While the apostle John was imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos, God gave him a vision of the future, which John recorded in the book of Revelation.
John’s vision gives us a glimpse of how world history will end and eternity begin. It is full of wonderful symbols that help us to grasp things that would otherwise be beyond our understanding.
John saw the evil that would be unleashed across history, especially in the last days. He saw the joy of Christ’s people when they would be taken out of the suffering of this world and welcomed into Christ’s presence. And he saw the final victory of Christ, when evil will be destroyed forever.
“Then,” John wrote, “I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1).
We can easily understand why God would make a new earth, but why would God make a new heaven?
Before there was ever rebellion on earth, there was rebellion in heaven. Satan wanted to ascend to the throne of God, and so he was cast out. The possibility of evil existed both on the earth and in heaven.
But now John sees that the enemy will be consigned to destruction forever and that God will shape a new heaven, free not only from the presence of evil but even from its possibility.
Then John says that he saw a “new earth.” The destiny of the Christian believer is not a dreamlike existence in an imaginary world. God will reshape, re-create, replenish, and renew this planet: “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21).
At this point in the story, human history as we know it has been brought to a close. London, Chicago, Jerusalem, Cairo, Beijing, and Moscow are all gone! The earth has been laid bare in the fervent heat of God’s judgment (2 Peter 3:10; Hebrews 1:10–12).
John saw a new city coming down from heaven. He immediately recognized its skyline: Jerusalem! It was unmistakably familiar to him (Revelation 21:2).
Jerusalem is full of significance in the Bible story. This was the place where God came down to meet with His people when the cloud of His presence filled the temple.
The new city is absolutely vast. It is laid out like a square and measures 12,000 stadia—1,400 miles (Revelation 21:16)! The area covered by the city would be about three-quarters the size of America or five times the size of Great Britain.
John had already seen that the vast crowd of God’s people were more than anyone could number. Now God was communicating that He has a place for every one of them.
The measurements of the city are given in three dimensions. It is “as wide and high as it is long” (Revelation 21:16). In other words, it is a perfect cube.
John would have seen the significance of this immediately. The Most Holy Place in the temple, where God met with His people, was also a perfect cube: thirty feet long, thirty feet wide, and thirty feet high (1 Kings 6:20).
The old city had a holy place, where the presence of God came down. The new city is a holy place, where God’s presence will remain. In the old Jerusalem, one room was filled with His glory. In the New Jerusalem, the whole city will be filled with His glory, and a vast crowd of men and women will live in God’s presence forever.
At this point in the vision, John is invited to enter the city. As he enters—no doubt to his absolute astonishment—John sees a garden (Revelation 22:1–2)!
The Bible story began in a garden, and now, at the end of the Bible story, this paradise is restored. In the new garden, God’s people have access to the Tree of Life, which bears twelve different crops of fruit, ready to pick every month. The variety of fruit speaks of the riches of life continually replenished in the presence of God.
The pleasures of God’s new garden city will surpass anything Adam knew in the Garden of Eden. You will taste fruits Adam never tasted, and enjoy pleasures Adam never knew.
When you are in the presence of God, you will have no regrets. God will wipe every tear from your eyes (Revelation 21:4). Imagine God Himself doing that for you! Sometimes we may wonder how it would be possible to be in heaven and not to have tears for ourselves or for others. One thing is clear: God will remove not only our regrets but the very source of them.
God’s people will enjoy His presence in His great garden city. We will serve Him, and God says that we will “reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). Thankfully, this does not mean that we will all have government jobs.
When God speaks about us reigning, He is telling us that life will be ordered and brought under your control. You will no longer be subject to the tyranny of time, piles of paperwork, and all that goes with it. You will no longer struggle with unpredictable tides of emotion, deceptions of the mind, or impulses of the will. You will no longer endure dysfunctional relationships, and you will no longer be subject to danger or death.
Your life will be ordered, your work fulfilled, and your relationships whole. Life itself will be brought under your control, and you will be free to fulfill all the purposes of God.
At the climax of his vision, John heard a voice from God’s throne saying, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them” (Revelation 21:3). The alienation will be over. The curse will be gone. God’s great purpose will be accomplished. And the life that He made you for will begin.
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
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