New Heavens and Earth – Revelation 21–22
Read the Passage: Revelation 21-22
Reminder: The book of Revelation is structured around seven parallel sections, each describing the time between Jesus’ first and second comings. These sections can be delineated into chapters 1–3, 4–7, 8–11, 12–14, 15–16, 17–19, and 20–22.
As was noted earlier, as John describes the time between Jesus’ first and second comings in this book, each cycle becomes more eschatological in content—that is, more end-times weighted—as the book progresses. Revelation 21–22 contains the most detailed account of the new heavens and new earth in Scripture. Note the parallels between Genesis and Revelation: Genesis describes the creation of heaven and earth, Revelation describes a renewed heavens and a renewed earth; In Genesis the sun and moon govern the earth, in Revelation there is no need of sun and moon as Jesus governs the earth; Genesis details the power of Satan, Revelation describes the judgment of Satan; In Genesis mankind runs from God, in Revelation God runs to man and gathers him to Himself; In Genesis man is kept from the tree of life (after his sin), in Revelation mankind is given free access to the tree of life (after his redemption).
This chapter opens with John seeing a new heavens and a new earth—that is, a renewed, rejuvenated, and transformed creation—as well as the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven. The significance of this city is that Jerusalem is where God dwells. As John hears in Rev. 21:3, the descent of Jerusalem from heaven signifies God’s arrival to earth to dwell with mankind. Furthermore, note that this New Jerusalem is a picture of the true church, for it is called the bride throughout this chapter, and the church is where God’s Spirit dwells. In the context of this new creation sin has become untrue, as there is no more death, sorrow, tears, or pain. John notes that “there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1). The sea represents the uncertainty, churning, and turbulence of the world (cf. Dan. 7:3). Thus, John is not teaching that there will be no ocean in the new creation, but that sin will be eradicated.
Beginning in Rev. 21:9 John gives details, shown to him by an angel, about the New Jerusalem he’d seen in Rev. 21:2. There is much symbolism in John’s description here. For instance: the gold and gemstone appearance of the city depicts its radiance and beauty; the high wall depicts safety; the 12 gates represent the 12 tribes of Israel, thus showing this is where God’s people dwell; the 3 gates in each direction show that God’s people come from every tribe and nation; the 12 foundations represent the 12 apostles, thus showing that the gospel is essential to this city; and the city is perfectly symmetrical, being 12,000 furlongs in height, width, and depth. It is possible 12,000 is arrived at by multiplying 3 (representing the Trinity), by 4 (representing the directions of the earth), by 1,000 (an indeterminably large number). Indeed, God has redeemed the entire creation.
In Rev. 21:22, as well as in Rev. 22:5, we learn that there is no need of sun and moon in the new creation, for God himself provides light and He transcends time. Note that these verses do not say that there will be no more sun or moon; rather, they teach that there is no need of sun and moon. Ps. 89:34–37 teaches that the sun and the moon are eternal. Rev. 21:24–26 reports, “The kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into the New Jerusalem . . . . They shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.” The term “glory” used in these verses can refer to riches, honor, splendor, and wealth. The idea here is that the peoples of the earth will bring their cultural treasures with them into the new creation. Such things might include: knowledge, art, music, sports, apparel, and the like. God does not destroy all things but restores and redeems the created order from sin.
Rev. 22:6–21 serves as a conclusion to the book of Revelation, as well as to the entire Bible. This passage records three testimonies about the words of Revelation being true—that of an angel (cf. Rev. 22:6–7), of John (cf. Rev. 22:8–11), and of Jesus (cf. Rev. 22:12–21). It is telling and interesting that for the second time in four chapters (cf. Rev. 19:10), John tries to worship his angelic guide. Evidently, the glory of God reflected by the angel was so great, that John confused the angel for Christ Himself. Next, Rev. 22:10 reports that John was told “Do not seal the words of this prophecy of this book.” This is in direct contrast to the command Daniel received at Dan. 12:4. This difference seems to demonstrate the urgency of John’s message, as compared to Daniel’s, which the prophet Daniel was told referred to many days in the future (cf. Dan. 8:26; 12:9). John’s message, however, refers to the present age. This book closes with Jesus’ promise to return soon (cf. Rev. 22:7, 12, 20).
- What parallels can you draw between the opening two chapters of the Bible in Genesis, and the closing two chapters of the Bible in Revelation?
- Is the thought of a new heavens and earth, in which the church will dwell in God’s presence, comforting or concerning to you?
- When reading Scripture, how shall we know when to understand a given number, or other teaching, to be literal or figurative?
- Other than dwelling in the very presence of God, what is the most attractive part of the new heavens and earth for you?
- Do you desire for Jesus to return soon, or do you have earthly things that you’d like to accomplish or experience first?