Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
(a) The first heaven and the first earth, having been marred by sin, will be destroyed by fire (2 Pet. 3:7, 10, 12).
(b) New heaven and a new earth. The eternal age, where God dwells with humanity here on earth.
In the poetic imagery of Revelation, the new heaven and earth correspond to the City of God, a.k.a., the new Jerusalem, a.k.a., the church. Just as the temple of Jerusalem was known to the Jews as “heaven and earth” (see entry for Matt. 5:18), in the new covenant, the church represents the new heaven and earth (see next verse). But the church is merely the trailer, not the movie.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, John got a glimpse of Christ’s kingly glory even though Christ had no yet ascended into heaven (Matt. 17:2, 2 Pet. 1:16). In the same way, the church presents the world with a taste of the kingdom come (Eph. 3:10), even though the King has not yet come in power and glory. But as wonderful as the church is, we still live in a world of tears and death. Wars, pandemics, and sin ravage our world. But one day God will bring an end to all those things that oppose his good will. He will remove everything that causes us to stumble and wipe away every tear (Rev. 21:4). He will make all things new (Rev. 21:5). Best of all, he will make his home among us physically and permanently (Rev. 21:3).
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
(a) The holy city is a Biblical metaphor for describing the corporate body of Christ (Heb. 11:10, 12:22, 13:14, Rev. 3:12). See entry for 2 Cor. 6:16.
(b) The new Jerusalem is analogous to the new heaven and the new earth of the previous verse. It is the church.
“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
(a) He who overcomes is the one who believes in Jesus (1 John 5:5). We don’t overcome on account of our performance; we overcome because we are united to the One who “has overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Further reading: “Who is an overcomer?”
(b) Inherit these things. In Christ we are heirs of the kingdom (Col. 1:12, Jas. 2:5), heirs of the earth (Matt. 5:5, Rom.4:13), and heirs of all things (John 17:10, Heb. 1:2, Rev. 21:7). See entry for Inheritance.
(c) He will be My son. When we put our faith in Jesus, we are adopted in the family of God; see entry for Rom. 8:15.
“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
(a) The cowardly and unbelieving. The word for cowardly, which is translated as fearful in some Bibles and fearmongers in others, means faithless. It is not describing children who are afraid of the dark or those who are afflicted with mental health issues. Nor is it talking about first-century Christians who wilted under the pressure of torture. It’s talking about those who refuse to believe in Jesus and who do not come to him to receive eternal life. Unbelievers, in other words.
In the wrong hands this scripture can be used to terrorize the saints. “If someone put a gun to your head and said, ‘Deny Jesus,’ would you prove cowardly? If so, you’re going to hell.” Admissions made under duress carry no weight in a court of law, so why do we think a just God would take them seriously? We may deny the Lord, but he will never deny us. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).
Further reading: “What if I deny Jesus?”
(b) Immoral persons… and all liars. There are no liars in the kingdom, only former liars who have been made new. Neither are there any murderers in the kingdom, only former murderers who have been made new.
Moses and David murdered men, yet both murderers are listed in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith on account of the grace of God. The good news is the happy announcement that God is in the business of turning old, damaged people into new, holy people. He turns slanderers and swindlers into saints and sons.
Further reading: “No liars in heaven”
(c) The lake that burns with fire; see entry for Rev. 20:14.
(d) Second death; see entry for Rev. 20:14.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
(a) The bride, the wife refers to the corporate church. See entry for Rev. 19:7.
(b) The Lamb is Jesus; see entry for Rev. 5:6.
and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
(a) The Lamb is Jesus; see entry for Rev. 5:6.
(b) The Book of Life is the heavenly register of those who inherit eternal life. It is a register of the citizens of the kingdom of God. See entry for Rev. 3:5.
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