Revelation: Chapter 21
The conclusion of this great book of the Bible is now at hand in this chapter and the next. As seen in the chronology of Revelation, John is viewing all of these things that are set for eternity future from the vantage point of the new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem throughout Revelation 21:1-27.
Revelation 1-19 described premillennial events, Revelation 20 described millennial events, and Revelation 21-22 are about post-millennial events. The juxtaposition of Genesis 1-2 with Revelation 21 reveals intriguing comparisons and insights on what we can expect in eternity future. Genesis records three creative works of God: first, the heaven and earth, Genesis 1:1, second, life in the seas, earth and air on the fifth day, Genesis 1:21-22, and third, man in God’s own image, Genesis 1:26-27:
- All other things were made from what was previously created
- There are two spheres of activities, heaven and earth
Revelation 21 does not show God creating anything but making all things new, Revelation 21:5, just as He does in our lives when we believe in Christ Jesus, 2Corinthians 5:17. There will be three new spheres of activities, heaven, earth, and the new Jerusalem.
The beginning of the future eternity is described here, the most glorious time and with permanence for all who are in Christ. This fulfills all that the Lord had intended for all people, and the desire of His heart that He saw when He laid down His life willing for us! Hebrews 12:2. Paul referred to these times when he wrote to the church at Ephesus, Ephesians 1:10. Because of the great love of God, and since all believers have been brought together in Christ, we will be able to enjoy the rest in His presence and in His glory, Ephesians 2:6-7, and Ephesians 2:19-22.
The end of Revelation 20:1-15 concludes the major chapter in God's plan of redemption for mankind, and judgment. The passing away of the heavens and earth, Matthew 24:35, is the great division between the past era and the future eternity.
Revelation 21:1-27 and Revelation 22:1-21 provide a view that is not widely written of concerning the eternal future for every person whose name is written in the Lamb's book of life. There are some passages in scripture that look forward to this time, but not in the quantity as other topics such as the millennial reign of Christ, the tribulation, of Christ's first and second advents, etc. Some of the passages that do describe this future are similar to Paul writing to the Romans, where he said that this is the time that all creation has been waiting for, Romans 8:18-25.
|1-5||All things made new|
|6-8||It is done|
|9-10||The new Jerusalem|
|11-21||Physical description of the new Jerusalem|
|22-27||No more temple|
Revelation 21:1, John now sees a new heaven and new earth, and reports that both had passed away, but not obliterated. Just as we are saved, with the old Adam put away and the new Adam is alive, Romans 6:6-11. The Apostle Peter wrote in his epistle the process on how this change occurred and that people will choose to ignore God's word, 2Peter 3:5-7. This follows the day of the Lord and after the millennium, when the heavens disappear with a roar, and the elements will be destroyed by fire, and everything on and in the earth will be destroyed by fire, which will result in a new heaven and new earth, 2Peter 3:10-13, Isaiah 65:17, Isaiah 66:22-24. God will totally erase any remnant of the past creation through quaking, not only on earth, but in the heavens as well, Hebrews 12:26-27. All of our satellites which we have sent into deep space will be destroyed. There will be no fossil record, or archaeological artifacts to discover to provide a record of man's activities, and his sinful ways in general. Instead, we will be looking forward to see all of the creative works God will continue to do in this new Earth and Heaven.
John further observes that there is no more sea, which in scripture has served as a natural barrier to nations intermingling and an impediment to nations interacting with one another. The seas have also been associated with the sin and the sinful will of man, Isaiah 57:20-21, James 1:6-8, Jude 1:11-13.The world as we know it today and universal understandings of space and time will be different then what we experience today.
Revelation 21:2, John sees the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, but note that it does not say that it comes to reside on earth. What he does describe in this verse is the beauty of the holy city, and prepared as a bride, which is related in many ways throughout scripture to the church. The entire Christian experience, including this event, parallel the Jewish marriage customs:
- John the Baptist was witness that Christ was the bridegroom and he was the friend of the bridegroom, John 3:26-29.
