Our last time together in Revelation chapter 20 we saw the binding of Satan for 1,000 years in the abyss. After this is accomplished Jesus begins His reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. He will rule the nations as the scriptures say with a, “rod of iron.” The multitudes of natural people who inhabit the earth at this time will comply with the rule of God, but they will not be born again, and therefore their hearts will not be toward the Lord. This fact will be revealed when at the end of the 1,000-year kingdom age, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations once again. The multitudes of natural people will cast their lot in with Satan, and they all will be judged by being cast for all eternity into the Lake of Fire, where the Beast and the False Prophet will have been incarcerated for 1,000 years.
Chapter 21 introduces a time after the Kingdom Age, a time that will be totally different from anything any person living today has ever known. It will be a place and a time that no sin or anything that sin produced will be a part of. There will be no Satan or evil spirits present for they will be eternally locked away by this time. There will be no sickness, disease, or death. This time can be referred to as the Perfect Age. In this section we will be able to put together many pieces of the prophetic puzzle that you may have wondered about. We will also cover some material that possibly you have never heard before. We pray that all of it will be informative and a blessing to you.
John opens this chapter, 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. [Rev. 21:1] John again uses the term, “I saw” here as he does repeatedly in this book. This again lets us know that he is an actual spectator of that which he is recording. He is seeing all of this again from the perspective of the spirit world. There are no limitations of time and space. He is seeing future events as if they were occurring in the present. He is seeing things in a sense as God sees them. We see things and understand most things from the perspective of the point in time in which we presently live. If the Holy Spirit chooses to reveal some other things to us through one of the gifts of the Spirit, He certainly can; otherwise we are pretty much limited to our own point in time. This is not the case with God. Given the fact that He is omnipresent, He can enter and leave any point in that time-line He so chooses. John seeing things “in the Spirit” then has the advantage of seeing things far along that time-line and is able to describe them for us.
John sees a, new heaven and a new earth. We need to compare this with Genesis 1:1, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. In both of these passages, heaven is in the singular. Why is that important? It is important because it limits this creative act to our own planet. It is not referring in either instance to the vast expanse of the starry planets or other galaxies. It is referring to this planet. The thought then that John is conveying here is a new atmosphere for the new earth.
The first heaven and the first earth, to which Moses refers in Genesis 1:1, were created in the dateless past. We don’t really know how long ago the beginning was. It is important to understand this. The beginning could have been thousands, even millions of years ago. Sometime in the dateless past, God created the heaven and the earth. We come to Genesis 1:2, and it appears that something of a catastrophic nature has occurred. The Bible says, And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Despite what some of my dear “young earth” brethren believe, the Lord did not create the earth in the state that we find it in, in Genesis 1:2. For example, the Prophet Isaiah declared, For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. [Isa. 45:18 KJV] A similar thought is found over in Jeremiah 4:23 – 26. We are not told exactly what occurred to cause the earth to come to be in this state.
We do know that by the account of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, sin existed prior to the creation of man. There is an inference as we study the prophetic passages of Isaiah 14:12 – 14 and Ezekiel 28:12 – 19, that when the earth was first created Lucifer was in charge of it, then he and his angels rebelled and led astray the inhabitants of the original earth. This pre-Adamite race, whomever they may have been, it is believed by some were destroyed in the judgment of God on Lucifer and the fallen angels, and that they thus became the demon spirits who now seek to inhabit human beings so that they can again dwell on the earth. One thing seems certain, and that is that the earth must have been originally inhabited, or else God would not have blessed Adam and Eve and told them to, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. It does not follow however that that these inhabitants of the earth were human beings like ourselves. No human remains have ever been found ante-dating the creation of man.
