We live in a world where everything “new” soon becomes old. New cars scratch and rust. New shoes wear out. Fresh bread gets stale. Today’s smartphones are outdated in a few years. New toys are eventually relegated to donation boxes or trash bins. Consumers still clamor for the trending product and the newest model, recognizing that the latest item will soon lose its luster. We purchase insurance and extended warranties to protect our investments and guard against loss.
The Scriptures offer a sober assessment of our world and our lives east of Eden: moth and rust destroy, thieves steal, everything is subject to decay, we are dust and return to the dust (Genesis 3:19; Psalm 90:3; Ecclesiastes 3:20; Matthew 6:19; Romans 8:21). Yet according to God’s promise we also long for a new world “in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
At the culmination of the biblical canon, the prophet John sees “a new heaven and a new earth” and “new Jerusalem” and hears God Almighty say, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:1–5). These statements draw deeply from the well of Old Testament prophecies, such as Isaiah 43:18–19 and 65:17–19. Revelation does not explain in detail how the old heaven and earth give way to the new; instead, this prophecy focuses on the reality of the Creator God’s purposes to renew, restore, and rectify everything.
Note that God does not merely make new things to replace what is old, broken, and obsolete; he makes all things to be new. This promise of new creation transcends our current categories of temporary newness, revealing a new kind of newness that never wears out or breaks down. The Alpha and Omega makes all things to be new and stay ever new.
Woes That Will End
Consider several aspects of this coming new creation to strengthen your resolve to endure this world’s troubles as we long for “a better country — a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).1
No More Trouble
The fourfold emphasis on what is “new” in Revelation 21:1–5 contrasts with the “first” or “former things,” which “have passed away” and shall be “no more.” These former troubles include death, mourning, crying, and pain (21:4), all universal realities for humanity after sin and death entered the world in Genesis 3. This fulfills Old Testament promises such as Isaiah 25:8: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”
No More Curse
Further, no longer will there be “any curse” in the new creation (Revelation 22:3 NIV). This alludes to Zechariah 14:11 (CSB): “Never again will there be a curse of complete destruction. So Jerusalem will dwell in security.” Zechariah 14:9–12 stresses the safety of God’s people when the Lord is king over all the earth and strikes all his foes. Revelation 22 closely links the removal of the curse to believers’ restored access to the tree of life, which signifies eternal life in fellowship with God. The tree’s leaves provide “healing of the nations,” who will walk by the Lamb’s light and bring their splendor into the holy city (Revelation 21:24; 22:2; cf. Isaiah 60:3; Zechariah 14:16). There will be no curse in the new Jerusalem because God will fully reverse humanity’s plight since our plummet into sin.
No More Threats
Finally, the prophet highlights the absence of the sea and of night from the new creation (Revelation 21:1; 22:5). Unlike death, tears, and curse that are passing away, the sea and night are present in God’s original good creation (Genesis 1:5, 10). However, within the book of Revelation the sea is consistently linked with evil power and ungodliness. The devil temporarily exerts his great wrath on the earth and the sea, which together represent the first creation (Revelation 12:12). The blasphemous beast arises from the sea and receives the dragon’s power (Revelation 13:1–2; cf. Daniel 7:3).
“The absence of sea in the new creation signifies that God will finally remove every threat to his redeemed people.”
The sea is also associated with the dead (Revelation 20:13) and with the idolatrous trade of the wicked city, Babylon the Great, which emulates the commercial powerhouse Tyre in the Old Testament (Revelation 18:17, 19; cf. Ezekiel 26–27). John’s reference to the sea may also recall the exodus, when the Lord parted the waters to allow Israel to pass safely then hurled Egypt’s army into the sea (Exodus 14:22, 27). The absence of sea in the new creation signifies that God will finally remove every threat to his redeemed people.
No More Night
The Scriptures regularly associate “night” with darkness, lamentation, sin, and judgment. For example, God sends plagues of darkness against Egypt and the beast’s kingdom (Exodus 10:21–22; Revelation 16:10), and there is darkness throughout the land when Jesus is crucified (Mark 15:33). There is no night in John’s vision of the new creation because the dazzling glory of God and the Lamb will so illumine the New Jerusalem that no other lights will be necessary — including the sun (Revelation 21:23; 22:5; cf. Isaiah 60:19). Moreover, the city’s gates remain open as a picture of comprehensive safety and security since no enemies remain to threaten God’s people under cover of darkness (Revelation 21:25; Isaiah 60:11).
God with Us
Central to the hope of the new creation is God’s enduring presence with the saints. Throughout the Old Testament, God promises to dwell with Israel. For example:
I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. (Leviticus 26:11–12)
My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Ezekiel 37:27)
“Central to the hope of the new creation is God’s enduring presence with the saints.”
Revelation 21:3 announces the fulfillment of this promise: “Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God” (CSB). The phrase “his peoples” (plural) alters the customary reference to God’s singular “people,” perhaps reflecting the prophecy in Zechariah 2:11–12: “many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst.”
The point is that God will not simply dwell among one ethnic group but among those from all peoples who are purchased and purified by the blood of the Lamb to declare his praises forever (Revelation 5:9). God’s “dwelling place” (ESV) or “tabernacle” (NASB) is finally, fully, and forever in the midst of his covenant people.
Revelation 21:9–27 describes the glorious new Jerusalem as God’s redeemed people — the Bride of the Lamb — and as the everlasting temple-city, the place where God lives among his people. This vision fulfills Old Testament prophecies about the glory of redeemed Zion (Isaiah 60) and the end-time temple of God (Ezekiel 40–48).
In the new creation, God will dwell among his people forever (Revelation 21:3; 22:1–5). God and the Lamb will supply the saints with everlasting life and continuous light. Every threat and impediment to perfect fellowship between God and his people will be removed, and we will behold his face and worship him forever as priestly kings.
Preview of Coming Attractions
This vision of new creation satisfies our longings for final salvation from the effects of Adam’s sin, for a lasting home in the holy city, and for a God-glorifying vocation as priests and rulers. Revelation’s picture of the renewed world is truly captivating not because of its golden streets or jeweled walls but because we will have the “one thing” that believers have always longed for: to dwell in God’s glorious presence, gazing on his beauty and seeking him in his temple that will fill the new Jerusalem (Psalm 27:4).
As Andrew Peterson sings, “Do you feel the world is broken? . . . Do you feel the shadows deepen? . . . Do you wish that you could see it all made new?” Indeed, we do. Or as Isaac Watts sang, we long to see God’s “blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
We long to see God’s kingdom come and his will done on earth as in heaven (Matthew 6:10). We long for the redemption of our bodies and the renovation of our world (Romans 8:21–23). Revelation strengthens our weary hearts with God’s sure promise, “I am making all things new.” New and ever new, with no more sin or sorrow, death or decay.
God will surely make all things new, and he has already begun that new creation work in his people: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Creator has shined saving light in our hearts so that we might see his glory in the face of Christ, and we now have this treasure in clay jars (2 Corinthians 4:6–7). In other words, we have an advance on the glories of the new Eden in the midst of the present world that is passing away, a preview of coming attractions. The renovation of the hearts and lives of God’s people now anticipates the coming renewal and restoration of all things. Lord, hasten the day when our faith will be sight.
For an expanded treatment of the new creation in Revelation, see Brian J. Tabb, All Things New: Revelation as Canonical Capstone, NSBT 48 (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019), chap. 9. ↩