Search Bible Outlines and commentaries




Daniel Akin: Main Idea: God will establish a new heaven and a new earth, where Christ will spend eternity among His redeemed people in perfect and constant communion.

  1. We Will Enjoy a New Heaven and a New Earth (:1-2)
  2. We Will Live in Intimate and Personal Communion with Our God (:3)
  3. We Will No Longer Experience the Horrible Effects of Sin (:4)
  4. We Will Rest in the Sure Promises of God (:5-6)
  5. We Will Live as God’s Adopted Children with No Fear of the Second Death (:7-8)

G.R. Beasley-Murray: With the two paragraphs which form this section John’s vision of the future reaches its climax.  He had described under varied forms the messianic judgments of the last times, the collapse of the antichristian empire and overthrow of evil powers which inspired it, the coming of the Christ and his kingdom on earth, and the last judgment wherein God’s verdict on mankind is made known.  Now follows the unveiling of a new order not subject to the ravages of time.  It is, in Farrer’s words, “the last of the Last Things and the end of the visionary drama”.  Nothing more than this can follow, beyond the attempt to explain it.

Craig Koester: The new creation is marked, in part, by an absence of powers that oppose God and diminish life. The demise of the harlot brought an end to a power that reduced the creation and its people to mere commodities that could be bought and sold to satisfy the self-indulgent tastes of the powerful (18:11–19). The defeat of Satan, the beast, and their allies eliminated powers that dominated the nations and oppressed the faithful (19:19–21; 20:7–10). The resurrection of all the dead brought an end to death itself (20:14). Therefore, in the new creation there is an absence of death, mourning, crying, and pain, for all those marks of the former, fallen world have passed away, together with the sea from which the beast arose (21:1, 4; compare 13:1). At the same time, the new creation is characterized by the presence of the God who gives life. The anguished cry, “Where is your God?” will no longer be heard (Ps. 42:3), for in quick succession, a voice from the throne declares that God’s dwelling will be “with humankind”; he will dwell “with them,” and “God himself will be with them” (Rev. 21:3). Instead of the toxic waters of judgment (8:11; 16:3–4), God will invite them to drink freely from “the spring of the water of life” that flows from his throne (21:6; 22:1).

Grant Osborne: Not just the Book of Revelation but the whole Bible has pointed to this moment. Since Adam and Eve lost their place in Paradise and sin reigned on earth (Rom. 5:12–21), the divine plan has prepared for the moment when sin would finally be eradicated and the original purpose of God when he created humankind could come to pass. Every stage of the Apocalypse, from the earthly woes of the seven churches to the three judgment septets to the destruction of the great prostitute/Babylon the Great to the final events of this aeon (return of Christ / millennium / final judgment), the goal has been the “new heaven and new earth.” It is especially connected to the letters to the seven churches, for many of the promises given to the “overcomers” (2:7, 11, 17, 26–28; 3:5, 12, 21) are fulfilled in this vision of the “new heaven and new earth.” Hemer (1986: 16) says that the perfection of the heavenly Jerusalem is set in implicit contrast to the imperfections of the seven cities in chapters 2–3. At the same time, the visions here provide the realization of all the hopes and dreams of the people of God from time immemorial. Many of those hopes have been tainted by sin (e.g., material prosperity, status, or pleasure in this life), but what they represented could only be truly fulfilled in heavenly prosperity and joy. Indeed, the reigning on thrones during the millennium (whatever position one takes on that issue) is merely a harbinger of the greater reality of the New Jerusalem. That is one of the primary purposes of that temporal and earthly kingdom, to provide a foretaste of the far greater glory awaiting us. Giesen (1997: 450) calls this John’s great finale with his magnificent portrait of the new reality that will conclude God’s plan of salvation. . .

This section is organized like chapters 12–13, with a thesis paragraph (21:1–6, with 7–8 a parenetic challenge to the readers in light of the vision) that is then expanded in two directions, first viewing the Holy City as an eternal Holy of Holies (21:9–27) and then as a new Eden (22:1–5). Throughout this John pulls material from OT images, especially from Isaiah and Ezekiel, to show how the prophets have prepared for this day. Like the OT counterparts, this passage also views heaven as an earthly reality. The Holy City descends out of heaven to earth, and the new Eden is also apparently in the “new earth.” . . .