Peter describes the original earth as the, “World that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” [2 Peter 3:6a] It is clear that Peter does not refer here to Noah’s flood as some teach. Why do I say that? Because the earth of Noah’s day didn’t perish. Peter continues, But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire. The “heaven and the earth which are now”, refers to the heaven and earth that have been in existence since the restoration of the earth described in Genesis 1:3 – 31. Nevertheless, Peter says, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth. [2 Pet. 3:13] These words of Peter reveal to us that this earth is to go through three stages. 1) The original earth perished by WATER. 2) The earth that is now is to be renovated, or cleansed by FIRE. 3) The New Earth that is to last FOREVER.
It is important that as we study scripture to not try and isolate a particular text and develop a teaching from that one passage. We need to compare scripture with scripture, cross reference texts and so forth to get the entire picture. That is certainly true as we study the prophetic Word. For example, following the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:2, we are told in verse 11, And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. John describes this judgment for us and opens chapter 21, 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. For the student of prophecy we are certainly familiar with the fact that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. John however doesn’t tells us exactly how this will occur. The Apostle Peter does tell us the process by which we will arrive at a new heaven and a new earth. He writes,
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (The Great White Throne) But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise (Isa. 65:17, 66:22), look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. [2 Pet. 3:7 – 13 KJV] By comparing these two sections of scripture, it is clear that Peter and John are speaking of the same event.
Perhaps you are like me. For years I read the above words given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit to Peter and thought that the earth as a planet and all of the planets were going to be destroyed by fire and that would be it. A careful study of the scriptures however shows us that such is not the case. What is going to happen then? What is going to happen is that this earth and the atmosphere surrounding it are going to be renovated by fire, so that its entire surface shall be completely changed, and all that sin has brought into existence, like thorns and thistles, disease germs, insects, pests, etc. will all be destroyed and the atmosphere purified and forever freed from evil spirits and destructive forces. Yes, this will be the Perfect Age, and really we can’t refer to it as an age in the most literal sense as it will last for all eternity.
We get a clue that this is the correct way to view this passage again from Peter’s words, For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished. [2 Pet. 3:5, 6 KJV] “Perished” is the Greek, apollumi, which is to “destroy fully”. Again, this is not referring to the flood of Noah’s day, but rather to a time in the dateless past. The flood that struck the earth at that time caused the earth to become, “without form and void” and destroyed all life. The framework of the earth at that time was however not destroyed by that “baptism of water”, in similar fashion the framework of the world that is now will not be destroyed by its “baptism of fire”. When Peter speaks of the “earth” in this passage, he uses the word, ge,which refers to the surface of the earth. This is the inhabitable part of the earth and not the earth as a planet. So, it is the surface of the earth that will “melt with fervent heat” and the “works therein burnt up.” I submit to you that the intense heat will cause gases in the atmosphere to explode, which the Apostle describes as, “The heavens (the atmosphere) passing away with a great noise.” The result will be the destruction of all animal and vegetable life as we presently know it, and the alteration of the earth’s surface.
“Pass away” in 2 Peter 3:10 is the Greek, parechomai, and it does not mean, “annihilation” or to, “cease to exist”; but rather, “to pass from one state to another”, and that is exactly what will occur when the earth is renovated by fire. Paul uses this word in Titus 3:5 when speaking of the “regeneration” of men. [See also Matt. 19:28, Acts 3:21, Rom. 8:19 – 23] With the renovation of the earth by fire time does not end, but rather eternity begins. There is much more we could say on this, however lets move on.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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. 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. 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. 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. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 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. [Rev. 21:2- 8 KJV]
We see a new city for a new earth here. In Matthew 4:5 and 27:53, Jerusalem is referred to as, “The Holy City”. It is not referred to again as such until Revelation 11:2. I am sure this is due to her rejection of Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Every city in the world today, and that would include the so-called “Holy City” The Vatican in Rome, Italy, and even the city of Jerusalem in its present state, is filled with sin, shame, murder, heartache, and suffering. It is filled with death and dying, and with that it is coupled with loneliness. But the city which John describes here is “new,” meaning that it is not touched by sin, shame, or anything that sin may bring about. In the Perfect Age to come, such will not exist. Even the Kingdom Age, as wonderful as that will be, cannot compare with the Perfect Age. In fact, it was not possible for the New Jerusalem to be brought down until the Earth was cleansed by fire.
