Parousia – New Jerusalem Day (Introduction and Article)


INTRODUCTION

Almost two months from now, believers in different parts of the world will celebrate a new holiday known as “Parousia – New Jerusalem Day.” The idea for this holiday came from a friend of mine, Joshua John Trent, who asked me to write about the meaning of the holiday’s name. Joshua is the founder and creator of Iron Scepter Concepts (Los Angeles).

There’s more information about this holiday at www.parousianewjerusalemday.com. That site also hosts a growing list of songs that promote the message of fulfilled eschatology. So far there’s a rap song from T.C. Mayle, a worship song by Jesus Culture, and a classical/folk metal song (based on Isaiah 9:6-7) performed by Illuminandi, a band in Poland. More will be posted soon, Lord willing, including some brand new devotional songs from India. There will also be a way for people to check-in and confirm that they participated. A Facebook page is here.

ARTICLE

(This is taken from my article, “The Meaning of Parousia – New Jerusalem Day,” posted at the holiday site referenced above.)

Parousia – New Jerusalem Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of August (August 7th this year). This is close to August 10th, the day that the famous Second Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 AD. The old temple and the old city of Jerusalem became desolate (Matthew 23:38) and marked for destruction (Matthew 22:7, 24:1-3; Mark 13:1-4; Luke 21:5-7), but Jesus became the cornerstone of a new temple, God’s dwelling place made up of His people from all nations (Ephesians 2:19-22). New Jerusalem and the new covenant were chosen while old Jerusalem and the old covenant were cast out (Galatians 4:21-31).

Definition of the Word “Parousia”

The word “parousia” (pronounced par-oo-see’-ah) is a Greek word which means “presence.” According to Wikipedia, it also meant “arrival” or “official visit,” and “was used in the East as a technical expression to denote the arrival or visit of a king or emperor, and celebrated the glory of the sovereign publicly.” The word “parousia” appears 24 times in the New Testament. In several instances it is used to speak of the coming or presence of various individuals: Stephanas, Fortunatas, and Achaicus (I Corinthians 16:17); Titus (II Cor. 7:6-7); Paul (II Cor. 10:10; Philippians 1:26, 2:12); and the lawless one (II Thessalonians 2:9).

In the majority of instances (16 times), though, it is used in connection with the promise of Christ’s coming. The Blue Letter Bible shows that this word comes “from the present participle of G3918 [“pareimi”]; a being near, i.e. advent (often, return; specially, of Christ to punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked); (by implication) physically, aspect:—coming, presence.”  I’ll develop this study more below.

“Parousia” Goes Hand-in-Hand with “New Jerusalem.”

Revelation 21:1 – 22:5 is the most detailed description of the New Jerusalem, and there we read that “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3). We also see that the Lamb, Jesus, is the light of God’s city (Revelation 21:22-24; 22:5). New Jerusalem is filled with the presence (“parousia”) of Jesus; New Jerusalem is His dwelling place.

“Parousia” in the New Testament

Here are the 16 New Testament passages where Christ’s “Parousia” is promised:

  1. “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3).
  1. “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27).
  1. “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).
  1. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (I Corinthians 15:22-23).
  1. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (I Thessalonians 2:19).
  1. “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (I Thessalonians 3:12-13).
  1. “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep” (I Thessalonians 4:15).
  1. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23).
  1. “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come” (II Thessalonians 2:1-2).
  1. “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (II Thessalonians 2:8).
  1. – 12. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:7-9).
  1. “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Peter 1:16).
  1. “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle… that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (II Peter 3:1-4).
  1. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:10-13).
  1. “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (I John 2:28).

Professor and author N.T. Wright explains in a video and in his book, “Surprised by Hope” (2008),the typical use of the word “parousia” in the first century AD (pp. 132-133):

“When the emperor visited a colony or province, the citizens of the country would go to meet him at some distance from the city.  It would be disrespectful to have him actually arrive at the gates as though his subjects couldn’t be bothered to greet him properly.  When they met him, they wouldn’t then stay out in the open country:  they would escort him royally into the city itself.  When Paul speaks of “meeting” the Lord “in the air,” the point is precisely not – as in the popular rapture theology – that the saved believers would then stay up in the air somewhere, away from earth.  The point is that, having gone out to meet their returning Lord, they will escort him royally into his domain, that is, back to the place they have come from.  Even when we realize that this is highly charged metaphor, not literal description, the meaning is the same as in the parallel in Philippians 3:20.  Being citizens of heaven, as the Phillippians would know, doesn’t mean that one is expecting to go back to the mother city but rather means that one is expecting the emperor to come from the mother city to give the colony its full dignity, to rescue it if need be, to subdue local enemies and put everything to rights” (emphasis added).

More than 100 passages in the New Testament declared that the events of “the last days,” including the Great Tribulation and the coming of Christ, were “near” and about to take place “soon” in the first century. Jesus Himself promised to come before His disciples could go through the cities of Israel (Matthew 10:23). He promised to come [1] in the glory of His Father [2] with His angels [3] in judgment, and [4] in His kingdom before all of His disciples would die (Matthew 16:27-28). He promised to come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” before His generation would pass away (Matthew 24:30, 34).

Jesus told His disciples that when they would see “all these things” (earthquakes, wars, famines, etc.) promised in the Olivet Discourse, they would know that He “is near, at the very doors” (Matthew 24:33). As we saw above, James declared that Christ’s coming was at hand and that the Judge was standing “at the door” (James 5:8-9). James wrote that nearly 1,950 years ago, and it’s apparent that he saw those things come to pass in his lifetime just as Jesus promised.

John wrote in his first epistle that it was already “the last hour” in his day (I John 2:18). It was the last hour of the old covenant age. His opening words in the book of Revelation declared that the visions he saw “must shortly take place” because the time was “near” (Revelation 1:1, 3). The angel echoed these words at the end of the book (Rev. 22:6, 10) and Jesus declared three times that He was coming quickly (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20).

In summary, “parousia” is a Greek word used repeatedly in the New Testament to describe the first century arrival of Jesus’ presence in the New Jerusalem, and into the kingdom that He established, the corporate body of His followers. His “parousia” (presence) is in our midst today.

New Jerusalem

Isaiah prophesied that God would create new heavens and a new earth, and “Jerusalem as a rejoicing” (Isaiah 65:17-18). In those days there would still be childbirth, death, building, and planting (65:20-23), i.e. the realities we know and experience today. There would also be joy, peace, satisfaction, glory, and comfort like a mother’s comfort (65:19; 66:10-13).

The apostle Paul also described “the Jerusalem above” as a comforting mother (Galatians 4:26-28). The author of Hebrews told the first century saints that they had already come to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant…” (Hebrews 12:22-24). These two passages, along with the book of Revelation, contrast two covenants (the old and the new), two women (the harlot and the bride), and two cities (old Jerusalem and New Jerusalem):

Two Covenants

The New Jerusalem is described by John in Revelation 21:1 – 22:5. In these 32 verses, there are numerous parallel passages in the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles described the life of those who follow Christ. In other words, we are the New Jerusalem community right now. In these 32 verses there are also numerous parallel passages in the Old Testament where the prophets looked ahead to this present new covenant age. Here are some of them:

Passage Description and Parallels
Rev. 21:2 New Jerusalem is God’s holy city, pictured as a bride. Jesus said His people are a city set on a hill, the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). See also Hebrews 12:22-24, Galatians 4:26.
Rev. 21:3 God dwells with His people, He’s with them, and He’s their God. See Ezekiel 37:27, 43:7, 48:35; II Corinthians 6:16.
Rev. 21:9 John sees the New Jerusalem as a bride, the Lamb’s wife. He contrasts the bride with the harlot/”great city” of Rev. 17, old covenant Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8). Paul also contrasted two women/two covenants in Galatians 4:21-31.
Rev. 21:12-13 The new Jerusalem has a high wall with 12 gates, bearing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel; three gates each on the east, north, south, and west sides. Compare to Isaiah 60:18, Luke 13:29, and to Ezekiel 48:30-35 (“…and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE”).
Rev. 21:14 The city’s foundations bear the names of the 12 apostles. Compare to Ephesians 2:20.
Rev. 21:15-18 The new Jerusalem in John’s vision is cube-shaped, as was the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple (I Kings 6:20). The holy of holies was overlaid with pure gold, and the holy city in John’s vision is also entirely made of pure gold.
Rev. 21:19-21 The foundations of the city walls are covered in precious gems. This fulfills Isaiah 54:11-12, and Paul clearly affirms that Isaiah 54 is about the church (Galatians 4:27).
Rev. 21:22-23 Jesus is the temple and the light of this city. See Isaiah 60:19.
Rev. 21:24 The nations of those who are saved walk in the light of this city. See Isaiah 60:3, 10.
Rev. 21:25-26 The gates of the city are never shut, and the glory and honor of the nations come in to the city. See Isaiah 60:5, 11.
Rev. 21:27 Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life enter this city. See Isaiah 60:21.
Rev. 22:1 A pure, clear river of water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb. See John 4:13-14, 7:37; Zechariah 14:8; Rev. 22:17.
Rev. 22:2 On both sides of the river is the tree of life, which bears different fruit each month. The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. See Ezekiel 47:1-12.
Rev. 22:5 There’s no night in the city, and no need for a lamp. See Isaiah 60:1, 19-20; Daniel 12:3, Matthew 13:43, John 8:12. The citizens of New Jerusalem reign forever and ever. See Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 1:33, Rev. 1:6.

For a more detailed study of these things, please see this article.

The New Jerusalem means “the new city of peace.” Jesus is the Prince of Peace and His presence, His parousia, is in this city. He is peace (Micah 5:5), and there will be no end to His government and peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). Let’s rejoice and celebrate, not only on August 7th, but every day that His presence is in our midst, in the city of God, the New Jerusalem.

Parousia Sunday - August 7, 2016

(Photo Credit: Dr. Cindye Coates)

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The Vision of the Old Testament Prophets for this New Covenant Age (Preterist Conference Call)


On Sunday, May 22nd, I had the privilege of presenting a message in a conference call for those who believe in, or want to know more about, preterism (fulfilled eschatology). I titled my message, “Living Worthy of What the Old Testament Prophets Foretold about this New Covenant Age.” My message lasted 25 minutes and was followed by a time of discussion. Here’s the audio of my message, along with a written transcript of my notes. If you listen or read this message, you’ll see that the prophets had a vision of peace, and I’d love to especially hear your thoughts about that theme:

 

One thing I’ve heard from people who are skeptical of preterism is that, if everything is fulfilled, there must be nothing left for God’s people today. So I want to talk about some of those things that we do have in this new covenant age, about the present realities, mandates, and destinies that God has for us. Yes, I’m fascinated by all the things that took place in the first century AD during the last days of the old covenant age, and their significance and how they fulfilled prophecy, but I’m also very interested in how the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles said we would be equipped for a glorious, expanding, forward-moving life in God’s kingdom and in His holy city, the new Jerusalem.

This is a very broad subject, so in this message I want to narrow the focus to the vision that the Old Testament prophets had about this age. I will only have time to cover some of it, of course. Before we dig into some great Scripture texts, I want to briefly set this up and talk about one reason why it’s important to study and teach about this vision of the Old Testament prophets, especially at this point in church history. We live during a time when some very strange filters have been laid over the teachings of the Old Testament prophets because premillennial and dispensationalist teachings have dominated in the Church for several generations.

One of the foundation stones of dispensationalism is the idea that this present church age is a surprising parenthesis in God’s long-term plan. Many dispensationalist leaders have taught that this age we live in was never foreseen by the Old Testament prophets. Instead they looked past our time, i.e. the last 2000 years, toward a future 1000-year period known as “the millennium” when Christ would return and finally begin to reign. Here are a few short quotes from some of these leaders:

  1. “It has been illustrated how this whole age existed in the mind of God without having been revealed in the Old Testament.” [J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), p. 137]

  2. “Dispensationalists have regarded the present age as a parenthesis unexpected and without specific prediction in the Old Testament.” [J.F. Walvoord, Millennial Kingdom, 1959, p. 227]

  3. “The first prediction relative to the true Church was uttered by Christ, being recorded in Matthew 16:18.” [L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 4:374]

  4. “The Church is a mystery in the sense that it was completely unrevealed in the Old Testament and now revealed in the New Testament.” [Charles Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), p. 136]

Harry A. Ironside also taught that the Old Testament prophets saw two mountains ahead, which were the first and second comings of Christ. According to Ironside, the church age was in a large valley in between those mountains and the prophets were unable to see into it:

“It has often been pointed out by others, but is well worth repeating, that the Old Testament seer might be likened to a man standing on one of our Western plains looking off toward a great mountain range. Many miles before him is a vast mountain which for the moment fills all his vision. Clouds cover the top of it, so that it seems to pierce the heavens, but suddenly the clouds are lifted and in the blaze of the westering sun he sees another and higher peak beyond, covered with snow, which seems to shine in resplendent glory. What the man gazing upon this scene cannot see, however, is the valley or the lower ranges of mountains that come in between these two peaks. The one may be many miles beyond the other. In between may be lesser hills, valleys, rivers, villages and farms, but all of these are unseen by the man upon the plain.

Let us imagine a cross surmounting the first peak, and call this the vision of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to suffer and to die for our sins. Then imagine that the glory surrounding the second and higher peak takes the form of a crown of light, and think of it as indicating the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus to reign in power and glory over all this lower universe. Peter spoke of the “sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” These two mountains illustrate both. But now, in between them we have all the events of the present age of grace, and these could not be seen by the Old Testament prophets for it was not yet the will of God to make them known. These are the mysteries kept secret from the foundation of the world, which began to be made manifest by our Lord Jesus as He told of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; and then were more fully unfolded in the unique revelation of the mystery of the Church, the body of Christ, given to the Apostle Paul, and the unfolding of the mystery of iniquity and of Babylon the Great through Paul and John. Other mysteries there are linked with these, and nearly all of them have to do with what is going on between the First and Second Comings of our Lord.”

Harry A. Ironside, The Great Parenthesis: the Mystery in Daniel’s Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 1943.

This teaching has robbed the body of Christ of a glorious blueprint for our present time, which was laid out in the Old Testament and further developed in the New Testament. This teaching says that God’s best plans, promises, and purposes are not for this present age, but for a future age when the superiority of the Jewish race is once again restored. It’s robbed the body of Christ of wonderful descriptions of our identity and also descriptions of how God invites us to partner with Him in seeing His peace, His government, and His justice expand throughout our world.

