Revelation 21:1-8: The Enternal State

Revelation 21:1‑8  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
While in these mortal bodies it is difficult for us, if not impossible, to conceive of the conditions and full blessedness of the eternal state. It may be for this reason that the references to this state are few and brief.
The Apostle Peter, in the third chapter of his second epistle, in one brief verse leads our thoughts to the eternal state, when he writes, “We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth.” The context clearly shows that these words have no reference to the millennium. In this passage the apostle speaks of three worlds: Firstly, in verse 6, looking back to the days before the flood, he speaks of “the world that then was,” and reminds us that, “being overflowed with water,” it perished. Secondly, in verse 7, he speaks of “the heavens and the earth, which are now.” Of this present earth he says it is “reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” And he tells us, in that day, “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” Thirdly, he reminds us, in verse 13, that “we”—believers—on the assurance of God's promise, “look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” During millennial days, we read that “A king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment” (Isa. 32:11Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. (Isaiah 32:1)). In the eternal state, righteousness will dwell. Ruling supposes there is evil to be repressed. In the eternal state there will be no sin to mar the new heavens and the new earth. There everyone will be in right relations with God and with one another, so that it can be truly said righteousness will dwell.
Moreover, the Apostle Paul, in one brief verse, 1 Corinthians 15:2828And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28), looks on to the eternal state. In that passage he shows how Christ must rule until He has put all enemies under His feet. Then, when He shall have put down all rule, all authority, all power, and every enemy, including that last great enemy death, and the great purpose of the millennial reign is accomplished, He will deliver up the kingdom to God even the Father, and we pass to the eternal state when God will be “All in all.” God will be all as an Object to fill and satisfy the heart, and will be “in all” that we may perfectly enjoy our relations with God.
Two great truths as to the eternal state are pressed by the apostle: Firstly, before we enter that state every opposing power, every enemy—even death itself—will have been annulled. So that in the eternal state there will be no fear of the intrusion of an enemy, no fear that death will ever cast its blighting shadow over that fair scene. Secondly, we learn that in the eternal state, Christ, Himself, will be subject to God. Having brought all into subjection to God, He delivers up the kingdom to God, though He, Himself, remains subject to God. Does this not tell us that for all eternity Christ will never cease to be Man, while it is equally true He will never cease to be God—a Divine Person? Even as on earth He was a true Man, and yet one with the Father, so throughout eternity He will be a Man, though never ceasing to be the Son, one with the Father. It was Jesus, Himself, that stood in the midst of His own on the resurrection day; it is Jesus, Himself, that by faith we see at the present moment crowned with glory and honor; and it will be JESUS, HIMSELF, that we shall see face to face, and be with for all eternity.
Coming to the first eight verses of Revelation 21, we have the testimony of the Apostle John to the eternal state. John has seen “all enemies” put under Christ's feet; the final doom of the devil, and “the last enemy”—death—cast into the lake of fire. Every enemy having been annulled, there rises up before him this glorious vision of “a new heaven and a new earth.” The new heavens and a new earth, that Peter can say “we look for,” John can speak of as having seen, though truly it was but in a vision. In this vision he tells us “there was no more sea.” The sea speaks of separation, and how often separation means marred love, blighted hopes, and broken hearts. On earth, sin separates, circumstances separate, age separates, time separates, and above all death is the great separator. So it comes to pass, too often, on earth that the dearest friends are parted, closest relations are divided, families are broken up, and the saints of God scattered. Of all this separation the sea is the symbol. Little wonder that Jeremiah can say there is “sorrow on the sea.” But if at times we have to part with loved ones down here we can look on to the blessedness of the eternal state, where there will be no more separations, for there will be “NO MORE SEA.”
Then John is permitted to see the special place of the church in the eternal state. At the beginning of the Revelation John had seen the church in its failure on earth. Later, he had seen the church, under the figure of a bride, presented to the Lamb in heaven, all glorious, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Then, carried in spirit beyond the thousand years' reign of Christ, he sees the church coming down from heaven.
