International Sunday School LessonStudy Notes
Lesson Text: Revelation 21:1-8Lesson Title: All Things New
Have you ever heard the statement, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good?” That statement was used to refer to people who were preoccupied with heaven and didn’t want to do their earthly task. I don’t think we have to worry about that in our generation. Heaven seems to be the last thing on our minds. When was the last time you heard Christians talking about heaven? Nothing more demonstrates our worldliness than our lack of interest in heaven. The Apostle Paul said, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). Desiring heaven, singing about heaven, reading the Scriptures and learning about heaven are vital to the believers victorious life and spiritual purity (1 John 3:3; 2 Peter 3:14).
The Scottish pastor Alexander Maclaren once asked his congregation this question: “Did it ever occur to you, Christian, that your hope was a thing to be cultivated, that you ought to exert specific effort for that purpose? Get into the habit of meditating upon the object toward which your hope is directed. . . . If you never lift your eyes to the goal, you will never be drawn toward it. If you never think about heaven, it will have no attraction for you.” There it is! Permission and encouragement from a man of God to meditate and think about heaven! And don’t worry. You won’t become so “heavenly minded that you are no earthly good.” Actually, the opposite will occur. Embracing the reality of heaven will change everything in this world. Your values will be prioritized and purified. Money, things, time, friends, enemies, family and life itself will all be adjusted and improved. The reality of all things new in the future can actually make some things new in the present!
Following the thousand year reign of Christ upon this earth (Revelation 20:1-7) and the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), John’s attention is directed to the “new heaven and a new earth” which replace the old heaven and the old earth (Revelation 20:11). The “old heaven and the old earth” having “fled away” is an incredible statement describing the end of the material heavens and earth which we know. Just as the “heavens” and the “earth” were created from nothing by God, they will be uncreated at the word of God and go back to nothingness. The Apostle Peter describes these events in 2 Peter 3:10-13. The earth will have been reshaped by the devastating judgments of the Tribulation and restored during the thousand year reign of Christ. Yet it will still be tainted with sin and subject to the effects of sin such as decay and death. Therefore, it must be destroyed, since nothing corrupted by sin will be permitted to exist in the eternal state (2 Peter 3:13).
As Revelation 21 opens, all sinners, Satan, and all his demons have been sentenced to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10-15). In this divine act of judgment upon Satan, he joins the beast and the false prophet who preceded him by one thousand years. The “lake of fire” prepared for the devil and the wicked angels is also the destiny of all who reject Christ and all who follow Satan. It is now time for all things new.
John Sees the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21:1)
The expression “And I saw…” is the first of three such statements in chapter 21 (Revelation 21:1, 2, 22). This statement marks the major points of what God is revealing to John throughout the chapter. The “new heaven and a new earth” presented here are not simply the old heaven and earth renovated, but an act of new creation. Revelation 20:11 tells us this is going to happen because there was “no place found” for the old earth and heaven. When the Bible speaks about the “heaven fleeing away” it is assumed to mean the atmospheric heaven. There are three “heavens” mentioned in Scripture. The first heaven is the atmospheric heaven where the birds fly and the clouds are formed. The second heaven is the planetary heavens where the planets and stars are. The third heaven is the eternal heaven where the throne of God is, where God dwells, where God’s children are going to dwell eternally. It is that place Paul visited during his heavenly vision (2 Corinthians 12:2) and the place called “heaven” in verse 2 of our text.
The phrase “a new heaven and a new earth” is taken from Isaiah 65:17 and Isaiah 66:22. Isaiah’s prediction of “new heavens” and “a new earth” is now a reality in John’s vision. “New” is the Greek word kainos and means “new as in kind, fresh, never before seen.” God is doing more than knocking off the rough edges or trimming away the trash of the earth and the atmospheric heaven. In keeping with His nature, God makes “all things new” (Psalm 40:3; Isaiah 43:19; Lamentations 3:23; Ezekiel 18:31; Matthew 26:28; 27:60; John 13:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:10; Hebrews 8:8; 10:20; Revelation 5:9).
