The Changes in the New Heaven and the New Earth
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.” 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.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (21:4–6a)
Heaven will be so dramatically different from the present world that to describe it requires the use of negatives, as well as the previous positives. To describe what is totally beyond human understanding also requires pointing out how it differs from present human experience.
The first change from their earthly life believers in heaven will experience is that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (cf. 7:17; Isa. 25:8). That does not mean that people who arrive in heaven will be crying and God will comfort them. They will not, as some imagine, be weeping as they face the record of their sins. There is no such record, because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), since Christ “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). What it declares is the absence of anything to be sorry about—no sadness, no disappointment, no pain. There will be no tears of misfortune, tears over lost love, tears of remorse, tears of regret, tears over the death of loved ones, or tears for any other reason.
Another dramatic difference from the present world will be that in heaven there will no longer be any death (cf. Isa. 25:8). The greatest curse of human existence will be no more. “Death,” as Paul promised, “is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Both Satan, who had the power of death (Heb. 2:14) and death itself will have been cast into the lake of fire (20:10, 14).
Nor will there be any mourning, or crying in heaven. The grief, sorrow, and distress that produce mourning and its outward manifestation, crying, will not exist in heaven. This glorious reality will be the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:3–4: “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” When Christ bore believers’ sins on the cross, He also bore their sorrows, since sin is the cause of sorrow.
The perfect holiness and absence of sin that will characterize heaven will also mean that there will be no more pain. On the cross, Jesus was “pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). While the healing in view in that verse is primarily spiritual healing, it also includes physical healing. Commenting on Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, Matthew 8:17 says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.’ ” The healing ministry of Jesus was a preview of the well-being that will characterize the millennial kingdom and the eternal state. The glorified sin free bodies believers will possess in heaven will not be subject to pain of any kind.
All those changes that will mark the new heaven and the new earth indicate that the first things have passed away. Old human experience related to the original, fallen creation is gone forever, and with it all the mourning, suffering, sorrow, disease, pain, and death that has characterized it since the Fall. Summarizing those changes in a positive way, He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” The One who sits on the throne is the same One “from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (20:11). As noted in chapter 17 of this volume, the present universe will be uncreated. The new heaven and the new earth will be truly a new creation, and not merely a refurbishing of the present heaven and earth. In that forever new creation, there will be no entropy, no atrophy, no decay, no decline, and no waste.
Overwhelmed by all that he had seen, John seems to have lost his concentration. Thus, God Himself, the glorious, majestic One on the throne said to him “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (cf. 1:19). The words John was commanded by God to write are as faithful and true (cf. 22:6) as the One revealing them to him (3:14; 19:11). Though the present “heaven and earth will pass away,” still God’s “words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). There will be an end to the universe, but not to the truth God reveals to His people. Whether or not men understand and believe that truth, it will come to pass.
Also by way of summary, the majestic voice of the One sitting on heaven’s throne said to John, “It is done.” Those words are reminiscent of Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Jesus’ words marked the completion of the work of redemption; these words mark the end of redemptive history. It is the time of which Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:24–28:
Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
The One who sits on the throne is qualified to declare the end of redemptive history, because He is the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; cf. 1:8), the beginning and the end (cf. Isa. 44:6; 48:12). God started history, and He will end it, and all of it has unfolded according to His sovereign plan. That this same phrase is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ in 22:13 offers proof of His full deity and equality with the Father.
5 Now, for the second time in the book, God himself is the speaker (cf. 1:8). From his throne comes the assurance that the one who created the first heaven and earth will indeed make all things new (panta kaina, GK 4246, 2785). This is a strong confirmation that God’s power will be revealed and his redemptive purposes fulfilled. Since these words are, in truth, God’s words (cf. 19:9; 22:6), it is of utmost importance that this vision of the new heaven and the new Jerusalem be proclaimed to the churches.
21:5. In chapter 21 the first speaker was an unidentified voice from the throne. John now hears a second speaker. The throne is the great throne of heaven, first seen in 4:2, but most recently the place of final judgment (20:11). The Judge of the final reckoning was Christ. Now he speaks, as Creator rather than as Judge. Isaiah had foreseen this new creation (Isa. 65:17). During his earthly life Jesus had pledged, “I am going there [to my Father’s house] to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), suggesting a process of creation. Now his statement that I am making everything new emphasizes both the process and settled determination of Jesus to establish this eternal reality.
The angel in charge of this vision had commanded John earlier to write a “blessed” followed by a solemn affirmation of its divine trustworthiness (19:9). Now Jesus himself urges John to write this down, apparently the entire vision sequence. An equally solemn affirmation follows, applying especially to the words just spoken. They are trustworthy and true words because they issue from the one whose name is “Faithful and True” (19:11; the vocabulary is identical in the original).
