Revelation 21:5 – And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
The New Heavens and New Earth,
the New Jerusalem, and
the New Covenant
The words of Jesus, “I am making all things new,” offer a wonderful promise to Christians.
What are ‘all things’, that were to be renewed?
From the context of the verse, they are the heavens and earth (verse 1), and Jerusalem (verse 2).
This renewal and the accompanying promises were understood by Jewish hearers or any who were familiar with the Jewish writings:
Promises: God’s tabernacle among His people; God dwelling among His people
Verse 3 – I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them…”
Leviticus 26:11-12 – And 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.
Ezekiel 37:26-27 – Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Promises: Death removed; Sorrow and mourning removed
Verse 4 – and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
Isaiah 25:8 – 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.
Isaiah 43:18 – Remember not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
Isaiah 51:11 – Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
Isaiah 65:17 – For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
The purpose of this study is to show that these renewed entities are symbolic of the covenant which was renewed by Jesus, the new covenant in which we are now living.
If this is true, then all of the promises have also been fulfilled.
The New Heavens and the New Earth are the new creation, which includes the New Jerusalem
Although there are many references to the heavens and also to the earth, the term ‘heavens and earth’ is used only a few times. The first time, of course, is in Genesis 1:1, and describes the creation of the world.
Isaiah mentions them twice, as the ‘good news’ after the ‘bad news’, the new covenant after the destruction or withdrawal of the old (Isaiah 65 and 66). John refers to them as the consequence of the judgement at the end of the ‘millennium’ (Revelation 21:1). Peter uses the term as a contrast to the old heavens and earth which are to be destroyed (2 Peter 3:13).
In the case of Isaiah 65 and Revelation, the new heavens and earth are mentioned in the same breath as the new Jerusalem, and give the impression that one is part of the other.
Isaiah 65:17 – For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. (18) But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing, and her people for gladness.
Revelation 21:1 – And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
The new Jerusalem is the new Covenant
The new Jerusalem was to come down from heaven (Revelation 21:2,10), to replace the Old Jerusalem. Paul states that there was, at the time of his writing, a present Jerusalem and a Jerusalem above. Moreover, these Jerusalems were representative of the old and new covenants. They are both allegorically linked to Abraham’s wife and her servant (Sarah and Hagar).
Galatians 4:21-31 – … (24) This contains an allegory: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. (25) Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. [i.e. in slavery to the Law] (26) But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother..
Hebrews 12:22 – But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… (24) and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
Hagar = covenant of slavery = ‘present’ Jerusalem to be destroyed
Sarah = covenant of freedom = Jerusalem above to come down to earth
At the time of the writing of the letters, the new Jerusalem was a heavenly place, above. Nevertheless it was, even then, the mother of Christians. By the fulfillment of the Revelation to John, however, it would come down “out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”
If the new Jerusalem is the new covenant, and it had yet to arrive from heaven at the time of the apostles’ letters, then either the new covenant came down between the apostles’ time and ours, or else we have not yet received the new covenant.
When was the covenant renewed? Upon Jesus’ birth? At His death? His resurrection? Ascension? Or at His coming with glory?
According to Paul, it had not come down to earth in his time, even after Jesus’ Ascension.
The new covenant had been initiated, the elements had been prepared, but it was still a promise, guaranteed but not yet fully renewed.
Hebrews 7:22 – … so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.
In order for the new covenant to be complete, it required that the mediator (Jesus) be returned from the Holy of Holies.
Hebrews 9:28 – so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
Salvation would not be complete until Jesus’ return. This is why the disciples of the day were so anxious, and why in particular they were anxious on behalf of those who died before the expected return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
This is an important key to the whole of Revelation. New Jerusalem is the New Covenant. It replaces the Old Covenant, spiritually, and was accompanied by the literal destruction of the Old Jerusalem, and specifically the temple. The disciples of the New Testament era were literally between covenants; rather, in the awkward transition phase at the end of the old and the beginning of the new. They had the promise, and the guarantee. This is why Jesus assured them that though He would leave them, He would send the Holy Spirit so as not to leave them as orphans. Afterwards, He would come to them and receive them to Himself, and make His abode with them. This would be the true beginning of the new Covenant (John 14ff).
In other words, the new Jerusalem was there in heaven. When Jesus returned, it would come down as a bride. God would be the bridegroom, and make His abode in her.
The Revelation to John is the same as that part of the revelation to Isaiah: God would destroy the old covenant, punish the wicked Jews who had broken it in adultery, and establish a new covenant in which people would forever be at peace with him.
It is the same as the prophesy in Jeremiah 31. This is cited by the writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 8:7-12.