Notice the city is seen, coming down from God out of heaven. Despite what some believe, the world will never evolve a golden age or ideal state. The New Jerusalem has to descend from God. This reminds me of James 1:17, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. [James 1:17 ESV] Salvation and Redemption came from Heaven. Grace and glory come from Heaven. The infilling of the Holy Spirit has come from Heaven. Eternal Life has come from Heaven. And now, the New Jerusalem, the dwelling place of the redeemed, comes from Heaven as well! It is God who must do the doing, or it won’t get done.
We aren’t told a great deal in scripture concerning Heaven. This fact has led many to conclude that the subject of Heaven, or the subject of eternity, is not really all that important. Nothing could be further from the truth. As believers we are to live our lives in view of or looking toward eternity. Our treasure is not to be on the earth, but laid up in Heaven. If we are, “Risen with Christ”, and we are, then we should be seeking things that are above, not things on the earth. We are told not to love this present world system and it’s trappings, yet far too many believers do. The “Greed gospel” that so many of God’s people have embraced focuses on this present world and material possessions and money. This is not a true prosperity gospel, although it is referred to as such. This city, New Jerusalem, is not Heaven; but rather the capital city of Heaven. Heaven is not a, “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere”, but it is a definite place. It is a planet within itself. When New Jerusalem descends from God out of Heaven, in a sense it will move from planet Heaven to planet Earth. New Jerusalem is the place where all of the redeemed will live, therefore it should be important to us.
This is a prepared place for a prepared people. “Prepared” probably refers back to Jesus’ words in John 14:3. This is a place, although the angelic host will no doubt have access, that is especially prepared for the redeemed of all ages. John continues,
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. [Rev. 21:3] The phrase, “a great voice” is used some 21 times in this book, and this one is the final occurrence. When John designates this “a” voice, it gives it both importance and urgency. Even though the King James translators have this voice coming, “out of Heaven”, it is probably more accurately, “out of the throne.” This gives it even more power and strength. What this “Great voice” proclaims will make the New Jerusalem an even more glorious, wonderful place. This voice declares that, 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. We said earlier in this study that the books of Genesis and Revelation are like bookends to the Bible. We see many parallels between the opening portions of the Bible and the close of it. In the Garden man (and woman) walked and talked with God. [See Gen. 3:8] Sweet, intimate fellowship was enjoyed. Sin destroyed all of that, and a gulf of separation was forged between man and God. Sin does that. The good news is that from the “foundation of the world” God had a plan to redeem man back to Himself. He immediately set out to restore the broken fellowship, although it would take some 7,000 years to fully bring this to pass. In the New Heaven and new earth there will be full renewed fellowship between God and man as God will personally once again dwell with man on the earth. This fellowship was also one of the glorious aspects of the incarnation. In John’s gospel he wrote, And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.. [John 1:14 KJV] “Dwelt” is skenoo, this is to dwell among, or to tabernacle, or pitch one’s tent among. In the incarnation of Christ believers got a taste of that which will be our eternal reality in the New Jerusalem throughout all time.
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. [21:4] The King James text here says, “all tears”, however the Greek is a bit more exact. It reads, “every teardrop.” Think of that. This is the end of all that causes tears and crying. Mankind’s existence on this earth since sin entered has been a continuous trail of tears. That is going to come to an end in the Perfect Age to come. No more bereavement of loved ones, as there will be no more death. No more sorrow from a broken heart. Now there are many things that can bring forth tears, things that cause deep heart-wrenching sobs and weeping. That will all be over. Pain here is the Greek, ponos and could be translated as, anguish,great trouble. I believe this takes in man’s toil and anguish in earning bread by the “sweat of his brow” and woman’s pain and sorrow in giving birth. This will all be over. Why? Because the former things are passed away. In other words, the affects of the fall, that which came on mankind in the beginning will pass away.
We will pick up with verse 5 next time