I would like to conclude this message by giving a further word on Revelation 21:1-8. These eight verses present a clear picture of the new heaven and new earth. These verses may also be considered an outline of Revelation 21 and 22.
Verse 1 says, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the sea is no more.” In eternity past God purposed to have a corporate expression that He might be fully expressed and glorified, and for this purpose He created the heavens, the earth, and mankind. After the millennium, the old heaven and old earth will pass away through fire and be renewed into the new heaven and new earth (2 Pet. 3:10-13), into which the New Jerusalem will come for God’s eternal expression.
Revelation 21:2 speaks of the New Jerusalem. “I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” We have strongly emphasized the fact that the New Jerusalem is a living composition of all the saints redeemed by God throughout all generations. It is the bride of Christ as His counterpart and the holy city as God’s habitation.
Revelation 21:3 and 4 speak not of the New Jerusalem but of the peoples on the new earth. “I heard a loud voice out of the throne, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be His peoples, and God Himself shall be with them. And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain—they shall be no more; for the former things have passed away.” The word peoples in verse 3 indicates that these verses apply not to the saints but to the restored nations on the new earth. As God’s redeemed, we are His unique people (1 Pet. 2:9; Titus 2:14), whereas the restored nations are His peoples, those for whom the kingdom was prepared from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34) but not before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). God Himself will tabernacle among His peoples, even as the Lord, in His incarnation, tabernacled among us (John 1:14). Therefore, we should not misapply these verses in Revelation 21 by applying them to the saints in the New Jerusalem. Verse 4 refers not to the blessings we will enjoy in the New Jerusalem but to the blessings to be enjoyed by the restored nations on the new earth.
If we read Revelation 21:1-8 carefully, we will realize that verse 5 begins a new paragraph and introduces a new subject—the sons of God in eternity. Verses 5 through 7 say, “He who sits upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said, Write, for these words are faithful and true. And He said to me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him who thirsts from the spring of the water of life freely. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be God to him, and he shall be a son to Me.” The word inherit in verse 7 is important, for it indicates that in eternity the sons of God will have an inheritance. However, in verses 3 and 4 there is no indication that the restored nations will have an inheritance.
Verse 7 tells us that the sons of God will inherit “these things.” These things are the spring and the water of life mentioned in verse 6. The spring and the water of life will be our inheritance for our eternal enjoyment.
The one who inherits the spring and the water of life will be a son to God. The sons of God are the components of the New Jerusalem. As such, they are a different category from the peoples, the restored nations.
In 21:7 we have the conclusion of the entire revelation in the New Testament concerning the divine sonship. Ephesians 1:5 says that we were predestinated unto sonship; Romans 8:29, that we, who once were sinners but have been made sons by God, are being conformed to the image of God’s firstborn Son; and Hebrews 2:10, that God is leading many sons into glory. Hence, the New Testament reveals that God’s intention is to produce sons and that the New Jerusalem is the totality of the divine sonship. In Revelation 21:7 we have the concluding word of the revelation in the New Testament concerning the divine sonship.
In 21:8 we have a word concerning the perished in the lake of fire. “But the fearful and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and fornicators and sorcerers and idolators and all the false, their part shall be in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Here we have the third category of people in eternity. The first category consists of the peoples, and God will tabernacle among them. The second category is the sons of God, who constitute the New Jerusalem and who will inherit the spring and the water of life for their enjoyment. The third category is the perished in the lake of fire. Satan, the demons, and all rebellious human beings will be swept into the lake of fire, the universal “trash can.” This means that on the new earth there will be the New Jerusalem, the restored nations surrounding the holy city, and the lake of fire containing all the rebellious ones.
In Revelation 21:1-8 we have a brief and clear presentation of biblical eschatology. Here, in the new heaven and new earth, we see the New Jerusalem composed of God’s sons, the restored nations as the peoples, and the lake of fire. The lake of fire will, in a negative way, show forth God’s righteousness, for all who are in it will suffer God’s righteous judgment. But the New Jerusalem will, in a positive way, show forth God’s holiness and shine with His glory. This is a clear picture of the eschatology in the New Testament.
(Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 254-264), Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)