[21:1-8] is a transition passage similar to the hallelujah choruses of 19:1–10. Deutsch (1987: 109, 111) says this is both the conclusion to the seven visions of 19:11 – 21:8 and an introduction to 21:9 – 22:5. It bridges the heavenly and the earthly, and the two become one. At the literary level, it is the last segment of a series of καὶ εἶδον (kai eidon, and I saw; cf. 19:11, 17, 19; 20:1, 4, 11, 12; 21:1) passages, thus concluding the series of events (parousia, Armageddon, millennium, final judgment, arrival of the new heaven and new earth) that constitute the eschaton. At the thematic level, it introduces the final major segment of the book, the vision of the eternal state.

James Hamilton: We may never fully understand what God has done in this world, but 21:1–8 shows us that God will make a new heaven and new earth that is pure, that, unlike the first one, will never be defiled. He will comfort those who trust him, wiping away every tear, protecting them from all sin, dwelling in their midst, satisfying their thirst, relating to them as a bridegroom in covenant, as a father to a beloved son, as a faithful God in covenant with his people. And God’s people will know him. They will know the glory of his justice and the glory of his mercy, and they will perceive these things in the salvation that comes through judgment. In studying Revelation, we pass through the final judgment in 20:11–15 on our way to the new heaven and new earth, in which righteousness dwells. God created the world so that he could make known his justice and his mercy. The justice God will demonstrate against the wicked is on display in the new heaven and new earth in his wrath on those who burn in the second death of the lake of fire in 21:8. For all eternity God’s justice will be on display so that the redeemed who enjoy God’s mercy will continue to feel the mercy they have received.


A.  (:1) Vision of a New Heaven and a New Earth – No More Evil and Rebellion

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.

John MacArthur: “And I saw” — That little phrase is a technical phrase; it’s been used since chapter 19, verse 11: “I saw heaven opened, and then Christ comes.” It’s a very important phrase, because I think it is used to take us step by step through the chronology of the coming of Christ.

It is used when the Lord returns. It is then used at the defeat of Antichrist. It is then used to introduce the banishment of Satan at the outset of the kingdom. It is then used at the introduction of the kingdom, the millennial kingdom. It is used at the opening of the release and the destruction of Satan. It is used to introduce the scene at the great white throne. And it is used to introduce the new heaven and the new earth. It’s a technical phrase that introduces each of the sequential events from the return of Christ to the establishment of the eternal state.

Richard Phillips: No More Sea

Revelation 21:1 adds a provocative statement that sums up the removal of all evil: “and the sea was no more.” In the symbolism of Revelation, the sea has a theological rather than topographical meaning. The sea is the realm of evil and rebellion against God. Psalm 74 described salvation as God’s breaking the head of “the sea monsters” and crushing “Leviathan,” the great mythical sea beast that represents idolatrous opposition to God (Ps. 74:12–14). James Hamilton writes that for the Israelites, the sea was “the great dark unknown from which evil comes.” . . .  God’s covenant people avoided the sea as a source of chaos and destruction. In Revelation 12:17, Satan “stood on the sand of the sea,” and then raised up his beast “out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1). In chapters 17–20, John was shown the removal of the dragon, his beasts, and the harlot, together with their entire wicked program. Finally, even the sea from which they came will be no more.

Grant Osborne: It seems out of place and unnecessary in light of heaven and earth “passing away.” The answer is found in the symbolic meaning of the “sea” in the Apocalypse. Giesen (1997: 452) notes the link between “sea” and “Death and Hades” in the judgment of 20:11–15. Both are hostile to God and humanity. Beale (1999: 1042) lists five uses of the concept in this book:

(1)  the origin of evil (12:18; 13:1);

(2)  the nations that persecute the saints (12:18; 13:1; 17:1–6);

(3)  the place of the dead (20:13);

(4)  the location of the world’s idolatrous trade activity (18:10–19); and

(5)  a body of water, part of this world (5:13; 7:1–4; 8:8–9; 10:2, 5–6, 8; 14:7; 16:3).

He believes all five are related to this, but it is likely that the first two predominate. The sea as a symbol of evil would best explain why it is added here.  In the new order, not only will the old creation be gone, but evil will “be no more.” The false trinity and the nations that caused so much suffering will have been cast into the lake of fire, so temptation and pain will be gone forever.

B.  (:2) Vision of Holy New Jerusalem – No More Corruption and Defilement

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,

made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

Warren Wiersbe: Even despite Scripture’s description, it is difficult to imagine what the eternal city will be like. John characterizes it as a holy city (see Rev. 21:27), a prepared city (see John 14:1–6), and a beautiful city, as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day. He amplifies these characteristics in Revelation 21—22. But the most important thing about the city is that God dwells there with His people.

