RAMONA LOWE
THE BOOK OF REVELATION ARTIST
   The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2


Page 160

Heaven on Earth

(Revelation 21) 

     For ages it has seemed that futility rules the world.  Year after year, the new year of hope soon becomes the old year of frustration and defeat.  Resolutions to do better are regularly promised, and then as regularly broken.  If God has had a purpose for the world and for mankind, it would seem He has either failed or forgotten, and things keep getting worse every year.

     And yet God is omnipotent and omniscient and cannot fail.  He is longsuffering, but the day of the Lord will come.  His purpose in creation involves a glorious future for His creatures, and sooner or later that purpose must be fulfilled.

     Finally these ages of probation and testing and judgment are over.  The dispensations have run their course and “the dispensation of the fullness of times” (Ephesians 1:10) is come.  The grand climax of the Book of Revelation – indeed, the climax of God’s entire revelation and of all His purposes in creation – is about to be unfolded.  The most glorious chapters of the Bible are these last two chapters, opening up the wonders of the endless ages of eternity, and the fruition of all the great plans of a loving God. 

The Tabernacle of God 

     Old things have passed away now, and all things are new.  The earth is new and the heaven is new, there is a new Jerusalem and, in fact, all things are new (v.5).  God, who had created all things in the beginning, and then rested from His work of creating and making all things, has once again undertaken a great work of creation.  “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.  But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (Isaiah 65:17, 18).

Revelation 21:1.     And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

     As Jesus long ago had predicted (Matthew 24:35), the original earth and its atmospheric heavens had finally passed away.  A fiery cataclysm had melted the very elements of that first cosmos (2 Peter 3:10), but God had promised (2 Peter 3:13) that a new heavens and earth would come in which would dwell perfect righteousness.  Furthermore that heavens and earth, which, like the first, would be “made” as well as “created” (compare Genesis 2:3 with Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22), would never pass away.  “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22).

     In both the Old and New Testament passages, the words for “new” mean “new in respect of freshness,” rather than “new with respect to existence.”  That is, “a new heaven and a new earth” could be properly also translated “a fresh heaven and a fresh earth.”  The new cosmos is not a novel cosmos; it is a renewed cosmos.  It is just like the first, except that all its agelong ravages of decay have been expunged and it is fresh and new again.  This complete reversal of the universal decay process will require both the creative and formative powers of God for its accomplishment.

     The first heavens and earth had been contaminated by sin, with the very elements in bondage to God’s curse.  The only way they could be completely cleansed was to be completely renewed.  “All these things” had to be “dissolved,” with the elements melting in fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10-12).  By the principle of mass/energy conservation, however, nothing had been really lost, except the effects and evidences of sin.  After terrestrial matter had been converted either into the vapor state or, more probably, into pure energy, God had once again exercised His mighty powers of creation and integration, and the new heavens and new earth had appeared out of the ashes, so to speak, of the old.

     People often forget that God cannot fail in any of His purposes.  He was not capricious in any aspect of His original creative work; each part was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), intended to fill a specific function in His economy.  In spite of the long interruption occasioned by sin, we can be sure either that everything that was good in the first creation will be restored in the new creation, or else that something better will be provided in its place.  The earth and its heaven once again will be very good in every way.

     To some degree, however, the first earth was designed for man’s probationary state, whereas the new earth is equipped for his perfected state. While there are numerous similarities, there are also some significant changes, the most obvious of which is that there is no more sea.  On the present earth approximately 70 percent of the earth is covered by the sea.  Even on the antediluvian and millennial earths the sea was a significant feature (Genesis 1:9, 10; Zechariah 14:8), though much smaller in extent than at present, but the whole world will consist of inhabitable land surfaces on the new earth.

     No explanation is given for the striking absence of a sea on the new earth, and some commentators say that this statement refers only to the passing of the first sea, with no necessity for assuming there is not a new sea, to go with the new heavens and the new earth.  However, the text reads much more naturally to say that, although there is indeed a new earth, there is no sea on that earth.

