Revelation #14: (chap 21) -New heavens, new earth, new Jerusalem
sermon Revelation 21 : Pierre Constant, 2022_10_24, AB Lausanne church
title : Revelation #14: (chap 21) -New heavens, new earth, new Jerusalem
New Heavens, New Earth, New Jerusalem
After the judgments, after the suffering, the martyrs, the total victory against the dragon, the beast and the false prophet, after the last judgment, John finally turns to heavenly bliss, to the new heavens and the new earth, the new Jerusalem, the Lamb’s bride.
Chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation form a whole, and it is in this light that we must read them, even if, for lack of time, we will only be able to go through chapter 21 today.
If, as I have mentioned a few times, the sixth seal, the sixth trumpet and the seventh vial refer to the last judgment, then heavenly bliss has already been mentioned by John a few times, notably in the following passages:
- Just after the seventh trumpet, in Rev. 11:19 : “The temple of God in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant appeared in his temple. »
- Rev 19.6-9 , a passage which announces the wedding feast of the Lamb
The last two chapters of Revelation conclude the book, but also the entire Bible. John brings together in these few verses a whole series of terms and themes that go back to Genesis, passing through Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel and Zechariah. These chapters are full of Old Testament allusions that help us understand how our Bible fits together, how it actually presents one great story, that of God’s salvation to His people, how God intervened in history to save, deliver , forgive, and forever bless those He has called to come to Him.
We can therefore divide this chapter into three parts: 
- What will be found there: the new heavens and the new earth, the new Jerusalem (21:1-8).
- What it means: The explanation of the symbols to John by the angel (21:9-21).
- What we will not find there (21.22-27).
1. What will be found there: the new heavens and the new earth, the new Jerusalem (21:1-8)
To designate this new universe, to present what is new, John uses four metaphors or four expressions. These four images all refer to the same reality: the people of God now in the eternal presence of God are presented under the image:
- of a new heaven and a new earth;
- from the holy city, the new Jerusalem;
- of a bride adorned for her husband;
- of the tabernacle of God.
All these expressions are equivalent to each other. It is not about seeing a bride, in the tabernacle, located in a city, on a new earth inside a new heaven. These metaphors do not overlap each other, but they substitute for each other. The bride is the new Jerusalem, which is the tabernacle of God, himself being the new Jerusalem, that is , the new heaven and the new earth. This will become clearer later, especially in v. 9-21, where one of the seven angels tells John that he will show him the bride, the Lamb’s wife (v. 9-10a), and who then shows him the city, New Jerusalem (v. 10b -21).
Just as the lion of the tribe of Judah was himself the Lamb, as the 144,000 were the great multitude that no one could number, just as the two witnesses were described as the two olive trees and the two candlesticks, here the new Jerusalem is itself the bride, where God dwells (tabernacle), a whole new creation (new heaven and new earth). This mixture of metaphors is typical of apocalyptic literature, and trying to explain them in relation to each other takes away from the richness of what John seeks to evoke, namely that what awaits the children of God, the people of =>There are four realities:
- The end of suffering, the end of waiting “until when?”, the sight after faith, the disappearance of death and all that accompanies it (tears, mourning, cry, pain).
- The very presence of God, immediate (unmediated), permanent and assured for eternity.
- The unparalleled relationship with God, that of the union of a wife with her husband, intimate, secure, entirely satisfying.
- The total novelty, the complete end of all that characterized sin and its misdeeds, this world and its attractions, this world and its swamps, this world and its balls.
b. John first presents a new heaven and a new earth (v. 1).
He specifies that the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and that the sea was no more. Several echoes of the OT, as well as certain NT texts, can be heard:
- In Isaiah 51:15-16 , about the return from exile in Babylon, God says to Isaiah: “I am the Lord your God, who stirs the sea and makes the waves roar, the Lord of hosts is his name. . I put my words in your mouth, and I cover you with the shadow of my hand, to stretch out new heavens and to found a new earth, and to say to Zion: You are my people! »
- Isaiah 65 :16b -17: “Past troubles will be forgotten, they will be hid from my sight. For I am creating new heavens and a new earth; we will no longer remember the events of the beginning, they will no longer go back to our thoughts. This text once again speaks of the return from exile, and serves as the backdrop for John’s words.
