THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH
Verse 21:1 says, "And 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." Here again, from a distance, we are standing opposite to Genesis. In Genesis 1, the heaven and the earth are the original heaven and earth, but in this verse we have a new heaven and a new earth. In Genesis there was the sea, but in this verse the sea is no more.
Verse 2 continues, "And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." In chapter nineteen there is a declaration that the marriage of the Lamb has come and His wife has made herself ready. But in this chapter, the New Jerusalem is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. This is the actuality. There are many declarations in Revelation, but the most important declaration is Revelation 11:15. According to the order of occurrence, the rapture of the man-child and the casting down of the dragon from heaven take place after this declaration. Then how can the words, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ," be spoken at this time? It is possible because this declaration was made at the beginning of things, not at the point of their accomplishment. This means that a turning point has come. When there is a definite turn towards God’s eternal purpose, God can make such a declaration in heaven. In chapter nineteen God makes another declaration, saying that the marriage of the Lamb has come and that His wife has made herself ready. This declaration is also made at the starting point of events which are about to occur. Because before Him the overcomers represent the bride and because this group of people is ready in His sight, God is able to declare that the marriage of the Lamb has come and His wife has made herself ready. However, the "has come" is fully realized in the new heaven and the new earth. In Revelation 21:2, John actually saw the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. At that time the bride was truly ready in every sense. This is not merely the readiness declared in chapter nineteen, but the readiness in actual fact.
Now we must turn back to read Ephesians 5:26 and 27. "That He might sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing of the water in the word, that He might present the church to Himself glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that she would be holy and without blemish." "That He might present the church to Himself" is fulfilled in Revelation 21. Now, before God, the bride is ready to be presented to the Lord. "Prepared as a bride" is no longer difficult to comprehend. By the end of the kingdom age, the whole church will be brought to this place. What we fail to see today will be fully seen in that day. Today we may say that God’s standard for the church is high and ask how the church will ever attain to such a condition. We may not know how God will do it, but we do know that the church will attain to that position at the time of the new heaven and new earth. Some may think that the church will reach the stage of Ephesians 5 before the age of the kingdom. However, the Lord did not say this. The church will not arrive at that place until Revelation 21. At the time of the new heaven and new earth, there will not be just a group of saints who are perfected, but all the saints, the whole Body, from all the nations throughout all the ages. They will all be together before God and glorified in His presence.
Revelation 21:3 says, "And I heard a loud voice out of the throne, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will tabernacle with them, and they will be His peoples, and God Himself will be with them and be their God." This verse reveals what it will be like in the new heaven and new earth. The new heaven and new earth are in the eternal blessing, and positive blessing is spoken of here. This verse is followed by statements that say there will be no more of this and no more of that. These are the negative aspects, not the positive aspects. What is the positive and eternal blessing? It is that God will be with us. The presence of God is the blessing. All that the Scriptures have ever said about the blessing in eternity is summed up in these words, "God Himself will be with them." The severest suffering is to be without God’s presence. But all of the enjoyment in eternity will be God’s presence. The blessing of that day, is nothing other than God being with us. Solomon once said, "Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?" (1 Kings 8:27). The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, but we may say that the New Jerusalem can contain Him. God dwells in the New Jerusalem, and God’s throne is established there.
(The Glorious Church, Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)