Our verse-by-verse study of the Book of Revelation is nearly complete. For several years now, we’ve been 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.
Rev. 21:12 – The city had a massive high wall, with 12 gates. Twelve angels were at the gates; the names of the 12 tribes of Israel’s sons were inscribed on the gates. 13 There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. 14 The city wall had 12 foundations, and the 12 names of the Lamb’s 12 apostles were on the foundations. (HCSB)
A massive high wall
In verses 12-21 John describes the exterior of the New Jerusalem, turning to the interior in verses 22-27. The New Jerusalem has a “massive high wall, with 12 gates.” The walls and gates speak of protection, which angels ensure as they stand guard.
God’s people have nothing to fear from their enemies any longer. Though hated and harassed on earth, these pilgrims are now safe from all harms. Where once they wore shackles behind prison walls, they now walk freely within the gates of the heavenly city. Where once they wandered about in sheepskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated, wandering in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground, they now receive a better inheritance as they bask in the never-ending daylight of their eternal home.
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. (HCSB)
The sea no longer existed
It’s curious that John notes there is no longer any sea (Rev. 21:1). Why is this?
John may be saying that just as the old heaven and earth have passed away, so has the old sea, which covers most of our planet. Many of God’s creatures reside in the sea or rely on it for life. So why wouldn’t Jesus renovate these huge bodies of water and their inhabitants? Some commentators take John’s words to mean the oceans are done away with, not fresh bodies of water.
Still others take this symbolically as representing the nations and peoples of the Gentiles. Only spiritual Israel – that is, true Israel consisting of Old and New Covenant saints – remains, while unbelievers are cast out, allowing the glory of the Lord to fill the earth: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord’s glory, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).
A.R. Fausset and D. Brown offer this perspective: “The sea is the type of perpetual unrest. Hence our Lord rebukes it as an unruly hostile troubler of His people. It symbolized the political tumults out of which ‘the beast’ arose, Rev 13:1. As the physical corresponds to the spiritual and moral world, so the absence of sea, after the metamorphosis of the earth by fire, answers to the unruffled state of solid peace which shall then prevail…. The sea was once the element of the world’s destruction, and is still the source of death to thousands, whence after the millennium, at the general judgment, it is specially said, ‘The sea gave up the dead … in it.’ Then it shall cease to destroy, or disturb, being removed altogether on account of its past destructions” (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Rev. 21:1, Logos Research Systems).
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).
- 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.