So let’s look at some of the passages that reveal the vision that the Old Testament prophets had of this present new covenant age. One major theme that we will see in their vision is the theme of God’s peace.

Daniel 7:14, 18, 21-22, 27

In Daniel 7, Daniel had a vision of Jesus ascending to His Father and receiving everlasting dominion, glory, and a kingdom. Then during the time of the fourth beast, the fourth kingdom that would persecute the saints, God would give the kingdom and dominion into the hands of His people:

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed… But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever… I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom… Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:14, 18, 21-22, 27).

  • Revelation 13:5-7 describes this same great persecution as the beast “making war with the saints” and overcoming them for 42 months. This took place under Nero from November 64 AD until June 68 AD.
  • However, God ruled in favor of the body of Christ. Jesus took the kingdom and dominion that He received at His ascension and placed it into the hands of His people.
  • That’s a powerful picture of us partnering with Christ in expanding His kingdom, carrying His glory, and walking in His dominion.
  • All of Jesus’ parables about His kingdom expanding, growing, and impacting the world are true for us right now. Think of the mustard seed growing into a large tree and other images that Jesus presented.

Isaiah 9:6-7

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

  • Jesus began to reign on the throne of David during the time of the apostles (Acts 2:29-36, Ephesians 1:20-23, Hebrews 1:3-13, Revelation 1:5).
  • One of His names is “Prince of Peace.” Micah 5:5 also says regarding Jesus, “And this One shall be peace.”
  • Isaiah prophesied that Christ’s government and peace would only increase, forever.
  • Isaiah also prophesied that this would happen because of God’s own zeal.
  • God invites us to partner with Him and to know our role in seeing His government and peace expand in this world.

Isaiah 65:17 – 66:13

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (Isaiah 65:17-18).

  • Isaiah goes on to describe New Jerusalem as a place with no weeping or crying, but where childbirth, physical death, planting, and building would still take place. Yet the labor of God’s people would not be in vain, and there would also be peace and reconciliation (“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together”), and no hurting or destruction in God’s holy mountain.
  • Names were very important in Scripture. Think about the name, “Jerusalem,” and its meaning. In its name we see “salem” and the closely-related word “shalom.” Jerusalem means “City of Peace.” When Isaiah looked forward to the New Jerusalem, he foresaw a new “city of peace.” We are the city of God, the city of peace.
  • The other part of Jerusalem’s name comes from the Hebrew word, “yara.” This word means “to shoot like an arrow, to throw, to pour, to flow, to teach, to inform, and to direct.”
  • Put those two parts together and we have a picture of shooting and pouring out God’s peace upon one another and into the darkest places of the world around us. Although I disagree with Sid Roth’s futurism and Zionism, his 2008 article “The Real Meaning of Jerusalem” has more valuable things to say on this.
  • We’re destined to live with peace in our hearts. The body of Christ is destined to be known as a community of peace, and we’re destined to see God’s peace touch and impact communities where we live and every part of the world where God’s people are.
  • As Isaiah continues to describe New Jerusalem, he says, “Rejoice with Jerusalem… that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory… Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream… And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:10-13).
  • Recall what David said in Psalm 122:6-7. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.’” That prayer has been answered, as God has created a new city of peace, the new covenant people of God.
  • When Jesus was talking with His disciples about going to His Father and leaving the Holy Spirit with them, He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
  • In the New Testament, the clearest descriptions of the New Jerusalem, God’s city of peace, can be seen in Galatians 4:21-31, Hebrews 12:18-29, Revelation 3:12, and Revelation 21:1-22:5.

Isaiah 2:1-4

“…Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

  • The mountain of the Lord, New Jerusalem, was destined to attract all nations. It’s the place where the word of the Lord goes forth and people learn God’s ways.
  • Again we see an image of great peace.
  • The same vision is seen in Micah 4:1-3.

Haggai 2:6-9

For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

  • The author of Hebrews quotes from Haggai 2:6 when he writes about the soon-coming shaking and removal of those things related to Mount Sinai, i.e. the old covenant, and how the saints were about to receive a kingdom that couldn’t be shaken.
  • Notice that he did not include the phrase “it is a little while,” which Haggai used. That’s because it was just around the corner for the readers of Hebrews.
  • God again says that His new temple would be filled with glory, and that in His new temple He would give peace.

Ezekiel 34:23-31

I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them – My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hands of those who enslaved them…” (Ezekiel 34:23-27).

  • “David” is obviously Jesus here.
  • This vision speaks of fruitfulness, blessing, and again a covenant of peace.

Ezekiel 47:1-12

Ezekiel 40-48, the final eight chapters of Ezekiel’s book, describe a new city and a new temple. We need some preterist commentaries on these eight chapters, by the way. In this long vision, Ezekiel seems to be looking at both [1] the restoration of Israel to the land after the Babylonian captivity of 586 BC and [2] Israel’s hope fulfilled as Jesus establishes the new covenant. This was the view of Philip Mauro in his 1923 book, “The Hope of Israel” (chapters 11-12). In Ezekiel 47, he describes the same healing waters and trees that John describes in Revelation 22:1-2.

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east…  And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed…  7 When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: ‘This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes… Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.’”

  • In the city of God there is constant fruit-bearing, life, and healing. This healing and life IS for God’s people, but it’s also for the nations. Healing is to take place everywhere the river flows. This is our ongoing mandate and calling, and the Lord has fully equipped us.
  • Zechariah 14:8-9 says that, in the day that the Lord would be King over all the earth, living waters would flow from Jerusalem toward the east and toward the west, in both summer and winter.
  • Jesus said that rivers of living water would flow out of the hearts of everyone who believes in Him (John 7:37-38).

Isaiah 54:1-17

For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed… O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children…” (Isaiah 54:10-13).

  • Here again we see there is a covenant of peace and great peace for the followers of the Lord in this age.
  • Paul quotes from this passage in his allegory of two covenants, two Jerusalems, and two women in Galatians 4:21-31.
  • This description of precious stones can also be found in John’s description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:19-20.

Zechariah 6:12-13

Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

  • These words were spoken to Joshua, the son of the high priest in Zechariah’s day, but it was already made clear earlier in the book that Joshua was a type of a coming Branch, the Messiah.
  • Ephesians 2 says that Jesus is the chief cornerstone of God’s holy temple, which was made up of the one new man, Jews and Gentiles together, “thus making peace” (verse 15).
  • We see again that “the counsel of peace” marks the reign of Christ as King and Priest.
  • Peace is also one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and it’s one of the three attributes of God’s kingdom that Paul chose to highlight in Romans 14:17.
  • Zechariah 8 goes on to give a great description of the coming New Jerusalem.

If time allowed, we could also dig into Isaiah 49, Isaiah 60-61, Amos 9, Zephaniah 3, and a number of other prophecies. As another note about God’s peace, recall that when Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist prophesied about His nephew, Jesus, he echoed Isaiah 60 when he said, “…the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

Do you want to further study this subject of the vision of the Old Testament prophets for this present age? One study strategy is to look up the passages that premillennialists say are about a future millennium period. Those passages have been arbitrarily tied to Revelation 20 and John’s vision of the 1000 years, as though John alluded to them in his vision. He did not actually. Those passages from the Old Testament, though, are rich with details and blueprints for this present, never-ending age.

Let’s be the peacemakers that Jesus called us to be in the Sermon on the Mount, and partner with Him in His reign to see the never-ending increase of His government and peace.

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This article was also posted on a new website dedicated to our Monthly Preterist Conference Calls.

Long Island Conference: What WAS the Purpose of the End Times? (Part 2)


Yesterday I posted a video of a presentation I gave at Blue Point Bible Church last weekend as part of a conference on “the end times.” The theme of the conference was two-fold:

  1. What was the purpose of the end times?
  2. How do we walk worthy of the kingdom of God?

Yesterday’s post (Part 1) included my notes on the first half of the video where I addressed the first question, tracing John’s pattern of referencing the imagery of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) throughout the book of Revelation (e.g. 4:5, 8:5, 11:19, and 16:18; 1:6 and 12:14). John did this to show that “the end times” and “the last days” were bringing about the final transition from the old covenant age to the new covenant age during the first century AD.

This post (Part 2) includes the notes I used in the second half of my presentation, where I looked at Revelation 21:1 – 22:5 as a blueprint for how to walk worthy of God’s kingdom in the New Jerusalem. This part of the presentation begins around the 29:30 mark of the video.

[Revelation 21:2] New Jerusalem is God’s holy city, pictured as a bride.

  • This is not the first time that the people of God in Christ are pictured as a city.
  • Jesus said His people are a city set on a hill, the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
  • The author of Hebrews told his readers that they had already “come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…” (Heb. 12:22).
  • This was Isaiah’s prediction as well: “Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 60:14).

[Rev. 21:3] God dwells with His people, He’s with them, and He’s their God.

  • This fulfills a prophecy made by Ezekiel: “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Ezekiel 37:26-27).
    • Don’t let anyone tell you that this isn’t true for the followers of Christ right now just because this was addressed to “the house of Israel.” We are the house of Israel, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), because Jesus is true Israel and we are Israel with Him (Galatians 3:16, 29).
  • These truths are also repeated in Ezekiel 43:7, 48:35; II Corinthians 6:16, and elsewhere.

[Rev. 21:9] John sees the New Jerusalem as a bride, the Lamb’s wife.

  • He contrasts the bride with the harlot of Rev. 17, old covenant Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8).
  • Paul also contrasted two women in Galatians 4:21-31, where he portrayed one woman in slavery representing the old covenant and a free woman representing the new covenant.
  • Note the comparisons and contrasts in the following passages:
  1. Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’”
  2. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’
  1. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wildernessand I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”
  2. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountainand showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”

In Rev. 17:3, it’s likely that John was taken to a wilderness because it was in a wilderness that God established the old covenant with the Israelites. In Rev. 21:10, perhaps John was taken to a great, high mountain because of what God said He would do in the last days of the old covenant age:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1).

[Rev. 21:12-13] The new Jerusalem has a high wall with 12 gates, bearing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel; three gates each on the east, north, south, and west sides.

  • Isaiah 60:18, Ezekiel 48:30-35, Matthew 8:11, and Luke 13:29 depict the kingdom of God as a city with walls facing each direction, or with people entering in from all directions.
  • Sam Storms once made these comparisons between the writings of Ezekiel and John on this subject:

Ezekiel is taken to a high mountain by angel and sees a city (40.1-3). John is taken to a high mountain by an angel and sees a city (21.10). The first thing Ezekiel sees is the wall (40.5) that surrounds the city. The first thing John sees is the wall surrounding the city (21.12). The first gate Ezekiel sees is the ‘east gate’ (40.6). The first gate for John is the ‘east gate’ (21.13)… The City has ‘living waters’ in Ezekiel 47.1-ff. So does John (22.1-ff)…

 -Sam Storms, “A Reconstruction of the Millennium”

[Rev. 21:14] The city’s foundations bear the names of the 12 apostles.

  • This is strikingly similar to what Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

[Rev. 21:15-18] The new Jerusalem in John’s vision is cube-shaped, as was the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple (I Kings 6:20). The holy of holies was overlaid with pure gold, and the holy city in John’s vision is also entirely made of pure gold.

[Rev. 21:19-21] The foundations of the city walls are covered in precious gems.

  • This fulfills Isaiah 54:11-12 (“O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones”).
    • Paul clearly affirms that Isaiah 54 is about the church (Galatians 4:27).
  • These precious stones may represent all the spiritual blessings we are equipped with and enjoy today in Christ.

[Rev. 21:22-23] Jesus is the temple and the light of this city.

  • There is again evidence that John is drawing heavily from Isaiah 60, or at least receiving identical revelation to what Isaiah received, as they both describe the body of Christ: “The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory” (Isaiah 60:19).

[Rev. 21:24] The nations of those who are saved walk in the light of this city.

  • “The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:3).
  • “The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you…” (Isaiah 60:10).
  • The body of Christ is richer when we fellowship with believers from various nations, cultures, races, and backgrounds.
  • It’s never been easier to do that than now, with instant, worldwide communication through Facebook, with the ability to travel halfway around the world in one day, with a melting pot of cultures here in our cities, etc.
  • The walls of the city of God are built up and strengthened as the people of God from different nations mingle, share with, help, and bless one another.

[Rev. 21:25-26] The gates of the city are never shut; the glory and honor of the nations come in.

  • “Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you… Therefore your gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 60:5, 11).

[Rev. 21:27] Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life enter this city.

  • “Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified” (Isaiah 60:21).

[Rev. 22:1] A pure, clear river of water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

  • “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur” (Zechariah 14:8).
  • “Jesus answered and said to [the Samaritan woman at the well], ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life’” (John 4:13-14).
  • “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).
  • “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

[Rev. 22:2] On both sides of the river is the tree of life, which bears different fruit each month. The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. See Ezekiel 47:1-12.

  • Futurist eschatology says that Jesus will return in our future and there will be no more sin, suffering, etc., and that’s when Rev. 21-22 is fulfilled.
  • This picture in Rev. 22:2 shows the nations in need of healing. That time is right now, and we are the channels for that healing.

Recent Article in the Gospel Herald

Here is an example of Christ’s followers using leaves from the tree of life to heal the nations:

“Syrian refugees who fled predominantly Muslim countries amid ongoing war and terrorism are embracing Christianity and teaching their children about Jesus after experiencing firsthand the love and compassion of believers in Greece…

The ministry leader shared one particularly compelling story of how one refugee, who will go by the name of Saddam for security reasons, embraced Christianity after witnessing the kindness of the Christian aid workers. Saddam appeared to have been a man of authority and wealth in Syria, and told the ministry that he found out about them because everyone at the hotel where he was staying was talking about it. When he first arrived, he asked a ministry worker if he was a Christian or a Muslim. Uncertain of why he was asked such a question, the worker asked him why he wanted to know.

With tears streaming from his eyes, Saddam said, ‘I need someone to talk with me about Jesus.’ The workers summoned the ministry co-directors, and the Muslim man told them, ‘All the Muslim countries have turned their back to us. The Muslim nations have ripped us from our treasures. They taught us not to trust the Christians, and that they are liars. I come to Greece and I find myself in the best place with the best food for me and my children. I find love that I have never seen. Please teach me.'”

