Summary: Exposition of Rev. 21
A Whole New World
The year was 1516, when Sir Thomas More (who later became patron saint of politicians) first wrote a novel about a perfect society on an imaginary island off the coast of South America. Its people lived in 54 identical towns. They gardened, devoted their spare time to learning, and dressed only in black. There was no crime, no poverty, no political corruption, only peace and plenty, and presumably, the sky was not cloudy all day. But Thomas More was realistic in his writing, because he named this perfect place Utopia—a Greek term meaning no place.
Thomas More was not the last person to envision a perfect world. Politicians and philosophers, presidents and dictators have been promising to produce utopia for centuries. Yet nobody has ever succeeded in transforming this mixed up, messed up world into Paradise.
But that doesn’t mean it will never happen.
The Bible tells us God is working out His plan in history to redeem His creation, to make this world into a whole new world—the utopia He originally intended for it to be.
Mt 19:28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
2 Pe 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
These promises assure us God’s ultimate plan of redemption involves the recreation of the world. But what will this whole new world look like? How will life change for the people who live in it? How can the hope of this new world affect how we live in this present world?
This is what John’s vision in Rev. 21-22:5 is all about. In beautifully symbolic language, John gives us a glimpse into the new world, and shows us how this hope can encourage us today.
John begins with a wide-angle view of this whole new world in vs. 1-9, and then zooms in for a closer look at the New Jerusalem in vs. 10-27.
In this passage the Greek word new John uses means new in quality not new in time. The old heaven and old earth have passed away—probably a reference to Rev. 20:11. John doesn’t really answer a question many Bible scholars struggle with—does God destroy the old heaven and earth, or does He transform the old into the new? Either way, the image here is of a new world that is better than this world.
One of the improvements John mentions is there is no more sea… Why is this significant? John’s not saying the new world is waterless, because later on he describes a river in the New Jerusalem.
To the Jews, the sea was a symbol of storms, danger, and isolation (remember John is exiled on the isle of Patmos.) Rev. 13:1 tells us that the beast rose up out of the sea. John’s words here seem to symbolize the removal not of all oceans, but of all evil.
John also sees the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven…prepared as a bride adorned for her husband... John’s picture here is meant to evoke some emotional response. Though marriage customs differ from culture to culture, most brides dressed for their wedding would tell you they are full of excitement, love, and joy. She is looking eagerly looking forward to a new life with her husband, the man who will cherish her, provide for her and protect her.
This is the relationship in this new world between God and His people. John says in vs. 4 to God makes His permanent dwelling (lit, makes His tabernacle) among His people, binding Himself to them, and tenderly wiping away every tear, making all the pain, tears, sorrow and death go away for good. This whole new world is a world where God and His people finally enjoy perfect communion with one another.
Who is responsible for this wonderful new world? Vs. 5-6 makes it clear that God, not humanity, is empowers the renewal of all things. This renewal takes place through Christ, described in vs. 6 echoing Rev. 1:8 &
Jn 4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
The living water here and in vs. 6 is the gift of salvation through faith in Christ. John writes this new perfect world is not the result of mankind’s efforts or plans, but of God’s power and plan of ultimate redemption. At the same time, though God takes the initiative, vs. 7 makes it clear we must respond if we want to be part of this whole new world.