John saw that the “first heaven and the first earth were passed away.” God originally created the earth to be suitable as mankind’s permanent home. However, when sin entered the picture, the earth and heavens were corrupted and God will eventually destroy them. There are several passages that speak of “heaven and earth” passing away. In First Corinthians 15:24-28, Paul is speaking about the resurrection but looks beyond the resurrection to the day when all things will be subdued and the everlasting kingdom will be in place. The Hebrew writer writes, “And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail” (Hebrews 1:10-12). Don’t worry about global warming or some nuclear disaster destroying the earth. God in divine judgment will take care of that (Revelation 20:11).
Proof that the “new heaven and a new earth” will actually be “new” as in kind, never before seen” is revealed in the words “No more sea.” Three-fourths of our present earth is covered by water and the “sea” is crucial to our environment. All life on the earth is dependent upon water for survival. The “new heaven and new earth” will operate on a completely different life principle than our present universe. Another evidence that what John sees is “new” is that water is frequently mentioned in relation to the millennial passages (Psalm 72:8; Isaiah 11:9; Ezekiel 47:10, 15, 17-18, 20; Zechariah 9:10; 14:8). It is without question that what John is seeing in Revelation 21:1 is the new eternal state, not the old revived or even the millennial age. This is all brand “new.”
It is also interesting that when John saw “there was no more sea” that he was seeing this vision while on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). Think about it. John was completely surrounded by water, separated from his loved ones and his church in Ephesus when God showed him there was coming “new heaven and a new earth” where there would never again be a separation. As believers we look forward to a day when there will be no separation.
John Sees the Holy City (Revelation 21:2)
“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The word “heaven” in this verse is referring to the third heaven, the abode of God. This “heaven” is not the atmospheric “heaven” that passed away in verse 1. The fact that the “new Jerusalem” was seen by John as “coming down from God out of heaven” suggests that the “new Jerusalem” existed before the “new heaven and the new earth” were created by God (Revelation 21:1). What is this “holy city, new Jerusalem” that John saw? Some commentators suggest that the “new Jerusalem” is heaven itself, the dwelling place of the righteous in all ages. The fact that it is seen “coming down from God” leads them to conclude that John is seeing an unveiling of what has always been. While there is some merit to that interpretation there are some other aspects that need to be considered.
First, the “new Jerusalem” John saw is a literal city (Revelation 21:12-27). This leads to the most logical conclusion that the “new Jerusalem” is the capital city of heaven. There is a literal historic Jerusalem that existed in the Old Testament and still exists today in Israel. There will be a millennial Jerusalem where Christ will rule during the thousand year reign. But this “new Jerusalem” is a “holy city.” The expression “the holy city, the new Jerusalem” is the direct opposite of what God called the city of Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8. He compared her to “Sodom and Egypt.” In Revelation 3:12 the “new Jerusalem” is referred to as “the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God.” The emphasis is on the believer’s relationship to God and our security in that relationship. The “new Jerusalem” is called a “holy city” because of the presence of a holy God and His holy people. This is challenging to our minds to even think about a “holy city.” Most cities we think about in our world are anything but “holy.”
Second, John saw the “new Jerusalem” heaven’s capital city, “as a bride adorned for her husband.” John is saying that when he saw the new Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven, it looked like a bride “adorned” and ready to meet her husband. In other words, the new Jerusalem was arranged in all its beauty with freshness and readiness to be occupied by the saints of all ages. Certainly cities take on the nature of its occupants. Therefore, since the “new Jerusalem” is seen by John as a “bride adorned,” it is logical to assume that those occupying the city are the redeemed of the Lord, the bride of Christ. With that said, it would be inappropriate to limit the occupants to only those saved during the church age.
John Sees God Dwelling with Men (Revelation 21:3-4)
As John sees the new heaven, the new earth, and the holy city coming down, he “heard a great voice out of heaven.” “Great voice” or “loud voice” is mentioned no less than 18 times in Revelation. It signifies what is about to be heard is important and authoritative. The voice declares, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men…” “Tabernacle” can mean “tent,” or “dwelling place.” “Tabernacle” and “dwell” in verse 3 are rooted in the same Greek word. The words mean that God will no longer be afar off or at a distant. He will no longer be veiled in human flesh. John is realizing that from now on God is present with men in the new heaven, new earth, and in the new Jerusalem. What a contrast from the old earth where God and man were separated. Believers will enjoy eternal fellowship with God. Now our fellowship at best is flawed with sin and the imperfections of the flesh. But John sees a day when our fellowship will be perfect and eternal. “God the Son came to dwell among men in order to save them (John 1:14). God the Holy Spirit came to dwell among men in order to comfort them (John 14:16-18). In John’s vision, God the Father comes to “dwell with them” in order to fellowship with them.” (Liberty Commentary on the New Testament, page 795, par.4).