Leah Marieann Klett, Syrian Refugees Embracing Christ, Teaching Children About Jesus after Witnessing Love of Christians, Gospel Herald, March 15, 2016, http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/62914/20160315/syrian-refugees-embracing-christ-teaching-children-jesus-witnessing-love-christians.htm

  • Contrast this with what a seemingly popular preterist individual said on Facebook a few months ago: “There’s only one way to deal with the Muslim problem. Nuke them all! Nothing less than that will work.”
  • God is doing awesome things in the Muslim world right now, with amazing movements to Christ happening in various places. It’s been said that more Muslims have come to Christ in the last 15 years than in the previous 1400 years. What if God has brought Muslims to our cities on purpose so that we can build relationships with them and invite them to drink of the living waters of Christ?
  • Fulfilled eschatology might be the only school of thought that consistently believes that the healing of the nations is for right now. We should “own this message,” so to speak. How can we work together to see the nations of this world healed?

[Rev. 22:5] There’s no night in the city, and no need for a lamp. The people in the city will reign forever.

  • “Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you… Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:1, 20).
  • “Then those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
  • “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father…” (Matthew 13:43).
  • “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life’” (John 8:12).
  • “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
  • “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).
  • “…and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father…” (Rev. 1:6).
  • We’re not waiting for a future millennium to start. We are called and equipped to rule and reign right now.

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I referenced three other speakers during my presentation. Here are two of those videos:

[1] Daniel Colon – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49c-hecPH6c

[2] Johnny Ova – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr8IZnj4yk0

(Jason’s presentation is not yet available.)

There was also a debate on the second night of the conference which you may be interested in viewing. It was between Michael Miano (a preterist) and Stephen Whitsett (a futurist): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPtYL76KbZs

On the last day of the conference, there was a roundtable discussion where members of the audience were able to ask questions for us to answer. I participated in that roundtable and here is that video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsnEooTpP78

All of the videos from this conference will soon be made available at this link: http://www.powerofpreterism.com/preterism-.html

The New Testament Repeatedly Applies Isaiah 65-66 To This Present Age


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

This post serves as a follow-up to my last post, “We Now Live in the New Heavens and the New Earth” (which explored Matthew 5:17-18, Matthew 24:35, II Peter 3:7-13, portions of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and more). There is one Scripture text on the subject of the old/new heaven and earth which I didn’t explore in that post: 

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God‘” (Revelation 21:1-3).

We do, however, have a detailed study on this text in our series on the book of Revelation. In that study we highlighted an excellent observation made by Steve Gregg in his book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”  

Revelation 21:1

Isaiah 65-66 clearly provides a background to Revelation 21:1, most notably Isaiah 65:17-19 and 66:10-13, 22.

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. but be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying” (Isaiah 65:17-19).

“‘For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘so shall your descendants and your name remain‘” (Isaiah 66:22).

Gregg shows that this portion of Isaiah is not awaiting future fulfillment — not according to Jesus, Luke, John, and Paul. On page 489 of his book, Gregg writes,

“[The] specific promise of ‘new heavens and a new earth,’ found exclusively in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22, fall within a portion of Isaiah which New Testament writers applied to the present age.”

On page 506, Gregg gives the following comparisons to illustrate what he is saying here:

[a] Isaiah 65:23 with I Cor. 15:58
[b] Isaiah 65:25 with Luke 10:19
[c] Isaiah 66:1f with I Tim. 3:15
[d] Isaiah 66:8 with Gal. 4:26
[e] Isaiah 66:11 with Matt. 5:6
[f] Isaiah 66:12 with John 14:27
[g] Isaiah 66:15f with Matt. 22:7
[h] Isaiah 66:18 with Matt. 8:11
[i] Isaiah 66:19 with Eph. 3:8 and Col. 1:27
[j] Isaiah 66:20 with Rom. 15:16

Let’s observe these comparisons in the form of a chart, and with these passages written out:

Passages from Isaiah 65 – 66
Corresponding New Testament Passages
“They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them” (Isaiah 65:23).
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).
“’The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 65:25).
“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?’” (Isaiah 66:1)
“…but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15).
“Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children” (Isaiah 66:8).
“…but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26).
“…that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory” (Isaiah 66:11).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees” (Isaiah 66:12).
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
“For behold, the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire” (Isaiah 66:15).
“But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matthew 22:7; see also Matt. 16:27-28, II Thess. 1:6-8, Jude 14-15).
“For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory” (Isaiah 66:18).
“And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11; see also Acts 2:5-12).
 “I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles” (Isaiah 66:19).
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” (Ephesians 3:8); “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
“’Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the Lord out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the Lord, ‘as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 66:20).
“…that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).

So we can see that Isaiah was given a vision of the coming new covenant age, the age in which we now live, and the fiery passing away of the old covenant age (I believe this occurred in 70 AD with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem; see especially II Peter 3:7-13). Kenneth Gentry adds these thoughts on this subject:

“Isaiah’s prophecy clearly portrays the coming new covenant order established by Christ, which Paul calls a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; cp. Ephesians 2:10; 4:24… We know that Isaiah was not speaking of the consummate order, for he includes aspects of the present fallen order in his description: ‘No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed‘ (Isaiah 65:20). The eternal order will not include infants, death, aging, and curse.”

Kenneth Gentry, “Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues,” GoodBirth Ministries: Fountain Inn, SC, 2009, p. 169.

Presbyterian Pastor David Lowman agrees, saying:

“[It] is best to understand the NHNE [new heavens and new earth] covenantally as a picture of the promised New Covenant that finds origination in the Old testament, institution in the Gospels, unfolding in the [book of] Acts and explanation in the rest of the New Testament.”

Revelation 21:2

In Revelation 21, John goes on to speak of New Jerusalem, “the holy city,” coming down out of heaven as Christ’s bride. Recall the promise that Jesus made to the first century church in Philadelphia:

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from My God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12).

The temple of which Christ spoke, of course, is the Church:

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building (I Corinthians 3:9).

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (I Cor. 3:16-17).

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19)

“And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people'” (II Cor. 6:16).

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-21).

The author of Hebrews not only refers to the heavenly Jerusalem as a reality in the first century, but he also equates it with the new covenant:

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Revelation 21:3

Before concluding, let’s look briefly at one more proof that Revelation 21 is speaking of this present age. In verse 3, God declared that His tabernacle would be with men, and that He would “dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” This promise was first given in Exodus 29:45 and Leviticus 26:11, but it was conditional, only to be true as long as the Israelites walked in His statutes and kept His commandments (Lev. 26:3). In Revelation 21:3, this promise is unconditional.

Revelation 21:3 mirrors the description of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34, and identical language is also used in Ezekiel 37:27-28, a passage connected to the new covenant promises in Ezekiel 36:24-28. In Ezekiel’s own vision of a holy city, he was told that this city would be the place where God would dwell with His people (Ezekiel 43:7, 48:35). As we already observed above, Paul quoted Exodus 29:45 and Leviticus 26:11 as a present reality for the Church in his own day (II Corinthians 6:16).

Conclusion

Revelation 21 applies Isaiah 65-66 to the present new covenant age in which we now live. However, it does not carry out this application alone. As we have seen, multiple New Testament authors have done the same. What a blessing it is to live under the new heavens and the new earth.

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Our study on the entire chapter of Revelation 21 can be seen here (verses 1-4 and verses 5-27).

Guest Post: The Biblical Heavens and Earth (Part 3 of 3)


This post concludes Steve’s 3-part series on the Biblical heavens and earth, exploring comparisons between Genesis 1, Jeremiah 4:23-27, and Matthew 24:35. Part 1 can be seen here, and part 2 (which explores Jeremiah 4:23-27) can be seen here.

I would like to thank Adam Maarschalk for allowing me this opportunity to share with his readers even though we do not see eye to eye on many things. Studying the Word of God is a great joy and privilege, and I hope this study will benefit your own Bible studies.

In part two of this study, we saw that the old heavens & earth was synonymous with Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Jer. 4:23-26; Matt. 23:34-38 & 24:29-35). In the final post in this series, we will see that New Jerusalem is synonymous with the new heavens & earth, and that it arrived in 70 AD. (Based upon this, I have been at times accused of being a hyperpreterist, but I am not, since I still believe in the future Second Coming and the resurrection of our bodies, which hyperpreterists deny.) Just as the heavens & earth represented the kingdom of Israel, the new heavens & earth represents the kingdom of the Israel of God here on the earth. The Israel of God was established here on the earth when the old Israel was cast out of “Abraham’s camp” (Gal. 4:21-31). To better understand what the new heavens & earth is and isn’t, it will help to look at the biblical timeline.

The timing of New Jerusalem’s arrival and the new heavens & earth

In the book of Revelation, the bride of Christ is identified as New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, 9-10). This New Jerusalem is synonymous with the new heavens & earth (Rev. 21:1-2). The bride arrives back in Rev. 19:7-9. The bride’s wedding supper consists of scavenging birds feasting on the flesh of the dead, when Jesus comes in judgment against the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 19:7-21). Likewise, the bride arrives as the people of God are rejoicing over the death of the great harlot Babylon, which is the great city (Rev. 19:1-6, also see Rev. chapters 17 & 18). So when the great city is destroyed, and the two persecutors of the Church are judged (the beast from the sea & the beast from the land/false prophet), New Jerusalem comes down to the earth. So who is the great city Babylon?

Since there is a great deal of material easily available here on this blog to prove this point, I will only provide a few proofs that Babylon is the city of Jerusalem. In Rev. 11:8, the great city is identified as where “their Lord was crucified,” which can only be Jerusalem. This verse also gives Babylon two other symbolic names: “Sodom and Egypt.” In the case of Babylon, Sodom, and Egypt, God poured out His wrath on them even as He brought His people out of those places. The same is true for the Babylon of Revelation (Rev. 18:4-8).  Where else do we read in the NT where Christians are warned to flee a city because its judgment has come? “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-22)

The biblical pattern for New Jerusalem’s arrival

So we see that when Jerusalem is destroyed, the spiritual New Jerusalem arrives to take its place. This fits the pattern seen throughout the Bible: first the natural, then the spiritual. Cain was the first born, and murdered the spiritual Abel. Ishmael was the natural son of Abraham born by the power of the flesh, but Isaac was the spiritual son, born by the power and promise of the Holy Spirit. The first Adam is earthy, the second Adam is heavenly (1 Cor. 15:47). First is the natural body, then comes the spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:42-49).

When Moses brought the Hebrews out of Egypt, there was the Jewish people and Law, but they would not receive the Jewish land for forty years, in order to kill off the unbelieving Jews. Likewise, when the Church was established in 30 AD, there was a Christian people and Law (the New Covenant – the law of faith in Christ), but the Christians would not receive their land (the new heavens & earth) until forty years had gone by to kill off the unbelieving Jews. This is why the Christians received the new heavens & earth in 70 AD.

As we have seen earlier in this study, Adam foreshadows the Jewish nation. Both are created to the west of the Holy Land, and then are planted in the Land and given a Law to keep. Both break the Law they were given and are driven out of the Land to the east (to Babylon). This is where the Genesis narrative leaves Adam, with the people of God expelled from the Land in exile to the east, cut off from the tree of life, and with the Land under a curse. However, in Revelation, the people of God are brought out of Babylon, out of the east, and are brought back to the Holy Land, back to (New) Jerusalem. Having been brought back, access to the tree of life is restored and the curse is no more (Rev. 22:2-3).

The nature of the curse of creation

In order to understand why there is no curse in the new heavens & earth, we first need to understand the curse in Gen. 3:14-19. As we have seen in previous posts, since the Genesis creation account isn’t about the universe, the curse isn’t about the universe, either. If the whole planet was pleasant and nice, why the need for a garden at all? But the planting of the garden indicates the rest of the world wasn’t so pleasant or ideal.

For Adam’s sin, he was driven from the Garden. Since the man was no longer there to tend the Garden, the Garden would become overrun with “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:17-18). This is the same thing that is taught in Isa. 5:3-7, Jer. 12:10-13, and Hos. 10:3-8.

Not only would the Garden of God be ruined because of man’s sin, but man’s work would become harder (Gen. 3:17-19). When there is less than ideal sunlight, rain, etc., raising useful plants becomes very difficult. In such circumstances, the only things that want to grow are those things which are useless to man – weeds. We see throughout the OT that God would punish Israel’s sin with droughts and poor crops, making it harder than it should be to raise a crop.

God cursed the woman by greatly multiplying her pain in bringing forth children (Gen. 3:16). Notice that God would increase her pain, which indicates pain was already in the workings of the world prior to Adam’s sin. I do not believe the pain refers to the physical pain of delivering a child, but to mothers mourning the loss of their children (as seen in Deut. 28:18 & 32; Jer. 4:31, 5:17, 9:20-22; Luke 23:28-29; in contrast with Isa. 65:23, 66:22).

Why there is no curse or death in the new heavens & earth

The reason why there is no curse in the new heavens & earth is because there are no wicked people in this “land” (Rev. 21:27, 22:14-15) that would bring about the wrath of God. Unlike “Babylon” (Jerusalem), God never has to abandon New Jerusalem and put it to the sword, because New Jerusalem’s people only consist of spiritual Israel, the Israel of God – those who are obedient to Christ. And since the city is never destroyed, the people remain in the land to tend the land and bear fruit for God, keeping it from being overrun by thorns and thistles.

This is why Rev. 21:4 says that in New Jerusalem, “there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” This is all in contrast to what just happened to “Babylon” (Jerusalem). God had just abandoned and destroyed it (Rev. 18). But God would never treat New Jerusalem in that fashion, because it will never become the home of wicked people. To enter this spiritual city, one must first repent and obey Christ (Rev. 22:14). If a Christian falls away, he is removed by Christ from His Church (Gal. 5:4), and is therefore no longer within the New Jerusalem.

