Revelation 21 - Outline of Revelation (Book Notes menu page)
21:1 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.
In ch. 21, some interpreters see the Millennial Kingdom, others see the Eternal Heavenly State.
Both events blend together in other prophetic passages. eg., Isa 65:17-25; 66:20-24
(These passages from Isaiah speak of "the new heaven and new earth," which is also the theme of Rev. ch.21, where there will be "no more death" (v.4), and where 'sinners' will be exluded (v.8,27). Yet, both are mentioned together in Isa 65:20.)
a new earth... the first earth... passed away...-
The normal reading of this chapter, and the chronologic flow from ch. 20 (which closes after the Millennial Kingdom) direct our gaze from earth to the Heavenly city. cp. 2Pet 3:10-13
there was no more sea.- This statement has literal and figurative significance.
  • Literally, the new earth will not have oceans. (Today, the seas cover 70% of earth's surface.)
    Note that the sea will still exist during Messiah's earthly Millennial Kingdom.
    Psa 72:8; Isa 11:9,11; Eze 47:8,20; 48:28; Zech 9:10; 14:8
  • Figuratively, the troubled 'sea' of unregenerate humanity will be absent from the new earth.
    • Within this 'sea,' Satan has moved and fomented rebellion against God. But in the new heaven and new earth, there will be no place for the dragon. Isa 27:1; cp. Isa 51:9,10
    • From this 'sea,' have risen ungodly nations (and ultimately the Antichrist) who troubled the world with their wickedness. Dan 7:3; Rev 13:1; Isa 57:20,21
    • Near the close of the Millennial Kingdom, Satan will stir up the multitudes of this 'sea,' in a final rebellion. Rev 20:8,9
    • The Lord will permanently silence the troubled 'sea.' His people will enjoy perfect peace in the new earth. Psa 89:9,10; Psa 46:1-3,6
21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem,
coming down from God out of heaven,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
This city has been the hope & goal of saints from all ages.
Joh 14:2,3; 2Cor 5:1; Heb 11:10,13-16; Rev 3:12
prepared as a bride- The city is not the Bride (see 19:7-9) but is "adorned as a bride."
The Bride, and all others who dwell in this city, live to honor her Husband (our Lord).
adorned- GK= kosmeo, prepared, arranged (GK root word= kosmos, order, arrangement)
The order of this city will be universally centered around Him.
21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying,
Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men,
and he will dwell
{ie., tabernacle} with them, and they shall be his people,
and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God.
Behold...- See for yourself...
the tabernacle of God... dwell with... be with...- cp. Mat 1:23; Joh 1:14
(In John 1:14, the word 'dwelt' is literally 'tabernacled' or 'tented.')
his people... their God.- This is the final fulfillment of the New Covenant:
Jer 31:33,34; Eze 11:19,20; 37:26,27; 2Cor 6:16; Heb 8:10,11
God Himself shall be with them...-
The implication is that the final consummation of all things has taken place. cp. 1Cor 15:24-28
21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears {lit., every tear} 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.
God shall...- In 7:17, Christ comforted the tribulation saints.
Here, God wipes away the tears of all saints.
the former things are passed away- ie., the condition (sin) from which man's sorrows flowed.
The curse (Gen 3:16-19) is fully cured (Rev 22:3).
The Giver, of every good and perfect gift, dwells among His people (Jam 1:15-18).
21:5 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.
He that sat- lit., the One sitting, ie., God. cp 3:21; 4:2,3; 5:13
I make all things new.-
The word 'make' {GK= poieo} means to 'bring forth, to do, to form something out of something.'
Apparently, the "new heaven and new earth" is a radical reordering of God's creation, which, at its beginning, was very good (Gen 1:31).
  • Today, all is marred by sin. Nothing we do is fully satisfying, complete, or lasting.
    The believer's new nature struggles against the old fleshly nature. Gal 5:17
    We wait for Him to do what we cannot. Psa 90:15-17
  • Today, His people are already new creations. 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15
    But then, He will complete the new thing that He has begun in us. 1Joh 3:2
  • Today, the whole creation groans under the effects of sin.
    But then, He will transform the previously sin marred creation into the perfect place for His perfected people. Rom 8:20-25; 1Cor 2:9
Write, for these words are true and faithful.
