For some time now, as we studied Revelation together, we have been reading seemingly endless scenes of judgment, of both the earthly and hellish variety. How many times has John spoken of war? How many times of drought, famine, pestilence, and plague? How many times has he mentioned the persecution of the saints and the final destruction of their enemies? Revelation 6–20 deals out dead and judgment in copious amounts and scrupulous detail.
And suddenly it is over.
With the simple turning of a page, John opens our eyes to new and glorious things: a new Jerusalem, a new heaven, a new earth. Revelation 6–20 informs us of what Jesus Christ saves us from. But Revelation 21–22 shows us what he saves us for.
To that we now turn.
Newness and No-more-ness (Revelation 21.1–8)
How do you describe eternity? What words can you use to portray a reality that none of us, save Jesus Christ, has fully experienced? Well, first, you have to rely on revelation. Someone who knows the unknown has to reveal it to you, in this case, a prophetic word from God through John to us. And second, you have to describe the unknown by means of comparison and contrast with the known.
So, in his vision (Rev. 21:1-8), John tells us to look at the current state of things, at the heavens and the earth, and at the human experiences encompassed by them. We can get an easy grasp on these topics; they are ones we know well, for they describe our own lives. Then John tells us to think about these things in terms of newness (comparison) and no-more-ness (contrast).
Newness: Four years ago, I purchased a new car, a Honda Element. It had that bright, shiny, never-been-used look to it. The silver paint glowed, the engine was clean as a whistle, and the interior had that new car smell that is such a delight to breathe in. Have you ever been out hiking or camping and come to some spot on the trail that is absolutely pristine? Untouched by human hands? Just the way God made it? That, John tells us, is what eternity is like. It is a perpetually new thing, a pristine creation, a new heaven and earth. Think of the joy you had as a kid when you unwrapped a new toy at Christmas and you will understand—if only slightly—the unending joy of eternity.
No-more-ness: John also contrasts eternity with our present experience on earth. Notice the things that, according to John, no longer exist in eternity. The “sea was no more.” When John received his vision, he was on the Isle of Patmos, separated by an ocean from his beloved churches in Asia Minor. In eternity, John tells us, there will no longer be such separation. And “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore.” Death and its attendant emotions are part and parcel of life in this present age, but they disappear in eternity, for—in what may be the most beautiful image in Scripture—God “shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.” And, finally, there will no longer be anyone who opposes God and so wreaks havoc on his good creation. John lists a number of types of sinners who have no foothold in eternity, beginning with cowards and ending with liars. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve listened to the serpent’s lie because they did not have the courage to resist him. At the end of the Bible, as in eternity, cowardice and dishonesty simply melt away.
This newness and no-more-ness is the direct work of God. It is what he alone can do. “Behold,” he says, “I am making all things new!” And that work of making all things new can begin in your life today. As Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5.17).
Are you asking God to do a new thing in your life today?