Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.CHAPTER 21
And now the eternal state comes into view. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away and the sea is no more.” This is the revelation concerning the final and eternal state of the earth. “Thou hast established the earth and it abideth” (Psalm 119:90); “But the earth abideth forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4). These divine statements are now fulfilled. Many Christians have a very vague conception of the eternal state of the earth and the abode of the redeemed. They think of it as a spiritual state destitute of any locality. But it is not so. The earth and the heaven abide as definite places throughout all eternity. What a marvellous fact this is! In Revelation 20:11 we read that the earth and the heaven fled away and there was found no place. We saw that at that time the great conflagration of which Peter speaks took place, when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements, shall be dissolved with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2Peter 3:10).
But we read in the same chapter “nevertheless we, according to His promise look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2Peter 3:13). During the millennium righteousness reigns upon the earth, but now a state comes for the earth when righteousness shall dwell there. The great burning up meant not an annihilation of the earth and the heavens; God does not annihilate anything, nor does Scripture teach an annihilation of material things and much less the annihilation of human beings, as false teachers claim. The conflagration of the earth and the heaven means their complete purification. The heaven mentioned cannot be the entire heavens; for there is a heaven which cannot be touched by these fires of purification. The heaven is that which surrounds the earth and which was once the peculiar sphere of the great usurper, the prince of the power in the air. And when Peter writes that all this is according to His promise, he has a well-known prophetic statement in Isaiah in mind. “For as the new heaven and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.” (Isaiah 66:22. See also Isaiah 65:17).
From this statement we get definite information that the redeemed Israel established upon the new earth will throughout the eternal state be distinct from the saved nations. They will throughout all eternity bear witness of God’s faithfulness as the covenant-keeping God. The new heaven and the new earth are therefore the abodes of the redeemed. The new earth, the eternal glory spot of redeemed Israel and the redeemed nations, and the new Jerusalem will come out of heaven to fill the new earth and the new heaven as well. “And I John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
The new Jerusalem, the holy city, comes into view. During the millennium the city of Jerusalem was known as the place of glory for the earth. Numerous Old Testament predictions were fulfilled. In Revelation 20:9, she is called “the beloved city.” But in Revelation 3:12 we have another Jerusalem mentioned, the same city which John sees coming down out of heaven, the place of the highest glory. It is the abode of the Church in all her glory; the statement “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” establishes this beyond controversy. She is called “holy” for all is holy; and a “city” because the Saints are in blessed communion and fellowship there. In the highest glory she had her abode. But now she is being revealed in all her eternal glory and beauty.
During the millennial reign this wonderful city was above the earth and from there Christ reigned and His saints with Him. But here she comes down out of heaven. A thousand years before the marriage of the Lamb had taken place (19:7-8), and now after a thousand years of unspeakable glory, she is still seen “as a bride adorned for her husband.” And yet all these things are given in figurative language. What will be the reality! The masterwork of God is at last fully manifested; what He accomplished through Him, who left the glory to die on the cross, is made known. The eternal, never ending riches, purchased by Him who was rich and became poor for our sakes, are beginning to be displayed in all their unfading splendor. Then the saints of God will learn to know the full meaning of Ephesians 2:7, “that in the ages to come He might display the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.” “And I heard a loud 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.” This is the glorious consummation. It is the goal of a holy, loving God.
In Eden God visited man unfallen, walked and talked with Him. Then sin severed this fellowship. He dwelt in the midst of Israel in the holiest of the tabernacle. In this age the Church is His habitation by the Spirit, but the blessed consummation in the eternal state will result in God dwelling with His redeemed creatures. What holy, glorious, never-ending intimacy that will be! It is the time when God is all in all (1Corinthians 15:28). When that time has come all the former things are passed away. “And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” Tears, death, sorrow, crying, pain and suffering, these came into existence through sin. And all these things, the effects of sin, are now gone. What relief and what joy!
