Up to this point we have seen both sides of the end of days. Both the dark and the light have been represented, mercy and judgment, prosperity and adversity. We also have seen the favor God bestows upon his church, which continues in this chapter.
A New Heaven and a New Earth
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Some theologians believe that the new heaven and the new earth are not actually physical but spiritual. However, the indication that there is no longer a sea would lead us to believe otherwise. It would seem more likely that there is an actual new earth created along with a new heaven. This could simply be the new shape of things after the consuming fire changes the landscape, but we do not know for certain. We can be certain though that the church of Christ is finally presented to him, holy and pure, and he dwells with them. There is no more death, all the troubles and difficulties of this earth have passed away. This is a place of joy and peace, like it was in the beginning. Since the bride of Christ here is also referred to as the “Holy City” and “the new Jerusalem”, it is doubtful that an actual city descends from heaven and lands on the earth. Instead, it represents the people of God, as the church is often referred to in the New Testament. The whole plan of God was to make a dwelling amongst his people, it was never to dwell in a building. Sin made a building necessary, because the people were no longer pure enough to survive the power of the holiness of God dwelling with them. We will see the city described in the coming scriptures and can gather more information from that description.
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
God’s word is faithful and true. He promised to make everything new and it is done. There is no longer any lack, spiritual or physical. God rewards those who thirst after him with eternal satisfaction. Those who stood against the enemy are now victorious and inherit all that God has to offer. A relationship that is more intimate than ever experienced or imagined and a reward beyond understanding.
On the other hand, those who refused to believe, those who refused to seek God and preferred to run after the fulfillment of their own selfish sins, will die a second death. This refers to the death of the eternal spirit. They have already died a physical death, now their eternal soul is burned in the lake of sulfur. This could be indicative of an eternal death, a never ending torment, or it could indicate the death of their immortal selves, their souls.
The New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb
9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Here the angel who had the seven bowls of plagues takes John to see the bride of Christ. This has a double meaning, because the bride is referred to as a city, and as a people. There is no clear distinction between the two, so either one is a figurative description, or they are one and the same – which is something beyond our human comprehension. This city was shining with the Glory of God, and it’s brilliance was like that of the most precious gems. This is a figurative description. But the gates can be figurative or literal, since the gates could refer to people being that there are twelve gates and the names of the gates are the tribes of Israel. There are three gates per side, and there are also twelve foundations. The foundations had the names of the disciples (apostles). Again, this could be a figurative description, since the church was built on the apostles who studied under Jesus. Walls are for security, gates are for entrance, and foundations are for strength.
15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
Now we have physical, literal descriptions of the walls, gates and the foundation as it is measured by John. This again gives the impression that it could be a physical place. The gems referred to are literal descriptions, not comparisons. The streets are made of gold, so pure it appears nearly transparent.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
This city has no temple because God and Jesus dwell within, nor does it need physical light, because it glows with the glory of God, the very origin of light itself. It will guide those of the new earth as the nations will walk by it’s light. The kings of the new earth will tithe to this city, bringing their splendor into it. The gates will always be open, for there will be nothing to fear, and nothing impure can ever come inside, only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
a Revelation 21:1 Isaiah 65:17
b Revelation 21:4 Isaiah 25:8
c Revelation 21:16 That is, about 1,400 miles or about 2,200 kilometers
d Revelation 21:17 That is, about 200 feet or about 65 meters
e Revelation 21:17 Or high
f Revelation 21:20 The precise identification of some of these precious stones is uncertain.