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37 - The New Heaven and the New Earth

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The New Heaven and the New Earth
(Revelation 21:1–8)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (21:1–8)

Intro. : Throughout the history of the church, God’s people rightly have been preoccupied with heaven. They have longed for its joys because they have been only loosely tied to this earth.

·         They have seen themselves as “strangers and exiles on the earth” who “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:13, 16).

·         With the psalmist they have said to God, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25–26);

·         and “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:1–2).

·         Through the centuries, that desire to see God (Matt. 5:8) and to be in His presence and enjoy Him forever (Ps. 16:11), that intense longing that nothing on this earth can satisfy (Heb. 11:13–16), has marked believers.

·         Sadly, that is no longer true for many in today’s church. Caught up in our society’s mad rush for instant gratification, material comfort, and narcissistic indulgence, the church has become worldly.

·         Nothing more graphically demonstrates that worldliness than the current lack of interest in heaven. The church doesn’t sing or preach much about heaven, believers seldom discuss it, songs are no longer written about it, and books about heaven are few and far between.

·         Believers who do not have heaven on their minds trivialize their lives, hinder the power of the church, and become absorbed with the fading things of this world.

·         The Bible makes it clear that believers are to focus on heaven.

·         In Philippians 3:20 Paul notes that “our citizenship is in heaven.”

·         To the Colossians he wrote, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1–2).

·         James rebukes worldliness in no uncertain terms: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

·         The apostle John adds: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15–17).

A heavenly perspective is vital, since everything connected to believers’ spiritual life and destiny is there. Their Father is there, as are their Savior and their Comforter. The myriads of their fellow believers who have successfully run their earthly races are there (Heb. 12:23). Believers’ names are recorded in heaven (3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; Phil. 4:3), they are citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), their inheritance is there (1 Pet. 1:4), and their reward (Matt. 5:12) and treasure (Matt. 19:21) are there. In short, everything of lasting importance to believers is in heaven; it is their home, and they are strangers, exiles, and pilgrims on earth (1 Chron. 29:15; Ps. 119:19; Heb. 11:13–16; 1 Pet. 2:11). Even death, the final enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), merely ushers believers into the presence of God. The words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:1, though cynical and pessimistic, are nevertheless true for the believer: “The day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” His intense longing for heaven led Paul to write, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.… [I have] the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” (Phil. 1:21, 23).

Desiring heaven exerts a powerful influence on believers’ lives here on earth. In his first epistle the apostle John described one of the main reasons Christians desire heaven: “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2; cf. Phil. 3:21). Believers will receive glorified bodies, similar to Christ’s resurrected body, in which they will “see Him just as He is” (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12). Then John gave the practical effect such knowledge should have on believers’ lives: “Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3; cf. 2 Pet. 3:14).

A genuine and strong longing for heaven has many important implications and benefits for the Christian. Such a longing is one of the surest indicators of genuine salvation, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).

A genuine and strong longing for heaven also produces the highest and noblest Christian character. Those who spend much time meditating on heavenly things cannot help but have their lives transformed.

A genuine and strong longing for heaven also brings joy and comfort in trials. Those who focus on heaven’s glories can endure anything in this life and not lose their joy. When they suffer, they can say with Paul, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).

A genuine and strong longing for heaven is also a preservative against sin. Those who set their minds on things above are less likely to become ensnared by earthly temptations. “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:5–6).

A genuine and strong longing for heaven will also maintain the vigor of believers’ spiritual service. Those who are negligent in the Lord’s work and make only a token, minimal effort to serve Him, demonstrate little regard for eternal things. They foolishly think that the reward for pursuing earthly things is greater than that for pursuing heavenly things.

Finally, a genuine and strong longing for heaven honors God above everything else. Those who focus on heaven focus on the Supreme One in heaven. By setting their hearts on Him, they honor the One whose heart is set on them.

Scripture refers to heaven more than five hundred times. Revelation alone mentions heaven about fifty times. The Bible delineates three heavens (2 Cor. 12:2). The first heaven is the earth’s atmosphere (Gen. 1:20; Job 12:7; Ezek. 38:20); the second heaven is interplanetary and interstellar space (Gen. 15:5; 22:17; Deut. 1:10; 4:19; Ps. 8:3; Isa. 13:10); the third heaven is the dwelling place of God (Deut. 4:39; 1 Kings 8:30; Job 22:12; Ps. 14:2; Dan. 2:28; Matt. 5:34; Acts 7:55; Heb. 9:24; 1 Pet. 3:22).