John Walvoord: Most important, however, is the fact that the city is declared to come down from God. Nothing is said about the New Jerusalem being created at this point and the language seems to imply that it has been in existence in heaven prior to this event. Nothing is revealed concerning this in Scripture unless the expression of John 14:2, “I go to prepare a place for you,” refers to this. If the New Jerusalem is in existence throughout the millennium, it could be a satellite city suspended over the earth during the thousand years as the dwelling place of resurrected and translated believers who also have access to the earthly scene. This would help explain an otherwise difficult problem of where these resurrected believers would dwell during a period in which people are still in their natural bodies and living ordinary lives. If so, the New Jerusalem is withdrawn from the earthly scene at the destruction of the old earth, and later comes down to the new earth.

Richard Phillips: The first characteristic of God’s city is its holiness: “the holy city.” Bruce Milne writes that this “reflects not simply—and negatively—the absence of sin and evil in all their forms, but the glorious positiveness of the outshining majesty of God in his resplendent otherness. . . . Because the city is the dwelling place of such a God, it cannot be other than a holy place.”  When believers come to faith in Christ, they are spiritually renewed for the sake of this destination. By calling the new Jerusalem “the holy city,” John identifies the chief characteristic and calling that is to define Christians and the church today. The Bible highlights the church not as “the affluent city,” “the culturally progressive city,” or “the entertaining city,” but as “the holy city.”

Second, God’s people are a community. A city is defined not primarily by streets and buildings, but by its people. Eternity therefore consists not of a solitary pursuit of the beatific vision but of a corporate experience of God’s glory. Hebrews 12:23 identified the heavenly Jerusalem as “the assembly of the firstborn . . . the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” This city now comes down to earth in renewed and glorified form. Just as God’s own being involves the community of the Trinity, so the new Jerusalem involves a fellowship not merely of saints with God but of saints together with God.

Third, God’s city is marked by his sovereign grace. When John says that the new Jerusalem is “coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:2), he means that God’s activity results in his people’s attaining to this place in eternal glory. The church was chosen, justified, adopted, and sanctified, and will finally be glorified by God’s sovereign grace. For this reason, believers in Jesus can be certain of this glorious destiny: Peter promises “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, . . . a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4–5). For the same reason, the glory of the new Jerusalem belongs exclusively to God, reflecting on his people who are eternal mirrors of his grace.

Fourth, the new Jerusalem is marked by loving intimacy, since she is “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). This love is enjoyed by Christians together with our Lord, the triumphant Jesus Christ. Many Christians struggle with the idea that earthly marriages, which are designed to foster our closest intimacy in this life, will end when we are separated by death and enter into glory (see Luke 20:34–36). But believers will suffer no loss in the eternal city. For just as earthly fathers are designed to hold in our hearts a place that God the Father will perfectly fill, so also God blesses us with marital intimacy now in order to ready our hearts for loving intimacy with Christ as his bride forever. Milne writes, “The experience of heaven is the bliss of being utterly and eternally loved.”  As Paul wrote in his famous chapter on love, “then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

Grant Osborne: There is a debate about the connection between the city and the saints. Is the New Jerusalem the place in which the saints reside, or is it a symbol of the saints themselves? Thüsing (1968) says it is not so much a place as the perfected people themselves, and Gundry (1987: 256) argues strongly that “John is not describing the eternal dwelling place of the saints; he is describing them and them alone.” Thus, it describes their future state rather than their future home (see also Draper 1988: 42). Mounce (1998: 382) connects this with 1 Cor. 3:16–17, where the believers are the temple of God; here they are the city of God, visualizing “the church in its perfected and eternal state.” Yet while it is possible that John transformed the Jewish tradition of an end-time New Jerusalem into a symbol of the people themselves, that is not required by the text. In Deutsch’s study of the transformation of the images in this text, she concludes (1987: 124) that John chose this as a contrast to the evil city of Babylon the Great in order to comfort the afflicted with the promise of the future blessing. Babylon was both a people and a place, and that is the better answer here. It is a people in 21:9–10, when the angel shows John the New Jerusalem as “the bride, the wife of the Lamb,” and in 21:13–14, when the twelve tribes and twelve apostles are the gates and the foundations of the city. But it is a place in 21:3 where God “dwells” with his people, in 21:7–8 where the readers either “inherit” it or face the lake of fire, and in 21:24, 26 where the glory of the nations are brought into it. In short, it represents heaven as both the saints who inhabit it and their dwelling place.

