Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 21:1-8
Chapter 37

Following the Great White Throne Judgment and everlasting condemnation of all whose names are not written in the Book of Life, and in stark contrast to the Lake of Fire, where there are torments day and night, forever and ever, John describes a place of beauty and perfection in the presence of God as the destiny of God's people.

In Revelation 21:1-8, John begins with an overview or summary description of the abode of God and His people. It is not until John is invited to see the Bride of the Lamb, in Revelation 21:9, that he begins a more detailed description of what was revealed to him.

He begins this overview with,

I. The Passing of Heaven and Earth

"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea" (Revelation 21:1).

It is important to note the heaven that will pass away is not the heaven we understand to be the abode of God. The heaven John says will pass away is the physical heaven surrounding the earth, containing the moon and the stars.

This passing away of the heaven and earth is described in 2 Peter 3:10-13, where we read,

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
This destruction of heaven and earth, to remove the last vestiges of sin's corruption is the final act that brings to a close, the "Day of the Lord." This purging is necessary because all creation was subjected to corruption because of Adam's sin. Genesis 3:17, says plainly that the ground or earth was cursed because of Adam. The death and corruption existent in the creation around us prove the extent of this curse. Every living thing on this earth is subject to death. Every non-living thing is subject to decay. Even the stars in heaven exhaust their gases and die. Nothing in creation is untouched by sin. Therefore, all things scarred by sin must be removed so all things may be made new and righteous. This will be accomplished during the "Day of the Lord" that will begin with the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory and end with this destruction of the heavens and earth, in preparation for the new heaven and new earth.

It is important to note that the "Day of the Lord" is not a single day. Rather, it is a period during which, God will execute judgment and purge sin from His creation in preparation for the fulfillment of Isaiah 65:17, which says, "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." God will fulfill this promise delivered through Isaiah, following the passing of the heavens and the earth.

John saw this new heaven and new earth and gave us a clue as to how different they will be when he said, "...there was no more sea."

In our present world, water covers approximately three-fifths of the earth's surface and this water is essential to all life on the planet. Without the seas, there would be no evaporated water to form clouds and make rain over the land masses. Without rain, vegetation could not grow, the food chain would be broken and all life forms on earth would cease to exist.

Perhaps, the absence of seas on the earth demonstrates freedom from the limitations of this present life. Glorified bodies will no longer be dependent upon physical surroundings. God's people will be forever free from any earthly restrictions and we will have the dominion over the earth that God intended for Adam, in the Garden of Eden.

Following the sighting of the new heaven and new earth, John saw,

II. The Appearance of the Holy City

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

There are four things about this city John calls Jerusalem that are significant:

(1) It is the holy city.

John defined this in Revelation 21:27, "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."

Those who have been set apart, who are holy, whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will occupy this city. There will be no defiling, no abominations, no lies in this city, for it is a holy city and only those who are holy can enter it. For the first time since Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, the earth will be totally free from the presence, influence and curse of sin.

Unlike the righteousness of the Millennial Kingdom that will be enforced with a rod of iron, the righteousness of the New Jerusalem will be the result of the inherent righteousness of the occupants. They will be righteous as God is righteous.

(2) It is New Jerusalem.

It is important to understand this is not the City of Jerusalem that figures so prominently in the promises God made to Israel.

Those promises of earthly kingdom blessings will be fulfilled when Christ establishes His throne in the present City of Jerusalem and Israel will be restored to her place of prominence among the nations of the earth. However, the close of the Millennial Kingdom will mark the complete fulfillment of God's earthly promises to Israel and the present City of Jerusalem will be destroyed along with the rest of the heavens and earth. This new Jerusalem will be the place where God fulfills His heavenly promises to the Saints, chiefly, everlasting life in His presence.

(3) It is from God out of heaven.

The Jerusalem of today has been built by the hands of men and has always been subject to corruption because it is earthly. In contrast, the new Jerusalem will be built by the hand of God and come down from heaven. It will be a faultless creation, built to last for eternity and it will be the home of God and His people forever. Rightly, it can be said the new Jerusalem will be heaven on earth. Perhaps, this new Jerusalem is the place about which our Lord Jesus spoke when He said in John 14:2, "I go to prepare a place for you."