Heaven is an actual place, not a state of spiritual consciousness. That is evident because some have gone there in glorified bodies, such as Enoch (Gen. 5:24), Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), and the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:9). That Christ is presently preparing a place for believers and will one day return to take them to heaven (John 14:2–3; 1 Thess. 4:16–17) offers further proof that heaven is a place. The Bible does not give a location for heaven, but views it from the perspective of the earth as up (4:1; 2 Cor. 12:2). Though heaven is far beyond the created world in another dimension, when believers die they will be there immediately (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:8). Those believers alive at the Rapture will also be transported to heaven immediately (1 Thess. 4:13–18; 1 Cor. 15:51–55).

This text unfolds six features of the final and eternal heaven, called the new heaven and the new earth: the appearance of the new heaven and the new earth, the capital of the new heaven and the new earth, the supreme reality of the new heaven and the new earth, the changes in the new heaven and the new earth, the residents of the new heaven and the new earth, and the outcasts from the new heaven and the new earth.

1.       The Appearance of the New Heaven and the New Earth

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (21:1)

a.        The phrase kai eidon (I saw) is used throughout Revelation to indicate chronological progression (cf. 6:1, 2, 5, 8, 12; 7:2; 8:2, 13; 9:1; 10:1; 13:1, 11; 14:1, 6, 14; 15:1; 16:13; 17:3; 19:11, 17, 19; 20:1, 4, 11).

b.       It has introduced each of the climactic events beginning with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in 19:11.

c.        As chapter 21 opens, all the sinners of all the ages, as well as Satan and his demons, have been sentenced to the lake of fire (20:10–15). With all ungodly men and angels banished forever and the present universe destroyed (20:11), God will create a new realm for the redeemed and the holy angels to dwell in forever.

d.       The phrase a new heaven and a new earth derives from two passages in Isaiah.

                                                   i.      In Isaiah 65:17 God declared, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.”

                                                  ii.      In Isaiah 66:22 He added, “ ‘For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘so your offspring and your name will endure.’ ”

                                                iii.      What Isaiah predicted is now a reality in John’s vision.

e.        Kainos (new) does not mean new in a chronological sense, but new in a qualitative sense.

f.         The new heaven and the new earth will not merely succeed the present universe in chronological sequence; they will be something brand new, fresh, never before seen.

g.       God must create a new heaven and a new earth because the first heaven and the first earth passed away. God originally created the earth to be suitable as mankind’s permanent home.

h.       The entrance of sin, however, corrupted the earth and the universe, and God will destroy them (cf. 20:11). What lies ahead for the earth is not a nuclear or an ecological holocaust, but a divine judgment.

i.         The Old Testament describes the pollution and destruction of the present universe. Job 15:15 declares that “the heavens are not pure in His sight.”

                                                   i.      Isaiah 24:5 adds, “The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant.”

                                                  ii.      The psalmist writes, “Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed” (Ps. 102:25–26).

                                                iii.      The Lord Jesus Christ confirmed that Old Testament teaching when He declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Luke 21:33).

j.         The first hint of what the new heaven and new earth will be like comes in John’s observation that there will no longer be any sea.

                                                   i.      That will be a startling change from the present earth, nearly three- fourths of which is covered by water.

                                                  ii.      The sea is emblematic of the present water-based environment. All life on earth is dependent on water for its survival, and the earth is the only known place in the universe where there is sufficient water to sustain life.

                                                iii.      But believers’ glorified bodies will not require water, unlike present human bodies, whose blood is 90 percent water, and whose flesh is 65 percent water.

                                                iv.      Thus, the new heaven and the new earth will be based on a completely different life principle than the present universe.

                                                  v.      There will be a river in heaven, not of water, but of the “water of life” (22:1, 17).

                                                vi.      Without a sea, there can be no hydrological cycle, so that every feature of life and climate will be dramatically different.

k.        From a metaphorical perspective, commentators have seen the absence of the sea as symbolic of the absence of evil. Robert L. Thomas summarizes:

                                                   i.      Most justifiably see this void as representing an archetypical connotation in the sea (cf. 13:1; 20:13), a principle of disorder, violence, or unrest that marks the old creation (cf. Isa. 57:20; Ps. 107:25–28; Ezek. 28:8).… It is not that the sea is evil in itself, but that its aspect is one of hostility to mankind. For instance, the sea was what stood guard over John in his prison on Patmos and separated him from the churches of Asia.… The sea is the first of seven evils that John says will no longer exist, the other six being death, mourning, weeping, pain (21:4), the curse (22:3), and night (21:25; 22:5). (Revelation 8–22: An Exegetical Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1995], 440)

2.       The Capital of the New Heaven and the New Earth

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. (21:2)

a.        As the next stage in his vision unfolds, the apostle John moves from a description of the new heaven and the new earth in general to a description of the capital city of the eternal state.

b.       Since the text plainly identifies it as such, there is no reason to doubt that the holy city, new Jerusalem, is an actual city.

