The New Jerusalem, 1-27
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.
A new heaven and a new earth – The dissolution of the old creation had been spoken of in Ps 102:26; Isa 34:4; 51:6. See also 2 Pet 3:7,10-13. We should not, however, understand these scriptures to teach a total annihilation of the old order. See Rom 8:19-22. This is analogous to the spiritual re-creation spoken of in 2 Cor 5:17: the old nature has not been destroyed, but renewed. See also Mt 19:28; Acts 3:21.
‘The first heavens and the first earth have passed away. In our imagination let us try to see this new universe. The very foundations of the earth have been subjected to purifying fire. Every stain of sin, every trace of death has been removed. Out of the great conflagration a new universe has been born. The word used in the original implies that is was a “new” but not an “other” world. It is the same heaven and earth, but gloriously rejuvenated, with no weeds, thorns or thistles. Nature comes into its own.’ (Hendriksen, More Than Conquerers)
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.
The new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven – ‘The NT conceives of a heavenly Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God, the true homeland of the saints, and the dwelling place of “the spirits of just men made perfect,” Heb 12:22; cf Gal 4:26; Php 3:20. While this heavenly Jerusalem is represented as the dwelling place of the departed saints, heaven is not their ultimate destiny, but only the temporary abode of the saints between death and the resurrection, Rev 6:9-11; 2 Cor 5:8; Php 1:23. In the consummation after the resurrection, Rev 20:4, the heavenly Jerusalem will descend from heaven to take up its permanent location in the new earth.’ (Ladd)
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.
“The dwelling of God is with men” – ‘the same Greek word as is used of the divine Son “tabernacling among us.” Then He was in the weakness of the flesh: but at the new creation of heaven and earth He shall tabernacle among us in the glory of His manifested Godhead (Rev 22:4).’ (JFB)
“They will be his people” – According to Morris, the better manuscripts have ‘peoples’, indicating that they come from many nations. Many modern translations (e.g. NRSV) reflect this reading. ‘Apparently, John modified the traditional concept (Jer 7:23; 30:22; Hos 2:23) and substituted a reference to the many peoples of redeemed humanity. Jesus had spoken of “other sheep that are not of this sheep pen” that must become part of the one flock (John 10:16). It is with the redeemed peoples of all races and nationalities that God will dwell in glory. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God. It is the presence of God, and the fellowship with him of all believers, that constitutes the principal characteristic of the coming age.’ (Mounce)
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.”
‘It will matter little to the faithful what their sorrows may have been in this vain world, since no trace of them will remain when they enter on that ineffable peace which is in store for them in the life to come.’ (Athanasius)
‘Affliction has a sting, but withal a wing: sorrow shall fly away.’ (Thomas Watson)
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.”
Rev 21:6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.
The water of life – Here and 22:1, 17, ‘is emblematic of the maintenance of spiritual life in perpetuity.’ (Vine)
Rev 21:7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Rev 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Rev 21:9 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.”
Rev 21:10 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.
Rev 21:11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
Rev 21:12 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.
Rev 21:13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.
Rev 21:14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Rev 21:15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.
Rev 21:16 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.
Rev 21:17 He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.
Rev 21:18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.
Rev 21:19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,
Rev 21:20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.
Rev 21:21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
Rev 21:22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
I did not see a temple in the city – ‘In a document like Rev. which follows the traditional images and motifs so closely, the idea of a Jerusalem without a Temple is surely novel. John’s statement that he ‘saw no temple in the city’ has been taken to mean that the whole city was a temple; note that the shape of the city is cubical (21:16), like the holy of holies in Solomon’s Temple. (1 Kings 6:20) But that is not what John says. He states plainly that God and the Lamb is the Temple. What he very likely means is that in the place of the temple is God and his Son. Such indeed would appear to be the grand dnouement for which the writer prepares his readers. First he dramatically announces that the temple in heaven is opened and its contents laid bare for human eyes to see (11:19). Later he drops the hint that the divine dwelling may be none other than God himself (21:3; note the play on the words skene and skenosei). Finally, he states quite simply that the temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. One after another the barriers separating man from God are removed until nothing remains to hide God from his people. ‘His servants… shall see his face’ (22:3f.; cf. Isa 25:6ff). This is the glorious privilege of all who enter the new Jerusalem.’ (NBD)
Rev 21:23 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.
Rev 21:24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
Rev 21:25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
Rob Bell (Love Wins, p114), speculates that the image of the open gates suggests that people, even in the life to come, will be able to enter heaven (and, indeed, leave heaven). After all, ‘gates are for keeping people in and keeping people out. If the gates are never shut then people are free to come and go’. But, as Paul Coulter points out, the present chapter comes after the final judgement recorded in Rev 20, when those whose names were not found in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15). Moreover, the reason for the ever-open gates is explicitly stated in the present verse: ‘for there will be no night there’. The gates of ancient cities were closed at night for reasons of security. As Coulter remarks, ‘this city does not need such security because there will be no night (the glory of God and the Lamb give it light according to verse 23) and because there is no threat to its security since any threats have been eliminated in the victory of Christ that Revelation describes.’
Rev 21:26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it – This suggests a continuation of human creativity and productivity in the new creation.
‘In the ancient world, it was desirable to build a temple with the best materials from all over the world; this is what Solomon did for the temple in Jerusalem. More than that, people would bring gifts from far and wide to adorn the temple after its completion. It is probable that the image of kings bringing their gifts to the New Jerusalem flows from this background. It does not seem too much of a stretch to imagine that these gifts are the products of human culture, devoted now to the glory of God.’ (Theology of Work Bible Commentary)
‘Nothing from the old order which has value in the sight of God is debarred from entry into the new. John’s heaven is no world-denying Nirvana, into which men may escape from the incurable ills of sublunary existence, but the seal of affirmation on the goodness of God’s creation. The treasure that men find laid up in heaven turns out to be the treasures and wealth of the nations, the best they have known and loved on earth redeemed of all imperfections and transfigured by the radiance of God.’ (Caird)
‘Do you grasp the beauty of this verse? It says that all the creative splendours of the nations – their best architecture, their mighty feats of engineering, their greatest art and most inspiring literature – will be paraded into the New Jerusalem because the glory of God is where they belong.’ (Harrison, Glynn. A Better Story: God, Sex And Human Flourishing.)
Rev 21:27 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.