Spoken by the One who is Faithful and True (cp. Rev 19:1-2,11; 22:6), these words refresh the redeemed, for He declares that the deceiver and his lies will never trouble God's people again (cf. Mat 24:24; 2The 2:8-12). John wrote these words, which he received from the Lord, to assure believers, who are enduring the trials of this age, that a new day is coming.
21:6 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.
it is done- The totality of God's revelation to man is fulfilled / accomplished / completed.
As His judgment of Babylon was completed upon the earth (16:17), and as His promises to Israel were completed in the Millennial Kingdom (Dan 9:24), so, all that He has purposed will be accomplished perfectly in the new heaven and new earth.
Alpha & Omega- the Lord Jesus Christ (1:8,11) brackets & sums up human history.
  • As Creator, He began man's story at a definite point in time. (Joh 1:1-3)
    As Judge, He will bring it to a close at a definite point in time. (Rev. ch. 19 & 20)
  • As Savior, He brought each of His own to new birth. (Eph 2:1)
    As Lord, He will bring them to maturity in His likeness. (Eph 2:10; Heb 12:2)
the fountain of the water of life- is reserved for those who thirst for Him.
He is both the wellspring and the flow of life eternal. Mat 5:6; Joh 4:14; 7:37-39
Those, who thirst for Him, will be continually and eternally satisfied in Him.
21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things;
Who is he that overcomes?
1Joh 5:4,5
inherit...- cp. Rom 8:16,17; 1Cor 3:21-23
...all things- Nothing can be added to the next line:
and I will be his God {lit., be God to him}, and he shall be my son {lit., be to me the son}.
his God- Christ's mediatorial role has ended.
Edenic fellowship with the Triune God has been completely restored. [JOYoder]
my son- GK=huios.
In John's writings, this word expresses the uniqueness of the father/son relationship (sometimes in the human realm) but most often regarding the "only begotten" Son of (eg., Joh 1:18; 3:35).
     John often refers to believers as 'little children' {GK= teknon, born ones (translated as 'sons' in Joh 1:12 and 1Joh 3:2)}. 'Sons' {GK=huios} implies a dignity and depth of relationship, between the Father and His adult Son (1Joh 1:3). Such a relationship is beyond the reach of an immature child. But now, through His only begotten Son, many sons have been fully brought to glory (Heb 2:9,10).
21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving,
and the abominable
{ie., those defiled with abominations},
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.
The status of the lost (20:15) is not changed, when all things are made new.
They are eternally separated from God, and from His new order.
They can neither enter into the Lord's presence, nor corrupt His people.
This description of the lost should remind us of the greatness of God's grace towards those who are saved (cp. 1Cor 6:9-11).
21:9 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,
angel- perhaps the same angel who showed John the mystery & destruction of
the great Harlot (17:1). The contrast could not be greater:
Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.
the bride- The glimpse of New Jerusalem (in v.2) is about to be expanded.
This city is not to be thought of as a beautiful shell or structure.
  • This is the eternal abode of the Lamb and His Bride.
  • The city glows with the glory of its inhabitants.
In Millennial Jerusalem, righteousness reigns (with a rod of iron).
     In New Jerusalem, righteousness dwells (at rest).
21:10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain,
Contrast the vantage points from which the Harlot and the Bride are viewed...
  • a wilderness (speaking of the barren waste of Babel's confusion, 17:3)
  • a great & high mountain (speaking of the strength & order of the Lord's eternal Kingdom, Dan 2:35,44,45)
and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
that great city... holy Jerusalem...-
Contrast the unholy state of earthly Jerusalem (11:8) and Babylon (17:1-4; 18:2,3)
New Jerusalem is great-
  1. in size (v.16),
  2. in number of dwelling places (Joh 14:2),
  3. but primarily- because of the presence of God (see v.11 below; and v.22,23).
out of heaven, from God-
This city has foundations (v.19), but it is not founded on the earth (2Cor 5:1).
This city has a Builder, but it is not touched by man's self-determination. Heb 11:10; cf. Gen 11:3,4
21:11 Having the glory of God:
Here is the realization of "the hope of the glory of God." (Rom 5:2)
The presence of God is the source of this glory.
The presence of the saints will neither hinder nor diminish His glory. [McGee]
and her light [was] like unto a stone most precious,
even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
light- GK= phoster, light giver, light bearer.
The source of light is God & the Lamb (v.23).
jasper- probably a diamond.
