Revelation 21:1-5


Franzmann: God's response to man's defiance of Him in his allegiance to dark powers has been stark and unsparing judgmental visitation; the opening of the seven seals, the sounding of the seven trumpets, and the emptying of the seven bowls of wrath testify to that.  But He has not renounced His ancient purpose that man should live in communion with Him.  This crowing vision of Revelation, 21:1 to 22:5, is therefore both a song of creation, celebrating the making new of heaven and earth, and a song of redemption celebrating the consummated communion between God and man in His holy city, new Jerusalem, significantly named the bride of the Lamb who by His sacrifice has freed men from their sins, 1:5-6, and made them capable of communion with God, compare Ephesians 5:25-27.  This ancient twin theme of God the Creator and Redeemer, Isaiah 42:5-9; 44:24-28, a theme already announced in the vision of chapters 4 and 5 receives its full climatic treatment here.

Rev 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

In the words of Isaiah 65:17 God had foretold this new creation:  "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind."

Kittel: 'New' denotes the new and miraculous thing that the age of salvation brings.  It is thus a key teleological term in eschatological promise: the new heaven and earth in Revelation 21:1-2; 2 Peter 3:13, the new Jerusalem in Revelation 3:12; 21:2, the new wine in Mark 14:25, the new name in Revelation 2:17; 3:12, the new song in Revelation 5:9, the new creation in Revelation 21:5.  This new creation, which is the goal of hope, finds expression already in Christian life, 2 Corinthians 5:17.  The new aeon has come with Christ.  In him Jews and Gentiles are one new man, Ephesians 2:15.  God's saving will is worked out in the promised new covenant that Jesus has now set up, Luke 22:20.
Mounce: In 2 Peter 3:10-13 we learn that following a great conflagration in which the heavens are to be dissolved and the earth is to melt with fire, there will be new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell.
Lenski: The newness of the heaven and of the earth shall be like our own.  We shall be the same persons and have the same body and the same soul that we now have; but these made entirely new.  Our newness begins with regeneration, 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15.  After body and soul are glorified, we shall be new-created, indeed.  The same will be true with regard to the new heaven and the new earth.
Creation as we now know it will pass away.  TEV translates:  "The first heaven and the first earth disappeared."  Scripture teaches both annihilation and restoration.  Look at 2 Peter 3:10-13 and Romans 8:20-23. We cannot comprehend the first creation nor can we comprehend the second.  The ancient saying hold true:  "These things must be believed not explained."

The last verse of this verse puzzles the commentators.  TEV:  "And the sea vanished."  What does this mean?

Franzmann: In this new world the sea, the uncanny remnant of primeval chaos from which satanic powers can arise to mislead mankind, Psalm 107:23-28; Isaiah 57:20; Ezekiel 28:8.  That God should be Lord even over this untamable element was cause for special awe and wonder, Psalm 46:1-3.  The dread of a world turned against man will disappear in God's new world.
Old Concordia Bible with Notes:  The absence of sea is understood by some to denote symbolically the absence of all change, commotion, or trouble of any sort.  But perhaps the words have a meaning which nothing but the appearance of the new heavens and new earth can explain.

Lenski rejects the symbolical interpretation.

Lenski: But if 'sea' is symbolical, then heaven and earth must also be figurative, which rather obviates this symbolizing of the sea.  Is the answer too simple, that the function of the sea or ocean will no longer be needed to supply evaporation, clouds, rain, rivers, and springs, so that men and animals and plants may have the water they need?

He leaves it at that.

Kretzmann: Everything that has any connection with sin will be removed altogether.  Therefore the sea also, from which the dragon came forth, 13:1, will be no more.  It is evident from the whole description that it is impossible, in the words of a human tongue, to convey even a distant idea of the glories of heaven.

Rev 21:2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

On this verse compare Isaiah 52:1 and 61:10.

Swete: What is primarily intended is doubtless the heavenly origin of the Church, and her Divine mission.

Verse one spoke of a new creation.  Verse two speaks of a new Jerusalem.

Lenski: We cannot apply our poor, finite conceptions of time and succession of time and of space and distance in space to what is timelessness and spacelessness, for these latter are wholly inconceivable to us in our present state.
Franzmann: As the old Jerusalem, seat of the Lord's anointed king and site of the Lord's temple, was the focus of God's will-to-communion with His people and had upon it the promise of a still greater communion with all mankind, Isaiah 2:1-4; Micah 4:1-7; Isaiah 56:7, so the new holy city shall be.
Swete: The New Jerusalem of the Seer belongs to another order; it is of heavenly origin, a city 'whose builder and maker is God,' Hebrews 11:10.
Mounce: It, the new Jerusalem, symbolizes the eternal felicity of all who follow the Lamb.  The heart of the symbol is a community of men and women.  It is a city which is a family.  The ideal of perfect community, unrealizable on earth because of the curse of sin which vitiated the first creation, is now embodied in the redeemed from all nations.
Lenski: The old separation of the heaven of God, of angels, and of saints from our present heaven and earth where the dragon and his antichristian powers have wrought their vicious effects, it forever ended.  God's heaven and the new heaven and the new earth are joined together and made one.

