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.
5 The silence of God in Revelation is broken by his declaration, “I am making everything new!”24 The throne upon which God sits (cf. 4:2, 9; 5:1, 7; 6:16; 7:10, 15; 19:14) symbolizes his sovereignty and majesty. It is from this position of awesome power that he announces his intention of creating the new order. The renovation of the universe was a familiar concept in apocalyptic literature. Jub. 1:29 spoke of a “new creation when the heavens and the earth shall be renewed” (cf. 1 Enoch 91:16; 2 Bar. 57:2; 44:12; 2 Esdr 7:75; etc.). Through the prophet Isaiah God had promised, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isa 65:17). The transformation that Paul saw taking place in the lives of believers (2 Cor 3:18; 4:16–18; 5:16–17) will have its counterpart on a cosmic scale when a totally new order will replace the old order marred by sin.
Most scholars hold that the command to write in v. 5 comes from an angel, as in 14:13 and 19:9. The interpretation is based primarily on the changes in tense of the verb “to say” in vv. 5 and 6 (lit., “said … says … said”). It is argued that since the first and third utterances are from God, why would the second be altered if the speaker were the same? It is of equal weight, however, to argue that there is no reason why the second verb should not be altered for stylistic reasons and God be the one who speaks throughout. In 1:19 the glorified Christ had also instructed John to write. The content of what he is to write is contained in the vision of eternal blessedness given in vv. 1–5. He is to write it because the revelation is trustworthy and true.
Ver. 5.—And he that sat upon the throne said; that sitteth (cf. ch. 20:11 and Matt. 25:31). Behold, I make all things new. As in ver. 1. So in Matt. 19:28, “Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory,” etc. And he said unto me, Write; and he saith, Write. Probably the angel (cf. ch. 19:9; 14:13). The change from εἶπεν to λέγει and the immediate return to εἶπεν appear to indicate a change of speaker. For these words are true and faithful; faithful and true. So also in ch. 19:9; 3:14, etc.
5a καὶ εἶπεν ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ ἰδοὺ καινὰ ποιῶ πάντα, “Then the One sitting on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making everything new.’ ” This is a clear allusion to Isa 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” The apocalyptic theme of cosmic renewal may be reflected in 1QH 13:11–12 (tr. Vermes, Dead Sea Scrolls, 199), “For Thou hast shown them that which they had not [seen by removing all] ancient things and creating new ones [ולברוא חדשׁות wĕlibrôʾ ḥădāšôt].” A microcosmic application of the apocalyptic notion of the recreation or renewal of the world is found in 2 Cor 5:17, where Paul says that those in Christ are a καινὴ κτίσις [cf. Gal 6:15]· τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά, “new creation; what is old has disappeared; behold, it has become new” (see D. E. Aune, “Zwei Modelle der menschlichen Natur bei Paulus,” TQ 176  28–39). This is probably also an allusion to Isa 43:18–19 (cf. Isa 65:17). It is clear that the short speech in vv 5–8 is attributed to God himself and is the only such speech in Revelation, with the exception of the brief self-disclosure in 1:8.
5b καὶ λέγει· γράψον, ὅτι οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί εἰσιν, “He also said, ‘Write, for this message is trustworthy and true.’ ” This is the last of several commands to write that apparently have the entire composition in view (Rev 1:11, 19; 21:5; cf. 10:4) rather than just the partial texts that are the objects of the commands to write in 14:13 and 19:9. The phrase οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί, “this message is trustworthy and true,” occurs again verbatim in 22:6 (in both passages πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί, “trustworthy and true,” is a hendiadys, i.e., one idea expressed through two different words), while in 19:9 we find the parallel phrase οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι ἀληθινοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσιν, “these are the true words of God.” In Greco-Roman divinatory charms there is a major concern, as there is here, with emphasizing the truthfulness of the revelation, implying the obvious possibility of unreliable revelations (PGM I.320; II.10, 115; III.288; IV.913, 1033, 2504; V.421; VII.248, 571; XIV.6–7; cf. Daniel-Maltomini, Supplementum Magicum 2:65, line 67 [commentary]).
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).