“A New Heaven and a New Earth”
Revelation 21:1 – 22:7
Two words mean “new” in the Greek language, whereas the English has only one. Neos means “new” in the sense of “recent” or just beginning. Kainos means “new” in the sense of character or condition without special reference to age. Kainos is the word John uses when he says, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” He means he saw the earth and its surrounding atmosphere made new again by having passed through the fire. A manufacturer of jewels can take a lot of old gold and make a new gold ring out of it. Likewise, the earth will one day be put through a melting, refining, remodeling process. Out of it, a “new earth” will come such as John saw.
First, John mentions about the new earth, “there was no more sea,” which one would expect. The intense heat has evaporated the stagnant, salty sea entirely. From henceforth, only fresh water will be found on the earth. Also, the space the sea occupied will now be needed for the habitation of all the good people who have lived throughout the ages – millions upon millions of them.
Then, the new Jerusalem for God’s people does not at all correspond to the description of the Jerusalem of the Millennial age. For instance, no temple is in it (v. 22), and the Temple was the great thing in the Millennial Jerusalem. “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 thereof.” This phenomenon is not because the sun and moon are blotted out of existence, but because the light from God and Christ’s own person is so much more brilliant than light from material bodies like the sun and moon. Since the Divine presence is always in New Jerusalem, “The nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it;” and the saints who reign with Christ, and “the kings of the earth, do bring glory and honor unto it” (v. 24).
Why does John say this “New Jerusalem” was coming “down from God out of heaven?” The city this time, unlike the Millennial Jerusalem, seems to be of a heavenly nature. Surely its costly materials were never found on earth. Were not the earth to be made over and the seas abolished, no room for such a city would exist that is 1,500 miles in length and in breadth. Says Dr. Seiss: “The base of it would stretch from farthest Maine to furthest Florida and from the shore of the Atlantic to Colorado. It would cover all Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Prussia, European Turkey and half of European Russia taken together!”
Strange to say, it is as high as it is long and wide – 1,500 miles high! By the time this city comes into existence, human beings will have taken on wonderful new powers, so that moving upwards and downwards will be as easy and natural as moving to and fro. The city is spoken of as “Having the glory of God; and her light (which streamed from “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb”) was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (v. 11). A jasper stone “clear as crystal” does not appear to be an ordinary jasper but a diamond. The light will shine with radiancy and many colors like a diamond, only infinitely more brilliant.
“The foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones.” Their colors are probably: 1. diamond; 2. blue; 3. bluish grey; 4. grass-green; 5. carnelian striped with green; 6, cornelian striped with brown; 7. golden; 8. sea-green; 9. yellow; 10. translucent pale green; 11. red; 12. violet-blue. Each of these twelve enormous precious stones has the name of an apostle engraved on it. With all these various and brilliant colors, most nearly transparent as well, one can understand how the general effect was to John like one great diamond, as he describes it in verse 18: “And the building of the wall of it was of jasper.”
Although each one of the twelve gates was made of “one pearl” of enormous size, these gates always stood open (vv. 21, 25). The city was of pure transparent gold. Although no temple was in the city, “the throne of God and the Lamb” (22:1) and a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal” came out from under the throne. It is quite beyond us to comprehend all this description fully. As John saw it, the city was “descending out of heaven from God.”
Since it had not yet touched the earth, this river and “tree of life which bare twelve manner of fruits” are all heavenly, not earthly. We shall only fully understand these things when they come to pass or when we enter this New Jerusalem. It is written, “The leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations.” Even today, we have the healing power in the water of life and in the leaves of the tree of life in our salvation through Jesus Christ.
Canon Payne Smith says: “As the Bible begins, so does it end with that tree of life. Its meaning in the last chapter of the book of Revelation is no longer veiled as ‘the pure river of the water of life’ is the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the ‘tree of life’ is ‘the living bread which came down from heaven, of which if anyone eat he shall live for ever’” (John 6:51).
Someone seems to have spoken to John just then. He said, “There shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him. And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign (not merely a thousand years but) for ever and ever.”
I suppose John was so staggered and overwhelmed by this wonderful vision of New Jerusalem that he could not realize it at all. Perhaps he even thought: “Is this vision of something real, or am I dreaming?” For the voice continued: “These sayings are faithful (believable) and true; and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show unto His servants the things which must shortly come to pass.” I wonder if John began now to recognize the familiar voice: “Behold, I come quickly; blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”
The visions are now over. John has seen the last one, and he has heard the voice of his Master confirming them all as an actual representation of things which will really come to pass and be known to God’s servants by actual experience in due time. See the special pains taken to teach us the importance of studying, pondering and trying to understand this book. At the very beginning (1:3) it is said; “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep (treasure up) those things which are written therein.” At the end of the visions, the blessing is repeated on him “that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”