A new heaven and a new earth: Revelation 21:1-8

200321147-001Previously: Anyone not found in the book of life – Revelation 20:15

The scripture

Rev. 21:1 – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. 2 I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.

     5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. 7 The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. 8 But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars – their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (HCSB)

A brief summary

Verses 1-8 appear to offer us a brief summary of what is described in more detail in the remainder of chapters 21-22. John sees a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. The Greek word John uses for “new” is kainos, which means “different from the usual, impressive, better than the old, superior in value or attraction,” according to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. In other words, God does not simply annihilate the old order of things and start again from scratch; He purges the sinful and fallen cosmos and restores it to its pristine beauty.

Steve Gregg explains in Revelation: Four Views, “One way of understanding the structure of these final chapters is to see this whole segment (vv. 1-8) as an outline or summary of the remaining portion of the book. A remarkable correspondence exists between the progression of thought in these first verses and in the remaining chapters” (p. 492).

For example:

  • In verse 2 we see the New Jerusalem, explained more fully in Rev. 21:9-21.
  • In verse 3 we see that God dwells among men, described in more detail in Rev. 21:22-27.
  • In verse 5 we see the renewal of the world, for which we are provided more information in Rev. 22:1-5.
  • In verse 5 we also see, “These words are faithful and true,” which is expanded upon in Rev. 22:6-10.
  • In verse 6 we see Jesus declare His work completed, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega,” more fully revealed in Rev. 22:11-15.
  • In verses 6-7 we see a final blessing, the water of life to all who thirst, expanded upon in Rev. 22:16-17.
  • And in verse 8 we see the final curse upon the rebellious, repeated in Rev. 22:18-19.

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Is heaven our final home?


This is the eighth in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.

Is heaven the final destination of all who rest in Jesus? Or do we spend eternity someplace else?

In 2 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul describes two different and mutually exclusive states of existence for the Christian. While we are on earth, “at home in the body,” we are “away from the Lord.” And when we are “out of the body” we are “at home with the Lord” (5:6, 8).

The New Testament teaches that upon death, believers’ souls/spirits separate from our lifeless bodies and enter the presence of God in heaven (see also Phil. 1:21-24). There, we enjoy intimate fellowship with our Lord while awaiting the future resurrection and glorification of our bodies (John 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:51-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

We see magnificent glimpses into the throne room of heaven through the visionary eyes of the apostle John in the Book of Revelation: the triune Godhead; an emerald-colored rainbow surrounding a glorious throne; living creatures; elders; angels; and redeemed people from every tribe, language, people, and nation.

The combined voices of all creatures in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea proclaim, “Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13).

We may be tempted to stop here, as if heaven is the final destination in life’s long journey. It is breathtaking. But it gets better.
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Revelation 20: Download the free study

We are nearly through with our verse-by-verse study of the Book of Revelation, focusing on four major views of the so-called Apocalypse of John.

You may read the commentary to date either by clicking on End Times or Revelation in the drop-down menu (Topics) to the right.

Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era; a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history; a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled; or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book.

We would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.

Download the commentary on Revelation 20

Save us from the fire

Heaven can’t wait; more on purgatory


Save us from the fireThis is the seventh in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.

In the last column we defined the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory and argued that this long-held teaching finds no support in Scripture.

Perhaps the strongest argument against the doctrine of purgatory is that it undermines the sufficiency of Christ. Just before His death on the cross, Jesus declares triumphantly, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Among other things, this means the work of redemption is complete and that no more sacrifice for sins is required.

The wrath of God has been satisfied as the One who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

The writer of Hebrews echoes this truth: “After making purification for sins, He [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3b). Further, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified” (10:14).
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Anyone not found in the book of life – Revelation 20:15

Previously: The second death – Revelation 20:14

The scripture

Rev. 20:15 – And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (HCSB)

Anyone not found

John concludes this section with the words, “And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (v. 15).

As the wicked pass through the gates of hell in Dante’s epic poem Inferno, they are greeted with these words: “Abandon hope, all you who enter here.” These words remind the damned that once inside, there is no escape from the fiery torments they have brought upon themselves.

As Charles Swindoll writes, “Though the details of Dante’s fictional picture of heaven, hell, and purgatory range from the fantastic to the heretical, he was right about this: the final destination of the wicked features a one-way entrance. All hope vanishes beyond; there will be no escape from the lake of fire…. The facts of eternal punishment are set forth without a hint of hope … because no hope exists apart from God” (Insights on Revelation, pp. 266-67).

Books are opened at the great white throne, and the wicked find their names there, along with details of their lives – perhaps even a full accounting of their deeds. Some may wish to be excluded from God’s record of their thoughts, words, and actions, for their lives are laden with every sort of evil. They stand before their Creator – who has revealed Himself in creation, conscience, Christ and Canon – with no excuse (Rom. 1:20). They have turned up their noses at God’s revealed love and turned their backs on His grace. And now they are reminded of every idle word, every selfish deed, every squandered opportunity as the evidence written in the books piles so high and wide it becomes like prison walls that cannot be scaled.
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