J. Hampton Keathley, III: Only a few passages in the Word deal with the new heaven and new earth and these are often in a context dealing with both the Millennium and eternal state which causes some confusion due to our limited understanding (cf. Isa. 65:17f; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13).

This kind of thing is not uncommon in prophetic literature and should not cause confusion. A prophetic passage will often mention two events together which, chronologically in their fulfillment, are separated by a large interval of time. . .  2 Peter 3:10-13 speaks of the Day of the Lord, the Tribulation, and of the destruction of the heavens and the earth as though they were one and the same or close together, yet Revelation shows they are separated by a thousand years. The mention of two prophetic events together does not mean that they are one and the same or that they occur together or should be confused. We must consider all of Scripture together and when all the passages dealing with certain events are considered, then the sequence and chronology become evident.


A.  (:3) God in Full Shekinah Glory Tabernacles with Men

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people,

and God Himself shall be among them,’

John Walvoord: The loudness of the voice signals that what follows is important and authoritative. This “dwelling place” (“tabernacle,” KJV) is in contrast to the tabernacle in the wilderness in which God dwelt and also to the tabernacle in heaven (13:6; 15:5).

Robert Mounce: Jesus had spoken of “other sheep that are not of this sheep pen” that must become part of the one flock (John 10:16). It is with the redeemed peoples of all races and nationalities that God will dwell in glory. God himself will be with them, and he will be their God.  It is the presence of God, and the fellowship with him of all believers, that constitutes the principal characteristic of the coming age.

Craig Keener: The promise that God “will live” (skenoo) with his people (21:3) was a frequent Jewish hope that ultimately points back to a promise of God’s covenant for Israel (Ex. 25:8; 29:45–46; Lev. 26:12; 1 Kings 6:13; Ezek. 37:27; Zech. 2:10–11), including in the future temple (Ezek. 43:7, 9).  This promise is spelled out more clearly when the text reveals that new Jerusalem is a temple city (21:22) and is shaped like the Most Holy Place (21:16). The restoration of the temple was a specific hope for restored Jerusalem (Ezek. 37:26–28; 41–48), but in Revelation this hope is transferred to the entire city.  This will be the most explicit “tabernacling” of God with humanity since the Incarnation (see John 1:14, which declares that Jesus, the Word, “made his dwelling” [lit., “tabernacled”] among us, the only New Testament use of skenoo outside Revelation), though deceased believers in heaven have already experienced it (Rev. 7:15). This promise was expected for end-time Israel, but here all who “overcome” receive it (21:7).

Grant Osborne: The first part of the promise, ἡ σκηνὴ τοῦ θεοῦ (hē skēnē tou theou, the dwelling of God), is a virtual translation of “Shekinah,” typified in the cloud and pillar of fire at the exodus and symbolized in both the tabernacle (often translated with σκηνή in the LXX) and the temple. Most of all, Shekinah meant communion between God and his people, and it was finalized in two stages, first when “the Word became flesh and tabernacled (σκηνόω) among us” (John 1:14), and second here as the Shekinah “dwells with his people.” In Christ the Shekinah became incarnate, and here communion between God and his people becomes physical and absolute, as God σκηνώσει μετ’ αὐτῶν (skēnōsei met’ autōn, will dwell with them—the verb cognate of “dwelling” above). As in 19:7–8, the verbs in 21:3–4 switch to future tenses, probably to draw attention to the prophetic overtones of these critical portions. God will no longer dwell high and lifted up above his people but will now “tabernacle” in their midst.

B.  (:4) God Removes All the Pain and Suffering of the Former State

and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes;

and there shall no longer be any death;

there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain;

the first things have passed away.

Grant Osborne: After the eternal covenant is presented, the benefits belonging to the saints who form and inhabit the new heaven and new earth are presented (21:4). They center on the peace and joy God will give his people.

Richard Phillips: A favorite verse for Christian funerals is Psalm 116:9: “I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” It is pointed out that we currently inhabit the land of the dying—the land of the living is the heaven to which our beloved departed have gone. The sorrows of this life put tears on our cheeks and pain in our hearts. But when Christ returns, those who are joined to him by faith will experience the fullness of eternal life. George Eldon Ladd writes: “Tears here represent all human sorrow, tragedy, and evil. Accompanying the glorious vision of God will be a transformed mode of existence in which the sorrows and evils of existence in the old order are left far behind.”  Isaiah foresaw that “the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 35:10).