When Rev. 21:4 says there is no more death, it is in the context of Isa. 65-66, especially Isa. 65:17-23. (There are numerous parallels between Isa. 65-66 and Rev. 21-22, too many to list here, but notice that Isa. 65-66 also links the arrival of the new heavens & earth with God punishing the culmination of generations of guilt: Isa. 65:7 and Matt. 23:29-36.) In summary of Isa. 65:17-23, God will not put New Jerusalem to the sword the way He did old Jerusalem. It is in that sense there is no more death. And even though Isa. 65:20-21 is speaking of lifespans in a figurative way, natural births and deaths still occur (which indicates this is not referring to the age of resurrection – Luke 20:34-36).

In fact, the presence of sexual reproduction and the marriage/one-flesh relationship prior to the sin of Adam indicates death was “baked” into creation, since resurrection and immortality means the end of marriage/sexual reproduction (Luke 20:34-36). This is because sexual reproduction has to do with the mortality of the flesh – once the flesh is made immortal, it no longer serves a purpose.

The key to understanding the new heavens & earth is realizing that it is not being contrasted with our universe, but with what would/did happen to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. During the age of New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth, the nations of the world still exist (Rev. 21:24-27), but the nations of the world are abolished at the Second Coming (Matt. 25:31-33).

New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth vs. the Second Coming

In Rev. 20, we are given a sequence of events that indicates the Second Coming takes place long after the arrival of New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth. In Rev. 19, we see that the bride (New Jerusalem, see Rev. 21:9-10) arrives upon the destruction of Babylon (old Jerusalem). It is also at this time many people are put to death, and the beast and false prophet (Nero and the Jewish leaders) are punished (Rev. 19:17-21). But noticed who is not punished at this time –Satan. He will not be punished until “a thousand years” later (a symbol for a long, indefinite period of time).

Instead of punishing Satan at this time, God instead has Satan locked away for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). This is because God is not done with Satan at 70 AD. The end of the thousand years is marked by the temporary release of Satan, so that he can attack New Jerusalem (Rev. 20:7-9). But notice the end of the millennium doesn’t come with the arrival of New Jerusalem – but with Satan’s attack on New Jerusalem. It is only then, a thousand years later, that the devil joins the beast and false prophet in punishment (Rev. 20:10).

New Jerusalem is already there when Satan is released, because New Jerusalem is the millennial reign of Christ. The destruction of Jerusalem, Nero, and the Jewish leaders ushers in the arrival of New Jerusalem, which is Jesus’ capital city. New Jerusalem is where Christ reigns along with His saints for the thousand years. It is only at the end of the thousand years, the end of the reign of Christ that the resurrection occurs and death is defeated (1 Cor. 15:23-28). So it is no surprise that the final judgment and resurrection of the dead happens once the thousand year reign is complete (Rev. 20:11-15).

The beginning of the millennium vs. the end of the millennium

The triggering event for the beginning of the millennium is the destruction of Jerusalem. God rallies the nations of the world (the Roman Empire) against Jerusalem, and the city of Jerusalem is afflicted with demons (Rev. 9:1-11). The nations of the world destroy and loot Jerusalem, carrying off all of her treasures.

Contrast this with the event that triggers the end of the millennium. Satan rallies the nations of the world against New Jerusalem (Rev. 20:7-9). New Jerusalem is filled with “treasure” because it has “looted” the nations (Rev. 21:24-27, referring to the righteous who have been brought out of this world into the kingdom of Christ), but far from being looted, the city cannot even be harmed (Rev. 20:9). The city is not looted or harmed because unlike old Jerusalem, this city is filled with the righteous. God does not withdraw His protection as He did with old Jerusalem, because God protects His own people (Matt. 23:37). The attack on old Jerusalem brought about the judgment of one nation in one generation, but the failed attack at New Jerusalem brings about the judgment of all nations and all generations.

The resurrection vs. 70 AD

Some of those who correctly believe the new heavens & earth is a present reality mistakenly believe the resurrection happened, or at least began, in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. One problem with this view is that Scripture routinely treats the Second Coming and the resurrection as being distinct from 70 AD.

Take the Bible’s primary teaching on resurrection: 1 Cor. 15. This passage provides the most comprehensive teaching on the subject of the resurrection, and yet there is nothing there about the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple.

Take another example, the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is all about the resurrection, much more so than the synoptic Gospels. Even the first sign John records, the apparently trivial miracle of turning water into wine, is really about the resurrection. Common water is placed into stone waterpots (“buried in the earth”), where Jesus miraculously changes it, and when it is “raised out of the earth,” Jesus turns it into something far superior: an excellent wine (John 2:6-10). In fact, the turning point in John’s Gospel is when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:45-53). And yet there is nothing taught about the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple anywhere in his Gospel, at least not explicitly. The one Gospel that focuses on the resurrection is also the one Gospel that doesn’t focus on the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. If the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple are an integral part of the day of resurrection, how can John spend his entire Gospel talking about the resurrection and yet never mention 70 AD?

The only passage that appears to tie the new heavens & earth with the resurrection is Rom. 8:18-25. The redemption of creation (which refers to the death of the old heavens & earth, and the arrival of the new heavens & earth in 70 AD) is compared to the redemption of our bodies (at the resurrection). But notice Paul does not say these events happen together. Instead, Paul merely compares the two: just as the creation will be set free from its corruption, so we will be set free from the corruption within ourselves. The creation is set free when it is resurrected/transformed from a natural land to a spiritual land, just as we will be set free of this body of death (Rom. 7:24, 8:10) when our natural bodies are resurrected/transformed from a natural body to a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44).

In 70 AD, the wicked are killed (Rev. 19:17-21) and sent down into Hades (Matt. 11:23). But at the final judgment, the wicked are resurrected out of Hades (Rev. 20:12-15). It is at this time death and Hades are abolished (Rev. 20:14, 1 Cor. 15:26). The resurrection brings about the permanent end of physical death and Hades (the spirit realm of the physically dead) because at the resurrection, everyone is made alive and immortal (1 Cor. 15:52-54). So how can the 70 AD judgment, which sent people to Hades, also be the day of resurrection which empties and abolishes Hades?

When the new heavens & earth arrived in 70 AD, New Jerusalem came down to the earth (Rev. 21:2, 10). New Jerusalem isn’t Heaven, it is a kind of “heaven on earth.” But at the Second Coming, we do not remain down here, but we are taken up there forever (John 14:3, 1 Thes. 4:17).

The physicality of the resurrection body

The ultimate argument against 70 AD being the day of resurrection is the physicality of the resurrection body. The resurrection involves the raising and transforming of our flesh bodies, which obviously hasn’t yet happened. The resurrection passages do not focus on a city or a temple, but on the bodies of believers. Passages such as Philip. 3:21 and 1 John 3:2-3 make this clear.

Jesus, Paul, and the Pharisees all used a grain of wheat to illustrate their teaching on the resurrection (John 12:24, 1 Cor. 15:37, Sanh. 90b). They used the same illustration because, as Paul repeatedly pointed out while on trial for his faith, they believed the same thing (Acts 24:15, 26:6-8).

What does “the Law and… the Prophets” say about “the promise made by God to our fathers”? King David wrote Psalm 16:9-10, which is quoted both by Peter and Paul in Acts (2:25-31, 13:35-37). We do not have to wonder what David meant, because Peter provides us with the inspired interpretation: David foresaw the resurrection of Christ, and seeing it gave hope to his flesh (Acts 2:25-31). Seeing the resurrection of Christ gave David hope for his aging, dying body because he understood the same thing Paul understood, that the resurrection of Christ is proof for our own future resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-23). Just as Christ was raised in His flesh and bone body never to die again, so our mortal bodies will be made immortal, too (Luke 24:39; Rom. 6:5-9, 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 15:52-54).

The Apostle Peter makes a very simple argument for proving Jesus has been resurrected, and that David has not:

Empty tomb = resurrected

Body still in tomb = not resurrected

Peter makes a simple argument that was easily understood by his audience. We know Jesus has been resurrected because His tomb is empty. Likewise, we know David has not been resurrected because his body is still in the tomb. If that argument was sound in 30 AD, then it remains sound today, because the Christian doctrine of resurrection hasn’t changed. Since the ancients are still in the tomb, how can some claim David and the rest of the OT saints were resurrected in 70 AD?

A spirit body resurrection?

Some who reject a physical resurrection believe in the resurrection of a “spirit body.” (Notice the Bible doesn’t teach a spirit body, but a spiritual body – compare 1 Cor. 15:44 with 2:14-16.) A “spirit body” is like a “square circle,” it is nonsensical because it is a contradiction in terms. By definition, a spirit is not a body, and a body is not a spirit. When Paul looks forward to the resurrection, Paul looks forward to being “set free from the body of this death” (Rom. 7:24). The solution was not to be set free from the body, which happens at death, for Paul did not wish to be “unclothed” (2 Cor. 5:2-4).  Nor can the resurrection be said to be merely spiritual life, because the Christian already had that prior to both 70 AD and the resurrection (Rom. 8:9-11). The solution is not found in death, but in life evermore.

Baptism for the dead

When Paul speaks of Christians “who are baptized for the dead” (1 Cor. 15:29), what is Paul talking about? The answer can be found in the context. Paul gives no indication that this baptismal practice is strange or wrong; in fact, he uses the practice to reinforce his point, which suggests his agreement with the practice. But what is it? Although ambiguous in the English translation, the “dead” in the original Greek language is definitely plural.

Paul is pointing to the fact that when Christians are baptized into Christ, they are baptized for their own dead bodies. Read 1 Cor. 15:29-35, and everywhere you read the word “dead,” read it as “dead bodies” and you will see that this not only make sense, it becomes explicit by v. 35 and throughout the rest of the chapter. In Rom. 7:24, he refers to his own living body as “the body of this death,” and in Rom. 8:10, even though the bodies Paul refers to were still physically alive, he nevertheless refers to them as being “dead.” Paul links Christian baptism with the body, death, and resurrection in Rom. 6:2-9 and Col. 2:11-13.

If the body was still alive, then in what sense was it “dead”?  Since the body is of the earth, and is made for life on the earth, it is earthy (Gen. 2:7, 3:19; 1 Cor. 15:44-49) and so has earthly, fleshly appetites. So in a sense, the body has a mind of its own, and its appetites are geared toward the things of this world, which is the mindset of death (Rom. 8:12-13). This means the body is weak towards carrying out the will of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 7:14-23, 8:3-8; also see Matt. 26:41). Since the flesh is in a sense morally dead because of our sin, it was a body of death, and therefore, mortal. The body is dead because sin is living in it (Rom. 7:14-21, 8:10).

Jesus became a life-giving spirit

When Paul writes that Jesus “became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45), some believe this proves a spirit-only resurrection. But we do not become “life-giving” spirits like Christ, for we have no life in ourselves. Rather, we receive life from the Spirit of Christ. How so? We do not have to wonder, because Paul tells us in Rom. 8:9-11. In v. 9, Paul refers to “the Spirit of Christ,” and relates it to our resurrection by giving “life to your mortal bodies.”

The resurrection is not only about making our mortal bodies immortal, but about making our bodies into spiritual bodies – bodies that are strong to carry out the desires of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 15:42-54). Just as Jesus supplied the missing ingredients to transform the water buried in the earth into excellent wine at the end of the wedding (John 2:6-10), so Jesus will one day return from Heaven to supply the missing ingredients to transform our earthly tent into a heavenly building (2 Cor. 5:1-10) on the last day (John 6:54, 11:24). At that time, our transformation into the likeness of Christ (Eph. 4:13) will finally be complete!

Conclusion

New Jerusalem and the new heavens & earth represents Christ’s spiritual kingdom here on the earth right now. It is Christ reigning through His Church, and on behalf of His Church. One day He will return, bring an end to death and sin through the power of His resurrection, punish the wicked, and take us into Heaven where the glory of God will “be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). There we will be with God and each other in a state of perpetual spiritual bliss. “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes. 4:18).

Revelation Chapter 22 (Part 1: Verses 1-5)


Scripture text for this study: Revelation 22

Review of Revelation 21

Our two posts on Revelation 21 (Part 1 and Part 2) were written in 2010, so this post is very much overdue. In our study of Rev. 21, we saw how John drew heavily on the Old Testament to depict with rich symbolism the glories of this present, everlasting new covenant age. John also echoed many spiritual truths taught elsewhere in the New Testament, which the writers of those epistles proclaimed to be existing realities in their own day. Revelation 21 is not as much about prophecies fulfilled in the past, as it is about ongoing spiritual realities that are being lived out by God’s people to this very day.

For the body of Christ, Revelation 21 is a beautiful portrayal of God’s relationship with His new covenant people. It’s also part of our manual on how the Church is to walk in spiritual victory and advance God’s ever-expanding kingdom on this earth. When John was told that he would be shown “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” he is actually shown a city called New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-10), which John vividly describes for his readers, lacing his words with all kinds of Biblical symbolism. Unlike the Jerusalem that went up in flames (Matthew 22:7; Rev. 17:16, 18:8-9, 18:18), New Jerusalem is a city with no temple, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (verse 22). It’s a city illuminated by the glory of God, where “the Lamb is its light” (verse 23; see also John 8:12).

New Jerusalem is not a cube-shaped city that God’s people will one day live in, but God’s people are New Jerusalem. This is not the only passage of Scripture where a physical structure is used to describe God’s people.  God’s people are also described as a holy structure in Ephesians 2:19-22, and both structures are built on the foundation of the apostles (Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14).

Introduction to Revelation 22

These themes continue as we move into Revelation 22, the final chapter of this book. The beginning of the chapter continues John’s description of the city of God, the new Jerusalem. After that Jesus recaps, through John, what He had already promised earlier in the book, particularly the nearness of His promise to come in judgment. Before we get into a verse-by-verse study of this chapter, let’s review again the very helpful structural outline that Steve Gregg presents on page 492 of his book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).” He shows that Revelation 21:1-8 outlines the remainder of the book of Revelation (21:9 – 22:19):

CONTENT In Verses 1-8 In the Remainder
New Jerusalem Verse 2 21:9-21
God dwells among men Verse 3 21:22-27
Renewal of the world Verse 5a 22:1-5
“These words are true and faithful” Verse 5b 22:6-10
Work completed: “I am Alpha and Omega” Verse 6a 22:11-15
Final blessing: water of life to all who thirst Verses 6b – verse 7 22:16-17
Final curse upon the rebellious Verse 8 22:18-19


Verse 1:
In the first five verses of Revelation 22John’s vision of the city of God, New Jerusalem, comes to a conclusion. In verse 1, John sees “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

Who is the angel who shows John this river? This question takes us back to Revelation 21:9 where the one speaking to John is “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues.” This same angel takes John to see “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” In Revelation 17:1, we saw that an angel, fitting the exact same description, took John to see “the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.” According to Steve Gregg (p. 493), this connection “provides a structural link, deliberately placing the harlot in juxtaposition with the bride,” New Jerusalem. In this way, John contrasts two women in the same way that the apostle Paul does in Galatians 4:21-31, where he portrays one woman in slavery representing the old covenant and another free woman representing the new covenant.