     There will, in fact, be no need for a sea on the new earth.  The present sea is needed, as was the original antediluvian sea, as a basic reservoir for the maintenance of the hydrologic cycle and the water-based ecology and physiology of the animal and human inhabitants of the earth.  In the new earth, however, there will be no animals at all, and presumably all the men and women who live there will have glorified bodies with no more need of water.  Their resurrected bodies will be composed, like that of the Lord Jesus, of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39; Philippians 3:21) but apparently with no need of blood (1 Corinthians 15:50) to serve as a cleanser and restorer of the body’s flesh as at present.  This, in turn, eliminates the major need for water on the earth (blood is about 90 percent water, and present-day human flesh about 65 percent water).

     So far as we know, there is no other planet in the universe containing significant amounts of liquid water.  Only the earth is a “water planet,” suitable for biological life as we know it now.  This is, probably, therefore, not the norm for God’s cosmic economy, and the seas of the earth will be eliminated when the need for them no longer exists.

     There will be water, however (see Revelation 22:1, 2) on the new earth, of which the water of the present age is only a type and prophecy.  That water is the water of everlasting life!

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. 

     Not since he very first chapter has John referred to himself by name.  It is as though the event taking place before his amazed eyes was so glorious and incredible that he must stress that he himself, the last of the apostles, had actually seen it happen.

     The new earth had been fully prepared, with its new heaven.  Now descending from that heaven, John sees in all the beauties of its perfections the majestic city of God.  The holy city is not “heaven,” although the new Jerusalem is usually what is meant when people speak of “going to heaven.”  Rather, it comes down from heaven.  In this context, heaven is merely the earth’s atmosphere, which has just been made “new” by the same God who has also made the new Jerusalem.

     Even the old Jerusalem had been called “the holy city” (Matthew 4:5; 27:53; Revelation 11:2; Nehemiah 11:1; Isaiah 52:1; Daniel 9:24).  The term “holy” signified merely that God had set it apart as a city dedicated to His own great purposes, even though the behavior of its people often was unholy.  In the new Jerusalem, of course, not only will the city be holy, but so will all its inhabitants (Revelation 20:6; 22:11).

     Most writers on the Book of Revelation have, to one degree or another, tried to spiritualize this great vision of the new Jerusalem.  There is no reason at all, however, why we should not accept it literally, as a real place prepared by Christ in the distant heavens (John 14:2, 3) and now finally brought with Him to the new earth.  It is the city for which Abraham had looked, one “which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).  It is the city which God “hath prepared for them” which have the faith to believe His Word and follow His will (Hebrews 11:16).  It is “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” where one day will be gathered together “the general assembly and church of the firstborn” with all the “just men” whose spirits have been “made perfect” in the great resurrection (Hebrews 12:22, 23).  It is that “Jerusalem which is above . . . which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26).  “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

     Difficult though it may be, in the sophistication of our modern scientism, to believe such a thing, the Scriptures taken literally as they were meant to be taken, do teach that there is even now a great city being built by Christ far out in space somewhere.  To this city go the spirits of all who die in Christ, there to await His return to earth.  When He comes back, He will bring the holy city with Him and set it up for a time somewhere in earth’s atmospheric heavens, perhaps orbiting the earth.  There will be established His judgment seat, as well as the heavenly temple and its altar, to which John frequently refers in Revelation.  The resurrected and raptured saints will dwell in this city, though with occasional visits to the earth, during the tribulation and millennial periods.  Finally, when the earth is made new again, never to undergo any of the effects of God’s curse or His judgments any more, the Lord Jesus Christ will bring it down to the earth where it will remain forever.

     To John’s enraptured gaze, the city seemed like a radiant bride, beautiful in glistening white garments, ready for her wedding.  Indeed in one sense, the city was the bride, personified thus in virtue of all the saints residing therein.  These saints comprise the eternal wife of the Lamb (vv. 9, 10).

     The city had been “prepared” (Greek hetoimazo) completely by God Himself.  This is the same word used by the Lord Jesus when He told His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).  It is also recorded in Hebrews 11:16: “He hath prepared for them a city.”  Most beautifully, it is the word chosen by the Apostle Paul in the wonderful promise: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). 

