The Reign of Christ, 17:1-22:5
The demise of the Beast, 19:11-21:8
vi] New heavens and a new earthSynopsis
In this, the last "and I saw" vision, John sees the new heavens and the new earth, the first heaven and earth having passed away. He sees the Holy City coming down out of heaven and a voice proclaiming that God now dwells among his people, dispelling death and despair. John hears God proclaim that he is making all things new, and then receives a direct order to write down his vision. God then gives this promise: to the thirsty he will give the water of life; to the victorious, those who persevere in faith, he will give the rights of a child of God; but to the cowardly, the unbelieving, the only gift is the lake of fire.
The Kingdom of God is at hand; Eden restored - the rights of a child of God to the water of life are ours through faith in Christ.
i] Context: See 19:11-16. The passage before us is somewhat transitional, functioning in much the same way as 19:1-10. It serves as a bridge between our earthly experience and the heavenly reality. As such, it concludes the events of the judgment and proclaims the coming of the new heaven and new earth.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8.
iii] Structure: The new heavens and new earth:
John's vision of the Holy City, v1-2;
A voice from heaven explains the significance of the vision, v3-4;
God speaks and confirms the new order of things, v5-6;
A challenge to the Holy City - be brave, not cowardly, v7-8.
The series of kai eidon, "and I saw", apocalyptic visions covering 19:11-21:8, now reaches its climax as John reveals his vision of the new heavens and the new earth. Drawing on Isaiah 65:17-25, John employs vivid imagery to describe the glory of the age to come when the kingdom of God is realized in power, when darkness is overwhelmed and victory secured. In this passage, John sees the core reality of the age to come, namely that God is with his people, caring for them and comforting them.
The passage quickly introduces us to the major themes articulated in 21:5-22:5 - Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb:
• "The first heaven and first earth has passed away" - the age of sin is no more, v1;
• "The new Jerusalem .... prepared .... beautifully dressed" - the city of God is now prepared for its guests, v2;
• "God's dwelling place is now among the people", v3.
• "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain" - given that the old has gone and the new has come, troubles will be no more.
These themes are reinforced by a promise of divine blessing, v5-6, a call for courage, v7, and a warning to the cowardly.
It's interesting how John's imagery reflects the restoration of Eden, of "God's dwelling place ... now among the people." The restoration of all things, the "making everything new", reverses the fall with the removal of death and pain in the gift of "the water of life." The ultimate desire of lost humanity, repeated time and again in the scriptures, is fulfilled with the announcement "I will be their God and they will be my children." Thus the curse from the fall is finally lifted in the removal of what was tainted by sin (including "no longer any sea" - the place of the foreboding powers of darkness), and the replacement with what is "new" and untainted. The inhabitants of this new Eden come out of heaven from God "beautifully dressed for her husband (God/Jesus)." This image of the "Holy City" serves as a symbol of the Christian community, the church; they are the inhabitants of the new Eden, they are the "victorious" ones, those who have persevered in faith. As Eden was closed to humanity after the fall, so the "new heavens and new earth" is closed to "the unbelieving", v8a.
John's apocalyptic imagery is of heaven on earth - the dead rise and are judged in God's throne room, while those found in the book of life descend from God to inhabit a restored Eden. We will only have a problem with this imagery if we try to apply it literally. John's point is simple enough, in Christ paradise is regained.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 21:1
New heavens and a new earth: i] John's final vision - the Holy City, v1-2. John sees the "Holy City, the new Jerusalem." This city is "prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." The image, of course, is that of the bride of Christ, the people of God, the assembled brotherhood of Christ. The image of the assembly of believers "coming down", represents a restored humanity in a new Eden.
kai eidon "Then I saw" - and i saw. Serving to indicate a step in the narrative / a new vision.
ouranon kainon kai ghn "a new heaven and a new earth" - The accusative direct object of the verb "I saw." The idea of a new earth is certainly an interesting one. In Biblical terms it concerns the redemption of creation - a transformation from corruption to perfection, the reestablishment of Eden. As such, it is a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, Isaiah.65:17. Yet, the question remains, to what extent is this image literal or figurative? The idea of a new heaven is even more difficult to comprehend. A literal restoration of the heavenly dwelling of God seems a little far-fetched. Again, the idea derives from the Old Testament. The renewal of the heavenly dome about the earth is what concerned the prophets, and all that John does is repeat the image. It is best to understand the "new heavens and new earth" in a figurative sense. Today, chaos reigns in both domains, but through Christ there is a new creation, the replacement of the old with something new and eternal. John witnesses the final culmination of this restoration when all things are "new".
gar "for" - for [the first heaven and the first earth passed away]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why John is able to see the new heaven and new earth, namely "because" aphqan, "they have passed away."
hJ qalassa ouk estin eti "There was no longer any sea" - [and] the sea is no longer. In the Old Testament, the sea is a place of surging evil, the abode of the dark Leviathan; it was a place always seething, erratic, destructive, unable to be tamed. But now, following the judgment (Ch.17-20), this reedy wilderness is no more; Satan's stronghold is broken and his power destroyed. So, again we need to understand this image in a figurative sense, so "Satan's abode was no more."
kai "[I saw]" - and. Here as a connective; "And I saw."