“…And be their God” is a thought that is often repeated in Scripture. In fact, the phrase “be their God” is mentioned no less than 14 times and inferred in several other places throughout Scripture (Genesis 17:8; Exodus 29:45; Zechariah 8:8; 2 Corinthians 6:16). The point in all of this is that the God of Heaven has a place where He will be with His people for ever. Today, no living person has ever seen God in the fullness of His glory (John 1:18; 6:46; 1 John 4:12). Exposure to Him as He is would mean instant death. All through the Bible God established points of contact, limited encounters here and there. But all of that is going to change. In the “new Jerusalem” God will be present with His people in a place untainted by sin where we will be able to comprehend and look upon our blessed Redeemer.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Doctor Vance Havner once said, “Heaven will be glorious because of what is not there!” The wiping away of “tears” describes the absence of anything in God’s presence to cause sadness, disappointment, or pain. “Tears” are just one of the many “former things” that will be absent in heaven. Think of all the “tears” that have been shed upon this earth. Abraham came to mourn for his wife Sarah, and he wept (Genesis 23:2). Job said his eyes “poureth out tears to God” (Job 16:20). The prophet Jeremiah described his eyes as failing because of his tears (Lamentations 2:1). The Apostle Paul served the Lord with tears and warned the Ephesian with tears (Acts 20:19, 31). Our Lord wept and shed tears (John 11:35 Hebrews 5:7).
In a message on tears, Doctor Jerry Vines asks, “Have you thought about how small a tear is in comparison to this vast universe of ours? Just a little bitty tear. But do you know what God says in Psalm 56:8? God says there’s not even a tear that drops from your eye that He doesn’t see and He doesn’t care about. He puts our tears in a bottle. He is the God of the divine handkerchief. And one of these days He’s going to wipe away every one of those tears.”
Another dramatic difference in the new heaven and new earth will be the absence of “death.” When Adam sinned in the garden, death crept in the back door and has been here ever since. But through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, “death” has been “swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54) and “death” will not be in heaven because it has along with Satan been “cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14). What a great day when “death passes away.” I look forward to reading the headlines, “Death Passes Away!”
“Neither sorrow” is a reference to the grief caused by sin and death. The word is actually speaking of mourning. “Nor crying” refers to the vocal response to sorrow in contrast to tears which are a silent response. “Pain” will also be missing in heaven. The physical healing ministry of Jesus in part was a preview of the complete absence of pain that characterizes both the millennial kingdom and the eternal state. While “pain” is a part of this life it will be totally absent in heaven. The glorified bodies of the saints will not be subject to “pain” of any kind. “The former things are passed away” refers to everything related to the original fallen creation is gone forever.
John Sees All Things New (Revelation 21:5-6a)
As if in contrast to the “great voice out of heaven” in verse 3, John declares that “he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” God now speaks. “He” is God the Father. “Behold” means “look, or see.” “I make all things new” is the message from God. “Make” means “to make, form, or construct” and is commonly used throughout the New Testament for a work of accomplishment. Why is God telling John again that He is making “all things new” when He has already shown that to John in the previous verses? It is possible that John has been so overwhelmed by all he has seen that he momentarily lapses in concentration. Whatever the reason, God says, “Write: for these words are true and faithful.” The One speaking these words is “faithful and true” (Revelation 3:14), therefore His words must be “faithful and true.”
“And he said unto me…” means the message from the throne continues in verse 6 as God says to John, “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” “It is done” reminds us of Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus’ words on the cross marked the end of His redemptive work. Salvation was completed. The Father’s will was fulfilled. Christ did the work He was sent to earth to do in regard to our salvation. “It is done” are words that mark the end of redemptive history. The entire drama of human history prior to heaven and the eternal state has been completed. This statement does not mean that there are no future works of God but that a major work has been brought to completion and that the works now related to the eternal state are beginning.
“Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, similar to our A and Z in the English alphabet. “The beginning and the end” is the definition of the letters. God started history as the “Alpha” and He ends history as the “Omega.” God started it all and He has the power and authority to end it all. Christ is referred to as the “Alpha and Omega” in Revelation 22:13 which again proves His deity and equality with God the Father.
