“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And there was no more sea.” (21:1)
The phrase “a new heaven and a new earth” refers to a new realm of existence. The phrase is used in the Bible to refer: (1) A new realm of existence post-exile (Isaiah 65:17-19; 66:22-23). Some believe that it refers to a new life in Canaan land for the Israelites (Albert Barns; Adam Clark). Others believe that its full meaning is achieved in the church (Matthew Henry, Wayne Jackson). (2) A new realm of existence for the faithful after the heavens are dissolved with fire and the elements melt with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:11-13; Revelation 21:1). It is a new realm of existence following Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
The sea was no more. This seems to refer to hades, the place of the dead (cf. Revelation 20:13-14). Others think that it means the distance or separation from God is removed (cf. Revelation 4:6; 15:4; 21:1).
“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2).
The language, “I… saw… coming down” is language of a vision (cf. 10:1-2; 18:1-2; 20:1-2; 21:2). The vision pictures the city coming down to man from God. James Coffman commented, “When humanity’s long and pitiful dream of some golden age, some fair Utopia, is finally realized it will not be from man’s devices, but ‘down out of heaven from God.'” The city is pictured as a bride adorned for her husband. This city is composed of the faithful (cf. Revelation 3:4-5; 19:7-8). This, no doubt, is that city of which Abraham and Sarah wanted to be part (Hebrews 11:10,16).
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven, saying ‘Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then he who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new'” (21:3-5a).
Things are new. The sorrows of the first heaven and first earth are gone. Very similar language was used of post-exile Israel (Isaiah 65:19). Foy Wallace Jr. commented, “Israel had been weeping with their harps hanging on the willows in Babylon; but upon their return to their land the weeping and tears of exile would be wiped away. It was the same metaphorical representation in Revelation 7:17 and 22:4.” Death itself would be no more (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54; 2 Timothy 1:9-10).
The word “new” is not neos, meaning new in time; but it is Kainos, meaning new in quality or form. This refers to a new quality of life.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (21:6). “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb… on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (22:1-2).
God provides for our needs. The tree of life is there (cf. Genesis 2:9; 3;24). Paradise is restored (Revelation 2:7 cf. Genesis 3:8 Douay).
“I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (21:22-23). “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of sun, for the Lord God gives them light” (22:5).
Man is in the presence of God’s glory. He needs no temple to communicate with God. James Coffman commented, “All devices for communicating with God will be unnecessary in the glorified state.”
“Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there is no night there)” (21:25).
Ancient cities shut their gates at night for security reasons. There is no need to do so in this city. There is no night. Moreover, “there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie” (Revelation 21:27). He keeps the city safe.
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things” (21:7; cf. 2:7; 2:11; 2:17;2:26; 3:5; 3:12; 3:21; 12:11). “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (22:14).
Access into this city is conditional. Will you be there?