New Jerusalem Descends

SYNOPSIS - Following the final judgment, John sees the “holy city, New Jerusalem” descending to the earth – Revelation 21:1-8

Heavens - Photo by Kaushik Panchal on Unsplash
The next paragraph presents “New Jerusalem” to the reader and concludes the third literary division of the book - (Revelation 17:1–21:8). Having witnessed the destruction of “Babylon,” the “False Prophet,” the “Beast from the Sea,” and the “Dragon” - As well as the final judgment - John receives a vision of what awaits the faithful at the end of the age – “New Jerusalem descending from heaven to the earth.”

The promises made to “overcoming” Christians in the seven letters to the churches of Asia find their fulfillment in the New Creation and its “holy city, New Jerusalem.” The images of the “city” employ language from several Old Testament promises given originally to national Israel. However, the company that receives them is comprised of “peoples,” plural – The faithful saints from “every nation, tongue, nation, and people.”

Note well - The original promise of land made by Yahweh to Abraham finds its fulfillment in the “new heavens and new earth.”
  • (Revelation 21:1-8) – “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and, the sea is no more. And the holy city, new Jerusalem, saw I coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice out of the throne, saying — Lo! the tent of God is with men, and he will tabernacle with them, and they shall be his peoples, and he shall be God with them; And he will wipe away every tear out of their eyes, — and death shall be no more, and grief and outcry and pain shall be no more: the first things have passed away. And he that was sitting upon the throne said — Lo! I make all things new. And he saith — Write! because these words are faithful and true. And he said unto me — Accomplished! I am the A and the Z, the Beginning and the End: I, unto him that is thirsting, will give of the fountain of the water of life freely: He that overcometh shall inherit these things, — And I will be to him a God, and he shall be to me a son; But, as for the timid and disbelieving and abominable and murderers and fornicators and sorcerers and idolaters, and all the false, their part is in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, — which is the second death” - (The Emphasized Bible).
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” The declaration draws on language from the book of Isaiah – The promise to Israel of a future day when Yahweh would create a “new heaven and earth”:
  • (Isaiah 65:17-19) – “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.”
  • (Isaiah 66:22) – “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith Yahweh, so shall your seed and your name remain.”
The sea IS no more.” The Greek verb is in the present tense - “is.” The text describes what John saw in “real-time,” so to speak. The elimination of the “sea” is prominent because in the book of Revelation it is the source of malevolent forces and a place of the dead, and synonymous with the “Abyss” - (Revelation 9:1-10, 11:7, 13:1, 15:1-2, 20:8, 20:13).
The point of the promise is not the disappearance of the oceans and other bodies of water from the new earth, but the removal of all evil.
And I saw a hoy city descending from heaven.” The description contrasts the image of “New Jerusalem descending from heaven” with the start of the thousand-year period when John saw “an angel descending from heaven, having the key of the Abyss.”

Descending out of heaven from God.” In the Greek text, the verb is a present tense participle, which signifies action-in-progress. That is to say, John saw the “city” in the process of descending.

Already, with the first advent of Jesus, the process has begun, although it awaits its consummation at the end of the age. The arrival of “New Jerusalem” fulfills the promise of Jesus to overcoming saints - “I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, New Jerusalem, which is descending out of heaven from my God” - (Revelation 3:12).

Prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.” This “marriage” of the bride was anticipated at the heavenly celebration after the destruction of the “Great Whore.” What John now sees is compared to a “city” and a “bride” (Note well - The use of simile - “like”). This is not to be taken literally - “New Jerusalem” is both a “holy city” AND a “pure bride” – The analogies emphasize different aspects of the final glory that awaits the “saints” - (Revelation 19:7-8).

The tabernacle of God is with men…and they will be his peoples.” The sentence echoes several Old Testament passages, beginning with the covenant promise to Abraham - Which finds its fulfillment in the “New Creation.” This includes the promise of land to Abraham, and to “his seed.” Note well - “Peoples” is plural (laoi) - The promise is applied to a group that is far more inclusive than the biological descendants of Abraham.
  • (Genesis 17:7-8) – “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
  • (Leviticus 26:11-12) – “And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.”
  • (Jeremiah 31:33) – “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel…and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
  • (Ezekiel 37:27) – “My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
  • (Zechariah 13:9) – “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, Yahweh is my God.”
He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more.” Previously, this was promised to the innumerable multitude that John saw exiting the “great tribulation.” The description echoes a promise from the book of Isaiah made to the faithful remnant of Israel at the conclusion of a judicial pronouncement against the city of Tyre - (Isaiah 23:1–25:8, Revelation 7:9-17):
  • (Isaiah 23:1-25:8) – “Yahweh will swallow up death in victory; and Yahweh will wipe away tears from off all faces.”
The former things have passed away…Behold, I make all things new.” This alluded to another promise from Isaiah to the faithful remnant of Israel - “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare” - (Isaiah 42:9).

Forest Stream - Photo by Karim Sakhibgareev on Unsplash
Photo by Karim Sakhibgareev on Unsplash

Write, because these words are faithful and true.” The command for John to “write” reiterates one heard twice at the beginning of the book. The description “faithful and true” was applied to Jesus for his faithful “witness” in death:
  • (Revelation 1:11, 1:19) “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: What you sees, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches in Asia…Write the things which you saw, what they are, and the things which shall be hereafter.”
  • (Revelation 1:4) - “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead.”
  • (Revelation 19:9) “Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb…These are the true sayings of God.
It is done” (ginomai). The same declaration occurred at the beginning and the end of the “seven bowls of wrath”:
  • (Revelation 15:1, 16:17) - “I saw another sign in heaven, seven angels having seven plagues, the last ones, for in them is completed [teleō] the wrath of GodAnd the seventh poured out his bowl upon the air; and there came forth a great voice out of the temple, from the throne, saying, It is done.”
John is guided by one of the seven angels that had the “seven bowls of wrath.” The literary connection is deliberate - The third literary division is an expansion and explanation of the “seven bowls.” At this point, the book shows what the completion of God’s wrath will mean for the “overcoming” saints.

I am the Beginning and the End.” This description was heard at the outset of the book and will be heard again in its Epilogue. It is applied to God, the one “Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty.” The appellation - The “first and the last” - is applied to Jesus but not the term “alpha and omega.” Jesus is the “first and last” because he died, then lived again - (Revelation 1:8-18, 2:8, 22:13).

They will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; the second death.” The sentence parallels the conclusion to the final judgment scene at the “Great White Throne of Judgment.”

Note well - The positions of “second death” and “lake of fire” are reversed in the sentence from the end of the previous paragraph - The present statement forms an inclusio with the preceding paragraph and brings the third literary division its end:
  • (Revelation 20:14-15) - “This is the second deaththe lake of fire. And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.
In this paragraph, the stress is on “New Jerusalem” descending from heaven to the earth, not the other way around. The goal is the Redemption of humanity and the Created Order, not their abandonment.

The fourth and final division of the books begins with the next paragraph – The description of a “holy city” that will encompass the entire Cosmos.


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