- The New Jerusalem is associated with the Bride of Christ, Revelation 19:6-9
- It is the dwelling place of the bride, which is what occurs in the customary Jewish wedding. Here Christ has prepared a place for the bride after he had returned for her, John 14:1-4, which occurred at the rapture of the church, 1Thessalonians 4:15-18
- The church as the dwelling in which the Spirit of the Lord lives, Ephesians 2:19-22
- The church which is the body of Christ, is married to Him, Romans 7:4
- The mystery of the church is equated to the relationship between a husband and wife, Ephesians 5:29-33
- The church is the wild branch that was grafted into the olive tree, Romans 11:13-29
- Paul spoke of the (new) Jerusalem that is above and free, Galatians 4:25-27, Hebrews 12:22-24
Christ’s relationship is with those whom He died for, and desired to be with. He prayed that as He and the Father are one, that we would be one with them, John 17:21. Christ does not have a relationship with a thing, object, or a building. All of these passages demonstrate that the beauty of the city that John describes is more than a mere object of affection, but is in fact the abode of His wife.
Revelation 21:3, John hears a loud voice from the throne, which is God's voice, announcing three very important and unique relationships; that the dwelling of God is now with man, that God will now live with them, and that we are to be His people and He our God. The Lord first walked in the garden with Adam and Eve before sin entered into the world, Genesis 3:8-9, but sin separated man from God, which only the blood of Jesus on the cross could settle once and for all, Romans 3:20-26, Hebrews 9:27-28.
The Lord had redeemed the children of Israel from Egypt, but because of the sin of Israel the Lord told Moses at the base of Mount Sinai that he would not go with them along the way to the promised land, as He might destroy them, Exodus 33:1-6. The Lord did meet with Moses in a tent outside of the camp while the tabernacle was being constructed, Exodus 33:7. With the tabernacle, the Lord promised to have His dwelling place among them, Leviticus 26:11-13. However, there was always the wall of separation between the holy of holies from the holy place, until the Lord came to redeem all mankind on the cross, Hebrews 9:11-28.
Today, during the church age, we are the temple of the living God, 2Corinthians 6:16-18. Paul also wrote in an earlier letter to the Corinthians that our works were to be tested, and if we have done well for the kingdom of God. Those whom have done will receive rewards, whereas those who did not would suffer loss, though not their salvation. Within this context Paul again reiterates that we are the temple of God and that we are to be holy, 1Corinthians 3:16-17. Then again, Paul points to this separation from the world where in a latter chapter in this same book that as the temple of God, we are to flee sexual immorality. For we are bought with a price and we are to glorify God in our body and spirit, which belong to God, 1Corinthians 6:19-20.
Christ spoke through the prophet Ezekiel that He would dwell among His people Israel, Ezekiel 37:24-28. During that 1,000 year reign of Christ, He is dwelling in His temple immediately north of the city Jerusalem. At that time, all promises made to His people will be fulfilled.
In these past examples in the Old Testament, the church age, and the millennial reign of Christ, the population consists of those who believe in God and follow His ways, and those who choose not to follow Him. However, in eternity future, the permanent and eternal separation between the righteous and the wicked have occurred at the great white throne judgment, and now the fullness of God is among mankind in the new heaven and new earth, which will consist of only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life, Revelation 21:27.
Revelation 21:4-5, John hears the loud voice of the Lord from the throne describing aspects of this new environment that He prepared for eternity future. In the new heaven and new earth there is:
- no more tears
- no more death, because it was cast into the lake of fire, Revelation 20:14
- no more mourning
- no more crying
- no more pain
God proclaims that "it is done...", Revelation 21:6. In the Lord’s priestly prayer the night before His crucifixion, He said the work the Father had given Him was finished, John 17:1-5. The three public declarations by the Lord:
- For redemption: On the cross He completed the work needed to redeem all mankind, John 19:28-30, Matthew 27:50, Colossians 1:12-20
- For judgment: Upon the completion of the world’s judgment with the pouring out of the seventh bowl to make the Lord’s enemies His footstool, Revelation 16:17-18, Psalms 110:1-2, Hebrews 10:11-14
- For glorification: In the ages to come God showed the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. As the children of God, we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. In that position, we partake of the joy that was set before Christ Jesus as He endured the cross. It is Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith, Romans 8:16-17, Hebrews 12:2, Ephesians 2:7-9
"It is done" fulfills what was promised to the Lord by the Father, wherein after the cross, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool, Hebrews 10:11-14. The promise was made to Christ concerning His enemies by the Father, Psalms 110:1, Hebrews 1:10-12. What is done is all the work God had done to restore mankind to Himself since his fall in the garden of Eden, to include the very end when the earth and heavens are burnt with fire, Colossians 1:12-20.