Revelation 21:3.     And I heard a great voice out of 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 shall be with them, and be their God. 

     Once again a loud voice calls out from heaven, and the message is one of triumph and great benediction.  The proclamation from the skies echoes a promise made to the children of Israel long ago: “I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you: And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people” (Leviticus 26:11).  The tabernacle in the wilderness, of course, was but a dim foreshadow of the glorious tabernacle which now has come down on earth.  Similar promises were made at various times in different ways.  For example: “Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee” (Zechariah 2:11).  In fact the great prophetic name of Christ, Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

     There will be “many nations” there, but all will be “my people,” and He will be “their God.”  Further, every nation will once again speak the same language.  “For then [that is, after all the earth has been “devoured with the fire” of God’s jealousy] will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:8, 9).

     There was another foreshadowing of this great coming union when God first became man.  “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  The word “dwelt” (Greek skenoo), is not the usual word for “dwell” but is the same word as used here in Revelation 21:3.  It is a direct variant of the word for “tabernacle” (Greek skene), also used in this verse.  In the days of His flesh, in other words, the eternal God temporarily “tabernacled” among men and then returned to heaven.  In the eternal age to come, however, He will set up His dwelling place on earth and “tabernacle” here forever.

     The word for “tabernacle” in the Old Testament (Hebrew mishkan) is a cognate to its Greek equivalent (skene).  The well-known term for the glory-cloud that filled the tabernacle, the Shekinah, developed from a related word, sheken, meaning “habitation” (Deuteronomy 12:5).  Thus did the idea of God tabernacling with His people lead on naturally to the concept of God’s glory in their midst.  “We beheld his glory,” said John, when the Word “dwelt among us” (John 1:14). 

Revelation 21:4.     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. 

     The great voice from heaven continues with one of the most blessed messages ever heard.  From the time when Eve first sinned, sorrow has been multiplied to her children (Genesis 3:16), and “man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).  But the tears have been for man’s good, and God has promised from the beginning that He will someday restore joy and peace to the world.  “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.  And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:8, 9).

     That great day has finally come, and there will never be another tear shed.  Especially to the suffering saints in the tribulation period has this promise proved of great consolation (Revelation 7:17).

     This is nothing less than a removal of the great curse, pronounced by God on the earth and its inhabitants when Adam sinned (Genesis 3:17-19).  Its physical effects on the “ground” had been cleansed when the elements melted and the new earth arose from the ashes.  Now is pronounced also the deliverance of all mankind from its fourfold impact on human life.  In Eden, God had announced that men would universally experience sorrow, pain, sweat, and death, but now He announces that these will be no more.

     This great deliverance, of course, has been purchased dearly, at the cost of infinite sorrow, pain, sweating, and dying on the part of God Himself, through Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of man.

     Were men and women to endure sorrow throughout their lives?  Therefore, He would become “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” and thus “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3, 4).  Were they to suffer the physical pain of thorns and thistles and a multitude of other messengers of Satan sent to buffet them as they struggled through life (2 Corinthians 12:7)?  Well, He would wear a very crown of thorns (John 19:2) and endure such wounds and bruises and stripes (Isaiah 53:5) as no other man would ever know.  Would it require the sweat of bitter labor, the strong crying of never-ending toil for men to wrest a meager sustenance from a cursed and reluctant ground under the bondage of futility and decay (Romans 8:20-22)?  But He was willing to sweat great drops of blood (Luke 22:44) and to pour out strong crying and tears (Hebrews 5:7) in order to give rest to all “who labour and are heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28).  Then, after all their sorrow and pain and tear-stained labor, would their bodies finally die and return to the dust anyway? Yes, but He would experience the “dust of death” Himself (Psalm 22:15), make His soul an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10), and pour out His soul unto death (Isaiah 53:12) as their substitute.

     He not only bore the curse, He was made the curse for us (Galatians 3:13).  Therefore, God in perfect justice can remove the curse forever (Revelation 22:3).  In all the world and throughout all ages, no one will ever die again.  No one will suffer pain or sorrow or tears ever again, and death is swallowed up in victory.  Like the first heaven and the first earth, all these former things are passed away.         