Hebrews 8:7-12 – For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. (8) For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: (9) Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. (10) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: (11) And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. (12) For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
The first covenant, then was becoming obsolete, ready to make way for the new (Hebrews 8:13). It was not yet completely obsolete. This would happen with the destruction of the temple.
Hebrews 9:8 – The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not been disclosed while the outer (Lit: first) tabernacle is still standing, (9) which is a symbol for the present time.
Revelation is a prophesy about the renewal of the covenant; not the renewal of the cosmos.
In summary, if we claim to be in the new covenant, then we are already citizens of the new Jerusalem. The New Testament Christians were children of the new covenant, heirs with the promise of salvation. If Jesus had not arrived within their generation, they would have had no more than the promise up until the grave. However, they would receive it, according to the promise, “obtaining as the outcome of [their] faith the salvation of [their] souls.” (1 Peter 1:9)
The promise was that they would see their salvation, that they would witness Jesus’ return to complete the work He had begun:
Philippians 1:6 – For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.
We today have perfect salvation, as we are truly citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem which has come down to us by the completed work of Jesus Christ.
The new Jerusalem is the Bride of the Lamb
Isaiah 62:4 – It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” not to your land will it be any longer be said, “Desolate”; But you will be called, “My delight is in her,” and your land, “Married”; For the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married. (5) … And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you.
Revelation 19:7 – Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and the bride has made herself ready. (8) It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
(Notice that this description of the pure bride of the Lamb is given just after the fall of the whore, Babylon, dressed in “fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls.” This is the adulterous former object of God’s covenant – see our study Babylon = Jerusalem.)
The bride, the object of the new covenant, is the new, or heavenly Jerusalem, as shown in Revelation 21.
Revelation 21:2 – And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 21:9,10 – Then one of the seven angels… spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (10) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…
The Bride of the Lamb is the new Covenant Church
The promise of the new covenant is to people, the members of the new covenant. The covenant is a relationship, likened to a marriage relationship, so that there is no covenant without both the bride and the groom. The following verses are among those that show that the bride is about people, that is, the church of God:
Isaiah 61:10 – I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, … for He has clothed me with garments of salvation… As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.
John 3:29 – “He who has the bride is the bridegroom…”
Revelation 22:17 – The Spirit and the bride say “Come.”
Now, most Christians would probably agree that the church is ‘betrothed’ to Jesus the Lamb, and is awaiting the marriage as described in Revelation 19:7. However, if
the new covenant = the new Jerusalem = the bride = the church
and if we are full participants of the new covenant, then surely we are already ‘married’ to our Lord! Our salvation is complete, and we have received every promise that pertains to the new covenant. There is no future event, in heavenly terms, that will supersede the covenant that has been given to us.
What are the promises for the new Jerusalem, and are they fulfilled by the New Covenant?
- Freedom (Galatians 4:26) – That is, it is not in slavery to the Law. The context of this verse, chapters 4 and 5, make it clear that Paul is talking about freedom from the Law. This freedom was available because of Christ, and was a reality right at the beginning of the covenant, before His return. It is certainly true today.
- Made ready as bride (Revelation 21:2) – The bride was pure, dressed in fine linen, and in complete contrast to the adornment of the whore, the former Jerusalem. Does this describe our relationship with God today? Spiritually, yes it does. Even before AD70, Paul told Christians to “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:24) This new self is there for us to don, even before we leave behind our perishable bodies, for it describes our perfection before God as New Covenant children.
- The tabernacle of God is among men; He dwells with them (Revelation 21:3) – Jesus promised, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23) This is a new intimacy characteristic of the New Covenant.
- They shall be His people, He their God (Revelation 21:3) – This is a new covenant promise.
Jeremiah 31:33 – “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord. “… I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
- Every tear is wiped away, with no mourning or crying – universal peace (Isaiah 65:19, Revelation 21:4) – Remember, these were the promises given after the warnings of what would happen to the old Jerusalem, where there would be mourning. Once the old was gone, and the new established, God’s anger would come to an end, justice would have been done, and the new bride would live in His peace. Today, much as we grieve for the world and for our own loved ones in difficult times, isn’t it still true that we have no reason to mourn? Even at funerals, even though we feel a loss in an earthly sense, don’t we celebrate the victory of the Cross?
If the prophesy is about covenants, rather than about the physical conditions on the planet, then the peace we feel is peace with God, not earthly peace:
Luke 2:14 – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whome He is pleased.”
And yet, Jesus states, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” This is because the peace Jesus came for was a covenant peace with God. Peace with God is far more important than “peace on earth”. In terms of our relationship with God, we in the New Covenant have this peace, and have an end to suffering, mourning and tears.