And next comes the eternal state of those who have rejected the gospel, who lived in their sins and died in their sins, unsaved, unregenerated. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, 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.” God still speaks. How many false teachers are meddling today with the solemn Scripture doctrine on the endless punishment of the wicked.
With the ninth verse we are brought back once more to the millennial state. What was briefly stated in Revelation 20:4-6 is now more fully revealed and we have a description of the bride, the Lamb’s Wife, in her millennial glory, in relation to Israel and to the nations on the earth. one of the angels which had the seven vials appears on the scene to show something to the seer. We had a similar scene in Revelation 17:1-3. There one of these angelic bearers of the vials showed to John the harlot woman and her judgment; but now he is to see the bride, the Lamb’s wife. “And he carried me away in the Spirit, and set me on a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” She is seen coming down out of heaven. This coming down precedes the one mentioned in Revelation 21:2-3 by a thousand years. Her coming down does not mean here that she actually comes down upon the earth, to dwell on the earth during the millennium. Her coming out of heaven in Revelation 21:2-3 is undoubtedly to the new earth. But here she comes down to be over the earth.
For a fuller exposition of the symbolical language we refer the reader to the larger exposition of Revelation by the author. We mention briefly that the foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem are twelve previous stones.
The jasper again stands first; the wall itself is of jasper, while the first foundation stone mentioned is also jasper. It stands for the glory of God. Then the stones follow in their order. The sapphire (blue); the chalcedony (a combination of grey, blue and yellow); the emerald (green); the sardonyx (a pale blue); the sardius (blood red); chrysolite (purple and green); the beryl (bluish green); the topaz (pale green or golden); the chrysoprasus (mixed blue, green and yellow); the jacinth (combination of red, violet and yellow), and the amethyst (purple). And what must be the deeper meaning of all these precious stones! What varied aspects of the glory of God they must represent! And the redeemed in their heavenly city shall know, understand and enjoy it all. What wonderful, unspeakable glory is ahead of us! May we look forward to it every day and willingly serve and suffer the little while down here.
The city itself was seen by John as of pure gold. Gold typifies the righteousness of God in His nature and such the holy city is, composed of the saints who were made through grace the partakers of the divine nature. “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each one of the several gates was of one pearl; and the street of the city was pure gold as it were transparent glass.” How suitable the pearl to form each gate, the entrance to the city divine. The Pearl is a type of the Church. She is the one pearl of great price for which the Lord gave all He had (Matthew 13:45-46). And the golden street like unto pure glass shows that all the ways and walks in that city are according to righteousness and that defilement is eternally impossible.
And there was no temple in that city; the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. There is no need any longer of a certain access into the presence of God, as it was on earth, but there is a free and unhindered fellowship with God and with His ever-blessed Son, the Lamb. Precious it is to hear Him again mentioned as the Lamb. His blessed work which He accomplished can never be forgotten by the saints in glory. And the light is not created light, but the light is the glory of God and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. The glory of God and Christ, the Lamb of God, will be the light and supersede all created light.
“And the nations shall walk by its light and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor unto it (the better rendering); and the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations unto it.” From this we learn that the glory light which shines eternally and undiminished in the holy city is the light in which the saved millennial nations on the earth walk. And the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor unto it; not “into” it as it is rendered in the Authorized Version. The heavens then rule, for Christ and His co-heirs are in that holy city, and the government and rule over the earth proceeds from there. The kings bring their glory and honor unto it, they bow in homage in the presence of the holy city.
Heaven is acknowledged as the source of all light, glory and blessing. When the nations and the kings of the earth go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord of Hosts during the millennial age (Psalm 72:8-11; Is. 60:1-3; Zechariah 14:16) we doubt not, they will turn their faces upward. Mount Zion in Israel’s land will have resting upon it the glory and above it the vision of the city in which the glory dwells and from which the glory emanates. And unto it they bring honor and glory. The open gates, never closed, denote security and suggest also communication and intercourse with the earth. “There shall be no night there”; the night of sin and sorrow is forever gone for the dwellers in the holy city. “And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”