Revelation 21 – Now and not yet

A new heaven and a new earth. What an amazing chapter this is, with present and future overtones, full of promise now and in the future. Verse 1 speaks of the ‘new heaven and new earth’ a phrase that’s only found in Isaiah 65, 66, and is applied liberally to the church, but v. 5 qualifies it: ‘making everything new’ which speaks of initiation and process. The now and the not yet of the new age.

When Christ died and rose again there was a fundamental cosmic change, and with the destruction of the temple in AD70 this was completed and shifted up a gear – everythings moving forward, not backword. The idea that God dwelt in a building in one corner of the earth was gone – it was and will no longer be required because God’s dwelling is now with humanity (v.3). That means there is no necessity for a rebuilt temple – that would be a backward step.

No sea? (21:1) Just in case some are worried about there being no sea (a new earth without sea??), we need to remind ourselves that Revelation is full of signs and symbols. The sea in Biblical language is frequently used to depict Gentile nations – Is 17:12, 13; Ps. 65:7; Rev. 17:5. In other words in the ultimate completion of the new and heaven and new earth there will be no unbelieving, pagan, ungodly nations.

All are valued (21: 19-21). In this new world is the new Jerusalem, not a literal city, but a people who are the dwelling place of God, the church, the bride of Christ, here described in all her glorious splendour – the references to the precious stones bring to remembrance the words in Malachi 3:17, “And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels;” Everyone of God’s people has great value, beauty and purpose – not only then, but now!

The curse is undone(21:3; 22:3). It begins now and will be ultimate in eternity. He wipes away the tears; death has lost it sting; grief, crying and pain can be healed and changed, and one day will end.

A River (19:.6; 22:1, 17). Today the river from the spring of life is a mighty flowing river that gives LIFE – in fact the whole emphasis here is on life. The tree of life is available to all and its leaves are for the healing of the nations – now and not yet: in eternity they won’t need healing, so there has to be a present aspect to this. Jesus came that we might have life. The ‘rivers’ that he offers is none other than the gift of the Holy Spirit. So much so that there are ‘waters to swim in’ to quote Ezekial.

They will reign… In this chapter we have a picture of the gospel and its power to save, to heal, to restore, and those who believe will reign forever and ever – something that begins here and now, even as Paul said in Romans 5:17, that those who believe would reign in life through the gift of righteousness. It starts now. Life is preparation for the future. This is the warm up.

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