Kendell Easley: The great multitude who came out of the Great Tribulation received the pledge of many blessings including the final removal of any cause for tears (7:15–17). Now this promise extends to every citizen-saint of the New Jerusalem. The picture of God himself gently taking a handkerchief and wiping away all tears is overwhelming. It pictures the removal of four more enemies:

  • death—destroyed and sent to the fiery lake (20:14; 1 Cor. 15:26)
  • mourning—caused by death and sin, but also ironically the eternal experience of those who loved the prostitute (18:8)
  • crying—one result of the prostitute’s cruelty to the saints (18:24)
  • pain—the first penalty inflicted on mankind at the Fall is finally lifted at last (Gen. 3:16)

All these belonged to the old order of things where sin and death were present. The last thought could also be translated, “The former things are gone.” No greater statement of the end of one kind of existence and the beginning of a new one can be found in Scripture.


A.  (:5a) The New Order Is Different and Far Superior

And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’

G.R. Beasley-Murray: The word order should be observed: “Behold, new am I making all things!”  The emphasis is on the newness which God imparts to his creation, and therefore to his creatures.

Richard Phillips: On only two occasions in the book of Revelation does God himself speak directly. The first occasion was at the beginning: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Rev. 1:8). Now, at the end of history, we face God himself once more. In this way, Revelation makes a vital point: every living soul must deal with God. All through life we may follow the distractions that keep us from reckoning with God, but in the end we must all face him.

B.  (:5b) God Can Be Counted on to Keep His Revealed Word

And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’

Richard Phillips: Here, God himself bears witness to the truth of his Word. He is able to establish truth because, as Hebrews 6:18 asserts, “it is impossible for God to lie.” God’s nature demands that he be faithful to his promises. Paul writes: “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). In writing down the words that God has given him, John is fulfilling his apostolic office. When Paul said that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20), he meant that by writing down the New Testament, they secured for us the truths committed to them by God for us to believe.

Not only was God speaking to John when he appeared in this vision on the Isle of Patmos, but God speaks to us now as this same Word is read and preached. Ultimately, it is by the Word itself that we know the truth of the Bible, as God speaks directly to us just as he did to John. Westminster Confession of Faith 1.5 notes that there are many reasons to receive the Bible as true. These include “the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, . . . [and] the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation,” together with “many other incomparable excellencies” by which the Bible commends itself to us as the revealed truth of God. “Yet notwithstanding,” the confession adds, “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.” God reveals the truth of his Word by his Word as the Spirit applies it to our hearts. John writes in Revelation 21:5, “He who was seated on the throne said,” and by his declaration that “these words are trustworthy and true,” his people know and recognize the truth of God’s Word. This is why John needed to write the book of Revelation, so that the persecuted believers of his day would receive God’s truth by God’s Word just as tempted believers today need the same. James Hamilton explains: “When we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, we are believing what it tells us about itself,” and then in our hearts “the Holy Spirit bears witness that these things are so and confirms the Bible’s claims.”

C.  (:6a) The New Eternal Order Is a Done Deal

And He said to me, “It is done.

Richard Phillips: Not only does God declare the truth of his Word by his own direct assertion, but he declares that the events foretold in Revelation are already fully established: “And he said to me, ‘It is done!’” (Rev. 21:6). God is standing at the end of history, speaking to John in the midst of history to declare a future that is already certain. The Greek word is a perfect tense of the verb to happen, meaning “it has happened.” Moreover, it is a plural verb (gegonan), so that it should be read “everything has happened,” referring to all that is revealed in Revelation, including both judgment and salvation. George Eldon Ladd writes: “Contrary to the confusing and chaotic picture presented to man in his human experiences, the purposes of God in redemption are as certain as though they have already taken place. The future is not uncertain to those who trust God.”  People say that the only certain things are death and taxes. But believers know that everything promised in God’s Word is absolutely certain and worthy of our faith.

Grant Osborne: The perfect tense stresses a state of affairs resulting from an action (see on 16:17), so this means salvation history is at an end and the future age can begin. Rissi (1972: 58) says that the plural points to the λόγοι of 21:5, the “words” of the prophecies of the whole book. There are in a sense three stages:

  1. At the cross Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), meaning God’s redemptive plan for his sacrificial death.
  2. Then in 16:17 the voice from the throne said, “It is over,” meaning that the events of the eschaton ending this present evil order are finished (cf. 10:6; 11:15, 18; 12:10; 15:1).
  3. Finally, God here says “They are over,” meaning that all the events of world history—including the world’s destruction and the inauguration of the final new age—are at an end.