- No death (Isaiah 65 20-22, Revelation 21:4) – See our study, Another look at the resurrection for a more detailed look at this promise. In a nutshell, this is the same promise as Paul described in 1 Corinthians 15. Christians receive immortality in the New Covenant. Verses 55-57 – “O death, where is your sting. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is in the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When the Old Covenant was removed, the law that enslaved the Jews and even condemned them as guilty to sin was removed. Thus death was defeated, the dead in Christ were raised, and those alive were ‘changed’ into imperishable, immortal beings. We also possess imperishable, immortal bodies, even though we inhabit our earthly, perishable bodies. Immortality is gained upon spiritual birth, not just when we die. Even as Paul wrote his epistles, Christians who had died were ‘asleep’. They were awaiting the resurrection and immortality. We in the New Covenant now have this.
- No temple, for the Lord God and the Lamb are its temple (Revelation 21:22) – Jesus promised in John 4:21-24 that the hour was approaching, “and now is”, when true believers would not worship in a temple, but in Spirit and truth. This, plus the fact that God has made His home in every Christian’s heart, makes each of us God’s temple, and God Himself is our temple. We worship God directly, not through an earthly intermediary.
- No need of sun or moon, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb; Nations walk by its light (Revelation 21:23,24) – Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12) With Jesus at home in our hearts, we now have the full light of the New Covenant, which will shine on all the nations.
Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
- Harmony between former enemies (Isaiah 65:25) – specifically, the enmity between Jews and Gentiles would be removed, but the unifying power of the Gospel is able to bring together ‘enemies’ throughout the world, even today.
Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:13-18 – But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ… abolishing … the enmity, which is the Law of commandments… thus establishing peace…
Colossians 3:11 – a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
- Gates never closed (Revelation 21:25) – The gates of heaven are never closed. Nobody is excluded on the basis of race or position. Contrast this with the “uncircumcision” of the flesh in former times:
Ephesians 2:12 – Remember that you (Gentiles) were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Another contrast is the way the Pharisees had made it difficult for people to come to God:
Matthew 23:13 – “… you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”
- Nothing unclean shall ever come into it, only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:27)
- Contains river of the water of life from the throne of God and of the Lamb; Contains the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1,2) – Note that even in the time of the new Jerusalem, the nations are in need of healing. It is not a new world of perfection; spiritual perfection only exists in the new Jerusalem itself. The nations outside are in need of healing, and the new Jerusalem holds the key for this to occur. This is certainly true of the new covenant world today. Christians embody the water of life.
John 4:14 – “… but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Jesus also calls Himself the ‘bread’ of life (John 6:35). This bread, and the water, are fruits available to all the nations, once at war with God, and now also called into His kingdom (Ephesians 2:13-18 etc).
- No curse (Revelation 22:3) – The curse is not the curse of the garden of Eden, although in a spiritual sense we can say that this has been removed. The curse is the same as that pronounced by other prophets against Israel, Judah and Jerusalem for their sins against God. The reference to it in Revelation is not unique:
Zechariah 14:11 – People will live in it (Jerusalem), and there will no longer be a curse…”
Zechariah 8:13 – It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing.”
Daniel 9:11 – Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him.
God gave Moses a prescription for blessings (Leviticus 26:1-13), and a severe warning – a curse – against disobedience:
Leviticus 26:14-45 – But if you do not obey Me… and so break My covenant, I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror… I will set My face against you… and those who hate you will rule over you. I will also break down your pride of power… You will eat the flesh of your sons… and your daughters… I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate…
See also Deuteronomy 28:15-68
Jesus reiterated the curse against Israel in Matthew 23 “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!”(v38). If Israel thought they were under a curse under a Roman rule (which they were), then all of Moses’ curses would be heaped upon them in a concentrated, final horror in which God would set His face against them one last, permanent time. “Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation…” (v36)
- They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads (Revelation 22:4) – Aaron, as first priest to minister before God, was to have a gold plate attached to his turban, with the words “Holy to the Lord” engraved on it, “and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.” (Exodus 28:36-38) The harlot in Revelation 17, which we believe represents Jerusalem (see our study Babylon = Jerusalem), was adorned in priestly garments (17:4) and on her forehead were the words “Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth”. Rather than dedicated to the lord, the harlot was dedicated to adultery against the Lord, as Jerusalem and Israel had been accused of by God in the past (see Isaiah 1:21, Ezekiel 16:26). That was the doom of the present Jerusalem, again condemned by God in Revelation and compared with Babylon. In the new covenant, however, God’s people, the true Israel, the new Jerusalem, would once again be ‘holy to the Lord’ – not in need of a high priest to intercede for them, but each with God’s name on their own foreheads.