This is valuable observation.  And now for the latter part of verse 2.  Beck translates:  "Dressed as a bride, ready to meet her husband."  At no other time in life is a person so carefully and beautifully dressed as is a bride on her wedding day.  And for whom?  For her husband.  The same figure is found in Revelation 19:7-8 which informs us that the Church is dressed in the righteousness of Christ, for Christ, the Husband of the Church. The most intimate, human relationship known to man and woman is marriage.  It is but a picture of the close communion of Church with Christ.

Lenski: The Psalmist sings of this beauty in Psalm 45:13-14 and 48:2-14.  Jerusalem is like a heavenly bride, who is decked in all her heavenly robes and jewels.
Psalm 45 is a Messianic Psalm.

Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,  "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Commentators are agreed that the voice of this verse is not the voice of God Himself but of one of His agents.  He Himself does not speak until verse 5.  But the voice which speaks in verse 3 comes from the very throne of God.

The message begins with  "now"  which always alerts us to something significant.  Here is an incomprehensible thought.  It is indicated by the triple use of  "with."   "With the people, with them, with them."  It reminds a person immediately of the name Immanuel, Matthew 1:23,  "God with us."

"The Tabernacle of God"  means His dwelling.  In this life the dwelling of God seems far removed from us.  We commune with Him entirely by faith.  But in the life to come the dwelling of God will forever be the very dwelling of His redeemed people. Note in the Greek the word  "people"  is literally plural,  "peoples."

Franzmann: 'Jerusalem' means that God is present with His peoples, the plural is significant.  God in the new world is not 'the God of Jews only,' Romans 3:29, but God of all peoples, present as their God.
Swete: Our writer has substituted 'people' with 'peoples,' the many peoples of redeemed humanity.
Mounce: It is with the redeemed peoples of all races and nationalities that God will dwell in glory.

Most of the versions read the singular  "people"  and not  "peoples."

Mounce: From this point on God remains with his people throughout eternity.

Rev 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

As at 7:17 we are reminded again of God's promise in Isaiah 25:8:  "He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken."

Mounce: Abolished forever are the debilitating effects of sin.  Sorrow, death, mourning, and pain are all part of the 'first things' which are now past and gone.  They belong to a previous order which has now become history.  Eternal blessedness is couched in negation because the new and glorious order is more easily pictures in terms of what it replaces than by an attempt to describe what is largely inconceivable in our present state.

Note the remarkable similarity between verses 4-5 and 2 Corinthians 5:17:  "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."  But that passage speaks of regeneration, not the consummation in heaven. Regeneration does not do away with tears, grief, crying and pain.  That is God's promise, a wonderful prospect.

Rev 21:5 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."

Franzmann: Here, and here only in Revelation, where the promise is most extravagant, God Himself is introduced as speaking.  He who once 'spoke, and it came to be,' at the first creation, Psalm 33:9, now speaks again, affirming His final creative work and assuring the afflicted prophet of the suffering church, compare 1:9, that the words the prophet is empowered to utter are a divine word, to be trusted and believed.

By grace we are renewed in this life.  But in heaven God will make ALL things new.

Lenski: By his grace Christ now makes us 'new.'  But this present beginning of newness in us is to reach consummation when 'all things' are made new.

God tells John to write these things.  "These words" are specifically verses 1 to 5.

Kretzmann: Beyond conception everything will be more glorious than even creation was at the end of the six days, when the Lord that everything was very good.  Our faith and our hope are not based upon our own opinions and ideas, but upon the infallible Word of God, which will remain when heaven and earth shall pass away.
Swete: Men and women need to be assured that they are not only worthy of confidence, but answer to realities which in due time will enter into the experience of life, though for the present they cannot be fully realized or adequately expressed.
Mounce: The content of what he is to write is contained in the vision of eternal blessedness given in verses 1-5.  He is to write it because the revelation is reliable and genuine.
Lenski: This passage, verses 1-5, has even been the hope, joy and comfort of longing Christians and will ever remain so.

Verse 3 states three times that God will be with those in everlasting life and that He Himself will be their God.  Isn't He with His children in this life and isn't He their God now already?  Yes, He is.  But there is a great difference.  A good commentary on this matter is found in 1 John 3:2 which reads in the NASB:  "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is."  Furthermore, we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:50:  "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable."  We must undergo a change before we are permitted to have familiar converse with God.  But He is with us now and is our God, as we are told in Matthew 1:23. Immanuel, Jesus' name, means  "God with us."


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Festival Season Sundays, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 115-119. Used with permission.

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