Ierousalhm kainhn "[the Holy City], the new Jerusalem" - Standing in apposition to "the Holy City", so The city of God, namely the new Jerusalem = the redeemed, the new creation, the people of God, the heavenly assembly.
katabainousan (katabainw) part. "coming down" - descending. The participle may be viewed as adjectival, attributive, limiting "Holy City", "the Holy City .... which was coming down", although usually treated as the complement of the direct object "the holy city", standing in a double accusative construction, as NIV. The redeemed people assemble in (descend into) God's new domain. A Western imagination doesn't quite get the descending imagery, but it illustrates the fulfillment of prophetic expectations through a divine intervention, here the establishment of the new Jerusalem, an eternal home of the saints, gifted from heaven to earth. So, leaving the literal image aside, the words describe the glorification of the people of God in the eternal domain.
ek + gen. "out of [heaven]" - Expressing source / origin.
apo + gen. "from [God]" - Expressing separation, "away from", or source / origin, "from".
hJtoimasmenhn (eJtoimazw) pas. part. "prepared" - having been prepared, made ready. The participle as "coming down."
wJV "as [a bride]" - Comparative; "made all ready like a bride adorned for her husband", Cassirer.
kekosmhmenhn (kosmew) pas. part. "beautifully dressed" - having been adorned. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "bride", "a bride who is beautifully dressed." The city / the people of God is as a woman adorned (appropriately/beautifully dressed) to meet her husband.
tw/ andri (hr droV "for [her] husband" - for the husband [of her]. The NIV has translated it as a dative of interest, advantage, she is adorned for the advantage of her husband. She is adorned ready to join with the man she is about to marry, ie., the people of God, renewed in Christ, stand prepared to meet their God.
ii] A voice from the throne explains the significance of the vision, v3-4. John hears a loud voice, a voice of authority, declaring a mighty truth. The shechinah glory of the Lord (his radiant presence, his person in all its fullness) now resides / dwells / tabernacles, with his people. The promise to Israel is now a reality: "they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." As our intimate friend, God in Christ will console us in our troubles; he will wipe away every tear. The context implies that the troubles for which God will console us are the troubles of this age, an age now passing away. Christ has opened the seals and dealt with the pains of this age - sin and its consequences.
legoushV (legw) gen. pres. part. "saying" - [and I heard a loud voice from the throne] saying. John again uses a participle to introduce the words of a vision. Numerous classifications are possible: object complement; adjectival, attributive; attendant circumstance; .. cf., legwn 1:17. Note the genitives following hkousa, "I heard", a verb which often takes a genitive of direct object.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "God's" - [the dwelling place] of god. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but possibly verbal, subjective.
hJ skhnh (h) "dwelling place" - the dwelling, tabernacle, shelter. The final words of Ezekiel's vision is "The name of the city shall be 'the Lord is there.'" Israel's great hope is that the Lord will tabernacle with his people, make his abode with them, cf., Lev.26:11, Isa.7:14. This then is the ultimate blessing and is realized in the final gathering together of God's people.
meta + gen. "is now among" - is with. Expressing association / accompaniment; "in company with."
laoi (oV) pl. "people" - men = peoples. Predicate nominative. The source texts are either singular or plural and as the plural is the more difficult reading it is probably original. The sense is "the peoples of the world", "all races", etc.
met (meta) + gen."[he will dwell] with [them]" - [and he will tabernacle] with [them and they will be his people]. Expressing association / accompaniment. The sense is will remain / abide with, underlining God's presence with his people - the blessing of relationship, fellowship, oneness, love....
autwn qeoV "and be their God" - [and he himself god with them will be] god of them. A textual variant which "seems to function in apposition to autoV oqeoV met autwn (he himself God with them)", Mathewson = "he himself will be God with them, namely, their God." The sense may be "[with them] as their God."
ek + gen. "from [their eyes]" - [and he will wipe away every tear] from [the eyes of them]. Expressing separation; "away from."
ouk ... eti "[there will be] no more" - [and death will be] no longer. When eti, "still, yet", follows a negative it takes the sense "any longer"; "death will not be any longer" = "death will cease to exist", Barclay.
oJ qanatoV "death" - Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Physical death is intended. "Death will no longer exist."
oute ... oute .... oute "or ... or ... or .." - neither [grief] nor [crying] nor [pain no longer will be] A negated correlative construction.