                                                   i.      The new Jerusalem is not heaven, but heaven’s capital.

                                                  ii.      It is not synonymous with heaven, because its dimensions are given in 21:16.

                                                iii.      It will be the third city named Jerusalem in redemptive history.

                                                iv.      The first is the historic Jerusalem, the City of David, which currently exists in Palestine. Scripture repeatedly calls it the holy city (11:2; Neh. 11:1; Isa. 52:1; Dan. 9:24; Matt. 4:5; 27:53) because it was set apart for God’s purposes.

                                                  v.      The second Jerusalem will be the restored Jerusalem where Christ will rule during the millennial kingdom.

                                                vi.      But the new Jerusalem does not belong to the first creation, so it is neither the historic city, nor the millennial city; it is the altogether new eternal city (cf. v. 10; 3:12; Heb. 11:10; 12:22–24; 13:14).

c.        The old Jerusalem, in ruins for twenty-five years when John received this vision, is too stained with sin, too much a part of the old creation to survive into the eternal state.

                                                   i.      The new Jerusalem is called the holy city because everyone in it is holy, since “blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection” (20:6).

                                                  ii.      The concept of a city includes relationships, activity, responsibility, unity, socialization, communion, and cooperation.

                                                iii.      Unlike the evil cities of the present earth, the perfectly holy people in the new Jerusalem will live and work together in perfect harmony.

d.       In his vision, John saw the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, its “architect and builder” (Heb. 11:10).

                                                   i.      The implication is that it already exists, a truth reinforced by Hebrews 12:22–23: “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.”

                                                  ii.      All of heaven is currently contained in the new Jerusalem; it is separate from the present universe, which is tainted by sin. Believers who die go to the “heavenly Jerusalem,” where Jesus has gone before them to prepare a place for them (John 14:1–3).

                                                iii.      But when God creates the new heaven and the new earth, the new Jerusalem will descend into the midst of that holy new universe (21:10), and serve as the dwelling place of the redeemed for all eternity.

                                                iv.      Since the throne of God will be in the new Jerusalem, which will come down to the new earth, that city will be the bond between the new earth and the new heaven.

e.        Further describing heaven’s capital city, John notes that it was made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

                                                   i.      The city is pictured as a bride because it contains the bride and takes on her character.

                                                  ii.      The imagery is drawn from a Jewish wedding, which typically had three parts.

1.        First was the betrothal, which was like a modern engagement, but more legally binding. The betrothal of the Lord’s bride took place in eternity past when God pledged to His Son a redeemed people.

2.       The next stage was the presentation, a time of celebration and feasting leading up to the actual wedding ceremony. The presentation of the bride took place following the Rapture of the church, when believers are taken to heaven.

3.        The third stage was the ceremony, which for the Lord’s bride began at the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7–9) and stretched through the millennial kingdom.

4.       The final stage was the consummation, which corresponds to the eternal state.

5.        John saw the bride adorned for her husband because it was time for the consummation.

6.       Adorned is from the verb kosmeō (“to order,” or “to arrange”); the related noun kosmos (translated “adornment” in 1 Pet. 3:3) is the root of the English word “cosmetics.”

7.        The bride has become appropriately ordered in all her beauty.

8.       By this point in Revelation, the bride concept expands to include not only the church (as it has since Acts 2), but also all the rest of the redeemed from all the ages who live forever in that eternal city (see the discussion of 19:9 in chapter 14 of this volume).

9.       This is the moment described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:28: “When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.”

3.       The Supreme Reality of the New Heaven and the New Earth

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, (21:3)

a.        The supreme glory and joy of heaven is the Person of God (cf. Ps. 73:25). Here, as twenty times previously in Revelation, a loud voice heralds an announcement of great importance. The source of the voice is not revealed. It is not God (who speaks in v. 5), but is probably an angel (cf. 5:2; 7:2; 14:9, 15, 18; 19:17).