Revelation 21:5.     And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.  And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 

     “The times of reconstitution of all things [Greek apokatastasis, translated “restitution” in the King James Version], which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21) have finally come.  Not only is there a new heaven, a new earth and a new Jerusalem, but there is a new song (Revelation 5:9) and a new name (Revelation 2:17; 3:12).  In fact, all things are to be made new, and we have the assurance of God Himself that this promise is true and faithful.

     Presumably this means not only that everything will be made new but also that everything will then stay new.  The entropy law will be “repealed.”  Nothing will wear out or decay, and no one will age or atrophy anymore.  Every tree will bear fruit abundantly and eternally (Revelation 22:2).  There will be no need to use up limited energy resources to provide illumination or other services (Revelation 22:5).  All things will be and remain eternally young and fresh and new, just as they were in the week of creation itself.

     The authority for this wonderful promise is none other than the enthroned Christ, who has descended with His throne in the heavenly city to His permanent home on the new earth.  With respect to the new bodies of the resurrected and glorified saints, these also will remain forever strong and healthy.  The Scriptures are not explicit on this, but there is at least a possible implication that the “apparent age” of each person in the resurrection may be in, say, his or her early thirties.  When Adam and Eve were created, they were mature adults, capable of raising children.  Since aging and death were part of the results of their sin, they would presumably have remained at the same “age” as that at which they were created if they had not sinned.  At the same time, however, they were commanded to have children (Genesis 1:28), and these would surely have grown to a similar maturity before their “age” would have stabilized, as it were.

     It also seems significant that those who were to serve as priests or Levites in the service of the tabernacle had to be thirty years old and upward (Numbers 4:3).  Joseph was thirty years old when he was made ruler over Egypt (Genesis 41:43, 46), and David, the man after God’s own heart, became king over Israel at age thirty (2 Samuel 5:4).  Since those who are in the resurrection are also to serve as priests and kings in the millennium (Revelation 20:6), it would be likely that their resurrection “age” would be of this same order.

     Even the Lord Jesus Christ entered on His earthly public ministry at age thirty (Luke 3:23), and went to the cross only about three-and-a-half years later.  It is significant that His own resurrection body was of this same apparent age, different in its glorified state but still easily recognizable.  The Scriptures, of course, also teach that those who are Christ’s will be “like Him” when He comes again (1 John 3:3), with bodies “fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21)

     Perhaps, therefore (although it is not explicitly taught in Scripture) those who die in old age will be young again, at the age of greatest vigor, and those who die in infancy or youth, will mature to the age of full growth and development, in the resurrection.  In any case, all things will be made new, for the Lord’s Word is true and faithful.

Revelation 21:6.     And he said unto me, It is done.  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 

     That it is none other than the glorified Christ who is speaking to John is demonstrated by His renewed reference to Himself as Alpha and Omega (see Revelation 1:8, 11; 22:13), the Word of both creation and consummation, the first and the last.  Just as the work of creation was finished (Genesis 2:1-3) and the work of redemption was finished (John 19:30), so now the work of consummation and restoration has been finished.

     Then the Lord renews a promise made long ago.  John himself had recorded the conversation at the well of Samaria: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).  Then, later, the Lord had said: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)” (John 7:37-39).

     This “water of life” is both symbolic of the Holy Spirit, with the eternal life He gives all who believe on Christ and also literal water, sparkling pure and abundant in the beautiful river flowing through the holy city (Revelation 22:1).  Having made all things new, He will maintain the glorified bodies of the saints in eternal health and strength by the fruit of the tree of life and the river of the water of life (Revelation 22:1, 2) created anew by their providing Lord.

Revelation 21:7.     He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
 

     To each of the seven churches (Revelation 2 and 3) had previously been given a gracious promise for the “overcomers” in that church.  Now an eighth and final promise is given to him “that overcometh.”  This is an implicit assurance that all the overcomers in all true churches everywhere have now, in the resurrection and the new earth, finally received the fulfillment of all the promises of God.  They shall inherit all things.  And, of course, this is because Christ Himself is “heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2; Psalm 2:8), and those who are in Christ are “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), receiving “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4, 5).