John’s vision of the river of life flowing through the new Jerusalem is very similar to Zechariah’s vision at the time of the day of the Lord: “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur” (Zechariah 14:8). While some teach that this is future and will literally occur in Jerusalem (i.e. in the Middle East), it’s also possible — and I believe correct — to see that Zechariah received a vision of New Jerusalem, Christ’s bride. John’s vision here is also reminiscent of statements that Jesus made about Himself:

Jesus answered and said to [the woman at the well], ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life‘” (John 4:13-14).

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

Verse 2: John is told that “the leaves of the tree” of life were “for the healing of the nations“:

In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

John’s vision is remarkably similar to Ezekiel’s vision of a river flowing from the threshold of the temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12).

When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: ‘This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live...’ Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine” (Ezekiel 47:7-9, 12).

Duncan McKenzie, author of “The Antichrist and the Second Coming,” makes the following observation about these passages and their parallel nature (Duncan’s entire article is very much worth reading):

“In Ezekiel, the prophet is told that the city is the dwelling place of God with his people (43:7; 48:35), which parallels what John is told about the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:3). The respective cities both have twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel inscribed on them (Ezek. 48:30-34; Rev. 21:12-13). The Temple in Ezekiel has healing waters that flow out of it (Ezek. 47:1-11); there are trees on both sides of the river that have leaves for food and healing (v. 12). This parallels Revelation where the river of life flows from the throne of God and the Lamb in the New Jerusalem; the tree of life is on both sides of the river, it has leaves for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:1-2).”

Duncan McKenzie, “Revelation’s Parallel Use of the Sequence of Ezekiel: Part Two”

This picture, and this language, speaks to our present setting here on earth, where the nations of the world are in need of healing and where all kinds of immorality still exists outside of God’s city (verse 15). So one way of applying this text is to ask questions like these: Is Syria in need of healing today? Is Nigeria in need of healing today? Is Indonesia in need of healing today? Is America in need of healing today? The church, the body of Christ, is a channel of the living waters of Christ, and we are equipped with the healing that the nations need. As members of the body of Christ, we have been given the responsibility and the grace to link arms with one another and work together to see the nations healed by the living water of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Steve Gregg (p. 499) discusses the various ways that this text is understood:

The purpose of the leaves of the tree is…said to be for the healing of the nations (verse 2), but the question intrudes itself, what nations? If we take this to mean that humanity in the new creation will be organized into discreet political nations, then these are matters of which we have little or no additional information.

On the other hand, if nations be understood simply in the sense of “the Gentiles,” then it may simply be a reference to the church saints of Gentile extraction in the holy city. Weidner considers the reference to be to “the converted Gentiles who are among the glorified saints.” This view seems to enjoy the favor of most expositors, including Milligan:

“It is impossible to think that the nations here spoken of have yet to be converted. They have already entered the New Jerusalem, and that they are healed can signify no more than this, than they are kept in constant soundness of health by what is here administered to them.”

Taken, however, as a symbolic picture of the New Covenant blessings in the present age, the leaves of the tree could refer simply to the fact that as the gospel advances, the kingdom, like a mustard tree (Matthew 13:31-32), or a cedar tree (Ezekiel 17:22-23), spreads its branches, providing all nations a place of refuge and healing under the shadow of its leaves (cf. Ezekiel 31:4-6; Daniel 4:11-12).

John’s reference to “the tree of life” takes us back to Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, and to the tree of life that was there (Genesis 2:9, 3:22-24):

And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’— therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24).

The outcome of eating from the tree of life would be eternal life. In Jesus, eternal life is freely available for those who trust in Him. In Revelation 22, in New Jerusalem, the tree of life is available for everyone in the city of God, bearing fruit 12 months each year. In the Garden of Eden there was one tree of life, but in New Jerusalem there is a tree of life “on either side of the river.” The Jamieson-Fausett-Brown Bible Commentary (1882) said this about the correlation between Genesis 2-3 and Revelation 22:

“How striking it is that, as in the beginning we found Adam and Eve, his bride, in innocence in Paradise, then tempted by the serpent, and driven from the tree of life, and from the pleasant waters of Eden, yet not without a promise of a Redeemer who should crush the serpent; so at the close, the old serpent cast out for ever by the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, who appears with His Bride, the Church, in a better Paradise, and amidst better waters (Rev. 22:1): the tree of life also is there with all its healing properties, not guarded with a flaming sword, but open to all who overcome (Rev. 2:7), and there is no more curse.”

Verse 3: John writes, “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” Is this another reference to the Garden of Eden, and the curses spoken over the serpent and over humanity (Genesis 3:14-24)? Is this a reference to the curse of the law, which was removed in Christ (Galatians 3:10-13)? Kenneth Gentry points out that many Bible scholars see Zechariah 14:11 (“The people shall dwell in [Jerusalem]; and no longer shall there be utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited“) as the background for John’s statement, and says “we see John’s backdrop from correspondences within the two passages:

Zechariah 14 Contextual Correspondences Revelation 21-22
14:2, 4, 8, 10-12, 14, 16-17, 21 “Jerusalem” 21:2, 10, 14-15, 18-19, 21, 23; 22:14, 19
14:6-7 Alteration of patterns of light, day, night 21:24-25; 22:5
14:8a Living water source in Jerusalem 22:1, 17
14:8b No problem of seasons causing death 22:2
14:11 Absence of anathema; katathema 22:3
14:14 Glory of nations received within 21:24, 26; see also Isaiah 60:5-14
14:16 Nations positively influenced 21:24
14:17-18 Outsiders in negative condition 21:27; 22:15

Gentry goes on to say:

Note the strong similarity between the two statements in Greek:

Zec 14:11: kai anathema ouk estai eti
Rev 22:3: kai pan katathema ouk estai eti

…We should note that John immediately parallels with his katathema statement a comment that intentionally contrasts with it. And by doing so he underscores the objective, concrete matters involved. I will provide a woodenly literal translation of 22:3, then the Greek text, to show the parallel:

And every cursed person will not be [there] any longer (22:3a)
And the throne of God and of the Lamb in it will be (22:3b)

Note the parallel in Greek:

kai pan katathema ouk estai eti (22:3a)
kai ho thronos tou theou kai tou arniou en autç estai (22:3b)

Clearly 22:3b speaks of location, not existence; the same should be true of 22:3a. John means that accursed persons are absent, not that the curse no longer exists… 

Consider that at the end of his external tour of the new Jerusalem he learns that certain persons will forever be excluded from the new Jerusalem: “and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27). Thus, now as he looks inside the new Jerusalem, he can happily report that this is true: “every cursed person will not be there” (22:3a). This truth is so important that he states it once again at 22:15: “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.”

…In Rev 22:3 John is encouraging the followers of the Lamb who have been abused by the religious leadership of Israel — either directly at their hands or at the hands of their compatriot minions, or indirectly by their influence with the Romans to spark persecution of the Christians. They must understand that those who have tormented them and cast them out of their communion (Mt 10:16–18, 21; 23:34; Jn 9:22, 34–35; 12:42; 16:2; 1Th 2:15) or brought charges against them to the Roman authorities (Ac 17:7; Rev 2:9–10) are themselves “accursed” and will not be allowed into the new Jerusalem. Christianity will not be extinguished through the efforts of the Jews (or the Romans). In fact, the tables will be turned against the [unbelieving] Jews: “the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out” (Mt 8:12; cp. 22:13) as God establishes the new, final redemptive order. Rather than rule by the corrupt “kings of the land,”  the new Jerusalem will be ruled from the throne of the Lamb (22:1, 3).

Kenneth Gentry, Supplement #18 – Absence of Curse  in the New Creation, Revelation 22

Verse 4: John writes, “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” This is a fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to the church in Philadelphia: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:11-12). In our studies of Revelation 7 and Revelation 14, we also saw that God sealed the foreheads of His servants with His name. In contrast, those who followed the beast had his mark, his name, or the number of his name on their right hands or foreheads (Rev. 13:15-17). 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also promised that it would be the pure in heart who would see God (Matthew 5:8). Kurt Simmons gives his take on the significance of Rev. 22:4.

“The fall brought man’s banishment from the presence and fellowship of his Creator; man was driven from the garden; he was estranged from God and became an exile in the earth…  Even in the temple, God was in the Holy of Holies, separate and removed from the worshipper.  None could approach except through the sprinkling of blood and the appointed mediator.  The stranger that drew nigh was put to death.  However, the veil of separation was rent in twain in the cross of Christ (Matt. 27:51); man can now boldly enter into that which is within the veil, made faultless before his presence by the blood of Christ (Heb. 6:1910:19-22; Jude 24).  We are no longer servants, but have attained the adoption of sons, are become heirs of the King, and enjoy a ‘face to face’ relationship with God through Christ.”

Kurt Simmons, “Exposition of Revelation 20-22,” source

Verse 5: John writes, “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” In Rev. 21 we already saw that Jesus is the light in New Jerusalem, the city of God: “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light”  (verse 23). This also lines up with other statements made by the prophets, as well as those made by the writers of the gospel accounts and epistles in the New Testament:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you… The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:1, 19-20).

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darknessand the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life‘” (John 8:12).

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light (Romans 13:11-12).

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night… But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (I Thessalonians 5:1-5).

In part 2, we will continue examining Revelation 22, beginning with verse 6.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

New Jerusalem, God’s Dwelling Place


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

In the previous post, “Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons,” we looked at:

  • how Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple were once known as God’s dwelling place on earth
  • how God’s dwelling place is also in heaven
  • how Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness at times earned her the title of “harlot”
  • how Jesus said Jerusalem’s house was “desolate,” and that His “wicked generation” would be like a man exorcised of a demon but then inhabited by seven worse demons,
  • and how John was told that “the great city,” known as “Babylon the great” and “the harlot,” and first identified as Jerusalem, was “a dwelling place of demons.”

We also ended with this question: With God having abandoned Jerusalem as His dwelling place, was He then without a dwelling place of His own? As we also noted, God’s dwelling place was always in heaven (e.g. I Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49):

“And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive…”

Since we, as God’s people in Christ, know that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), it’s no surprise to discover that God has chosen us as His dwelling place. The New Testament record is clear that God’s earthly dwelling place is not in any way confined to a geographical location. God dwells with (and in) those who belong to His Son, Jesus.

In the book of Revelation, “those who dwell in heaven” are repeatedly distinguished from “those who dwell on the earth.” This pattern is discussed more fully in a 3-part series (part 1, part 2, and part 3). In the following two passages, we can see this distinction:

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time‘” (Revelation 12:10-12).

“And [the beast] was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:5-8).

Earthly Jerusalem was filled with demons, marked for judgment, and was judged, but God had already chosen a different Jerusalem as His dwelling place. This is John’s triumphant message after detailing the judgments which were soon (Rev. 1:1-3; 22:10) to be poured out on earthly Jerusalem: 

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God’’” (Revelation 21:2-3).

I don’t believe John’s words here only became true after he wrote them, but rather they were already true of those abiding in Christ. John’s vision here stands in contrast to his previous vision of the harlot city ripe for judgment. Earthly Jerusalem, the harlot, had become a dwelling place for demons (Rev. 18:2), and that demon-filled city met its demise, but God’s dwelling place, the bride, stood unshaken. Since the time of Christ, God dwells in “the holy city, New Jerusalem.” We, the church, the bride of Christ, are that city: 

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). 

Many believe that this promise from Revelation 21 has not yet been realized or fulfilled, even in our day. However, the author of Hebrews didn’t believe this way when he told his first century audience that they had already “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling…” (Hebrews 12:22-24). The apostle Paul also didn’t believe this way when he quoted Exodus 29:45, Leviticus 26:11, and Ezekiel 37:27 as a present reality for the Church in his own day:

For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people‘” (II Corinthians 6:16).

The apostle Paul also said this to the believers in Ephesus:

You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you are also being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

I would like to submit that the book of Revelation reflects a picture also shown in Galatians 4:21-31 and in Hebrews 12:18-29, of two cities, two women, and two covenants (this chart appears larger if opened in a new tab):

Two Covenants

Also, note how the following passages in Revelation compare with, and contrast, each other:

A. Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’”

A. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”

B. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”

B. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”

In the first scene, it’s likely that John was taken to a wilderness because it was in a wilderness that God established the old covenant with the Israelites. In the final scene, it’s likely that John was taken to a great, high mountain because of what God said He would do in the last days of the old covenant age:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1).

With His Son, Jesus, as the cornerstone, God has built His church as His spiritual house and temple. Because Jesus is the light of the world, we are also the light of the world, and the nations are being drawn to His light. Jerusalem, in its last days, was a dwelling place for demons, but God’s new covenant community, new Jerusalem, is now His holy dwelling place.

———————————————–

For more details behind the content in this post, see our study on Revelation 21 (verses 1-4 and verses 5-27).

Revelation Chapter 21 (Part 1: Verses 1-4)


REVELATION 21

Adam Maarschalk: February 3, 2010

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 21:1-27

Introduction to Revelation 21-22

Steve Gregg, the editor of the highly resourceful book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” provides the following breakdown of how these questions tend to be viewed by believers today (p. 485): Will There Be a Literal New Heavens and New Earth? What Is the New Jerusalem?

Literalist: Non-Literalist:
  • Some take the descriptions in these chapters fairly literally, as applied to a brand new planet and universe, which will be created after the close of the Millennium (premillennialists) or else at the Second Coming (some amillennialists and some postmillennialists).
  • The New Jerusalem described here will be the eternal home of the redeemed.
  • Some spiritualize the whole vision, applying it to a nonmaterial state of existence in heaven.
  • Others take the “New Heaven and the New Earth” to represent what Paul called “a New Creation” (2 Cor. 5:17)—that is, the condition of those who are in covenant with God and Christ through the New Covenant, the “Old Heaven and the Old Earth” (meaning the Old Covenant) having passed away.
  • The New Jerusalem represents the church itself, represented under the imagery of a new Holy of Holies—the tabernacle of God with men—in its present earthly existence.

