The vision that John sees here has its roots in Isaiah 65:17-22.
Isaiah 65:17 “Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
Isaiah 65:18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
Isaiah 65:19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.
Isaiah 65:20 “Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
he who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere youth;
he who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
Isaiah 65:21 They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
Isaiah 65:22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the works of their hands. NIV
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth have gone away1 and the sea2 is no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem3 coming down out of heaven from God prepared4 like a bride adorned5 to her husband6. 3 And I heard a loud7 voice from the throne8 saying, “Behold, the dwelling place9 of God with people! He will dwell10 with them, and they will be his people11 and God himself will be with them; [their God]12. 4 And he will wipe away every tear from their eyes13, and there will be no more death, nor will there be sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, [because] the former things14 have gone away.”15
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”16 And he says, “Write! [Because] these words are faithful and true.”17 6 And he said to me, “They have been done18. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end19. I will freely20 give to the thirsty water from the spring of the waters of life21. 7 The one who
conquers will inherit these things22 and I will be to him God, and he will be my son. 8 But to the cowardly, that is23 the unfaithful, the detested, the murderers, the ones who engage with prostitutes24, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and liars -- their part will be in the lake burning with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.
1 ἀπῆλθαν (have gone away)
or “have departed”. This echoes Mark 13:31:
Μάρκον 13·31 ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ παρελεύσονται, οἱ δὲ λόγοι μου οὐ μὴ παρελεύσονται.
13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
John uses a different verb form of ἔρχομαι (have gone away/have departed vs. will pass away/will pass by), but the same idea is portrayed.
It is debated if the language indicates that the “old” is destroyed or if it is made new or renewed. Osborne*** favors destroyed (Pgs. 729-733). Mounce** favors renewed. (Pg. 369). Beale* says that the passage is figurative and represents the radical change of the cosmos. (Pg. 1040).
Jesus said that we must be born anew, from above. This could be a clue. We are told the New Jerusalem descends from above.
2 The sea has been a place of evil throughout the Apocalypse. It is fitting that it is no more.
In the creation account the land and the waters are separated. Heaven and earth have fled away. A new creation emerges. What God has joined and blessed will remain.
Long ago we are told of God's deliverance of His people. Moses and Israel sang of their salvation from their enemy by the hand of the Lord. The Red Sea parted and Pharaoh's army was swallowed up. Satan and his followers are likewise thrown into a sea, a sea that might be red for it is a sea of fire.
3 Echoes Isaiah 52:1.
4 ἡτοιμασμένην (prepared)
Greek: “having been prepared”.
We are prepared and clothed with the righteousness of Jesus. We are able to stand in white robes only because He has washed us.
5 κεκοσμημένην (adorned)
Greek: “having been adorned”.
6 There is debate among scholars whether the New Jerusalem, who dressed as a bride, is a city where the saints live or if it represents the saints as the bride of Christ. Osborne*** sees the imagery as representing both. (Pg. 733). Mounce** sees the imagery as representing believers as the bride. (Pgs. 370-371). Beale* says that the New Jerusalem is probably figurative and represents the fellowship of God with his people in an actual new creation. (Pg. 1045).
The image of the Church as the Bride of Christ may be the stronger choice here. From Genesis, to Ruth, to the parable of the virgins, we have this image portrayed as a marriage. Heaven and earth become one.
7 μεγάλης (loud)
8 τοῦ θρόνου (the throne)
It is not certain who speaks here. Osborne*** believers it to be one of the angels around the throne of God as God himself speaks in verse 5. (Pg. 733). Apparently, this may have come to be a problem among copyist(s) as the TR replaces τοῦ θρόνου “the throne” with τοῦ οὐρανοῦ “heaven” to correct the perceived problem. With that said, it could have just been a copyist(s)’ mistake.
Jesus is the faithful and true one. God is our Creator, but through the Word creation found form, and the Word was God.
He is upon the throne.
9 ἡ σκηνὴ (the dwelling place)
Greek: “the tent” or “the tabernacle”. This reflects God dwelling in the tabernacle with his people around him in the OT.
10 σκηνώσει (he will dwell)
Greek: “he will tabernacle” or “he will pitch his tent”. In John’s Gospel, It is the Word who tabernacles among people. The same Greek verb is used.
Ἰωάννην 1·14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.
1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we beheld his glory, glory that only comes from the Father, full of favor and truth.
11 λαοὶ αὐτοῦ (his people)
or “his peoples”. People is in the plural here. All peoples will be God’s people!
12 The line echoes Ezekiel 37:26-27.
13 Parallels 7:17 and is an allusion to Isaiah 25:8.
14 τὰ πρῶτα (former things)
or “first things”. Referring back to 20:11 where heaven (sky) and earth fled from the face of God.
15 Note how the angel’s proclamation interprets what is coming down from heaven; God’s tent (dwelling place). The New Jerusalem represents God living (or providing his presence) with his people.
God with us - Immanuel
16 An allusion to Isaiah 42:19 and 65:17. Per Beale* (Pg. ), Paul uses the same allusion in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
Κορινθίους β 5·17 ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις· τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά·
5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ (the Anointed one), he is a new creation/creature: The old things have passed away, behold, they have become new things.
According to this, believers are the new creation.
17 Osborne*** sees the command to write passage as relating to the entire book of Revelation and not to the immediate context. (Pg. 737). Yet, it could be that God is referring to what the angel has just spoken which is the immediate context.
18 γέγοναν (They have been done)
Greek: “They have happened”.
19 Parallels with 1:8.
20 δωρεάν (freely)
or “without cost”. The water of life is free to the believer.
21 An allusion to Isaiah 55:1. Here, the thirsty are the ones who persevered and remained in the faith in spite of their persecutions. It is also the fulfillment of the promise given in 7:17.
22 Not only the things presented here, but all of the promises given in Chapters 2 and 3. Osborne*** agrees. (Pg. 739), and Mounce** (Pg. 374).
23 καὶ (that is)
Greek: “and”. I have translated καὶ as defining what the cowards are. It is of note that the article only appears in front of cowards (τοῖς δὲ δειλοῖς/but to the cowards), which seems to back up the idea that everything after “the cowards” define what “the cowards” are.
It serves as a reminder to the ones this was written to that they have to make a choice--to be conquerers or to be cowards.
24 πόρνοις (the ones who engage with prostitutes)
The feminine version of the word means prostitute.
NT = New Testament
OT = Old Testament
ESV = English Standard Version
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NIV = New International Version
KJV = King James Version
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV)
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)
The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)
(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger
(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)
*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale
**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce
***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne
+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace
++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule
+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick
A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)