X. The New Creation and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-27)
X. The New Creation and the New Jerusalem (21:1-27)
21:1 History as we know it is over at this point, and John begins to describe the eternal state in which believers will dwell. The eternal state in which unbelievers will exist has already been described (see 20:14-15). Believers will live in a new heaven and a new earth because the first heaven and the first earth will pass away.
God will un-create the universe because each part of it is affected by sin, and the eternal state must be completely free from sin’s consequences. But that doesn’t mean the end for planet earth. Every molecule, atom, proton, and neutron in existence today will disintegrate only to be replaced by a glorious new creation. In it, the sea will be no more. So while three-quarters of the planet on which we live is currently underwater, that entire vast expanse will be made habitable for God’s people.
21:2-4 Right now, Christ dwells in a heavenly city with the souls of all believers who have died (see John 14:2-3). During the millennium, God’s people will live and work on the earth we know now, with their capital in Jerusalem. But after God destroys and makes the earth new, he’s going to send that heavenly city down out of heaven to the new earth, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. That city will become the capital of the new creation and be known as the new Jerusalem. And there God will dwell in the midst of his new creation and live with his people (21:3). All sadness, hurt, and disappointment will be no more as we live alongside our Creator (21:4).
21:5-6 The idea that God will make everything new may seem too spectacular to be true, but he says this promise is indeed faithful and true (21:5). His people will experience complete satisfaction in the new creation, symbolized here by the metaphor of thirst being quenched from the spring of the water of life (21:6). The refreshing satisfaction of downing a cold glass of water when you’re parched is nothing compared to the spectacular satisfaction to come.
21:7 Every saved person will live in the new creation, but the Christian who is fully committed—the one who conquers—will inherit an even greater reward, and God will dwell with him at an increased level of intimacy like a father with his son.
21:8 The description of heaven is interrupted with a brief reminder that those who persist in sin and rebellion against God will spend eternity in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Unbelievers, with their unglorified bodies and unredeemed souls, will enter a place where every problem from this life will be amplified without any hope of improvement. They will become locked at varying levels in the consequences of their sinfulness.
21:9-11 One of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues (21:9; cf. 16:1-21), shows John the new Jerusalem (21:10). Although believers will dwell across the entire new creation, the angel focuses John’s attention on the new earth’s capital. Because it will be arrayed with God’s glory, this city will be more radiant than a cut diamond (21:11).
21:12-14 The city’s massive high wall (21:12) signifies the identity of its inhabitants. First, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel’s sons [are] inscribed on the gates (21:12), signifying that believers from Old Testament Israel will be present within it. Second, the city wall is pictured with twelve foundations and the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are written on the foundations (21:14). This signifies the presence of believers from the church, which was established in the New Testament era. Old and new covenant followers of the Lord will dwell together in the new creation.
21:15-17 The angel measures the city, its gates, and its wall (21:15) to reveal that the city is a cube of 12,000 stadia in length, width, and height (21:16). A stadia is approximately 600 feet, which means each dimension of the city is approximately 1,400 miles—about half the distance from New York to Los Angeles. The most mind-blowing aspect of these dimensions is the height. It’s a multi-storied city that extends up—and this is just the capital of God’s new creation! The wall encasing this city will be 144 cubits, about 72 yards, thick.
21:18-21 The wall will be made of jasper, an opaque gemstone. The city itself will be pure gold (21:18). The foundations of the city wall are to be adorned with every kind of jewel (21:19). The list of them in 21:19-20 defies comment. Each of the twelve gates will be a single pearl, and the main street of the city will be pure gold (21:21). This is where we draw the idea that there are streets of gold in our eternal home—not of tar, not of cement, but of gold!
21:22 There will be a temple in Jerusalem during the tribulation and during the millennium. But there will be no temple in the new Jerusalem because a representation of God’s presence will no longer be necessary. We will have his direct presence.
21:23-26 There will be no sun or moon needed in the city because the glory of God illumines it, and its lamp is the Lamb (21:23). Our sun is ninety-three million miles away, yet its power is sufficient to illumine the earth. God’s presence, though, can replace the sun with ease because the Lord possesses an even greater degree of power and radiance. That it will never be night there suggests believers’ glorified bodies will never get tired and need to sleep.
Moreover, we won’t get bored. On the new earth, there will be nations and kings (21:24) functioning in a national context and bringing their glory and honor into the city (21:26). Everyone will come to the new Jerusalem as a highlight of their lives on the new earth. And why not, given its splendor?
21:27 While the invitation to dwell in this city is universal, the requirements to enter are specific: Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life, who have received Jesus as their Savior by faith.