'clear as crystal'- GK= krustallizo, crystalline, transparent, bright, shining.
The glory of the Lord permeates and radiates through every facet of this city.
21:12 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:
a walled city- secure and unified.
twelve gates... twelve angels... twelve tribes...-
In this city, 7 categories of persons or things are arranged in groups of 12.
     (See v.12, v.14, v.16, 21 and 22:2)
     Everything is in perfect order, in accord with the Lord's design.
  • The names of Israel's tribes, on the entrances to the city of the Lamb's Bride, will eternally remind us that "salvation is of the Jews" (Joh 4:22; Rom 1:16; 9:4,5).
  • The twelve angels stationed at the gates, do more than serve as guards (for there will be no enemies). They remind us of the role of angels in preparing the way of salvation.
    By the ministry of angels...
21:13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates;
on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
This design was foreshadowed by the pattern of Israel's encampment, with three tribes on each side of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (as described in Numbers ch. 2).
The assigned order of names to gates, during the Millennial Kingdom, is given in Eze 48:31-34.
(Presumably, this order applies to the heavenly Jerusalem also.)
21:14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations,
and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
twelve tribes (v.12) + twelve apostles (v.14) -
-- shows the unity of believers in Christ (Rom 3:29,30; Eph 2:14).
-- suggests the identity of the 24 elders (Rev 4:4).
twelve foundations-
The household of God is "built upon...the apostles and prophets..." (Eph 2:19,20; 3:5; Acts 1:1,2)
21:15 And he that talked with me had a golden reed
to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
he- ie., the angel of v.9.
measure- Speaks of the certainty of the things measured. (See note at 11:1)
21:16 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.
foursquare- The city is a cube,
as was the Holy of Holies in the OT Tabernacle & Temple.
furlong- GK= stadia (approx. 660 feet) x 12,000 = about 1,500 miles on a side.
cf. The Millennial Jerusalem is 4,500 (unspecified) units of measure. If the units are 'great cubits,' the city is about 1.7 miles square. If the units are 'reeds of 6 cubits' (as used in measuring the Millennial Temple), the city is about 9 miles square (Eze 48:30).
Dr. McGee suggests that the city may actually be a cube inside a sphere
(slightly larger than the moon) suspended above the earth.
Its inhabitants dwell inside the city, rather than on the surface of the sphere.
21:17 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.
144 cubits (note the multiple of 12)-
  • about 250 feet high, if the human measure applies (ie., 1 cubit= 18 inches, or 1 great cubit= 21 inches). This is indeed "a wall great and high" (v.12).
  • the measure could also be of the wall's thickness (cp. the wall of the Millennial Temple, in Eze 41:9,12).
It is hard to imagine a wall around a city suspended in space.
Perhaps the wall refers to the shell of the sphere, and the dimension is the thickness of the shell. In any case, the presence of this great wall infers that the city's occupants live in security and peace.
21:18 And the building of the wall of it was [of] jasper:
and the city [was] pure gold, like unto clear glass.
building- GK= endomesis, structure, construction, composition.
pure... clear...- GK= katharos, pure, clean, clear.
glass- GK= hualos, transparent material.
jasper... gold...- The wealth of this city is not in the precious gems & metals,
but in the glorious Light which permeates and flows freely through everything. v.23; 1Joh 1:5-7
21:19 And the foundations of the wall of the city [were] garnished
with all manner of precious stones.
garnished- GK= kosmeo, adorned. See note at v.2, above.
There is no 'wood, hay or stubble' in what God builds (cf. 1Cor 3:11-15).
The foundations reflect and refract the glories of the Light Giver.
Apart from Him they would have no beauty or color.
     The 12 listed stones recall the OT highpriest's breastplate, which bore the names of Israel's twelve tribes (Ex 28:17-21). Due to language limitations (HB to GK), some stones cannot be positively identified. Therefore, correspondence between the two lists cannot be determined. However, these gems in the twelve foundations, which bear the names of the apostles (v.14), may represent the tribes of Israel.
The colors below, like the rainbow (in 4:3, 'like an emerald'), also tend toward green.