                                                   i.      The portentous announcement he makes is Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men.” Skenē (tabernacle) can also mean “tent,” or “dwelling place.”

                                                  ii.      God will pitch His tent among His people; no longer will He be far off, distant, transcendent.

                                                iii.      No more will His presence be veiled in the human form of Jesus Christ, even in His millennial majesty, or in the cloud and pillar of fire, or inside the Holy of Holies.

                                                iv.      The amazing reality that “the pure in heart … shall see God” (Matt. 5:8) will come to pass.

                                                  v.      Christ’s prayer, recorded in John 17:24, will be answered: “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me” (cf. John 14:1–3; 1 Thess. 4:13–17).

b.       There will be “no temple in [heaven], for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (21:22). Their presence will permeate heaven and will not be confined to one place of manifestation.

c.        So staggering is this truth that the heavenly voice repeats it several ways. To the mind-boggling reality that the tabernacle of God is among men he adds the statement that God will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them (cf. 22:3–4). This will be a manifestation of God’s glorious presence to His people like no other in redemptive history and the culmination of all divine promise and human hope (Lev. 26:11–12; Jer. 24:7; 30:22; 31:1, 33; 32:38; Ezek. 37:27; 48:35; Zech. 2:10; 8:8; 2 Cor. 6:16).

d.       What will it be like to live in God’s glorious presence in heaven?

                                                   i.      First, believers will enjoy fellowship with Him. The imperfect, sin-hindered fellowship that believers have with God in this life (1 John 1:3) will become full, complete, and unlimited. In his classic book on heaven entitled The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, seventeenth-century Puritan Richard Baxter describes the intimate communion with God that believers will enjoy in heaven: Doubtless as God advanceth our senses, and enlargeth our capacity, so will he advance the happiness of those senses and fill up with himself all that capacity.… We shall then have light without a candle, and perpetual day without the sun.… We shall then have enlightened understandings without Scripture, and be governed without a written law; for the Lord will perfect his law in our hearts, and we shall be all perfectly taught of God. We shall have joy, which we drew not from the promises, nor fetched home by faith or hope. We shall have communion without sacraments, without this fruit of the vine, when Christ shall drink it new with us in his Father’s kingdom and refresh us with the comforting wine of immediate enjoyment. To have necessities, but no supply, is the case of them in hell. To have necessity supplied by means of the creatures, is the case of us on earth. To have necessity supplied immediately from God, is the case of the saints in heaven. To have no necessity at all, is the prerogative of God himself. (The Practical Works of Richard Baxter [reprint; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981], 7, 16)

                                                  ii.      Second, believers will see God as He is. In 1 John 3:2 the apostle John writes, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

1.        Such an unveiled view of God is impossible for mortal men.

2.       No living person has ever seen God in the fullness of His glory (John 1:18; 6:46; 1 John 4:12);

3.        He is invisible (Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1.17) and “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16; cf. Ps. 104:2), exposure to which would mean instant death for any living person (Ex. 33:20).

4.       But in heaven, “the pure in heart … shall see God” (Matt. 5:8), since they will be perfectly holy.

5.        They will be given an eternal and expanded vision of God manifest in His shining glory (21:11, 23; 22:5).

6.       Even the saints in heavenly glory will not be able to comprehend all the infinite majesty of God’s wondrous being. But they will see all that glorified beings are able to comprehend.

7.        Is it any wonder that Paul, thinking of the glory of heaven, had “the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” (Phil. 1:23)?

8.       In her marvelous but seldom sung hymn, “My Savior First of All,” Fanny Crosby echoed Paul’s sentiments:

When my life work is ended and I cross the swelling tide,

When the bright and glorious morning I shall see,

I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,

And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

Thru the gates to the city, in a robe of spotless white,

He will lead me where no tears will ever fall,

In the glad song of ages I shall mingle with delight—

But I long to meet my Savior first of all.

                                                iii.      Third, believers will worship God.

1.        Every glimpse of heaven in Revelation reveals the redeemed and the angels in worship (4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:1, 16; 19:4).

2.       That is not surprising, since Jesus said in John 4:23 that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

3.        In heaven, the glorified, perfected saints will offer God perfect worship.

                                                iv.      Fourth, believers will serve God (22:3).

1.        It is said of the saints in heaven pictured in 7:15 that “they serve [God] day and night in His temple.”

2.       Believers’ capacity for heavenly service will reflect their faithfulness in this life. All believers will be rewarded with capacities for heavenly service, but those capacities will differ (1 Cor. 3:12–15; 4:5).

