A ‘fresh’, ‘new kind’ (GK. KAINOS) of heaven and earth now replaces the old, sin worn planet. Once again metaphors are mixed, the bride is likened to a city with twelve gates. Whilst various historicists may draw out some differing aspects of this chapter and descriptions therein, all will agree that the symbolic imagery continues just as before.
A more modern, literalist interpretation says that the city (about 1400 miles cubed) is to be taken literally and will come down and be sited in an appropriate location. A symbolic approach leads more to the thinking that the city represents a generally restored, Edenic state of the ‘new’ earth (renewed in every way but not destroyed/replaced). Abraham, we are told, looked for a “city,” whose builder and maker is God, but was this a metaphor for a beautiful new world? The reference to those who are ‘outside’ means that they will not enter into this new, paradisiacal age.
The precious stones and the repetition of the number 12 in describing the city all speak of glory and perfect order. In the words of another apostle, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Unlike the previous chapter, where the specific detail of a thousand years is a unique revelation in Scripture, the topic of the new heaven and new earth are found in numerous other places. For example, Isaiah said…
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; *And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.”
*(We’ll deal with that second part as well shortly).
And in the New Testament Peter picks up on this…
“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
And, interestingly, see what Peter has to say about previous ‘versions’ of the heavens and the earth…
“For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
So there was one kind of heaven (surrounding atmosphere) and earth prior to the flood of Noah’s time. After which there was, in effect, a new heaven and a new earth, the one of Peter’s day, and this ‘version’ continues unto the present time. Following the millennial period there will be, in effect, a third version of heaven and earth.
It is clear that the earth, not heaven (heaven of heavens/God’s dwelling place), is the actual location of man’s existence for all eternity…
“The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men.”
It is also written…
“But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”
Jesus quoted this Psalm didn’t He? So, when have you and I ever seen the ‘meek’ in charge of everything on the earth? The answer is, we haven’t, and all the while the ‘kingdoms of men’ prevail we won’t, but when the Lord establishes the kingdom of God and of His Anointed One upon the earth we shall see, and live in, a very different kind of heaven (government/rulership) and earth.
We saw in Isaiah 65… “And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind,” and here in Revelation 21 we read…
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Have you heard (perhaps asked) the question… “When we get to heaven will we remember anything about things on earth?” I think this question comes from two fundamental misunderstandings. 1. Prepare for the shock… we are not going to heaven, and 2. not remembering things or bringing them to mind does not imply that we will be subjected to some kind of advanced memory erasure program.
Unfortunately it is not within the scope of this simple overview to address the ‘heaven going’ question. Despite the fact that traditionally Christianity teaches, or at least regularly suggests, that people go to heaven when they die there is no sound Biblical basis for this whatsoever. Whenever I find the teachings, or hear the opinions, of ‘independent Christian thinkers,’ that is anyone outside of mainstream denominations and ‘traditions,’ they almost always have discovered this same truth. And here we are in one of those many passages of Scripture that is shouting it loud and clear – mankind is created to dwell ‘down’ upon the earth not ‘up’ in heaven. However, as we see here in this chapter, God, The Lamb and Heaven are all coming to the earth. Why would we wish to be anywhere else!?
Although we are reading of a “new heaven and new earth” we shouldn’t think of it as being so far detached from the current one that the connection is unrecognisable. What are all of life’s lessons about now if our memories are simply going to be erased and life in the new kingdom is going to have absolutely zero connection to the world we now live in? There is so much to consider and ponder on this subject and we must allow our thinking about this to be influenced by the Holy Scriptures rather than the oft repeated traditions of men.
Life in the new world will be beautiful, happy and glorious beyond our imaginations. We will live in the direct presence of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We will be surrounded by pure and wholly caring and loving brothers and sisters. The earth itself will be transformed into a place equal to or surpassing the beauty of Eden. Even the most severely abused man, woman or child of this era will be thoroughly healed of all previous ills and hurts once in this new environment – body, soul and spirit. Tears will be dried and perfect love and comfort will be administered by all, through all and to all.