D.  (:6b) God Is Sovereign Over History – Including Both Present Tribulations and the Future Eternal State

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

Robert Mounce: The descent of the New Jerusalem and all the attendant blessings may now be considered as having taken place.  God says, “It is done.” There is no uncertainty about the eternal felicity of those who hold fast in the trial of faith because from God’s vantage point the future is determined. He is not subject to the vagrancies of time because time itself is encompassed by his eternal nature. He is the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), the Beginning and the End (cf. 1:8; 22:13 and Isa 44:6; 48:12). That God is the Beginning refers not only to the fact that he was first in point of time (cf. John 1:1, NEB, “When all things began, the Word already was”), but also that he is the source and origin of all things. He is the end in the sense that he constitutes their goal or aim (as in 1 Tim 1:5; Rom 10:4). As such he allows those who are thirsty to drink from the spring of the water of life. Scripture often employs the figure of thirst to depict the desire of the soul for God. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God,” sang the Psalmist (Ps 42:1; cf. 36:9; 63:1; Isa 55:1). God is a spring of living water (Jer 2:13; cf. Ps 36:9) that assuages thirst and wells up into eternal life (John 4:14). In the arid climate of Palestine a spring of cool water would be a vivid symbol of refreshment and satisfaction.

Grant Osborne: The title is built on Isa. 44:6 and 48:12, “I am the first and I am the last” (cf. 41:4), which meant that Yahweh was sovereign at the beginning of the nation and would be in charge at the end as well. In keeping with this title, God began history at creation and ends it at the eschaton. But the title means he controls not only the beginning and the end but also everything in between; in other words, he is sovereign over history. For the readers, this means that they can know God is in charge now because the Bible recorded his sovereignty over past history, and the prophecies in this book have demonstrated his control over future history. Therefore, they can be assured he is also sovereign in the present time of trouble.

E.  (:6c) God Freely Gives the Gift of Eternal Life

I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

Richard Phillips: We can imagine a dry and weary land where travelers are parched. In that land there is a springing fountain, with green foliage all around. If only they will come, the thirsty may drink of this living water. This is an apt metaphor for the life in which we live. Souls are unsatisfied, hearts are grieved, and countless lives are embittered. Perhaps you are wrestling with a great disappointment. Perhaps you have felt a gnawing worry that this is all there is. Perhaps you have been broken by tragedy, like a cistern that has been emptied of water. God offers you water that restores life, satisfies the heart, and comforts those who are aggrieved. Jesus used this metaphor to speak of the Holy Spirit of God: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, . . . ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37–38). John explained, “Now this he said about the Spirit” (7:39). This image describes the experience of those who have turned to God through faith in Jesus Christ. J. C. Ryle writes:

“The saints of God in every age have been men and women who drank of this fountain by faith and were relieved. They felt their guilt and emptiness, and thirsted for deliverance. They heard of a full supply of pardon, mercy, and grace in Christ crucified for all penitent believers. They believed the good news and acted upon it.”

God offers through his Son everything that the soul needs in order to have eternal life: mercy, grace, pardon, peace, and strength from above. A man who owned the only refreshing spring in a dry wasteland would charge a fortune to allow others to drink. But God in his love “will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” (Rev. 21:6). God offers you eternal life as a free gift because of the grace of his generous heart.


Grant Osborne: The section concludes with a challenge to the readers to recognize the difference between those who are faithful and those who are not, that is, to decide whether to be a “conqueror” (21:7) or a “coward” (21:8). . .

In contrast to those who inherit the blessings, the sinners will be cast into the lake of fire (21:8). At first glance, this verse does not belong, for the unbelievers have already been cast into the lake of fire (20:13–15). The key is to realize once more that much of 21:5–8 is addressed to the reader and does not just describe the situation in the new heaven and new earth. As said above, we are to ask ourselves whether we are “overcomers” or “cowards.”

A.  (:7) Incentive to Overcome

  1. Glorious Inheritance

He who overcomes shall inherit these things,

G.K. Beale: V. 7 defines God’s people, the recipients of the new creation promises, as overcomers. Overcomers conquer through refusal to compromise their faith, even though it may cost them their lives (see further on 2:28-29). . .

All the promises made to the overcomers in the letters section (chs. 2 and 3) are fulfilled in this closing section, which describes the new Jerusalem and the eternal reward of the believer:

  • the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God” (2:7 and 22:2),
  • inclusion in the new temple (3:12 and 21:22ff.),
  • participation in “the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God” (3:12 and 21:2, 10),
  • God’s name written on one’s person (3:12 and 22:4),
  • one’s name written in the book of life (3:5 and 21:27),
  • bright garments as a reward (3:5 and 21:2, 9ff.; cf. 19:7-8),
  • a bright stone and a luminary, whether star or lamp (2:17, 28 and 21:11, 18-21, 23; 22:5, 16),
  • consummate reigning with Christ (2:26-27; 3:21 and 22:5),
  • and exclusion from the second death (2:11; 21:7-8).