penqoV (oV) "mourning" - grief. Along with "crying" and "pain", nominative subject of the verb to-be. The mourning associated with bereavement, cf., Isa.25:8, 35:10, 51:11.
kraugh (h) "crying" - Although "weeping" seems to be the sense here, the word normally means "noisy outcry", or "shout".
ponoV (oV) "pain" - pain, anguish.
oJti "for" - because [the first things passed away]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why there will be no more grief, crying and pain; "because ......" Many early manuscripts do not have this conjunction and so it is quite possible that the phrase "the old order ......." is not causal. "The old order of things" may have passed away, but this is not the reason why there is "no more death ....."
iii] God himself speaks and confirms the new order of things with its eternal blessings - "I am making everything new", v5-6. The process of renewal begins and darkness in chaos recedes. God's proclamation to the suffering community of Christ is that all things are being renewed right now, cf., 2Cor.4:16-18. The age of renewal has begun and will extend into eternity. Stunned by this revelation, John is prompted to "write this down" the vision, v5. The one who is the beginning of all things and the end of all things makes a promise to his suffering people: life-giving water is theirs at journey's end.
oJ kaqhmenoV (kaqhmai) pres. part. "he who was seated [on the throne]" - [and] the one sitting [on the throne said behold]. The participle serves as a substantive.
poiw (poiew) pres. "I am making" - i make. The present tense is interesting. There is a futuristic element in the words, but the "realized" nature of Christ's work also makes the future a durative present. Note also that this is the first time God actually speaks in the prophecy.
kaina adj. "[everything] new" - [all things] new. Accusative complement of the direct object "everything". In Isaiah 43:19 God says he is "doing a new thing", a new Israel free from Babylon and blessed. For John, the new thing is everything. "The deliverance from Babylon is complete", Koester.
grayon (grafw) aor. imp. "write this down" - [and he says] write. Note "he says" is present tense whereas the verse begins with the aorist eipen, "he said", but it is probably just stylistic - may be classified as a narrative present. Write what? The command to write appears a number of times in the Revelation, but this time it is from God himself. We probably have a repeated command to write down the revelation as a whole rather than this particular vision or even just the words "that these words are trustworthy and true."
oJti "for" - because. Usually treated as if introducing a causal clause explaining why John should write down the revelation, "write because these words ...." It may serve to introduce a dependent statement expressing the content of what John is to write, namely, that the words "I am making everything new" are trustworthy and true, but as noted above, this seems unlikely. So, usually taken to mean "write the brook", not just v5.
pistoi adj. "trustworthy" - [these words are] faithful [and true]. Predicate adjective. The one who declares the words is to be relied on; he is faithful. Aune classifies "trustworthy and true" as a hendiadys, a single idea captured by two words, eg., "these words are true." Of course, the point is made forcefully by using two words of similar meaning, so "these words are true, they can be trusted"; "are trustworthy and in accordance with the truth", Cassirer.
moi dat. pro. "[he said] to me" - Dative of indirect object.
gegonan (ginomai) 3rd pers. pl. perf. "it is done" - they have become, done, come to pass. The verb is irregular and so has prompted variants. The perfect may serve to "highlight the state of completion of God's plan for salvation", Mathewson. What is the referent of this impersonal verb, is it "the things that shall come to pass", or "the words concerning the things to come"? "In the new creation all is done (gegonan) when God makes all things new", Koester. Note that Sweet suggests that John is alluding to the cry of Jesus from the cross, cf., Jn.19:30.
to Alfa kai to W\ "the Alpha and the Omega" - [i am] the alpha and omega [the beginning and the end]." Predicate nominative with the verb to-be assumed. God has made sweeping claims and now certifies his right to make it, so Blount. The point being made is that God is the beginning and end of history and that he rules the events in between. "The God who transcends time guides the entire course of history because he stands as sovereign over its beginning and end", Beale; cf., 1:8. Note that it is only in later centuries that omega, W\, is spelled out as Wmega.
tw/ diywnti dat. part. "to him who thirsts / to the thirsty" - to the one thirsting. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object. This promise is for believers going through the trials of life.
egw pro. "I [will give]" - i [to the one thirsting will give of the fountain from the water of life]. Nominative subject, emphatic by use and position.
dwrean adv. "without cost" - freely. Modal adverb, expressing manner. Emphatic by position (ie., placed at the end of the Gk. sentence).
ek + gen. "from [the spring]" - out of, from [spring water, well]. This preposition certainly expresses source / origin, but also serves as an intensified partitive, even though the prepositional phrase serves to modify the assumed object of "I will give"; "I will give something ("some water", Aune) from the spring ..."
thV zwhV (h) gen. "of the water of life" - of life. The genitive is adjectival, attributive; "living water" = life-giving water = an "eschatological relationship with God", Blount; "water which gives (eternal) life", Smalley. cf., Isa.55:1.