     The heir relation is also a son relation.  “The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16, 17).  The overcomer (that is, every true believer, redeemed through faith in Christ as Savior and Lord) becomes both son and heir of the mighty God of creation.  Therefore, “all things are yours; Whether . . . the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

     What a glorious inheritance!  The believer’s future is neither limited in time nor restricted in space. The infinite resources of the space/time cosmos itself, limitless in space and unending in time, are his, in the ages to come. 

Revelation 21:8.     But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

     In contrast to the glorious promises to the redeemed, the Lord inserts another warning to those who remain (by virtue of their fear and unbelief) unforgiven in their murders and fleshpeddling, unrepentant of their demonic idolatries, and committed to their falsehoods.  They will spend eternity in the awful lake of fire, in eternal torments, the second death (Revelation 20:14, 15).

     This is the last reference in the Bible to “fire,” and it refers to the fiery lake of burning brimstone, which is the final and eternal hell.  The first reference in the Bible to fire is found in Genesis 19:24, where “fire and brimstone” are seen raining from the skies, turning the whole valley of Sodom and Gomorrah into a precursive lake of fire.  Christ is first and last in judgment as well as grace.

     The catalog here of sinners inhabiting hell is vivid and most instructive.  At the head of the list are the “fearful.”  This is not primarily a reference to physical cowardice, but rather to lack of trusting faith in the Lord.  Christ used it in Mark 4:40.  “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”  Closely related is the word used in John 14:27: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Similarly in 2 Timothy 1:7, 8: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”  Those who are more fearful of the disapproval of men than of Christ are dangerously close to this kind of sin.

     This kind of fearfulness is very similar to the sin of unbelief itself, the next in the list.  It is only the sin of unbelief, with its outward manifestation of fearfulness, which actually sends people to hell.  “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

     The seemingly more repugnant sins which are catalogued next are actually less serious than that of unbelief.  Even murder can be forgiven if there is genuine repentance and faith, but there is no salvation for unbelievers, and no degree of moral righteousness, short of absolute perfection, can ever offset this.  The greatest sin of all is rejecting the infinite love and suffering of Christ for us, in atonement for our sins.

     The “abominable” are those who practice abomination – that is, the blasphemous and licentious practices associated with idol worship.  The term “murderers” refers not to manslaughter but to criminal homicide.  Next is the “whoremonger” (Greek pornos), translated in other passages “fornicator.”  In the context here, it refers to any who practice or promote sexual activity outside of marriage.

     As noted before (Revelation 9:21), the “sorcerer” (Greek pharmakeus) is one who uses drugs to induce pseudoreligious fantasies and occult experiences.  The term is appropriately associated with the “idolater,” one whose religious worship is directed toward a material object which, in turn, represents to him some spiritual reality, either an actual demonic spirit or some religious or philosophical concept.  A number of Scriptures (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5) make it plain that even covetousness (inordinate love of material possessions) is idolatry.

     Finally, “all liars” are included in the roster of the condemned.  Satan himself is the father of liars (John 8:44), and those who practice deception and falsehood, especially false teachers (note 2 Peter 2:1-3; Jude 4, 13) must finally join their diabolical “father” in his lake of fire.

     Although few may wish to acknowledge themselves to be such flagrant sinners as those described here, it must be remembered that idolatry includes covetousness, fornication includes lustful thoughts (Matthew 5:28) and murder includes anger (Matthew 5:21, 22).  Further, who is there who has never lied or never been fearful?  This listing of sinners thus includes all, for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

     The condemnation, however, is specifically for those who die in their sins, and who are thus still seen, not in Christ, but in the stark ugliness of sin.  However, there is wonderful forgiveness in Christ for all such sinners who will come to Him.  “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, 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” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

     For the sin of unbelief in the true God and Redeemer, however, there can be no forgiveness.  “He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).

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