These blessings are summed up in the one promise of v. 7, I will be his God and he will be My son. This fulfills a prophetic promise given to David for the One who would come from his house, “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me” (2 Sam. 7:14); “He will cry to me, ‘Thou art my Father.’ … I also shall make him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:26). The promise is applied according to the concept of corporate representation by which Christ represents His people.

Craig Keener: In the context of Revelation, overcoming addresses such varied tests as compromise with the world’s values (2:14, 20), dependence on our own strength (3:17), and persecution (2:10); but persecution is the test Revelation particularly emphasizes for the end-time witnesses of Jesus (12:11; 13:7). Jewish texts often speak of inheriting the world to come (21:7), a common figure of speech among early Christians as well (e.g., Matt. 25:34; Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 6:9).  Here the overcomers inherit “all this,” that is, the new and sorrowless world God has prepared for them (Rev. 21:1–6).

  1. Covenant Relationship

and I will be his God and he will be My son.

Craig Keener: The promise that God will be his people’s God and they will be his people is the most basic component of the ancient covenant formula (Gen. 17:8; Ex. 6:7; 29:45; Lev. 11:45; 22:33; 25:38; 26:12, 45; Num. 15:41; Deut. 29:13). The prophets rehearse the same covenant formula (Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 24:7; 30:22; 31:33; 32:38; Ezek. 11:20; 14:11; 36:28; 37:23, 27; Zech. 8:8).  But Revelation slightly adapts it: He will be the overcomer’s God, and the overcomer will be his own child (Rev. 21:7). God had earlier declared Israel his children (Ex. 4:22; Deut. 32:19–20; Hos. 1:10; 11:1), but here in the end time he publicly honors individual believers as his own children (21:7; cf. Matt. 5:9; Rom. 8:19; 1 John 3:2).

B.  (:8) Warning Not to Fall Away

Buist Fanning: After such pledges to the readers to encourage them toward costly perseverance, it would not be right to mention only the positive side (vv. 6d-7) without the negative counterpart (v. 8).  In difficult struggles against evil all around, it always seems easier to yield and escape persecution than to live in faith and obedience.  But a major focus of the “unveiling” that John has received is to see fully the larger reality of the universe, both now and in the future.  The perspective of the present earthly scene is insufficient.  So here as elsewhere (v. 27; also 9:20-21; 22:15) God reveals through John the radical division that divine judgment and redemption will finally bring to all humans.  Over against God’s redeemed who experience his renewal of all creation will be those who resisted him and chose evil instead.  These people and their horrifying eternal fate are described in v. 8, beginning with eight descriptions of characteristic patterns of evil conduct.  For such people, their “part” will be “the lake burning with fire and sulfur” (v. 8), the fate of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet (19:20; 20:14-15).  The further identification of this as “the second death” (cf. 2:11; 20:6, 14) adds to the finality and tragedy of such a fate.  It is to be avoided no matter what suffering or persecution it may cost.

  1. Description = Spiritual Traitors and Spiritual Lawbreakers

a.  Spiritual Traitors

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable

Richard Phillips: The list given to John seems to have two groups, the first of which likely refers to those who had professed faith in Christ but abandoned their confession under worldly pressure or sinful enticement: “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable.” The “cowardly” and “faithless” are not Christians who struggle with fear, but people who betray Christ under pressure. Such a person is the rootless one who Jesus said endures for a little while, but “when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matt. 13:21). Such people do not lose their salvation but reveal by their faithlessness that they had never been saved (see 1 John 2:19). Christians should therefore approach trials with determination, realizing that they test us, both to prove the genuineness of our faith and to purify the faith by which we are saved (1 Peter 1:6–7).

Joined to the cowardly and faithless are “the detestable,” which refers to those who imbibe the perverse practices of the harlot Babylon. This item may not seem to go with the previous two, until we realize that apostates very often become the most virulent haters of Christianity and promoters of the grossest sins. Those who betray Jesus do not abandon the gospel for nothing, but are generally like Paul’s one-time colleague Demas, who was “in love with this present world” and so abandoned Christ (2 Tim. 4:10).