- In Isaiah 66.22 , the promise of a new heavens and a new earth serves as the basis for the promise of Israel’s return to Jerusalem.
- We also hear an echo in Ps 102.26-28 : “Once you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment; you will change them like a garment, and they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will not end” (text quoted in Heb 1:10-12 ).
In fact, John borrows from the OT, especially from the promises of Isaiah, to announce that, just as the promise of a new heavens and a new earth pointed to a new Jerusalem, earthly, at the return from exile, from even the Lord himself announces the coming of a new heaven and a new earth, the new Jerusalem itself, as we shall see later.
- Finally, 2 Pet 3:10-13 announces the coming of the new heavens and the new earth (this time, real new heavens and a new earth), where justice will dwell.
We also find in the NT, but in different terms, the announcement of a new universe while the present world groans and suffers the pangs of childbirth ( Rom 8.19-22 ). This new world will welcome our resurrected and glorified body, our completely regenerated being.
Jean thus announces nothing less than the creation of a new universe, replacing this current world. It is about this celestial city pointing on the horizon of the gaze of the patriarchs, who despised this present world and accepted not to receive an earthly fulfillment of the divine promises, because they desired another world, better, eternal ( Hebrews 11 ).
John specifies that, in this new universe, the sea is no more. Why this detail?
We have already noted that the sea, for the Jews, was not something calm, serene, or even a call to freedom and adventure. No, the sea, with its incessant tides, surges and undertows, is rather synonymous with chaos and danger. Already in chapter four, we noted the crystal sea, which made it impossible to access the throne.
We also read in Isaiah 57:20 : “The wicked are like the stormy sea, which cannot be calm, and whose waters stir up silt and silt. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked. Unlike this sea, never calm, never serene near the shores, the New Jerusalem will know perfect peace. »
d. John describes this new universe, this eternal presence of God with his people, as the fulfillment of several theological themes of the OT, alluding to certain key texts, for example:
- Lev. 26: 9-12 : “I will turn to you, I will make you fruitful, I will multiply you, and I will maintain my covenant with you. . . . I will make my home among you. . . . I will walk among you, to be your God, and for you to be my people. »
- Jer. 31.1 : “I will be God to all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. »
- Ezekiel 37:26-28 : “I will make an everlasting covenant of peace with them, and there will be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them, I will multiply them, and I will establish my sanctuary among them forever. My home will be among them; I will be their God, and they will be my people, and the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is forever in their midst. »
These are words that repeat the terms of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 , 13, 15, 17, and 22, then repeated to Isaac, Jacob, repeated in Exodus 6 , crystallized in the person of the king of Israel in 2 Samuel 7 (David and his descendants), and repeated many times by the prophets.
If some of the promises announced by the prophets pointed to the return from exile, the fulfillment of these promises remained very partial, indicating that the ultimate fulfillment was yet to come. This is how we can read in the book of Joel: “You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain, and the profane shall pass through it no more” ( Joel 4:17 ).
Is it by chance that Paul writes in 2 Cor. 6: 16-18 : “We are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them; I will be their God and they will be my people. Therefore: Come out from among them; and be separated, saith the Lord; do not touch what is impure, and I will receive you. I will be a father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. All of God’s revelation is heading where John leads us in Revelation chapter 21. More than the reign of 1,000 years, it is the eternal reign of God among his own, it is the presence of God, eternal, direct, calming and protective forever.
e. What John describes, he who sits on the throne repeats: “Behold, I make all things new” ( Rev. 21:5 ). God engages His own person, He, the Alpha and the Omega (titles that were used by Jesus in chapter 1). This had been his original plan, and now he is carrying out his will, in words reminiscent of Isaiah 55 : ‘silver ! » and by way of announcing what will be said later: « Let him who is thirsty come; let whoever wants take the water of life for free! ( Revelation 22.17 ).
