“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21.1-2).
Sometimes, when we attempt to describe something that is indescribably good, we just end up saying, “It’s heaven on earth”. John, in the last two chapters of the book of Revelation does his best to describe something that is indescribably good. In fact, everything in the Bible, not just Revelation, has been pointing to this moment. Ever since the fall of man in the garden, God’s plan has been awaiting fulfillment, when sin would finally be removed and God’s purpose for creation would be realized. In Chapters 21-22, heaven does indeed come to earth. And even if we struggle (probably as John did) to make sense out of every detail, we can see that this is a description of the eternal state of all who are found in Christ. John’s basic vision is the arrival of the new heaven and new earth and the descent of the New Jerusalem, the city of God (21.1-2). Three themes stand out: (1) the end of the old order of things (v.1), (2) the bride, who is shown to be readied for the marriage supper of the Lamb in 19.7-8 is now “adorned for her husband” (21.2), and (3) there is a uniting of heaven to earth, so that God now “dwells” with his people.
All Things New
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (v. 5)
Who doesn’t like new things? God’s new thing in eternity is to make all things new. Heaven is on earth. Paul in 1 Corinthians 2.9 said it like this, “…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” What was lost in the original creation is now renewed. Of course, this has already been brought about in principle in Christ. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (1 Cor. 5.17). However, God will redeem not only people, but the whole creation as well (Rom. 8.21).
The Beauty of the Bride
John’s vision includes an invitation to see the church in its perfected state. “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb … the holy city Jerusalem” (vv.9-10). One day, all of those who belong to Christ will realize that they have been totally transformed from what they once were. When we see Jesus, we will be like Him (1 John 3.2). The New Jerusalem is thus described as radiant and beautiful, not only because of its own glory, but also because that is where the bride lives. But the bride is only beautiful because of the sacrifice of the Lamb. We should keep in mind here that John is using apocalyptic language and imagery. At the very least, he is describing both the beauty of our future dwelling place, as well as the beauty of those who will live there.
Life in the City of God
“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (22.3-4). One writer has stated that “…in Revelation heaven and earth are united in one eternal order, and the dichotomy between the two in this sinful age is broken. When the old heaven and earth are destroyed (20.11, 21.1), the ‘new heaven and new earth’ (21.1) become one.” The next part of John’s vision moves from an outward view toward the inside of this city. Here, we may see how Revelation is a reversal of the paradise lost in the Garden of Eden. This is Eden regained, or more accurately, Eden transformed. Thus, John sees the “River of Life” and the “Tree of Life”, pictures of fulfillment and satisfaction that will be available to those who are residents inside this city.
The Final Word
Chapter 22, verse 6 contains a concluding “bookend” regarding the purpose of the overall prophecy of the book (cf. 1.1). The remaining verses highlight the urgency of living for Jesus now, while there is time. God’s people should live holy lives, fully expecting that Jesus could come at any moment.
“Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (22.10) (cf. Daniel 12.4). “Blessed are those who wash their robes” (Rev. 22.14). This expectation of Jesus’s soon coming is always the motivation for holy living. We need to recapture the idea in the church.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3.11-13).
While there is yet opportunity, Christ is still inviting those who are thirsty to come to Him. It seems Jesus is always and ever seeking us, pursuing us, inviting us into a love relationship. Who will respond to this generous invitation? As we close this series of readings from the book of Revelation, I am reminded of the words from a song by Brian Doerkson:
One day every tongue will confess
You are God.
One day every knee will bow.
Still the greatest treasure remains for those
Who gladly choose you now.
Come, now is the time to worship.
Come, now is the time to give your heart.
Oh, come. Just as you are to worship.
Come just as you are before your God.
- Come, Now is the Time to Worship by Brian Doerksen,1998