                                                  v.      Finally, and most astounding of all, the Lord will serve believers. Jesus told a parable reflecting that truth in Luke 12:35–40: Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.Jesus pictures Himself as a wealthy nobleman, who returns to His estate after a long trip. Finding that his servants ministered faithfully in His absence, He rewards them by taking the role of a servant and preparing a feast for them. So will it be for believers in heaven, forever to be served a heavenly feast of joy by their Lord.

4.       The Changes in the New Heaven and the New Earth

and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (21:4–6a)

a.        Heaven will be so dramatically different from the present world that to describe it requires the use of negatives, as well as the previous positives.

b.       To describe what is totally beyond human understanding also requires pointing out how it differs from present human experience.

c.        The first change from their earthly life believers in heaven will experience is that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (cf. 7:17; Isa. 25:8).

                                                   i.      That does not mean that people who arrive in heaven will be crying and God will comfort them.

                                                  ii.      They will not, as some imagine, be weeping as they face the record of their sins. There is no such record, because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), since Christ “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24).

                                                iii.      What it declares is the absence of anything to be sorry about—no sadness, no disappointment, no pain. There will be no tears of misfortune, tears over lost love, tears of remorse, tears of regret, tears over the death of loved ones, or tears for any other reason.

d.       Another dramatic difference from the present world will be that in heaven there will no longer be any death (cf. Isa. 25:8).

                                                   i.      The greatest curse of human existence will be no more.

                                                  ii.      “Death,” as Paul promised, “is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).

                                                iii.      Both Satan, who had the power of death (Heb. 2:14) and death itself will have been cast into the lake of fire (20:10, 14).

e.        Nor will there be any mourning, or crying in heaven.

                                                   i.      The grief, sorrow, and distress that produce mourning and its outward manifestation, crying, will not exist in heaven.

                                                  ii.      This glorious reality will be the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:3–4: “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

                                                iii.      When Christ bore believers’ sins on the cross, He also bore their sorrows, since sin is the cause of sorrow.

f.         The perfect holiness and absence of sin that will characterize heaven will also mean that there will be no more pain.

                                                   i.      On the cross, Jesus was “pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).

                                                  ii.      While the healing in view in that verse is primarily spiritual healing, it also includes physical healing.

                                                iii.      Commenting on Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, Matthew 8:17 says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.’ ”

                                                iv.      The healing ministry of Jesus was a preview of the well-being that will characterize the millennial kingdom and the eternal state. The glorified sin free bodies believers will possess in heaven will not be subject to pain of any kind.

g.       All those changes that will mark the new heaven and the new earth indicate that the first things have passed away.

                                                   i.      Old human experience related to the original, fallen creation is gone forever, and with it all the mourning, suffering, sorrow, disease, pain, and death that has characterized it since the Fall.

                                                  ii.      Summarizing those changes in a positive way, He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

                                                iii.      The One who sits on the throne is the same One “from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (20:11).

                                                iv.      the present universe will be uncreated. The new heaven and the new earth will be truly a new creation, and not merely a refurbishing of the present heaven and earth.

                                                  v.      In that forever new creation, there will be no entropy, no atrophy, no decay, no decline, and no waste.

h.       Overwhelmed by all that he had seen, John seems to have lost his concentration.

                                                   i.      Thus, God Himself, the glorious, majestic One on the throne said to him Write, for these words are faithful and true” (cf. 1:19).

                                                  ii.      The words John was commanded by God to write are as faithful and true (cf. 22:6) as the One revealing them to him (3:14; 19:11).

                                                iii.      Though the present “heaven and earth will pass away,” still God’s “words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33).

                                                iv.      There will be an end to the universe, but not to the truth God reveals to His people. Whether or not men understand and believe that truth, it will come to pass.

                                                  v.      Also by way of summary, the majestic voice of the One sitting on heaven’s throne said to John, It is done.”

                                                vi.      Those words are reminiscent of Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Jesus’ words marked the completion of the work of redemption; these words mark the end of redemptive history.

                                               vii.      It is the time of which Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:24–28: Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. The One who sits on the throne is qualified to declare the end of redemptive history, because He is the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; cf. 1:8), the beginning and the end (cf. Isa. 44:6; 48:12).

                                             viii.      God started history, and He will end it, and all of it has unfolded according to His sovereign plan. That this same phrase is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ in 22:13 offers proof of His full deity and equality with the Father.