5. And the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new,” and he said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
The phrase the one seated on the throne is a circumscription of the divine name that recalls the throne room setting (chapter 4). It is a recurring phrase in Revelation and Old Testament passages. Avoiding the use of God’s name, John allocates the origin of the voice to the throne. Now not an angel but God himself speaks and instructs John (vv. 5–8). Several times from his throne God directs a message to his people (v. 3; 1:8; 16:1, 17), but this is the last time in Revelation that he directly utters an announcement.
God tells the readers of the Apocalypse that he is making all things new (compare Isa. 43:19, which lacks the words all things). But here is the glorious outcome of God’s redemptive plan that Christ fulfilled: the renewal of all things. Notice that God calls attention to the fact that he is presently doing it, not that he will eventually do it. This utterance, therefore, is a direct revelation from God, who recreates, and as such it is one of the most important verses in Revelation. God renews sinful human beings through the work of Christ and makes them into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). In addition to human beings all things are renewed. This is God’s promise that points forward to the consummation, the transformation of heaven and earth, and the renewal of his entire creation (see 4 Ezra [=2 Esdras] 7:75).
Once again John is told to write (1:11; 14:13; 19:9), so that the content of Revelation may be preserved for countless generations. The reason for recording these words is that they are faithful and true. They are not hollow sounds, nor words that in time lose their meaning, but they express unqualified and lasting trustworthiness. God, who in Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of this world, will honor his word in bringing about a new heaven and a new earth. The words faithful and true are repeated in 22:6 (compare 19:9).
ALL THINGS NEW
And he who is seated upon the throne said: ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And he said: ‘Write, for these are words that are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me: ‘It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Without price I will give to the thirsty of the fountain of the water of life.’
For the first time, God himself speaks; he is the God who is able to make all things new. Again, we are back among the dreams of the ancient prophets. Isaiah heard God say: ‘Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing’ (Isaiah 43:18–19). This is the witness of Paul: ‘If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God can take people and re-create them, and will some day create a new universe for the saints whose lives he has renewed.
It is not God but the angel of the presence who gives the command to write. These words must be written down and remembered; they are true and absolutely to be relied upon.
‘I am Alpha and Omega,’ says God to John, ‘the beginning and the end.’ We have already come across this claim by the risen Christ in 1:8. Again, John is hearing the voice that the great prophets had heard: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god’ (Isaiah 44:6). Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and omega the last. John goes on to amplify this statement. God is the beginning and the end. The word for beginning is archē, and means not simply first in point of time but first in the sense of the source of all things. The word for end is telos, and means not simply end in point of time but the goal. John is saying that all life begins in God and ends in God. Paul expressed the same thing when he said, perhaps a little more philosophically: ‘For from him and through him and to him are all things’ (Romans 11:36), and when he spoke of ‘one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all’ (Ephesians 4:6).
It would be impossible to say anything more magnificent about God. At first sight, it might seem to remove God to such a distance that we are no more to him than the flies on the window pane. But what comes next? ‘To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life.’ All God’s greatness is at our disposal. ‘God so loved that he gave …’ (John 3:16). The splendour of God is used to satisfy the thirst of the longing heart.
Ver. 5. And the One sitting upon the throne, etc.—“That which the heavenly voice [ver. 3], interpreting the vision of John, had proclaimed, is now confirmed by the One sitting upon the throne (comp. chap. 20:11), in two speeches.” Duesterd. The words, And He saith unto me: Write; for these words, etc., are, according to Bengel, Züllig, Hengst., and Düsterdieck, an interlogue [Zwischenrede=between-speech] on the part of the Angel; these commentators refer to ch. 19:9 and 22:6. Observe, however, the change between ch. 14:9 sqq. and ver. 13 [to which also reference is made by Düsterdieck]. There the discourse of the Angel is followed by a speech from Heaven which commands the Seer to write the comforting declaration [ver. 13]. We therefore cannot infer from ch. 19:9 that an angelic speech here interrupts the voice from the throne. And this inference is the less proper from the fact that it would seem very strange for the speech of an Angel to be made to corroborate the language of God Himself. Moreover, the Divine speech in ver. 6 is too closely connected with ver. 5 for the above-cited view to be tenable.
21:5–6. The dramatic change to the new order is expressed in the words, I am making everything new! This revelation is trustworthy and true, and John was instructed to write down that fact. The One bringing about the change is Christ, who calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega (cf. 1:8; 22:13), the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, interpreted by the phrase the Beginning and the End.
Those who are thirsty are promised that they will be able to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. Apparently this refers not to physical thirst but to a desire for spiritual blessings.
21:5 — Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Our eternal home will never grow old, because God promises to make all things new. The Eternal One loves new things: new hearts (Ezek. 36:26), new songs (Is. 42:10), new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13), new life (Rom. 6:4).
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Re 21:5). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.