A large portion of this first post will be spent discussing just the first 2 verses of Revelation 21, as they lay a foundation for what is to come, and also because they use language which appears fairly often throughout the rest of Scripture. We will only cover the first four verses of the chapter in this post, and the remainder of Rev. 21 will be covered in a second post.

Verse 1: John sees that [1] a new heaven and a new earth have replaced the old heaven and earth [2] there was no more sea. Steve Gregg (p. 486) speaks further on what he sees as the three major ways this text is interpreted:

The new heavens and the new earth have been interpreted in essentially three ways: (a) literally of a future material universe after the coming of Christ (so most futurists believe); (b) symbolically of heaven, the abode of the glorified saints; or (c) spiritually of the New Covenant community (the church) that has replaced the Old Covenant community of Israel.

Many tend to take the first position as the primary meaning and to acknowledge secondarily a spiritual application to the present believing community, which has already “tasted of the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:5), but which still awaits the establishment of the literal “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13) at the return of Christ or after the Millennium.

Some may be surprised to know that many well-respected preachers of the past did not primarily see Revelation 21 through the lens of explanation (a) above. At the end of this post, we will note some quotes from Jonathan Edwards and John Owen. For now, let’s note how Charles Spurgeon viewed the meaning of “the new heavens and the new earth” in this excerpt from a sermon he preached in 1865:

Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, or any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away, and we now live under the new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. xxxvii, p. 354).

Spurgeon evidently saw the language of the new heavens and the new earth as one and the same with the arrival of the New Covenant. I share his viewpoint, at least in the primary sense. This fits with everything else we’ve been seeing in our study of the book of Revelation; the completed transition from the Old Covenant age (ending in 70 AD) to the New Covenant age (inaugurated at the cross, and overlapping with the Old Covenant age for one generation). Kenneth Gentry likewise sees a first-century fulfillment for this passage here in Rev. 21, in part based on its correlation with a similar prophecy by Isaiah. Gentry says on page 173 of his newest book, “Navigating the Book of Revelation,”

Isaiah prophesies the Church age by using dramatic new creation language: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

Proponents of all viewpoints seem to agree that John’s vision was a clear allusion to this text from Isaiah. The different interpretations have to do with the perceived timing of its fulfillment. Some see it as a yet future reality, to be fulfilled and made manifest after Christ’s future Second Coming. Futurist Arno C. Gaebelin said of Revelation 21, “We now come to the revelation concerning the final and eternal state of the earth” (Gregg, p. 486). John Piper sees Revelation 21 as speaking of the future “age of the resurrection.” Others, like Gentry and Charles Spurgeon, believe that this reality has been realized ever since the last symbols of the Old Covenant disappeared with Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, now replaced by the New Covenant and the New Jerusalem. Looking again at Isaiah’s parallel account, Gentry further clarifies his points on this matter[1]:

Isaiah’s prophecy clearly portrays the coming new covenant order established by Christ, which Paul calls a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; cp. Ephesians 2:10; 4:24)… We know that Isaiah was not speaking of the consummate order, for he includes aspects of the present fallen order in his description: “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be thought accursed” (Isaiah 65:20). The eternal order will not include infants, death, aging, and curse (p. 169).

Steve Gregg also expresses some thoughts on the Isaiah – Revelation 21 connection (pp. 488-489):

The concept of a new heaven and a new earth (v. 1) is first given clear expression in Isaiah and is later mentioned by Peter, probably alluding to Isaiah (2 Pet. 3:13). God first speaks of His intention to “plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, ‘You are My people’” (Isa. 51:16). Since this is uttered after the first heaven and earth were created, this must speak of planting a new heaven and earth… This could refer to the establishment of the New Covenant, since certain elements of the New Covenant order are said to be something that God “creates” (Isa. 4:5; 57:19). Also, the specific promise of “new heavens and a new earth,” found exclusively in Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22, fall within a portion of Isaiah which New Testament writers applied to the present age.

Regarding the portion of Isaiah which New Testament writers applied to this present age, Steve Gregg offers the following comparisons (p. 506):

[a] Isaiah 65:23 with I Cor. 15:58
[b] Isaiah 65:25 with Luke 10:19
[c] Isaiah 66:1f with I Tim. 3:15
[d] Isaiah 66:8 with Gal. 4:26
[e] Isaiah 66:11 with Matt. 5:6
[f] Isaiah 66:12 with John 14:27
[g] Isaiah 66:15f with Matt. 22:7
[h] Isaiah 66:18 with Matt. 8:11
[i] Isaiah 66:19 with Eph. 3:8 and Col. 1:27
[j] Isaiah 66:20 with Rom. 15:16

David Curtis, pastor of Berean Bible Church in Chesapeake, Virginia, has this to say:

In biblical apocalyptic language, “heavens” refers to governments and rulers, and “earth” refers to the nation of people. This can be seen in the book of Isaiah [e.g. Isaiah 1:1-2, 10]…

Isaiah 34:4-5 (NKJV) All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree. 5 “For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; Indeed it shall come down on Edom, And on the people of My curse, for judgment.

Here we have a description of the fall of Edom; notice the language that is used. This is Biblical language to describe the fall of a nation. It should be clear that it is not to be taken literally. God says that, “His sword will be bathed in heaven,” then explains what He means by saying “It shall come down on Edom.” The NIV puts it this way, “My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; see, it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have totally destroyed.” So, God speaks of His sword being bathed in heaven, meaning the nation Edom, not the literal heaven. Edom shall be rolled up like a scroll.

Isaiah 51:13-16 (NKJV) And you forget the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? 14 The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed, That he should not die in the pit, And that his bread should not fail. 15 But I am the LORD your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared; The LORD of hosts is His name. 16 And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.'”

The time of planting the heavens and laying the foundation of the earth that is referred to here, was performed by God when He divided the sea (ver. 15) and gave the law (ver. 16), and said to Zion, “Thou art my people; that is, when He took the children of Israel out of Egypt, and formed them in the wilderness into a covenant nation. He planted the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth: that is, brought forth order, and government.

If the destruction of heaven and earth were to be taken literally in all of the Old Testament passages, it would mean that heaven and earth were destroyed a bunch of times. This language is clearly not literal, but figurative and apocalyptic [the same also being true in a New Testament passage like Matthew 24:29].

Australian Pastor Andrew Corbett (a partial-preterist) says on this matter:

When the Lord speaks [throughout Scripture] of a new heaven and a new earth there may be some merit in regarding this as Biblical language for a new covenant. This suspicion is increased when we consider how Christ used this expression as well: For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:18).

Since Christ fulfilled the Law, was He right in stating that heaven and earth passed away? If we regard the expression ‘heaven and earth‘ as referring to God’s covenant with mankind, then this statement makes perfect sense. It seems that Christ was therefore saying that once the Old Covenant is fulfilled it will be done away with and replaced by a new covenant.

Hebrews 8:13 says that the Old Covenant became obsolete at the Cross, but it was still to be done away with. Since we now know that the Book of Revelation was written around 64AD (just after the Epistle to the Hebrews, which referred to the Old Covenant as still being in existence – note Hebrews 8:13) Revelation’s announcement of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ was perhaps announcing that a change in covenant-order was pending…

Could the picture of a new heaven and a new earth in the Book of Revelation be describing a coming new physical reality? Perhaps. But we have some Biblical precendent for regarding it as an expression of God’s covenant relationship with mankind… Therefore, while there may be future physical implications of this Biblical prophecy, there might not be.

Putting these thoughts together (if we are on track), the use of the words “heaven” and “earth” in Revelation 21:1 represents [1] the final passing of the Old Covenant Judaic age in light of the destruction of the second temple and the city of Jerusalem when God poured out His wrath upon apostate Israel in 70 AD, just as Jesus predicted (e.g. Matthew 8:10-12; 11:21-24; 21:33-45; 22:1-14; 23:29-24:35; Luke 11:47-51; 13:1-5; 19:41-44; 21:1-36; 23:28-31); [2] the full establishment of the New Covenant age and the kingdom of God (no longer encumbered by Judaism), in which it is openly manifest that God’s covenant people are only those who place their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. I believe that the remainder of our study of Revelation 21 will bear these things out, as we compare Scripture with Scripture.

I appreciate what David Lowman says here: “So, perhaps it is best to understand the NHNE [new heavens and new earth] covenantally as a picture of the promised New Covenant that finds origination in the Old testament, institution in the Gospels, unfolding in the [book of] Acts and explanation in the rest of the New Testament.”

Regarding the absence of the sea in Rev. 21:1b, Steve Gregg says (p. 489), “Many take the sea symbolically as representing the nations and peoples of the Gentiles. According to this theory, only the spiritual Israel remains of all the nations that once covered the planet. The glory of the Lord thus fills the earth as the waters once covered the sea (Hab. 2:14).”[2]

Back in February, I posted a 3-part series titled “‘The earth’ as a Common Reference to Israel in Revelation.” The first post can be seen here, the second post here, and the third post here. This 3-part series was an in-depth study of John’s frequent use of the phrase “the earth” as an indication of the impending judgment upon apostate Israel in 70 AD. In the third post, I included an appendix briefly discussing a similar use of the phrase “the sea” to indicate the Gentile nations. Here is a large excerpt from that appendix:

One passage where this is almost certainly the case is Revelation 13:1, in referring to the beast with ten heads and seven horns. This is very similar to (and likely based on) one of Daniel’s visions where he saw four great beasts coming “up out of the sea” (Daniel 7:3); all of them are Gentile leaders. Most scholars are united in saying that these beasts represent [1] Babylon [2] Medo-Persia [3] Greece [4] Rome, with the Roman beast being the one that John saw.

Perhaps an even clearer indication of this idea is seen in Revelation 17:15 where the angel says to John, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (cf. Rev. 17:1). The word “sea” is not used in this instance, but the same idea (“many waters”—verse 2) is communicated, and this is done in terms of a clear reference to the Gentiles. In Rev. 12:12, we see that a woe is pronounced upon the inhabitants of “the earth and sea” because “the devil has come down to you in great wrath.” It seems it would make more sense for the Gentiles to be alarmed over this fact than for the whales and other sea creatures to feel distress…

The Old Testament basis for this pattern of “the sea” as a reference to Gentiles can be seen in the following passages:

[1] Psalm 65:7; The “roaring of the sea” and the “roaring of the waves” is equated with “the tumult of the peoples.” The latter phrase is understood in the Old Testament to be a reference to the Gentiles.
[2]
Isaiah 17:12-13; In verse 12, “many peoples” is compared to “the thundering of the sea” and “the roaring of mighty waters.” In verse 13 the same is said of “the nations,” a clear reference in Isaiah’s day to the Gentiles.
[3]
Isaiah 57:20; “The wicked,” it is said, are “like the tossing sea,” whose “waters toss up mire and dirt.”
[4]
Isaiah 60:1-5; This is a prophecy for the Church, deemed as such by New Testament writers (e.g. Eph. 5:14 RE: verse 1, Rev. 21:24 RE: verse 3). In verse 5 a direct parallel is drawn between “the sea” and “the nations”: “…the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.” Some translations use the phrase “the Gentiles” instead of “the nations.”
[5]
Jeremiah 6:23; Here, Jeremiah is prophesying of “a people coming from the north country” (verse 22) to make Jerusalem a desolation (verse 8). Their sound, Jeremiah said, “is like the roaring sea.” Babylon fulfilled this prophecy within Jeremiah’s lifetime when they devastated Jerusalem in 586 BC.

A prominent example of “the sea” as a reference to Gentiles in the New Testament outside of Revelation can be seen in Luke 21:25. Here Jesus is speaking of Jerusalem’s impending desolation (verse 20), what would be an imminent call for all who are in Judea to flee (verse 21), and wrath against “this [same] people” (i.e. the Jews) along with “great distress upon the earth” (or “the land,” i.e. Israel). Jesus prophesies the trampling of Jerusalem by the Gentiles (which Revelation 11:2 indicates would last for 42 months) in verse 24. In His very next thought, Jesus then utilizes a common reference to Israel (“sun and moon and stars”; see Genesis 37:9-10), and says that “on the earth” (Israel/Palestine) there would be “distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves” (verse 25). This is the same language we see used commonly in the Old Testament.

Here in Luke 21:20-25, “the earth” (Israel) is shown to be distinct from “the seas” (“the nations” and “the Gentiles”) in the same passage. This same distinction also takes place within several passages in Revelation:

[1] Revelation 13:1-18; The “beast rising out of the sea” (verse 1) is distinct from the “beast rising out of the earth” (verse 11), though the second beast ends up working on behalf of the first one (verses 12-17; Rev. 16:13) and is captured along with it (Rev. 19:20, 20:10). In our study of Revelation 13, we gave good reasons for believing the sea-beast to be Rome (in the general sense) and Nero (in the singular sense), and the earth-beast to represent Jewish leadership.
[2] Revelation 16:19; The “great city,” explicitly shown to be Jerusalem in Rev. 11:8, is shown to be distinct from “the cities of the nations.” The terms “earth” and “sea” are not used here, but this same idea is communicated.
[3] Revelation 17:15-18; An angel refers John back to Rev. 17:2-3 where he had seen “
the great prostitute who is seated on many waters…sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.” She is equated with “the great city” (verse 18), which we know is Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8), and the “waters…are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.” The Jewish prostitute is seen sitting on the Gentile beast. Early on they are on good terms with one another, but later the beast causes the demise of the prostitute (verse 16).

The picture before John then is of Israel’s national and religious leadership having taken a stand against God’s people in partnership with the primary Gentile force of her day, Rome. This is signified by the “sea” and “earth” dichotomy in the book of Revelation. One more reference to “the sea” in Revelation, which some scholars do take to indicate Gentiles, is in Revelation 21:1. There we read, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” Does this mean that when this passage is (or was, or is being) fulfilled, that there are to be no more non-Jews? No, but it certainly could mean that there would be no more distinction made between Jews and Gentiles. After all, this is the message of Revelation 10:7, the fulfillment of “the mystery of God” (cf. Eph. 3:6; Rom. 10:12-13; Gal. 3:28, 5:6, 6:15). One’s view on whether or not this is John’s indication here in Rev. 21:1 depends on whether one takes the “new heaven and a new earth” and “the holy city, new Jerusalem” (verse 2) to be New Covenant Christianity (Gal. 4:24-26; Heb. 12:22-24) or simply a literal and future dwelling place.

