Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (Rev. 21:1)
There is much to think about…so much that is packed in that little word “then.” Most immediately, the apostle John is transitioning from multiple chapters describing God’s end-time judgment on the unbelieving world. Plagues and fire, hail and famine, bowls of God’s wrath poured out upon the world that has rejected His salvation. So the word then moves John’s readers from the horrors of the final Judgment Day to the glories of eternal life in heaven with God.
But the little word “then” also takes us back much further in time…to the beginning. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” the Bible begins. There, in that garden of matchless beauty, God lived with man. He walked with them in the Garden of Eden. He was their joy because He was their God.
But something awful happened.
Under the influence of Satan, the great deceiver, Adam and Eve chose their own way instead of God’s way. They chose to worship their own desires instead of worshipping God with all their heart, mind, and soul. Before Satan intruded into the garden, man and woman enjoyed harmony with God. But it didn’t last long. The great deceiver moved in closer to trick Adam and Eve into questioning God’s integrity and goodness. It worked. They fell for it. Man and woman betrayed God, and their relationship with God changed forever. It went from peace and joy to separation and sorrow.
But God . . . !
But God made a sacrifice which took care of their sin. He restored them. He then gave a promise, hidden within the curse he pronounced against Satan. One day, the promised Child would come to defeat the devil (Genesis 3:14–15; Revelation 12:9). Knowing this, the devil worked overtime to destroy the genetic line of Messiah. The unfolding of the story of redemption is then the main subject of the Bible. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 21, God progressively reveals the glory of the Savior while Satan does everything in his power to prevent the inevitable victory that was planned by God.
Throughout the Old Testament, God works in and through His chosen people. Through their faith, as well as their unfaithfulness and rebellion, God remains faithful to His promise. The patriarchs embraced the promise of God, and they walked by faith. Though they repeatedly failed and sinned, God’s grace triumphed over their sin. God kept His promise. The prophets were God’s messengers, at times bringing God’s rebuke to His people, warning them to repent. But through it all, they also continually reminded the people of God that the final victory of eternal redemption would be accomplished. And, so, everything that occurred between Genesis 3:1 and Revelation 20:15 is packed into the little word that opens Revelation 21, “then.” The apostle John continues…
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev. 21:2-5)
God will make all things new. This is seen in three promises we may draw from these verses.
- God will remake the heavens and the earth (vv. 1-2).
- God will reside with believers forever (v. 3)
- God will replace all grief with the joy of His presence (vv. 4-5).
These are promises that you may hold tightly if you know Jesus Christ (see Revelation 21:22-27).
There are multitude ways that the truth of this chapter could be applied to your life. But let me simply draw your attention to one that I believe will minister deeply to your heart and soul.
In your suffering, look to the surpassing glory that awaits you in the presence of our Savior. There we will live together . . . with God . . . forever, just imagine! There, in the city of God, all believers will dwell with the Lamb who is worthy of eternal worship because he was slain. By his blood he “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). Life with God, which began in the garden of Eden, will be restored in another garden. This time it will be a heavenly one. The curse will be reversed! Glory will be restored.
This is the Bible’s big story—the story of God’s redemption of helpless and unworthy sinners, at great cost, to more fully display his glory, and to share it with us once again. Blissful joy and peace will return, for “the dwelling place of God [will be] with man . . . and God himself will be with them.” What glory that will be!