John Sees the Residents of the New Heaven and the New Earth (Revelation 21:6b-7)
“I will give unto him that is athrist of the fountain of the water of life freely.” Those who reside in this glorious eternal state are first, those who “thirst.” Thirsting signifies those who recognize their spiritual need. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). The prophet Isaiah said, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). The free drink of the free water of eternal life is much better than the drink of Revelation 17:4 which is a golden cup full of abominations and filthiness. It is also better than drinking “the wine of the wrath” in Revelation 18:3. Those who will be redeemed and reside in heaven are those what are dissatisfied with their hopeless lost condition and craves the righteousness of God offered in salvation through Jesus Christ (John 7: 37-38; Revelation 22:17). Heaven belongs to people who know their need and thirst for salvation.
Illus. The Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God and he shall be my son.” It isn’t enough to know you need salvation; the Bible says “He that overcometh shall inherit all things.” Who are those that overcome? First John 5:4-5 says, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” In heaven, God will be the God of those who recognize their sinfulness, thirst after righteousness, drink of the water of life and exercise faith in Jesus Christ. God will “be his God” and those who are saved God will call “my son.” The benefits of spiritual adoption will be fully realized when all things are new. Furthermore, we “shall inherit all things.” Our spiritual inheritance is Jesus Christ and His likeness (1 Peter 1:4).
John Sees the Outcasts of the New Heaven and the New Earth (Revelation 21:8)
“But” is a powerful word of contrast. In contrast to the abundant blessings on the child of God mentioned in the previous verses, the unbeliever inherits “their part in the lake of fire which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” This is a serious and solemn warning. Many will be excluded from the blessings of the new heaven and the new earth.
Those excluded are characterized as “fearful” meaning “timid, afraid, cowardly.” These were afraid to identify themselves with the gospel and the cross of Jesus Christ (Proverbs 29:25). “Unbelieving” are those who won’t believe. This is one of the largest groups on earth today. They know what God requires and offers through His Son but deliberately choose not to believe (John 3:36). The “abominable” are those defiled by abomination. It refers to the disgusting and detestable lifestyles. It involves those who are stained and contaminated with the mind set and morals of a lost world. Homosexuals, lesbians, abusers, people who change the natural use of the body for the unnatural are just a few in this group. “Murderers” are human killers and human haters (1 John 3:15). These individuals view life as cheap and expendable and they will never see God or His new heaven. “Whoremongers” are those who live with unrestrained sexual sins and a self indulged lifestyle contrary to God’s word in regard to sexuality (Hebrews 13:4). “Sorcerers” is from the Greek word pharmakos, our English word, “pharmacy” or “pharmaceuticals.” These individuals live with mind-altering drugs, addiction to drugs and obsession with the occult, fortune telling and mysticism (Revelation 18:23).
The final two are “idolaters” and “liars.” “Idolaters” refer to individuals who worship something or someone else other than Jesus Christ. “Liars” is most often connected in Scripture with religion (John 8:44; 1 John 2:22). More lies are told in churches and place of worship on any given Sunday than in all of politics! Those who preach “another way” and those who claim to have divine revelation from God that contradicts Scripture will “have their part in the lake which burneth with fire.”
“The lake which burneth with fire” refers to eternal torment suffered by the unsaved. Those who die unsaved will live in God’s eternal place of separation in flames of fire forever without hope of rescue or relief. The “second death” is eternal separation from God. People who live lives consistently in the fashion described will never be saved and never see God’s heaven. However, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Through God’s saving grace you can be saved. God can wash you, sanctify you and justify you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Far from being a futile “pie in the sky, bye and bye” exercise that distracts us from the needs of a lost and dying world, meditating on heaven should have a purifying and strengthening effect on the members of Christ's body. How can we fail to be motivated to love and serve Christ when we know He has prepared a place for us where all pain and tears are gone forever? It's obvious that God wants us to look ahead to our eternal home, because He gave us a thrilling glimpse of its wonders. But it's true that the Bible's description of the new heaven and the new earth isn't just for our speculation.
Contrasted to all the beauty and blessings those of us who are saved are going to enjoy, John also saw the awful fate of those who do not know Christ. As we meditate upon our glorious future may we not forget to pray for and witness to those who are without (Colossians 4:5).
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