, “And I will be his God, and he shall be my son,” the implication is that those who overcome will inherit – possess and enjoy by legal grant of God’s grace – all the blessings of the covenant. We may have some tastes of these blessings now, but we are on the battlefield. Our sinful flesh is always lashing out at the Spirit (Gal. 5:18). Keep believing, seeking Jesus Christ, and fighting, child of God. The victor’s crown will soon be upon our heads.

All Cursed for the Fearful and Unbelieving (v. 8)

John is given a character description of those who are cast into the lake of fire. They are fearful, which in the context of Revelation implies unwillingness to stand for Jesus Christ when it matters most. The fearful are those who bow to the beast, for they love this world more than the living God, his Son, and his heavenly kingdom. Abominable means foul or having a stench. Their lives do not show the perfume of grace but the world’s stench. Murders and fornicators do not forsake by God’s grace the two main duties we have to one another – to preserve life and purity. A sorcerer is someone who uses so-called magical remedies to obtain health rather than turning to the Lord. Liars may seem a strange conclusion to the list, but the “faithful and true witness” who does not lie works love for the truth in all the citizens of his city (2 Thess. 2:10). Works, inner and outer, reveal our heart commitments and loves. The best Christians must fight against sin, so this is not a declaration that only the perfect go to heaven. It is a declaration that if we love our sins, do not prayerfully fight against them, endeavor to forsake them, weep over them and confess them to the Lord, we have reason to question our attachment to the Lamb of God and our final dwelling place. Shall we be the Lord’s temple or be cast into the lake of fire? It is far better to face these issues now than when there is no remedy for them in the blood of Jesus Christ. Receive and rest upon him. Believe that he is the Son of God who died on the cross and rose from the dead. Bow to him as Lord and Christ.

All These Things Will Be, Therefore…(2 Pet. 3:11-13)

The Lord has given us a brief glimpse of what will be, but the glimpse is transforming. Since there will be a new heaven and earth, since the present order of things will end, and since you and I are either destined for the new world of life with God or the lake of fire, how then should we live? What should be our priorities and purpose in life? Peter says we should be holy and godly. We should live intentionally separate from sin and fight against it all our days. We should not love the world or things in it. Since the Father has so loved us that he has redeemed us from the lake of fire, we should live respectfully toward him. This is what true godliness is – when we reverence the Lord for his sovereignty and right over us, and even more for his great love for and grace to us. You and I would surely perish in the lake of fire unless he had loved us. Let us respect his word, his people, and his church. Let us live as those who are accountable to him. We are twice bought, twice his – by creation and by redemption.

Peter adds that we should be looking for and earnestly desiring the dissolution of this order and the coming of the new? It is strange to desire our present homes to be burned up, the present order about which we care so much. It is all that we have ever known. So many wars have been fought over turf that will be burned up and political programs that will perish. As believers in Jesus Christ and in the new heaven and earth, we must look for something better. This does not mean we are indifferent to this life and this earth, but we must make sure that the works we do here will follow us into the world to come. Are they done for Jesus Christ and for his honor? Do we love the Lord our God and labor to please him in all things? Where are our affections set – upon Jesus Christ and his kingdom? Or, upon what we want here to make us comfortable and satisfied. We cannot serve God and money, this age and the age to come. The more we look for the coming age, and long for it, the more faithful and earnest we shall be to honor the Lord in this present age (1 Cor. 15:58). Heavenly mindedness inspires faithfulness, courage, and sacrifice. Heavenly mindedness empowers obedience and opposition to all that offends him. We shall soon stand before the Lord, and his pleasure is our desire, his approval our reward.

Peter concludes with an earnest gospel entreaty – that we should be diligent to be found in him, in peace, without spot or blemish. Peace means that we are walking in a friendly and obedient way with our Savior and his people. The way of the new heaven and earth is peace through righteousness. God is a peacemaker and a peace-lover. This is one reason we are not to fight among ourselves, get bogged down in divisive questions, but flee strife, especially verbal strife. We are at peace with God, and we must live in peace with each other, as far as it depends upon us. Since a new heaven and earth are coming, Peter says be sure you know the Lord who will make all things new. Be sure you are living before his face without spot or blemish. We are pilgrims and strangers here. We cannot seek God’s new city if we are bogged down in the sins and loves of our age. We must fight them, put them off by the power of Jesus Christ, and put on the new man of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The Lord is longsuffering, he says, finally, for he knows how weak we are. Rest is coming. Keep fighting, keep moving forward inch by inch to God’s eternal city – in your affections, thoughts, and decisions. What will promote Christ in me and my family? What will honor the King in my sphere of influence and community? What will hasten the coming of his eternal kingdom? This is our home, and how earnestly we should labor to arrive there!

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