Verse 2: John saw “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” As noted earlier, many today see the “new Jerusalem” as a future, physical reality. Is there any precedence elsewhere in the New Testament for seeing the New Jerusalem as a present, non-physical reality? Recall Spurgeon’s quote at the beginning of this post, and how he related the dichotomy of the old and new heavens/earth with the Old/New Covenants. I haven’t read his entire sermon, but I’m willing to bet that he had this passage in mind:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons,one by a slave woman andone by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, whilethe son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are twocovenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Now you, brothers,like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say?“Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave butof the free woman (Galatians 4:21-31, emphasis added).

Bear with me as I take us on a brief rabbit trail here, but one that should prove to be valuable. The passage quoted in Galatians 4:27 is Isaiah 54:1. Most are agreed that this passage in Isaiah is parallel to Isaiah 66:8-9, seen in context here: “Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word: Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for My name’s sake have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy’; but it is they who shall be put to shame. The sound of an uproar from the city! A sound from the temple! The sound of the Lord, rendering recompense to His enemies! ‘Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she delivered a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?’ says the Lord; ‘shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?’ says your God. Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn for her (Isaiah 66:5-10).

Dispensationalists and Christian Zionists insist that Isaiah 66 predicts Israel’s birth as a nation in 1948. However, if it is indeed parallel to Isaiah 54:1, it must be seen in the same way that Paul made application of Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4. Isaiah foresaw the birthing and the breaking forth of the heavenly Jerusalem (66:8-10), even as earthly Jerusalem met her demise (66:6). Ironically, Isaiah 66 does not speak of the restoration of earthly Jerusalem into the hands of mostly unbelieving Jews in 1948. Rather, it mirrors the taking away of the earthly kingdom from apostate Israel (in 70 AD), and the giving of the heavenly kingdom exclusively to God’s holy nation, the Church, just as Jesus predicted (Matthew 21:43-44; cf. Daniel 7:18, 22, 27). It speaks of the full establishment of the New Jerusalem for the Church invisible, the dissolving of the Old Covenant in favor of the New Covenant. This is the point of Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, and John.[3]

In our study of Revelation 17, we noted the same dichotomy which we just saw in Galatians 4, as John was shown a contrasting picture of two women: the harlot of chapters 17 and 18, and the bride in chapter 19 clothed with “fine linen, bright and pure…the righteous deeds of the saints (see verses 1-8). In Hebrews 12:22-24 we see the same language, where the picture of the New (heavenly) Jerusalem is again linked with the New Covenant: “But 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, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Looking at the larger context, the author of Hebrews is comparing and contrasting the giving of the Old Covenant (verses 18-21) with the granting of a non-physical kingdom even as the old physical kingdom (the Jerusalem temple; cf. Heb. 9:8-10) was about to be removed.

In John’s letter to the Church in Philadelphia, this promise was also given to those who would be found faithful: “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from My God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12). This was a promise to first-century believers. The temple of which Christ spoke, of course, is the Church (I Cor. 3:9, 16-17; 6:19; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22), a very present reality.

In this same vein, Kenneth Gentry stated, “The new Jerusalem is a symbol of the redeemed people of God in whom God dwells (Rev 21:3), much like the “temple” in Paul’s writing often represents the people of God and not a physical building (1 Cor. 3:16–17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21).”[4] Steve Gregg adds (p. 490), “Since the New Jerusalem is later described as the ‘Lamb’s wife’ (v. 9), we can readily identify the symbol with the church, which is the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:31-32).”

Can you see it in these passages? It’s time that the Church shakes off the false teachings of dispensationalism and Christian Zionism, with their heavy emphasis on an earthly kingdom for one particular ethnic group (the Jews), and lives in the present realities of the New Covenant, the heavenly kingdom which cannot be shaken.

Steve Gregg also adds, on pages 489-490:

The mixing of metaphors in the holy city, New Jerusalem…prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (v. 2) is arresting. That a city could be dressed in bridal attire is difficult to picture with the mind. Yet it is not the first time the images of a city and a woman have been joined in describing one entity. In Revelation 17, the great harlot was also Babylon, and a divine interpreter explained that “the woman whom you saw is that great city” (17:18). The figure of a woman to represent a city goes back to the Old Testament, where Jerusalem is referred to as “the virgin, the daughter of Zion” (Isa. 37:22)…

The bride is here prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (v. 2), suggesting the wedding day. In chapter 19, the announcement was made that the marriage of the Lamb had come and His wife had made herself ready (19:7), yet no description of the wedding or the bride was offered. This vision seems to pick up where that one left off, for here we see the procession of the bride in her readiness to be joined to her husband.

Verse 3: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.’” The language used here is quite similar to the description of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34. The phrase “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men” also hearkens back to Ezekiel 37:27-28, a passage which follows shortly after the New Covenant promises articulated in Ezekiel 36:24-28. Furthermore, in Ezekiel’s own vision of a city, he was told that it would be the place where God would dwell with His people (Ezekiel 43:7, 48:35). Steve Gregg notes that this promise was first made conditionally in Leviticus 26:11, and further comments:

The destruction of Solomon’s temple and the removal to Babylon in 586 B.C. was God’s way of revoking this privilege because of the Jews’ disobedience. While in Babylon, however, Ezekiel prophesied that there would come a time of ultimate restoration of God’s people under the terms of the New Covenant, resulting in the renewal of the original privilege: “My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” (Ezek. 37:27). Many interpreters apply Ezekiel 37 to the Millennium, though the repetition of Ezekiel’s words in this place [Revelation 21] would favor a fulfillment in the new creation.

Is this promise awaiting future fulfillment? The apostle Paul didn’t believe so when he quoted Exodus 29:45 and Lev. 26:11 as a present reality for the Church in his own day (II Corinthians 6:16).

Verse 4: John is told that tears will be wiped away, and there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, “for the former things have passed away.” Of all the statements in Revelation 21, this might be the hardest one to explain as a present reality. Here are some questions that we can ask to help us think through what John is told in this verse:

1. Since God can’t wipe away what isn’t there, can we conclude that tears are present when He wipes them away? If this is so, what is the likely setting where this takes place – on this earth during our lifetimes, or beyond the grave?

2. What does the rest of the New Testament say about “death” and its relationship to followers of Christ? What does the New Testament say about what Jesus has already accomplished with regard to death?

3. What does the New Testament teach regarding “former things” passing away, or “the old order of things” (as the NIV puts it) passing away? Does the NT elsewhere present the passing away of former things as an accomplished reality, or a future reality?

From Isaiah 53:4, we know that Jesus bore our griefs and sorrows on the cross. From John 3:16, we know that God gave His Son, Jesus, so that those who believe in Him would not perish. From II Timothy 1:10, we know that Jesus has already abolished death and brought life and immortality to life through the gospel. From II Corinthians 5:17, we know that the old has already passed away, the new has come, and we are new creations in Christ. From Galatians 6:15, we know that this new creation counts as everything. From Hebrews 12:24, we know that we have a new covenant with better promises and realities than ever existed in the old covenant. 

Revelation 21:4 is based on Isaiah 25:8, which says: “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth…” The context shows that God would ruin one city (Isaiah 25:2, 26:5), but on a mountain He would create “for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines…” (verse 6). He would destroy “the veil that is spread over all nations” (verse 7) and bring salvation (verse 9). The walls of the new city would be marked by salvation (26:1) and a righteous nation would enter the open gates (26:2; see Rev. 21:24-26). 

According to Paul, there was a veil over the mind when reading the old covenant, and that veil is only taken away in Christ (II Corinthians 3:14). The old covenant was also a ministry of death (II Cor. 3:7). So, when examining the background of Revelation 21:4, we can see that the death and sorrow was covenantal, and those “former things” passed away with the creation of the new covenant at the cross (Matthew 26:28) and the destruction of the old covenant system in 70 AD.

Steve Gregg remarks on these things (p. 490),

Some have so construed the promise God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (v. 4) as to teach that there will be tears in heaven. Biederwolf, however, suggests that the words simply mean “that He will so constitute things that no more tears will be shed.” …The causes of present mourning and crying are eradicated forever.

There is also a present realization of these truths, since, for the Christian, Christ has “abolished death” (2 Tim. 1:10), so that “whoever lives and believes” in Christ “shall never die” (John 11:25). As for sorrow, grief, and pain, our relationship with God through Christ has even transformed these experiences so that, while we do still mourn the loss of loved ones, we do not “sorrow as others who have no hope” (I Thess. 4:13).

Is Rev. 21:4 also a reflection of the truths laid out in Hebrews 2:14-15? There we read, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” In any case, one of the provisions of the New Covenant brought about by Christ’s death on the cross is the deliverance from the fear and sting of physical death (and, of course, exemption from the second death—Rev. 20:6, 14).

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Before moving on to our next post, where we will continue with our study of Revelation 21 (beginning with verse 5), I would like to close this post with some pertinent quotes from Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and John Owen (1616-1683) which mirror what we have been saying here:

[1] Jonathan Edwards: “The Scriptures further teach us to call the gospel-restoration and redemption, a creation of a new heaven and a new earth… The gospel-state is everywhere spoken of as a renewed state of things, wherein old things are passed away, and all things become new… And the dissolution of the Jewish state was often spoken of in the Old Testament as the end of the world. But we who belong to the gospel-church, belong to the new creation; and therefore there seems to be at least as much reason, that we should commemorate the work of this creation, as that the members of the ancient Jewish church should commemorate the work of the old creation…

Heaven and earth began to shake, in order to a dissolution, according to the prophecy of Haggai, before Christ came, that so only those things that cannot be shaken may remain, i.e. that those things that are come to an end may come to an end, and that only those things may remain which are to remain to all eternity.   So, in the first place, the carnal ordinances of the Jewish worship came to an end, to make way for the establishment of that spiritual worship, the worship of the hearts, which is to endure to all eternity.   This is one instance of the temporary world’s coming to an end, and the eternal world’s beginning.  And then, after that, the outward temple, and the outward city of Jerusalem, came to an end, to give place to the setting up of the spiritual temple and the spiritual city, which are to last to eternity.

[2] John Owen: [regarding II Peter 3] “It is evident, then, that in the prophetical idiom and manner of speech, by heavens and earth, the civil and religious state and combination of men in the world, and the men of them, were often understood… On this foundation I affirm that the heavens and earth here intended in this prophecy of Peter, the coming of the Lord, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, mentioned in the destruction of that heaven and earth, do all of them relate, not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state.

(1.) Because whatever is here mentioned was to have its peculiar influence on the men of that generation. He speaks of that wherein both the profane scoffers and those scoffed at were concerned, and that as Jews, some of them believing, others opposing, the faith. Now there was no particular concernment of that generation, nor in that sin, nor in that scoffing, as to the day of judgment in general; but there was a peculiar relief for the one and a peculiar dread for the other at hand, in the destruction of the Jewish nation…

(2.) Peter tells them, that after the destruction and judgment that he speaks of (vers. 7-13), “We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth,’ etc. They had this expectation. But what is that promise? Where may we find it? Why, we have it in the very words and letter, Isa. lxv. 17. Now, when shall this be that God shall create these new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness? Saith Peter, “It shall be after the coming of the Lord, after that judgment and destruction of ungodly men, who obey not the gospel, that I foretell.” But now it is evident from this place of Isaiah, with chap. lxvi. 21, 22, that this is a prophecy of Gospel times only; and that the planting of these new heavens is nothing but the creation of Gospel ordinances to endure forever. The same thing is so expressed Heb. xii. 26-28…

He will come- He will not tarry; and then the heavens and earth that God Himself planted, -the sun, moon, and stars of the Judaical polity and church, -the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinancy against the Lord Christ, shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed: this we know shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.” (Sermon on 2 Peter iii. 11, Works, folio, 1721.).

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In Part 2 of our study of Revelation 21, we will examine the remainder of the chapter (verses 5-27). We will also note a number of similarities between Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21, Ezekiel 40-48 and Revelation 21, and other fascinating allusions to other Scripture texts in Rev. 21.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.


[1] Kenneth Gentry, “Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues,” GoodBirth Ministries: Fountain Inn, SC, 2009.

[2] Kenneth Gentry notes that “John Walvoord (Revelation, 311) takes a strongly literal approach,” saying, ‘The new earth apparently will have no bodies of water except for the river mentioned in 22:2.’” Gentry himself agrees that the replacing of the old heavens and earth with the new heavens and earth is a picture of the Old Covenant order. Gentry comments,

John witnesses the New Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven” (Rev 21:2). In John’s drama the collapse of the Jewish temple in AD 70 opens direct access to God (Rev 11:2, 19; cp. 19:1–2, 9; 22:14). If God descends with his New Jerusalem people “then the barrier of the glassy sea [Rev 4:6; cf. 4:2–5, 9–5:1, 6–7], which in the present age separates his dwelling from the earth, will have to have been done away with” (Mealy, 195). This is precisely what we see in Rev 21:3–5.

This new covenant principle of open access to God appears elsewhere in the NT. For example, we see this when Jesus promises that soon people will no longer need to worship in Jerusalem but can call upon God from anywhere (Jn 4:21, 23; cp. Mal 1:11). This begins to occur when the temple veil is torn and creation is darkened and shaken (Mt 27:45//, 51b; cp. Rev 21:1), for after that event Christians are urged to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16; cp. 7:19) because of the removal of the old covenant (Heb 8:13; 12:22–28) which blocked access to the holy place (Heb 9:8). This removal of the old covenant is dramatically exhibited and finalized in AD70.

In that the Exodus motif appears frequently in Rev, the removal of the sea may also reflect the drying of the Red Sea so that Israel could enter the Land (Ex 14:21–22; Ps 18:15; 106:9; Isa 44:27; 50:2; 51:10; 63:11–12; Jer 51:36; Nah 1:4). But even here we may note the separation from God involved, for the sea separated Israel from God’s promised inheritance, requiring that God overcome this impediment. Hence, the image of the Exodus / Red Sea underscores the symbol of open access to God.