iv] God challenges those who will inhabit the Holy City to be brave and not cowardly, v7-8. The believer who perseveres in faith is assured victory, but for those without faith, eternal death awaits them. A list of eight sins serves to illustrate those lost to paradise. Sadly, we will toy with many of these evils during our Christian walk and so we are reminded that our standing before God is wholly of grace. Note that inclusive language is required in translation even though the Greek uses masculine singular forms. "I will be their God and they will be my people."
oJ nikwn (nikaw) part. "he who overcomes" - the one conquering, overcoming. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "will inherit." Believers conquer when they remain true to their faith through the tests and trials of life.
klhronomhsei (klhronomew) fut. "will inherit" - "Will have this heritage" may be better because the context implies a gift freely given at the end of a troubled journey, not an inheritance after death. "Will receive."
tauta "all this" - these things. Accusative direct object of the verb "will inherit." All that I have promised", namely "the blessings of the new creation / eschatological salvation ..... all received as an act of divine grace, and not as a right", Smalley.
autw/ dat. pro. "their [God]" - [and i will be god] to him [and he will be a son to me]. As also moi, dative of indirect object / possession, as NIV. "I will be God to each of them, and they will be my children", Osborne. This encapsulates the Abrahamic covenant, Gen.17:7.
This is the third such list of sins and is more extensive than the others; See 9:20-21, 22:15. The first item, "cowardice" is an interesting descriptive to head the list, given that none of us are wholly courageous or consistent in our Christian witness. For myself, out of the eight descriptives, I am OK on practicing magic arts (although I have tried a few card tricks in the past!), but in varying degrees, I am compromised on all the others descriptives. So, what are we to do with this list? Are we to move the bar down so that we can jump over them (ie., define the sins in terms of ongoing defiant acts of rebellion that are well beyond the normal failings of the Christian walk), or leave the bar where it is - beyond our ability to jump over it (ie., define the sins as constants in our Christian walk, sins that serve to remind us to rely on God's grace in Christ)? Is John following Paul and reminding us that "the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith", Gal.3:24? Is John making the point that we are saved by grace through faith, apart from works of the law? This seems somewhat sophisticated for John, so he is probably doing nothing more than providing us with "a specific list (of sins) that draw together the sins (listed) in the book. Its purpose is to sum up the depravity of the unbelievers, and each term reflects sins mentioned elsewhere in the book", Osborne. The ultimate purpose of the list is to identify "the kinds of people who will never enter the eschatological city in the future in order to encourage appropriate behavior by people in the present", Blount. John is not providing a list of sins which when broken confine the offender to the lake of fire, but is describing the characteristics of idolatrous unbelief, and by doing so, reminds the Christian community of the dire consequences that follow for those who team up with the secular city / Babylon, cf., Smalley p544.
de "but" - but/and. Transitional, best treated here as an adversative; "But as far as the cowardly ...", NRSV.
toiV ... deiloiV dat. adj. "the cowardly" - to the afraid, cowardly [and]. The dative is adverbial, reference / respect; " with respect to / regarding the cowardly ......... their lot will be in the lake ....." Possibly a dative of interest, "for the cowardly ...... their part will be in the lake of burning fire." "Given John's dramatic call for courageous testimony to the lordship of God and the Lamb, despite the drastic consequences that such witnessing will bring, it is understandable that he headlines the list of vices with cowardice", Blount.
apistoiV dat. adj. "unbelieving" - to the faithless. Those who have given up their faith and no longer trust in Jesus.
ebdelugmenoiV (bdelussomai) dat. pas. perf. part. "vile" - [and] to the ones having become vile. The participle serves as a substantive, "those who are abominable". The word means polluted by pagan worship, or even worship of the beast, along with all the evil practices that are associated with pagan worship.
farmakoiV (oV) "those who practice magic arts" - [and to murderers and to fornicators and] to sorcerers [and to idolaters and all the false ones]. Again, dative of reference / respect.
to meroV autwn "their place" - the lot of them. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be; "Their destiny will be in the fiery lake."
en "will be in / they will be consigned to" - in. Local, expressing space / sphere.
th/ kaiomenh/ (kaiw) dat. pres. pas. part. "[the] fiery[ lake]" - [the lake] the one burning. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "lake", "the lake which burns" = "the fiery lake", as NIV.
puri (pur puroV) dat. "of burning [sulphur]" - with fire [and sulphur]. As with sulphur, the dative is adverbial, expressing manner; "the lake burns with fire and sulphur." The Canon of Apollonius applies with both nouns establishing interdependence; "a lake which is aflame with sulfurous fire", Cassirer.
o qanatoV oJ deuteroV "the second death" - [which is] the second death. Predicate nominative. Eternal spiritual death as opposed to physical death; "a perfected and eternal punishment", Beale. Are the two actually separate? What of eternal damnation?