The first foundation [was] jasper;clear
the second, sapphire;blue (cp. Ex 24:10)
the third, a chalcedony;greenish
the fourth, an emerald;green
21:20 The fifth, sardonyx;reddish
the sixth, sardius;firey red
the seventh, chrysolite;golden yellow
the eighth, beryl;sea green
the ninth, a topaz;greenish yellow
the tenth, a chrysoprasus; golden green
the eleventh, a jacinth; violet
the twelfth, an amethyst. purple
21:21 And the twelve gates [were] twelve pearls;
every several gate was of one pearl:
pearls- bear testimony to the grace of God by which men enter this city.
Natural pearls are formed as a clam or oyster deals with an irritant (a foreign object or parasite), by covering it with layer upon layer of something beautiful. Likewise, the Lord was longsuffering toward sinful men, as He bore the cost of changing their character into that which reflects His glory. Mat 13:45,46; Eph 2:7; Mal 3:17
and the street of the city [was] pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
street- GK= platein, broad way (cp. word use in Rev 11:8; 22:2).
The word is singular, not that this is a one street town, but that there is one great transparent commons which interconnects the many places prepared (Joh 14:2). All residents are in unbroken direct fellowship with the Lord and with one another (cp. 1Joh 1:3).
gold...- The streets are not so much paved with gold as with the Light.
transparent...- The transparency of this city
precludes any shadow that might hide the Light Giver's glory.
There are no dark alleys. There are no dark secrets.
Everything is open, pure, and bathed in the glory of God's holiness.
21:22 And I saw no temple therein:
for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
no temple- Millennial Jerusalem has a Temple (described in great detail in Ezekiel ch. 40 - 47).
This word for 'temple' {GK= naos} refers to the 'holy place' within the temple building. The word is rooted in a verb {GK= naio} meaning 'to dwell.' In this city, there is no designated holy place, where God dwells, for all is holy. Compare Eph 2:19-22, where v.21 uses the same word for temple, preceded by "holy" (ie., "a holy, 'holy place' in the Lord").
21:23 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
{ie., lamp, light source} thereof.
The glory of God, which illuminates the city, also illuminates the new earth over which it is suspended (v.24; Isa 60:19,20).
21:24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in {by} the light of it:
and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
the nations- GK= ethnos, gentiles, heathen, race, nation.
Since the city is over the "nations," some interpreters apply ch. 21 to the Millennium.
However, these nations consist of those who "are saved." The absence of fleshly men eliminates any threat that rebellion might arise anywhere on the earth (cf. Rev 20:7-9).
the nations... shall walk in {by} the light of it.- cp. Psa 89:15; Isa 2:5; Joh 8:12
This describes the redeemed, from every kindred, tribe and nation, on the new earth, in the eternal state.
the kings of earth- Again, some see the Millennial Kingdom here.
However, the Church saints will reign 'on' (or, 'over') the earth, forever (5:10, where 'on' can mean 'over,' ie., having jurisdiction over the earth; 22:5).
21:25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day:
for there shall be no night there.
21:26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
Similarly, the gates of the Millennial Jerusalem "shall not be shut day nor night" to facilitate pilgrims from the nations. However, during the millennium, 'night' will cover the city regularly, and some nations will not come willingly, due to spiritual darkness (Isa 60:11,12).
But here, there is no night. Neither is there any enemy to shut out. All citizens of the eternal kingdom are new creatures in Christ, now fully perfected, and enjoying complete freedom in glad service to their Lord.
Dr. McGee sees Israel & the redeemed nations dwelling on the new earth and commuting for worship to the New Jerusalem, where the Church dwells.
21:27 And there shall in no wise {way} 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.
makes a lie- One can lie without saying a word, by the thought and intent of the heart,
and by actions which contradict one's words. All forms of impurity and hypocrisy are completely and eternally absent from this holy city. cp. Rev 22:15
there shall in no {way} enter...-
  • Some apply this to the Millennial Kingdom, saying that the implication is that there are still unsaved people on earth, but they are denied entrance into the holy city, though its gates are continually open. [JBS]
  • However, this verse (v.27) depicts the absolute purity of the citizens of the eternal city. Only those, who have been made pure by the blood of the Lamb, to live in fellowship with the One who is the Light, will enter the new earth, new heaven, and new Jerusalem (cp. Joh 3:3; 14:3; 1Joh 1:3-7; 3:1,2).
         All who were not found written in the Lamb's book of life (ie., all unredeemed sinners) will be excluded from the eternal city, because they were previously consigned to the Lake of Fire (v.8). The term "without," in 22:14,15, refers to this permanent exclusion from the city of God.

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