He sees, moreover, that the church is “holy” in nature; “new” as being entirely different to the earthly Jerusalem of old; it is “from God” and so entirely divine in origin; it comes “out of heaven,” and thus heavenly in character. Though a thousand years have rolled by, the church is still as precious and as beautiful in the eyes of Christ as when first presented to Christ all glorious. Time will not alter the fadeless splendor with which Christ has invested His church. For all eternity the church will retain her bridal beauty and preciousness in the eyes of Christ.
As John gazes upon this vision of the church descending from glory, he hears a voice saying, “Behold the tabernacle of God.” We are thus reminded that in relation to Christ the church is viewed under the figure of a bride; while in relation to God the church is also viewed as a tabernacle wherein God dwells. Thus the Apostle Paul can say of believers, “ye are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)).
It has ever been God's great purpose to dwell with men. This great desire came out in the Garden of Eden, when the Lord God came down to the Garden in the cool of the evening. Alas! sin had defiled that fair Garden and God could no longer dwell with man. Then, on the ground of redemption, God dwelt in a tabernacle in the midst of Israel. Alas! Israel entirely failed to walk in consistency with the presence of God. The nation fell into idolatry, finally rejected Christ, and the Lord has to say, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” But God does not give up His great purpose, for the church is called out to be the house of God. Alas as in every other age, the church breaks down, and the breakdown is all the more terrible because of the greater light and privileges granted to the church. At last that which professes to be the church becomes so utterly corrupt that instead of being “an habitation of God through the Spirit,” it becomes “the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Rev. 18:22And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. (Revelation 18:2)). But how good to learn that no breakdown on the part of man can thwart God in carrying out His purpose, for looking on to the new heaven and the new earth we see, such is the manifold wisdom and power of God that, in spite of all our failure, at last the purpose of God will be fulfilled in a scene where there will never be any breakdown. Three times we read that God will be with men.
“The tabernacle of God is with men.
“He will dwell with them.
“God, Himself, shall be with them.
Let us mark, too, this word “dwell,” for it implies home and rest and love. It will be no question of rule, or government, or judgment, for there will be no sin to put down, no enemy to overcome. Hence “God Himself,” with no intermediary, such as a Moses or an Elias, “shall be with them, and be their God.”
Moreover, it is “men” with whom God will dwell. It will be no longer nations. No national, political, or social distinctions will intrude into this new world. It will be God, Himself, with men, and the men will be His people, and He will be their God. God will “be all in all.”
When at last God, Himself, dwells with men all the sorrows of this present world will be forever past, for we read, “God shall wipe away all tears.” An old saint of a past century has written, “Christ our Lord in this world wipes the tears from His bairns' faces; yet after that they weep new tears. He never wipes away all tears till now. Here shall be our last good night to death, good night to crying, and mourning and sorrow. We shall be on the other side of the water, and over beyond the black river of death, and shall scorn death; for Christ shall take death and hell and cast them in the prison of fire (Rev. 20:1414And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:14)). And, therefore, never till now shall “all tears” be wiped away” (S. Rutherford).
Then we read “the former things are passed away,” and He that sat upon the throne said, “Behold I make all things new.” Today, the men of the world are trying to get rid of “the former things,” and seeking to “make all things new.” They can break hearts and fill the earth with death, sorrow, crying, and distress, but they cannot end the sorrows of the world, nor can they “make all things new,” or bring in a new order, as they vainly dream.
It is the One that sits upon “the throne who is above all, and has all power. He alone can cause “the former things” to pass away; He alone can “make all things new.”
Then we are reminded that for the fulfillment of all these blessings faith can rest in unquestioning confidence upon the words of the One who sits upon the throne, for “these words are true and faithful.”
The vision of the blessedness of the eternal state is closed with a word of encouragement and solemn warning. Does the unfolding of these coming glories awaken in any soul a sense of need? Then let such hear the gracious announcement, “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” He that answers to this invitation and turns to Christ, overcoming every hindrance, will inherit all the blessedness of which the vision speaks, and will find that God will be his God and he will be one of God's sons. But we are warned that he that spurns God's invitation will have his part in the lake of fire “which is the second death”—eternal separation from God.