Robert Mounce: In fact, all eight classes of people mentioned in the verse may refer to professing believers who have apostatized (although after the second or third class they apply to pagans as well).

b.  Spiritual Lawbreakers

and murderers and immoral persons

and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars,

Richard Phillips: The remainder of the list involves sinners whose lives characterize the ungodliness of the world: “murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” (Rev. 21:8). These are the kinds of sins that Jesus rebuked in the seven letters of Revelation, calling believers to purge them from their lives and fellowship. Jesus especially demanded a rejection of sexual immorality and idolatry (2:14, 20), although worldly violence, occult practices, and falsehood are also to have no place in the lives of those who are joined to Christ through faith.

Craig Keener: Vice lists were a common literary form in ancient texts, but Revelation tailors this list to specific issues confronting its audience.

  • The “cowardly” may be those who fear persecution (2:10) more than they revere God (11:18; 14:7; 15:4; 19:5).
  • The “unbelieving” are those who prove faithless, unwilling to maintain their faith in the midst of testing (2:13, 19; 13:10; 14:12).
  • The Greek word translated as “vile” (ebdelygmenos) is related to words that refer to “abominations” (17:4–5; 21:27), that which is disgusting before God ( 14:3; 17:1; Prov. 15:9, 26). Most often in the LXX this word applies to two sins: sexual immorality (Lev. 18:22–29; Deut. 22:5; 23:18; 24:4; 1 Kings 14:24; Jer. 13:27; Mal. 2:11) and—by far most frequently—idolatry (over forty times). Those who compromise with the cult of the emperor or other forms of paganism and worldliness fall into the “abominable” or “vile” category.
  • Murderers” (cf. 9:21; 22:15) is a broad designation but includes those who kill God’s saints (2:13; 6:11; 13:10, 15); this may include those who betrayed Christians to the government (2:9; 3:9), who to save oneself refused to love sufficiently to withhold betraying others (cf. 1 John 3:14–16), or who would not meet a fellow Christian’s needs (1 John 3:17). Such murderers will justly suffer the second death (20:14).
  • The “sexually immoral” (cf. 9:21) in Revelation often point to spiritual immorality (2:14, 20; 17:1–2, 5, 15–16; 18:3, 9; 19:2), but unless readers have this in mind, they would suppose it most naturally refers to the notorious literal physical immorality of paganism. In either case, the sexual unfaithfulness of the world’s citizens contrasts sharply with the sexual purity of the bride, the holy city, and her inhabitants (14:4; 19:7–8; 21:2).
  • Those who practice magic arts” (cf. 22:15) translates a word in Revelation that includes the world’s seductive signs (13:13–14) and perhaps even its seductive power (18:23); in the broader sense, it includes any deceptive tools of demons (9:20–21; Gal. 5:20).
  • Idolaters” include all who have succumbed to the demands of the imperial cult or who worshiped the idols of the world system (2:14, 20; cf. 1 John 5:21); they worship the image of the beast ( 13:15).
  • Liars” includes not only false prophets (2:2; cf. 1 John 2:22) like Balaam and Jezebel ( 2:14, 20) but also those who falsely claim to follow the truth (3:9; cf. 1 John 2:4; 4:20), in contrast to the saints (Rev. 14:5).
  1. Destiny = Lake of Fire

their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone,

which is the second death.

G.K. Beale: It is noteworthy that the new creation is what the righteous alone “inherit” (v. 7). The unrighteous, whether pseudo-Christians or the non-Christian world in general, will not inherit the coming new world and therefore will not reside within the borders of the new cosmos. 21:1 – 22:5 shows that the blessing of God’s presence permeates the entire new creation, whereas 21:8 and 27 indicate that God’s judgment is revealed outside the confines of the new world (see also 22:15). Even though the second death is a perfected punishment, those who suffer it do so outside the geography of the new universe, since we have already been told that “there shall no longer be any death … or pain” in the new order of things (v. 4).

G.R. Beasley-Murray: This sure word of judgment is added as a plea to the followers of Christ to make their calling and election sure.  The prophecy of the new world in verses 1-4 is guaranteed by God.  The promise of inheriting the new world is assured to believers by God (vv. 6a-7), and the prospect of exclusion from that new world is equally affirmed b God.  Everything of worth is at stake for the man of God.  Therefore, in the coming contest, one action alone is appropriate: endurance (Mk 13:13).

Sola Scriptura: This verse actually concludes the chronological development of the book of Revelation.  From this point on, the book deals with issues related to the consummation of human history, as we know it.  Having reached eternity, God restates his promise to the righteous and his intent to punish the wicked.