I do believe the absence of the sea in Rev 21:1 portrays just this sort of image. The new covenant access to God is a major consequence of the removal of the old covenant and rituals portraying the hiddenness of God. As Christianity takes the place of Israel at AD 70, God’s people can come boldly before the throne of grace in a way they could not have in the OT.

Source: Kenneth Gentry, “No More Sea” (Supplement to his newest book, Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues), January 2010, p. 4.

[3] Some (e.g. Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, Gary DeMar) would say that Peter makes the same point in II Peter 3:1-14, where he speaks of scoffers “in the last days” (of the Old Covenant age?), the existence (at least in his day) of “the heavens and earth,” and the coming “day of the Lord” (70 AD?) in which the heavens would pass away with a roar along with the burning up of “the earth and the works that are done on it,” giving way to “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Others, like partial-preterist Kenneth Gentry, see Revelation 21:1-2 as primarily speaking of the events of 70 AD, but II Peter 3 speaking of what will take place at the end of world history with the future Second Coming of Christ. Here is what Kenneth Gentry says regarding these things:

My understanding of Revelation 21–22 is that John provides an ideal conception of new covenant Christianity as the new creation and the new Jerusalem. Though the ultimate, consummate, eternal new creation is implied in these verses, his primary focus is on the redemptive new creation in Christ. John is encouraging the beleaguered Christians to hold on through their trials: Once Jerusalem falls and Nero dies, they will have entered into the final redemptive-historical order in history. And he paints Christianity in glowing terms [p. 1, underlining added]… John’s new creation revelation differs from Peter’s (2 Pet. 3:10ff) [in that Peter highlights the eternal result of the temporal redemption in Christ that John speaks of].

Source: Kenneth Gentry, “New Creation As New Covenant” (Supplement to his newest book, Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues), January 2010, pp. 1, 4.

Rightly or wrongly, some have taken Gentry to task for inconsistency in these matters.

[4] Source: Kenneth Gentry, “Dispensationalism and the New Jerusalem” (Supplement to his newest book, Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues), January 2010, p. 5.

Revelation Chapter 3


Revelation Chapter 3

Rod: July 23, 2009

(This post cites material  from Dr. Sam Storms and Dr. John MacArthur:
[NASB MacArthur Study Bible. World Publishing, 2006.])

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 3:1-22

[Notes from Adam were added on October 14th, and are in blue font. Some are based on Steve Gregg’s book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).”]

Sardis

Sardis is a city of past glory. It was a capital in the ancient Lydian kingdom (1200 B.C.) and flourished under Croesus in approximately 600 B.C. It was famous for its red dye and woolen goods, and was also known for its excessive immorality. It was twice conquered by the Persians before eventually succumbing to decline. It was struck by a major earthquake in 17 A.D. and, despite being given aid to rebuild by emperor Tiberias, suffered great decline.

Sardis was built on a mountain (about 1500 feet up) to help protect it from enemy attack. Ironically, the city twice was taken by surprise and captured (by Cyrus in 549 BC and by Antiochus the Great in 218 BC). Jesus addresses this church’s lack of faithfulness (verse 2), and tells them to wake up before He comes against them in judgment.

Verse 3: Here Jesus says, “If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”

Notice that Jesus says the same in Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse, concerning His own first century generation (Matthew 24:34):

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him” (Matthew 24:42-44).

We see the following identical elements in these warnings:

1. Jesus would come in judgment.
2. He would come like a thief.
3. They would not know the hour.
4. They were told to wake up or be ready.

1. What is one aspect of the Church in Sardis that we notice is different from the previous four churches?

Jesus has no words of commendation for this church. The previous four churches were greeted and given encouragement and praise. All the churches mentioned so far have mixed membership, but the people in Sardis have a majority of faulty members.

2. Why might both the Jews and Romans have persecuted this church much less with respect to the other churches?

It is likely because they were not faithfully and passionately following Christ. The church in Sardis was buried in mediocrity, entertained heresy and lacked conviction.

3. In verse 3, Jesus gives Sardis three commands in a specific order. What are they?

Remember – recall the blessings of grace and be strengthened
Keep it – hold firmly to the gospel which you have received
Repent – stop sinning, seek forgiveness and walk in righteousness

Philadelphia

Philadelphia is located about thirty miles southeast of Sardis and was founded in 190 B.C. by Attalus II, the king of Pergamos. It was because of this king’s devotion to his brother that the city adopted its name “brotherly love”. The city was located on a major trade route and an important commercial stop. Though never mentioned in the New Testament, it is likely the  church here was the fruit of Paul’s work in Ephesus.

Steve Gregg writes (p. 75) that Philadelphia was a city plagued by earthquakes, and for that reason was not well populated in John’s day. “Historically,” he says, the inhabitants had frequently been forced to move out of the city due to its instability.” Philadelphia was also destroyed by a major earthquake in 17 AD, but was then rebuilt. A significant church existed there until at least the 12th century, and a small congregation is said to be there to this day.

Verse 7: Jesus has the undisputed authority to admit into, or exclude from, the New Jerusalem (the Davidic kingdom–see Isaiah 22:22). Steve Gregg adds, “Jesus identifies himself as the One who is holy and true (v. 7). This is the first of the letters not to take its introductory description from features found in chapter one” (p. 75). He says further (pp. 75-76),

The reference to Jesus having the key of David (v. 7), so that he opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens is an allusion to Isaiah 22:22, in which the same privilege and prerogative is assigned to a man named Eliakim, who was steward over the house of King Hezekiah. This man had the power either to admit persons or to deny entry into the king’s house. Jesus is claiming to have a corresponding right with reference to admitting people into heaven. As a matter of fact, He tells the church that He has chosen to admit them: I have set before you an open door (v. 8). The mention that no one can shut it may imply that the Jews in Philadelphia (mentioned in v. 9) sought to exclude the Gentiles from God (cf. Matt. 23:13; I Thess. 2:15f), but Jesus had made access available to them through himself.

1. Note that Jesus does not have a bad word to say about Philadelphia. Because of their faithful adherence to him and persistent endurance, what three things does Jesus assure them of?

-They have an open door to the eternal kingdom that no one can shut
-They will be vindicated before their fellow “false” Jews and see Jesus’ love for his church
-They will be protected at the hour of trial that is coming to the whole world

Verses 9-10: Take note of the way that Revelation 3:9 looks back to Isaiah 60:14, where those who persecuted the people of Israel would bow to them, and reverses this image:

Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 60:14).

Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie – indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you” (Revelation 3:9).

Steve Gregg comments on the false Jews that Jesus spoke of in verse 9 (pp. 75-76):

As was the case in Smyrna (2:9), the present troublers of the church in Philadelphia appear to have been the local Jews (3:9)… Jesus again refers to the persecuting Jews as the synagogue of Satan. They say they are Jews and are not, but lie (v.9)—they are not real Jews in Christ’s sight because “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39), and “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly…but he is a Jew who is one inwardly” (Rom. 2:28f). Although, prior to A.D. 70, the principal systematic persecution of Christians came from the Sanhedrin and synagogues of the Jews, both Christians and Jews later became the targets of Roman persecution—a development that would bring an end to biblical Judaism, but which would not be able to extinguish Christianity.

That the persecuting Jews would one day be forced to come and worship before your feet (v. 9) does not mean that the latter will be worshiped as deities, but they will be sitting enthroned with Christ (3:21), before whom, someday, every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10). Though they are presently seeking to exclude the Gentiles from the love and favor of God, the day will come when these Jews will be forced to acknowledge that I have loved you (v. 9). Jesus had previously expressed a concern that “the world might know” that God loves His disciples (John 17:23). That day will come in which His desire will be fulfilled.

2. What is the hour of trial that Jesus is referring to in verse 10?

It may have pertained to the trials or “tribulations” that the Christians of Asia Minor were experiencing during that time or it may refer to one particular season of intense persecution that was imminent to the other believers of Asia Minor. [Note: The preterist position sees the great tribulation as having been fulfilled in the Roman-Jewish War beginning in early 67 AD and leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction 3.5 years later in August 70 AD. This is likely the “hour of trial” that they were to be spared from.]

According to John MacArthur, Jesus is referring to the seven-year period before Christ’s earthly kingdom is consummated, featuring the unleashing of divine wrath in judgments expressed in seals, trumpets and bowls. This is described in great detail in Chapters 6-19. Indeed this is a key Rapture text for Dispensational Futurists, seeming to them to indicate that believers will be taken to heaven so that they will not experience a future period of global tribulation. This is despite the fact that this statement was addressed to a specific church in the 1st century AD, as Sam Storms noted. However, as Steve Gregg points out (pp. 76-77),

…removal of Christians from the earth [need not be] the only possible way in which Jesus could keep His people from the wars and plagues anticipated to occur at that time. For example, Jesus prayed thus for His disciples: ‘I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one’ (John 17:15)… Preterists argue that an empire-wide crisis would satisfy the normal use of the terminology in Revelation 3:10. The whole world is a term used to designate the Roman Empire in Luke 2:1 and elsewhere. That it is to test those who dwell on the earth (or “land,” i.e. Israel) may suggest that there is a crisis that will shake the whole empire and put the Jews, in particular, into special peril. In A.D. 68, the death of Nero, and the civil wars that followed, greatly threatened the stability of the Roman Empire, until Vespasian was made emperor in A.D. 70. During this same period (A.D. 66-70), the Jews were embroiled in a fight for the survival of their nation against the Romans…which they lost. Preterism suggests that this judgment on Jerusalem is what is implied in the promise, I am coming quickly! (v. 11).

[As we continue in our study of Revelation, we will be suggesting that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.]

3. What is the three-fold promise of Jesus in verses 12 and 13?

-I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God – a metaphor for eternal salvation?
-Never shall he go out of it – promise of permanence within the New Jerusalem
-I will write on him the name of my God, the city of God and my own new name – metaphor of divine ownership, being identified with the city New Jerusalem (see Isaiah 56:5 and Ezekiel 48:35).

Steve Gregg comments on verse 12 (p. 77):

The overcomer will be made a pillar in the temple of My God (v. 12). Assuming a familiarity with the concept of the church being the temple of God (I Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:20-22; I Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6; I Pet. 2:5), faithful confessors will possess positions of stability and support. Such pillars are earthquake-proof, so that, unlike the citizens of Philadelphia, who had frequently been driven out of their city by quakes, the overcomer shall go out no more.

Gregg goes on to suggest that Jesus’ promise to write on those who overcome “the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem” is connected to God’s actions in Revelation 7:3 and 14:1. There God sealed His servants on their foreheads with His name, and this was in contrast to those who had the name and the mark of the beast on their foreheads. Gregg adds, “Such a mark on the believer is not a visible tattoo, but the seal of God’s ownership, a concept Paul equates with the believer’s possession of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). The writing of the New Jerusalem upon the believer suggests citizenship there (cf. Ps. 87:5-6). This Jerusalem is described in symbolic detail in chapter 21.”

Laodicea

Laodicea was a wealthy city, perhaps the wealthiest in all Phrygia. Struck by a horrible earthquake in 60 A.D., the city rebuilt itself without the aid of Rome. It was a banking center, and linen and wool were the main commerce for clothing manufacturing. It also had a medical school and was famous for its eye doctors and ointments.

Paul likely never visited Laodicea. But he mentions the city five times in Colossians: 2:1, 4:13, 15, 16 (2). It was likely that Epaphras, who was a servant of the Lord in Colossae, initiated the church here. It should be noted that there is no praise given to this church from Jesus.

1. What two things does Jesus discern about the people in Laodicea?

-They are lukewarm in their faith – rebuked for the barren nature of their works and their stagnant spiritual condition.
-They are comfortable in their own financial self-sufficiency. As Steve Gregg comments (p. 79), “Wealth has a way of imparting a false sense of self-sufficiency—the very antithesis of the beggarliness of spirit commended in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3).”

Nearby Heirapolis was famous for its hot springs and Colossae for its cold mountain streams. Laodicea had an underground aqueduct to provide for its water supply that was dirty and tepid. Visitors would often spit this water out. The church there was neither hot, filled with spiritual zeal, nor cold, openly rejecting Christ. The members were lukewarm hypocrites professing to know Christ but not truly belonging to Him. Steve Gregg adds, “The city’s water supply originated from hot springs six miles away at Denizli. In the process of traveling through the aqueduct to Laodicea, the water became tepid—neither hot nor cold” (p. 78).

2. In verse 18, Jesus asks the church to come trade with Him. What three things* does Jesus say come and trade for, and what do they mean?

Gold – spiritual wealth, refined by the fires of suffering
White garments – works of righteousness that were lacking in this church
Eye salve – restoration of their spiritual vision

*Note that these are counterparts to the three major industries (banking, clothing and medicine)!

3. In verse 19, Jesus says “to whom I love, I will reprove and discipline.” What does He mean by this?

According to MacArthur: “It can be seen by verses 18 and 20 that Jesus is addressing unbelievers. God certainly loves the unconverted, but disciplining (or chastening) is referring to God’s convicting and punishing of the unregenerate.”

According to Storms: “The appeal of v. 20 is not to unbelievers so that they might be saved. Rather it is an appeal to individuals (“anyone”) within the church to repent and forsake their spiritual half-heartedness. As a result one may experience now the intimate communion and fellowship of which the feast in the messianic kingdom is the consummation. All present fellowship with Jesus is a foretaste of that eternal felicity which will be consummated in the age to come.”

Verse 21: Jesus promises that those who overcome will be able to sit with Him on His throne, as He has already done. Steve Gregg comments (p. 80),

Reigning with Christ also is promised to the overcomers in Thyatira (2:26f), and additional references to the co-regency of the saints are found in 5:10 and 20:4. Opinions concerning the exact time of this fulfillment depend upon one’s eschatological system—it could be in the millennium; or after death, reigning in heaven prior to the Second Advent. It could be a spiritual reign of saints in this life or a literal reign over the new earth. Theories abound. The present and accomplished enthronement of Christ is stated clearly enough: as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

BRIEF PRETERIST SUMMARY OF CHAPTERS 1-3

“The preterists consider the letters to apply to little else than the contemporary situation of the seven churches as they existed in John’s time. As with all biblical epistles, however, application to similar churches of any time is acknowledged” (Steve Gregg, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary), p. 81).

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Our study of Revelation 4 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.