21:5 the one seated on the throne God Himself speaks.
I am making all things new John’s vision anticipates the restoration of an Eden-like state that also includes a reversal of the effects of humanity’s sin as described in Gen 3.
Write, because these words are faithful and true See note on Rev 19:9. “These words” probably refers to the truths contained in vv. 1–4.
21:5 faithful and true. Cf. 3:14; 19:11. God always speaks truth (Jn 17:17).
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).
21:5. This new, joyful existence is possible because He who sat on the throne (cf. 20:11), Jesus Christ, will “make all things new.” It is significant that Christ is referred to as the One “who sat on the throne.” This is the Judge. Revelation presents the Judge (chap. 1), His judgment of the churches (chaps. 2–3) and of rebellious mankind (chaps. 4–19), as well as His judgment of the lost (chap. 20). Now John hears the Judge say that He is making “all things new” and that he is to “write” about that time when all things are new. The reason for this is that chaps. 21 and 22 include the finishing touch to the Book of Revelation. In these last two chapters John writes concerning what the Judge accomplishes in the aftermath of His judgments: He will make all things new—new heavens above, a new earth below, and a new capital city: the New Jerusalem.
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).
21:5 “And He who sits on the throne said” God speaks several times in Revelation (cf. 1:8 and probably 16:1, 17). There seems to be a purposeful ambiguity as to who sits on the throne, YHWH or Messiah (cf. 22:3). See fuller note at 20:11. As the first creation was brought into being by God’s spoken word (cf. Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24; Ps. 33:6, 9), so also will His new creation.
© “I am making all things new” This is the promise of Isa. 60–66. This refers to the new age of the Spirit, the age of the Messiah, the age of righteousness, which Jesus inaugurated at His first coming and will consummate at His second coming. This is a metaphor for the certainty of God’s will becoming a reality (cf. 1:19; 14:13; 17:17; 19:9).
© “these words are faithful and true” This phrase was used to describe (1) Jesus (cf. 1:5; 3:7, 14; 19:11); (2) Jesus’ followers (cf. 17:14; and (3) God’s word (cf. 19:9; 21:5; 22:6). Often God is described as “righteous and true” (cf. 15:3; 16:7; 19:2). The Hebrew thought behind this Greek phrase would imply trustworthiness.
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).
5. The one seated on the throne (AT) is God. Remarkably, this is the first direct speech from God since 1:8, where he declared his title as the ‘Alpha and the Omega’. In all the intervening chapters, in the confusion and complexity of the world and the shadow of judgment as well as deliverance, God’s voice and actions have been communicated by circumlocution and the use of intermediary agents. But the full revelation of the final redemption of the world calls forth God’s direct speech in unambiguous terms. God’s making everything new is entirely consistent with his character as Creator, making the world new ex nihilo in the beginning, and continually seeking to do a new thing in the redemption of his people, whether that is forming his people anew in the exodus or doing ‘a new thing’ in their return and restoration from exile (Isa. 43:19). The new thing God will do is the same new thing he has been continually doing since the beginning of time.
The command to write is introduced with a change of tense (‘the one seated on the throne said … Then he says …’, AT), suggesting that this is a parenthetical comment before God’s speech continues in the next verse. This is the last of twelve times that John is commanded to write—in relation to the book as a whole in 1:11 and 1:19, seven times in the messages in Revelation 2–3, and twice of statements in 14:13 and 19:9. Since God’s speech continues, the command here is similar to those in Revelation 1, referring to the whole of the message rather than to the specific saying alone, but mention of the command draws attention to it. Old Testament prophets are usually commanded to ‘Go and say …’ (Isa. 6:9; Jer. 2:2; Ezek. 3:4), suggesting that the message given at a particular time and place has wider relevance only later; the command for John to ‘write’ adds wider significance from the beginning, so that John is adding to ‘what it written’, that is, the Scriptures. The words John is given are trustworthy [or ‘faithful’, pistos] and true here and in 22:6 (cf. 19:9) and match the one with whom they originate, both Jesus (the faithful and true witness, 3:14; 19:11) and God (‘holy and true’, 6:10; ‘just and true’, 15:3; 16:7).
5. This is noteworthy as one of the very few occasions in Revelation on which God himself is said to speak (1:8, perhaps 16:1, 17). It is usually an angel or an unidentified voice (as in v. 3). John tells us now that God speaks, but he does not say to whom he speaks. It may be to the heavenly hosts, though it is not easy to see why they would need this saying. But certainly the words mean reassurance for the little church of John’s day. Its persecuted and threatened members needed these words of hope. I am making everything new (cf. Isa. 65:17) of course refers primarily to the final renewing at the End. But the present tense is used and it is worth reflecting that God continually makes things new here and now (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:16–18; 5:16–17; Col. 3:1–4; etc.). Then he said is better than ‘And he said’ and is probably an interjection from another speaker (the Greek is kai legei which comes between two kai eipen). It may be that John was so astounded that he forgot to write and an angel reminded him, telling him that these words (presumably the words about to be spoken, though they may be the words about renewal) are trustworthy and true. They must be recorded.
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. 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.
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.
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.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Re 21:5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Re 21:5). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.
 Utley, R. J. (2001). Hope in Hard Times – The Final Curtain: Revelation (Vol. Volume 12, p. 146). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.
 Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 780). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.