(4) It is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

The comparison of the new Jerusalem to a bride has caused many to think this is a reference to the Church or that only the Church Age Saints will occupy the city. However, this is not a reference to the Church, neither is it intended to limit the occupants of New Jerusalem to the Church Saints. It is merely a comparison of the new Jerusalem to the beauty and suitability of a bride adorned for her husband. Likewise, the new Jerusalem will be a place of beauty, particularly suited for its occupants, for eternity.

Following his brief but informative introductory description of the new Jerusalem, John describes,

III. God's Relationship With His Saints in Heaven

"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful" (Revelation 21:3-5).
In the Garden of Eden, Adam, before he sinned was privileged to enjoy all God intended for humans, in that, he had personal fellowship with God, he was not subject to tears, death, sorrow or pain and he was free to partake of the Tree of Life and live forever in the presence of God. Even so, Adam threw it all away when he disobeyed God and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The direct result was spiritual death and humanity was removed from the physical presence of God. Adam's sin brought death, sorrow, pain and the resulting tears into the lives of all humans. Humans became sinners alienated from God, stripped of their blessings and condemned forever.

Thankfully, God was not content to allow His greatest creations to perish. Therefore, He gave His only begotten Son to bear our sins in His own body and decreed that anyone who believes in Him would have everlasting life.

Revelation 21:3-5, describe the blessings of fellowship with God that He has always desired for humanity to enjoy, and that our Lord Jesus Christ purchased with His own blood for all who trust Him.

The people of God will dwell in the new Jerusalem and the Lord will establish His dwelling there, in fellowship with them and be their God. We will have opportunity to walk alongside Him and talk with Him, face to face. He will live among us, so we may enjoy His presence and worship Him continually as our great God and Redeemer. We will have the fellowship with our Creator that He originally intended for us. Death, sorrow, pain, and the resulting tears these bring will be things of the past. No more will we be ravaged by the effects of sin because we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

Just as heaven and earth will pass away and there will be a new heaven and earth, sin and all the effects of sin will also pass away and the Lord will make all things new for us, as if sin never existed.

Perhaps, even the memories of sin and its effects in our individual lives will pass away and our minds will be renewed so those memories can never again bring sorrow. Like Adam in the Garden of Eden, we will be both innocent of, and oblivious to, sin.

That all things will be made new is the specific promise in Revelation 21:5, and John is told to write because this promise is true and faithful.

IV. The Heirs of Heaven

"And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Revelation 21:6-7).
The One on the throne, who said He would make all things new is identified in Revelation 21:6, as "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." This can be none other than our Lord Jesus Christ who was introduced in Revelation 1:8, with this title.

Notice, He said to John, "It is done." This does not mean God will do no future works. It means the work of making all things new, which is the final work in God's redemption program for humanity, is completed. It is our Lord Jesus Christ who began and who will end the work of redemption, truly He is "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end."

In Revelation 21:6, Jesus, the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end," says, "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely."

At this point, John's introductory look at the new heaven and earth ends, with our Lord Jesus Christ, the beginning and end of redemption, stating a great truth of the New Covenant. Jesus introduced this truth in John 7:37-39, when He said,

"If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, whom they that believe on him should receive...)"
Anyone who is thirsty for the life of Christ may drink of His Spirit by believing in Him and all who do this will overcome sin and its devastating effects. According to Revelation 21:7, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son."

Those who come to Christ believing in Him will spend eternity in the new Jerusalem, but the fate of those who reject Him is found in Revelation 21:8:

"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
Everyone is guilty of at least one of the listed sins against God and everyone who passes into eternity without faith in Christ is personally accountable for his own sins. The only punishment for these sins is to be cast into the Lake of Fire, which is the second death. But God does not desire that any should perish, so He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place and take the punishment for our sins so we can go free, if only we trust Him.

Today, the Water of Life is freely offered to anyone who is athirst and will come to Christ in faith, believing He died and rose for their sins and only those who partake of the Water of Life will inherit everlasting life in the new Jerusalem. All others will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999, 2006