The New Jerusalem: Bride & Wife of the Lamb
In Revelation 20:11, John recorded seeing the earth and sky vanish as there was no place for them. That is because the old order or creation must go away or be changed to make way for the new creation. The old creation is infected with sin. It cannot participate in a new order where there is no sin or corruption. Paul explained this is Romans 8. He said the old creation was subjected to futility when man sinned. (Rom. 8:20) It will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Rom. 8:22) This is what Revelation 21-22 shows us.
This is also a fulfillment of God’s statement in Isaiah 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”
John does not tell us how this happens. He just tells us the first creation passed away. He does tell us there is no more sea. This does not mean there will be no large bodies of water in the new creation. Rather, the sea is a symbol of chaos and sin in Jewish writing. For example, Isaiah 57 20-21 says “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” In Revelation 4, the crystal sea separates man from God. In Revelation 13, the beast rises out of the sea to oppose Christ and attack the church.
But Jesus destroys all chaos and sin before the new creation begins. There is no longer any separation between God and man. The new creation is where “righteousness will dwell”. (2 Peter 3:12)
The next thing John sees in the new Jerusalem, which he called the holy city, coming down out of heaven. He said it comes down out of heaven. This is the church. It comes down out of heaven because that is where all believers are at that moment. Some say heaven and earth merge at this point.
We see that the new Jerusalem is the church by referring to the language of other scriptures. For example, in Galatians 4, Paul compared Hagar (mother of Ishmael) to Sarah (mother of Isaac). Hagar corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem, born into slavery. Sarah corresponds to the Jerusalem above. Sarah bore Isaac, the child of promise, who begin to fulfill the promise God made to Abraham that he would be a blessing to all nations. The church comes from Isaac, the world from Ishmael.
Hebrews 12:22-24 says to believers, “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…”
The city coming out of heaven to enjoy the new creation is a picture of the church, all of the redeemed of the ages, coming to live in the eternal dwelling place God prepared for us. Hebrews 11:10 says Abraham was looking forward to the city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God. Hebrews 11 further says all who died in faith desired a better country, that is a heavenly one, so God is not ashamed to be called their God and has prepared for them a city.” (Heb. 11:16)
John also said this city was prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (2) A bride comes to her groom as beautiful as she can be. She prepares herself. She has her hair and make up done. She buys a beautiful, white, gown to wear.
We have seen this metaphor repeatedly in scripture. Revelation 19:7 showed us the marriage supper of the Lamb, who is Jesus. It says the marriage has come and the Bride has made herself ready. We now see the church as the bride come to Jesus as the groom, and he shows her the home he has prepared for them.
When I married my sweet wife, I took her to the home I had prepared for her. It was a small, one bedroom, furnished apartment. I had troubles with the landlord, who had lost our paperwork, and I had to fight for that home so that we would have a place to live, so that she would have a home. Jesus has prepared a home for his bride, also, but this home, as we will see, is beautiful beyond description.
At this point, an announcement is made about the home for the Bride, the New Jerusalem. (21:3-4)
This voice from the throne says:
God will dwell, or tabernacle, with man;
they will be his people;
he will be their God;
He will remove all memory of sadness (wipe away every tear);
He has removed death;
there will be no sadness or pain because he has removed the old creation.
God gave us types of this dwelling with us. It began with the Garden of Eden, where God dwelt with Adam and Eve before the fall. His presence dwelt in the Tabernacle and then the Temple of Israel. The Holiest Place in both the tabernacle and temple reflected God’s throne in heaven, with curtains patterned after space and cherubim next to the throne.
But it was an imperfect situation. Israel was still sinful and so could not approach God except through the priest. And these dwellings were destroyed because Israel sinned against God and worshipped idols.
But God promised that he would dwell with man in the future. In Ezekiel 37:27, he said My dwelling place will be with them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.”
Then Jesus came. The angel that announced his future birth to Mary called him Immanuel, or God with us. (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14) Matthew tells us this fulfills Isaiah 7:14, where a child was promised who would be Immanuel.
Through the Holy Spirit, God dwelt with the church, with believers. John 14:16-17. Yet, we still were sinners in a sinful world.
But this dwelling in Revelation 21 is complete and perfect, with God dwelling in our midst in the perfect place he created for us, unmarred by sin and its effects. All sadness, pain and death are removed.
Eden was perfect because God was there. Eden was lost through sin. Eden is now restored.
We will get a more detailed description of the new Jerusalem starting in verse 9. John often does this. He gives a preliminary vision of something then gives more detail later.
God announces that he is making all things new. He has completed his redemptive plan and now makes all creation perfect. He tells John to write it down for his words are faithful and true. All embattled churches can know that God will one day makes this imperfect world a perfect world.
God follows this with his description of his work. He says:
It is done!
He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end;
he gives eternal life (water of life) without payment;
it is a heritage for the one who conquers;
he will be our father and we will be his children; but
the unbelievers will be in hell.
It Is Done!
These words reflect the words from the voice from the throne when the last bowl was poured out in 16:17. God declares that all he set out to do before the foundation of the world is accomplished. He has made a people for himself redeemed out of mankind, he has defeated all his enemies and he has made a place for his redeemed family to live.
Alpha and Omega
At the end of his work, God declares himself the beginning and the end. He existed before the world was created and he exists now that it is remade. He is eternal. He is sovereign over history and eternity.
He Gives EternalLife
God is the source of life. To have eternal life is to know and be in him. He gave this eternal life to us without payment on our part. We, in fact, had nothing with which to pay, since we could not keep his law. Therefore, this is a statement about his grace. He gave eternal life to us as a gift, not as something we earned.
God used the metaphor of water for eternal life, the spring of the water of life, and thirst for our need. This image will be repeated in chapter 22. It was especially meaningful for desert people for whom water was a precious commodity. Remember in John 4, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well “…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. (John 4:12-14)
A Heritage for the One Who Conquers
Here God again gives encouragement to the church in persecution, and a warning to the unbeliever. Remember that each of the letters to the seven churches ended with a promise to “the one who overcomes”. Eternal life is the heritage of the enduring believer. It is our inheritance. Peter called it “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”. (1 Peter 1:4-5)
He Will Be Our God and We Will Be His Children
We are and will be God’s family. John 1:12 says that those who receive Christ and believe in his name, receive the right to become children of God. He treats a believer as his child for eternity. Think of the most wonderful moments you ever had with your father and it will be many times greater than that. We will fully experience his love and care for us.
Even more than children, God says he will make the overcomer his son. This implies more than just the relation of family. It is the title of the one who rules for the father. The churches were powerless at the time Revelation was written (and largely so now), but believers will rule with Christ over the new creation on behalf of the Father.
But Not For Unbelievers
There is no picture in the New Testament of Universalism, the belief that everyone goes to heaven regardless of whether they profess faith in Christ. Instead, unredeemed sinners have their portion, or inheritance, in the lake of fire. This list of sinners is not exhaustive, but lists examples of sinners. Notice that first is the “cowardly”. The coward is the opposite of the one who endures. Jesus repeatedly says that it is the one who endures who receives eternal life. The second is the faithless. Only those who believe in Jesus for salvation will see this new creation and dwell in it with the Lord.