5.        The Residents of the New Heaven and the New Earth

I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (21:6b–7)

a.        Two descriptive phrases reveal who will live in the glorious new heaven and new earth.

                                                   i.      First, a citizen of heaven is described as one who thirsts. That phrase signifies those who, recognizing their desperate spiritual need, “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6).

1.        They are the ones to whom Isaiah cries out, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isa. 55:1).

2.       Those who will be redeemed and enter heaven are those who are dissatisfied with their hopeless, lost condition and crave God’s righteousness with every part of their being.

3.        The psalmist expressed that strong desire in Psalm 42:1–2: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?”

4.       The promise to such earnest seekers is that their thirst will be satisfied. God will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

5.        To the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well Jesus promised, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14).

6.       It is the water of which He spoke in John 7:37–38: “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” ’

7.        This same promise is also repeated in 22:17 (cf. 7:17): “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”

8.       The water in all those passages symbolizes eternal life. Those who thirst for and passionately seek salvation are the ones who will receive it and enjoy the eternal bliss of heaven.

                                                  ii.      Second, heaven belongs to he who overcomes.

1.        An overcomer, according to 1 John 5:4–5, is one who exercises saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

2.       The overcomer is the person who in faith drinks the water of salvation freely offered by God.

3.        John uses this distinctive term for believers in the closing promise of each of the letters to the seven churches (see the discussion of 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21 in Revelation 1–11, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1999], 53–141).

4.       The promise here to those who overcome is that they will inherit these things. They will “obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for [them]” (1 Pet. 1:4).

5.        They will enjoy perfection of soul (Heb. 12:23) and body (20:6; John 5:28–29; Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:35–44; 2 Cor. 5:2; Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:2) forever in the bliss of the new heaven and the new earth.

                                                iii.      But the most wonderful promise to the one who overcomes, who thirsts for righteousness, is God’s promise I will be his God (cf. Gen. 17:7–8; Ex. 6:7; 29:45; Lev. 26:12; Deut. 29:13; 2 Sam. 7:24; Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 24:7; 30:22; Ezek. 11:20; 34:24; 36:28; 37:23, 27; Zech. 8:8).

1.        Equally amazing is God’s promise that the one who overcomes will be My son.

2.       Even in this life it is the believer’s privilege to be the adopted son of the God of the universe (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14–17; 2 Cor. 6:18; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5; Heb. 12:5–9; 1 John 3:1).

3.        But only in heaven, when believers come into their inheritance (1 Pet. 1:4), will that adoption be fully realized (Rom. 8:23).

6.       The Outcasts from the New Heaven and the New Earth

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (21:8)

1.        John concludes his overview of the new heaven and the new earth with a serious and solemn warning.

2.       He delineates those who will be excluded from any participation in the blessings of heaven—all unforgiven and unredeemed sinners. There are similar lists of such sinners in 22:15; Romans 1:28–32; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; Galatians 5:19–21; and 2 Timothy 3:2–5.

3.        The first group excluded from heaven are the cowardly.

a.        These are the ones who lack endurance (cf. Matt. 24:13; Mark 8:35). They fell away when their faith was challenged or opposed, because their faith was not genuine.

b.       Jesus described such people in the parable of the soils: “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matt. 13:20–21).

c.        These are the ones who “shrink back to destruction” (Heb. 10:39). In John 8:31 Jesus defined those whose faith is genuine as those who continue in His Word.

4.       Because they lack saving faith and are unbelieving, their disloyalty excludes them from heaven.

a.        They are also abominable (vile, polluted, detestable, wholly caught up in wickedness and evil), murderers, immoral persons, sorcerers (from the Greek word pharmakos, from which the English words “pharmacy” and “pharmaceuticals” derive; that indicates the inclusion of those who use mind-altering drugs in occult religion), idolaters, and liars.

b.       Those whose lives are characterized by such things give evidence that they are not saved and will never enter the heavenly city.

c.        On the contrary, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

d.       In contrast to the eternal bliss of the righteous in heaven, the wicked will suffer eternal torment in hell.

e.        The new heaven and the new earth await believers and the final hell awaits resurrected unbelievers.

f.         For believers, it will be a universe of eternal happiness as they dwell forever in the glorious presence of God.

g.       For unbelievers, it will be a terrifying place of unbearable torment and unrelieved misery away from God’s presence (2 Thess. 1:9).

h.       The choices men and women make in this life determine in which of those realms they will live forever.


cf. confer (Lat.), compare

v. verse

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