We find here again two groups, and two groups only:
- the people of God (even the singular of v. 7 can be understood in the collective sense; we will not lead an individual existence, but a collective one, in the new Jerusalem);
- the other people: cowards, unbelievers, abominable, murderers, lechers, magicians, liars (those who do not cling to the truth), their part will be in the lake burning with fire and brimstone, the second death. Note that it is the people themselves who are judged and condemned, and not just their sins. If God condemned sin on the cross, it is sinners (people, persons) who are “thrown into the lake of fire” (cf. 20:15).
2. What it means: the angel’s explanation of the symbols to John (21:9-21)
One of the seven angels who showed John the great harlot (17.1) is perhaps the same one who showed him another woman: the bride, the Lamb’s wife (21.9). We are still in the middle of a metaphor; the angel does not present to him the bride, the bridegroom’s wife, but the Lamb’s wife!
The bride is the new Jerusalem, as we indicated earlier. She has the glory of God. It has a brightness (v. 11), walls, gates and foundations (v. 12-14), the number of which evokes the totality of the people of God (names of the twelve tribes of Israel, the names of the twelve apostles ).
b. The angel measures the dimensions of the city (v. 15-17). In Revelation 11 , John had been instructed to measure the temple (though the dimensions were never given to us). Here we learn what the dimensions of the new Jerusalem are: 12,000 stadia (at 185 meters at the stadium, we arrive at more than 2,000 km). More important than the length of its sides is its shape: cubic!
Only one other place has this form in all the history of revelation: the Holy of Holies, or the most holy place, where God met once a year with the high priest. The presence of God was very limited: only one person (the high priest), only once a year (the day of atonement). In New Jerusalem, the presence of God is everywhere.
The 144 cubits of the wall in v. 17 probably designate the thickness of the wall.
The materials of the city partially recall the stones set in the breastplate of the high priest. We hear again about the wall, the foundations, the gates. Even the foundations are adorned with precious stones! This reminds us of Solomon’s wealth, but now pushed to exponential scale.
3. What will not be found there (21:22-27)
No temple! (v. 22). The reason is very simple: if the temple meant the presence of God, where God met His people, now, in New Jerusalem, God is everywhere! And not only God, but also the Lamb (a new allusion to the divinity of Jesus).
b. No sun or moon (v 23). Here we hear an echo of the promise made to the restored Jerusalem, a promise made in the days of Isaiah: “The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor the moon give you its light; but the Lord will be your light forever. Your sun will no longer set; and your moon will no longer withdraw, for the LORD will be your light forever. . . Your days of mourning will be over. There will be none but the righteous among your people” ( Isaiah 60:18-20 ), a truth repeated in Rev. 21.27 .
If there is no more sun or moon in the new Jerusalem, the reason is very simple: the glory of God lights it ( Rev. 21.23 ), and the Lamb is its torch. Note this emphasis on the person of the Lamb throughout this chapter. John tells us about the Lamb by mentioning:
- The bride, the Lamb’s wife (v. 9).
- The twelve apostles of the Lamb (v. 14).
- The Lord God Almighty is his temple, together with the Lamb (v. 22).
- The Lamb is his torch (v. 23).
- The Lamb’s book of life (v. 27).
In this new Jerusalem, the nations and the kings of the earth will be found bringing their glory there (another way of saying that the Lamb has redeemed for God his Father people from every people, from every language, from every tribe, from every breed).
No night (v. 25), and thus no need to close the doors to protect oneself (not to mention that no enemy will be able to come and attack this place, in the light of what is said in the following verse).
d. Finally, there will be no sinner (v. 27), that is to say nothing defiled, no one who gives himself up to abomination and lies. Only holiness and truth will be found there. Only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be there.
The description continues in Chapter 22, which we will study next time. John will close with words of consolation, warning, and sure hope.
1. 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.
2. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
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.
9. And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.
10. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
11. Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
12. And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
13. On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
14. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
16. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
17. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.
18. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
19. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
20. The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
21. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
22. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
23. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
24. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
25. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
26. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
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.
Related Links / Notes
Study Notes are translated from the original French version prepared by Pierre Constant who has been Associate Professor of the New Testament at the Toronto Baptist Seminary since 2003. The orginal French notes are in “note” form, and are not a direct transcription of the video. The notes provided here follow that form, but are detailed enough to help provide a deep understanding of the texts in the book of revelation.
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