The Lord also reiterates His title as the Alpha and Omega, which He first revealed to John when He revealed His glorified nature at the beginning of the book of Revelation, Revelation 1:8. He revealed Himself to the churches, Revelation, 1:11 and in the context of eternity future, Revelation 21:6, Revelation 22:13.
Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which man can be saved, Acts 4:10-12. Christ is the author of our salvation, Hebrews 5:8-10, the author and finisher of our faith, Hebrews 12:1-3. The summation of this salvation is that no one who is thirsty will be refused to drink of the water of life, Psalm 36:9, John 4:10-14.
In Revelation 21:7, John writes that he that overcomes will be His son, Galatians 4:4-7. They will inherit all that the Lord has in store for His own in eternity future because they overcame the world, 1John 5:4-5. He wrote to all the churches, with a note to those whom overcome:
- Revelation 2:7 (Ephesus), be given the right to eat from the tree of life
- Revelation 2:11 (Smyrna), will not be hurt by the second death
- Revelation 2:17 (Pergamum), give some of the hidden manna, and a white stone with a new name written on it
- Revelation 2:26 (Thyatira), will have authority over the nations
- Revelation 3:5 (Sardis), be dressed in white, and will never be blotted out of the book of life, and will be acknowledged before the Father
- Revelation 3:12 (Philadelphia), will have a pillar in God's temple
- Revelation 3:21 (to all), will have the right to sit with Christ on His throne
In contrast to overcomers, He lists those who will not be part of his new kingdom, but have their part in the lake of fire. That is those who are:
- Fearful (not having faith In Christ)
- Unbelieving (not accepting Christ and the salvation He offers)
- Abominable (not living the life of Christ)
- Murderers (Christ said that even thoughts of such things are a witness against us)
- Fornicators (Christ said that even lusting after another woman is a witness against us)
- Sorcerers (drug abuse, horoscopes, fortune telling and the sort, are all a form of demon worship, and is against God)
- Idolaters (letting anything come between us and the worship of Christ)
- All liars (we must always watch our way, for so much evil starts with a lie)
Those in the above list are also mentioned as partaking of the second death. This is not an indication that sinners will also occupy the new heaven and new earth, but rather, who will not. For it specifically addresses them as being part of the second death, Luke 21:34-36.
Revelation 21:8, the Lord then lists those who will not take part of this new world and heavens. Their part is in the lake of fire of burning sulfur, which is again is equated to the second death. Anyone in either the presence of the Lord, or in the lake of fire, are there eternally.
Revelation 21:9-10, an angel associated with the group of seven that poured out the bowl judgments onto the world now guides John to show him the bride, the wife of the Lamb, which is the place of her dwelling. John is taken in the spirit to another location, a great, high mountain, to witness the descending of the holy city, Jerusalem, coming out of heaven. Recall that up until now, we have either seen God's throne area or the temple which Moses modeled after the earthly tabernacle.
Revelation 21:11-14, the new city is seen by John to shine brilliantly like the glory of God, and with the quality of a very precious jewel:
- The city had a high wall with 12 gates with an angel at each gate
- On each gate was written the names of the 12 tribes of Israel
- The order of the names are not given as it was for the holy city during the millennial reign of Christ
- There are three gates on each side of the city, north, south, east, and west
- The city had 12 foundations named after the 12 apostles of the Lamb
The twelve apostles have their names written on the foundations of the holy city. 11 of the apostles are listed in Acts 1:12-13: Peter, John, James, and Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
There is some debate who the 12th disciple is. In Acts 1:26, after casting lots over two men who fit the conditions, the lot fell upon Matthias. Even though this was done prior to the power of Holy Spirit falling upon all the disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, the day the Lord was resurrected, He breathed the Holy Spirit on them, John 20:22. theirdecision was also in fulfillment of scripture. Paul could not fulfill these requirements to fill the position left open by the death of Judas, particularly since Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, whereas Peter was the apostle to the Jews, Galatians 2:7-8.
