Exegetical look into Revelation 21:1-3

• New, in context, means “rejuvenated.” God is changing the “old order of things,” but that does not necessarily mean He is replacing it. As Paul states, we are being reconditioned in Christ by our “new” covenant of grace, as the “old” is passed away (Gen 3:17; Is. 51:15-16; 65:17; 66:22; Rom. 8:18-23; 2 Cor. 5:17).

• New heaven and a new earth. This theme comes from Isaiah 65, teaching that God will completely and thoroughly accomplish and achieve His purpose throughout the universe. Thus, as Christians, we will be “transfigured” so we will have no ties to the old nature of sin and evil. Some have seen this as an “extreme makeover” where the entire creation is restored to its original parameters—before sin corrupted everything—and we receive our new bodies. Perhaps so, or perhaps not, but new bodies are not the point of this passage. Many people in the last hundred years have seen this as our planet being destroyed and then rebuilt; such a concept would have been absurd to the original writer, John, his audience, and the Jewish culture to whom this book was written. Although the Greeks and some Jewish mystics had a philosophy that that taught that a new heaven and earth would be formed, this was not a biblical concept. Such a view ignores the context and word meanings we get from the rest of Scripture (Gen. 1:1; Is. 42:9; 48:6; 51:15-16; 65:17-25; 66:22; 1 Cor. 15:35-57 and apocrypha 1 Enoch, Jubilees).

• No longer any sea. This is a contrast of the evil and oppressive things being replaced with what is good. Sea is a Jewish metaphor for what is frightful and terrible, and what is inexplicable and/or hostile as the sea was greatly feared by them. Sea is where the monsters lived; people did not live anywhere near it nor did they have a navy. This saved them from numerous deadly tsunamis over the centuries. Such imagery is used for invading armies and the occupation from the Romans. This does not necessarily mean the seas will evaporate or be removed, but the fear of it as “sea” meant evil. Here, God is saying He will neuter evil’s power or remove it all together. This can also refer to how God will (has already done) neuter Rome, its power, and its influence (Job 7:12; 41:1; Psalms 74:13; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1; 65:17; Rev. 13:1-10).

• New Jerusalem means God comes to us. Jerusalem refers to the city where God reigns and where He is among His people. It represents the holiness and eminence, as Jerusalem is a place of gathering, community, and worship in Jewish culture and faith. The contrast is, then, in the Old Jerusalem where they journeyed to meet Him. Now, the New Jerusalem is God who journeys to meet them. In ancient Judaism, this theme also meant “hope.” It is also a position and representation of the people of God, “His people,” as a bride to God. A re-established Jerusalem came after the exile under Ezra and Nehemiah and pointed to the Messianic kingdom. Here, it is metaphorical, pointing to Christ as messiah and hope. The point is that a greater Jerusalem is because of Christ, not the rebuilding of the actual city, thus Christ and His Kingdom are the New Jerusalem. Faithfulness is the key that opens to us the door to life in the New Jerusalem (Neh. 11:1-18; Psalm 87:5-6; Is. 48:2; 52:1; 54:11-12; 62:12; 65:17-18; John 1:14; 13:34; 16:33; Gal. 4:26; Phil. 1; Heb 11-10; 12:22; 1 John 4:20; 5:4-5; Rev. 2:11, 17, 26; 3:5-13, 12, 21; 19:7; 21:1-22:5).

• Coming down out of heaven from God means that God dwells with His people! He is the God Who is now and Who is to come. It refers to perfection, holiness, and purity. This points to the Garden of Eden and that God is the One who restores, converts, and brings salvation and hope. This also means righteousness, rightfulness, and renewal. Christ is coming and all will consummate His will and purpose. Justice and His Kingdom will be fulfilled, and every knee will bow (Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10; Rev. 21:1-22:5; Tobit; Jubilees; 4 Ezra)!

• Bride. This is an identification of His people and an image of our Redeemer’s intimacy and the community between God and His children (Eph. 5:31-32; Rev. 19:7).

• Throne… dwelling of God, meaning, “God is among us!” refers to the Tabernacle—how God resides among His people, and the theme of “Immanuel.” Tabernacle and Sanctuary are images of the Old Testament Tabernacle tent that was God’s heavenly dwelling. As a throne, this refers to the inner sanctum of God’s most holy of holies where the Ark, with the two tablets of the Testimony Moses brought from Mount Sinai dwelt. This represented God’s home on earth as a “copy” of God’s Throne Room, made for His presence in the inner chamber of Jewish Temples and the Tabernacle, a tent used before the Temple was built by Solomon. Now, John sees the real heavenly version being brought down to us. This is very significant in Christian redemption (Ex. 24:9-11; 25:8-9, 40; 29:45; 32:15; 37: 24-28; 43:7-10; Lev. 26:11-12; Deut 10:5; 1 Kings 6:12-13; 22:19; Is. 8:8-10; 51:16; Ezek. 37: 24-28; Zech. 2:11; Dan. 7:9-10; Matt. 1:22-23; 13:38; John 8:42-45; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:1-6; 9:1-14; Rev. 3:12; 4:1; 7:15; 11:19; 14:15-17; 15:5-16:1, 16:17; 21:22).

• His people. God seeks us; He wants to be with us, He is our refuge; He is the One to whom we look for leadership (Psalm 23; 80:1; 121:5-6; Isa. 4:5-6; 49:10; Micah 7:14; John 10:11-18; Heb. 3:1; 13:20; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 4:6-7).

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