New Jerusalem Descends

Following the final judgment, John sees the holy city, New Jerusalem descending from heaven to the earth – Revelation 21:1-8. 

The next paragraph presents “New Jerusalem” to the reader and concludes the third literary division of the book. Having witnessed the destruction of “Babylon,” the “False Prophet,” the “Beast,” and the “Dragon,” John receives the vision of what awaits the faithful – “New Jerusalem descending from heaven to the earth.”

The promises made to “overcoming” Christians in the letters to the “churches” find their fulfillment in the “holy city, New Jerusalem,” and the images of the “city” include language from promises given originally to Israel.

But the company that receives them consists of redeemed men and women from “every nation, tongue, nation, and people,” not just Israel. And the promise of land for Abraham and his “seed” finds its fulfillment in the “new heavens and new earth.”

  • (Revelation 21:1-4) – “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, I saw descending out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice out of the throne, saying: Behold, the tabernacle 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.”

NEW HEAVENS AND EARTH


And I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” This declaration draws on language from the book of Isaiah, namely, the promise to Israel of a day when Yahweh will create a “new heaven and earth”:

  • (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22) – “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind… For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says 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 sees in “real-time,” so to speak. The elimination of the “sea” is prominent since in Revelation it is the source of malevolent forces, the place of the dead, and synonymous with the “Abyss.”

The point is not the disappearance of the oceans, but the removal of all evil from the creation - (Revelation 9:1-10, 11:7, 13:1, 15:1-2, 20:8, 20:13).

And I saw the holy city descending.” The Greek verb is a present tense participle, signifying an action in progress. That is, John sees the “city” in the process of descending rather than as a one-time event.

And that “descent” began with the first advent of Jesus, although it awaits its consummation in the future. The arrival of the city is in fulfillment of the promise 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).

LIKE A BRIDE


Prepared like a bride.” The “marriage” of the “bride” was anticipated at the heavenly celebration after the destruction of the “Great Harlot.” Here, John compares the people of God to a “city” and to a “bride.” This is a simile, not literal language (“LIKE a bride”).

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.” These words echo several Old Testament passages, beginning with the covenant promise to Abraham. This includes the promise of land to Abraham and “his seed.” And the promise includes “peoples,” plural, thus it is far more inclusive than the biological descendants of the patriarch - (Genesis 17:7-8, Leviticus 26:11-12, Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 37:27, Zechariah 13:9).

He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Previously, this promise was applied to the “innumerable multitude” that was exiting the “great tribulation.” The description echoes the promise in Isaiah to the faithful remnant of Israel - (Revelation 7:9-17, 21:5-8, Isaiah 23:1-25:8).

The former things have passed away.” Another allusion to a promise in Isaiah for the faithful remnant of Israel - “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare” - (Isaiah 42:9).

FAITHFUL AND TRUE


Write, because these words are faithful and true.” The command for John to “write” reiterates the command heard twice at the beginning of the book, where also the description “faithful and true” is applied to Jesus, the “faithful witness” - (Revelation 1:4-19, 19:9).

It is done” (ginomai). The same declaration occurs at the beginning and end of the “seven bowls of wrath” that “complete” the wrath of God - (Revelation 15:1, 16:17).

And here, John is guided by one of the seven angels who have the “seven bowls of wrath.” The literary connection is deliberate.

The third literary division is an expansion and explanation of the “seven bowls of wrath.” At this point, the book is describing what the completion of God’s wrath will mean for “overcoming” saints.

I am the Beginning and the End.” The same description is heard at the outset of the book. It is applied to God, the one “Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty.”

And the appellation, the “first and the last,” is applied to Jesus because he died and 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.” In the end, everyone will find him or herself in either “New Jerusalem” or the “Lake of Fire.” One’s fate depends on how he or she responds to the “Lamb” in this life.

The stress is on the city of “New Jerusalem” which is descending from heaven to the earth, and NOT the other way around. The purpose behind the image is the redemption of humanity, indeed, of the created order.

The fourth and final division of the book begins with the next paragraph, the description of the “holy city” that will be inhabited by multitudes and encompass the entire creation.


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