God's man may well have been Saul of Tarsus, later going by the name of Paul. Saul was blinded by the Lord on the road to Damascus. Upon his healing, the Lord revealed to Paul many mysteries that were kept from the other 12 apostles.
Revelation 21:15-21, the angel now displays a measuring reed of gold, and measures the city, which is laid out like a square, and is arguably a cube. However, some argue that it is a four-sided pyramid. In US measurements, the footprint of the new Jerusalem is about 1,500 miles square, and could cover the entire eastern half of the United States, as see on the following map. The New Jerusalem would be larger than our moon by over 200 miles. This is based on the internal diagonal of the city that would pass through the moon's center, and assuming the moon was a perfect sphere. Each corner of the city would extend over 200 miles past the moon's surface.
It is difficult to be dogmatic about the following, so this is only an opinion. It does appear that the holy city is above the earth so that the light from God can shine upon the world, and there will be no night in the city, as drawn in the figure to the right, which is based on a NASA image. Whether or not earth will experience an evening is not known, but with the sunlight and light from the New Jerusalem, the notion of a nearly equal division of night and day will probably not occur on a regular basis, as shown in a satellite view provided by NASA of the earth and moon in the figure above left. This may indicate that light, and other physical properties may be different than what we observe today.
If one were to envelop the holy city in a crystal that is a hollow sphere, the size of the sphere's diameter would have to be about 400 miles longer than our moon's diameter. The moon's diameter is about 2,159 miles and if there were a sphere enclosing the holy city would be about 2,598 miles, as shown in the two figures.
Revelation 21:22-27, John continues to remark on what he sees. Of note, is that there was no temple in the city. Recall that during the tribulation years, John reported seeing the temple of God in the area of His throne, and John could see into the holy of holies. He was quite familiar with what the temple looked like, so its absence would be obvious to him. Instead, the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple and are with mankind. Unlike times past and the future through the millennium, the temple was the central focus of the Jewish people, where they provided sacrifices to the Lord. In the new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem, there are no sacrifices that are either observed by John or recorded to occur.
John also observes that the city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives the light and the Lamb is the lamp, Isaiah 60:11, Isaiah 60:17-22. As a result:
- The nations of the earth will walk by its light
- The kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it
- The gates to the city will never be shut, for there is never any night
- Nothing impure will ever enter into it
- Only those whose name written in the Lamb's' book of life will enter into the city, which are all who are alive in God's' presence, everyone else is in the lake of fire
The gates to the city will never be shut, for there is no night and nothing impure will ever enter into the New Jerusalem. Only those whose name written in the Lamb’s book of life will enter into the city, which are all who are alive in God’s presence, everyone else is in the lake of fire.
In Revelation 20:11-15 the 2nd resurrection was associated with the second death of those who elected to not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. There was no mention of a 3rd resurrection. However, based on Paul's writing to the Corinthians, 1Corinthians 15:50, the flesh is not able to inherit the kingdom of God. Nowhere is the status of the surviving tribulation saints given with respect to their transformation into their eternal bodies. Neither is there any mention of what will occur to those born during the Lord's millennial reign, and who chose to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. There are examples in scripture to suggest what may happen, such as with the translation of Enoch, or Elijah being taking up, or to be raptured as those living during the end of the church age will experience. Regardless, they will all have new eternal bodies.
A possible construct of the groups of saints during eternity future may be the Church, who made up of Jews and Gentiles in their resurrected bodies and are in the holy city with Christ, the groom. The Old Testament saints in their resurrected bodies could be on earth enjoying all of the fulfilled promises of God to them and sharing the world with those who lived through the millennium. The whole economy of living during this time for the saints is so foreign to what we know today, one can only imagine what it will be like.