We have seen that the new creation and the new Jerusalem are united in Christ. Christ is the head of the church not only, but also the head of the new creation. And because Christ is the head of all, therefore the new Jerusalem and the new creation are very glorious. In fact, they are so glorious that we cannot even conceive of the glory that shall be. We can only imagine and speak of that glory in earthly terms, as also Scripture does. But sure it is that the new creation will be exceedingly glorious, far more glorious even than the first creation before the fall of man. And as the old creation is earthy, so the new creation will be essentially heavenly. Adam was of the earth, earthy: and so was the old creation. But Christ is the Lord from heaven; and as He is the head of the whole new creation, that creation also will stand forever in heavenly glory.
We further read in this same passage of the book of Revelation that the sea was no more, or, there will be no more sea. This translation, that is, “and there was no more sea,” leaves the impression that there will be no sea at all in the new creation. But for that same reason, and also because the text is more definitely and correctly translated in the Revised Version. The Revised Version, as we already suggested, translates more literally, “and the sea is no more.” This does not refer to the sea of nations, as some have it. For although the sea sometimes has that significance in the book of Revelation and also elsewhere in Scripture, the present context forbids this interpretation. Nor does it necessarily mean that there will be no sea at all in the new creation. And therefore, I prefer the meaning, as also is evident from the context, that the expression means that the old sea is no more. The sea as a barrier between nation and nation, between people and people, the sea as a dangerous element in the present creation will be no more. The sea was originally created without the curse of sin. And therefore the meaning is undoubtedly that in the new heavens and the earth there may be a new sea, but the old sea will be no more. There will no more be a sea that causes separation in the new creation.
And then we read in vs. 2: “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,” etc. Concerning this new Jerusalem, let us note, in the first place, that it is the perfect antitype of the old Jerusalem, the city of God, now, that is, in the new creation, perfected and glorified. Cf. Gal. 4:26; Heb. 11:10, 16; Rev. 3:12. In the first passage we read: “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” And in Heb. 11:10 we read: “For he (that is, Abraham) looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” And in verse 16: “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” And inRev. 3:12 we read the following: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” As to this new Jerusalem, we understand, of course, that we must not think of a literal city. There are indeed those who maintain that it is, who claim that also this description must be taken in a literal sense of the word. However, that is quite impossible. Against this idea is the text itself. Already in this present passage there is an indication that this new Jerusalem is the bride of the Lamb. This is also expressed in verses 9 and 10 of this same chapter. The new Jerusalem and the bride of the Lamb are identical. Now the bride of the Lamb surely is no city in the literal sense of the word. Against this idea is also the development of Jerusalem as it occurs in the Word of God. As shown before, Jerusalem is manifested in a three-fold form. First of all, it was the capital of the old land of Canaan. Secondly, it is also the church of the New Testament in the broadest sense of the word. This is also very plain from Scripture, and I do not have to quote to corroborate this idea. But, in the third place, Jerusalem is also the perfected church, the bride of the Lamb in glory. Hence, Jerusalem is the church triumphant in perfect glory. And if you ask the question why this city is called the new Jerusalem, then we answer, in the first place, that the idea of Jerusalem was that it was the city of God. There God dwelt among His Old Testament people Israel. From there He had communion with them; from there He blessed them with all the blessings of salvation as it was shadowed in the old dispensation. From there He reigned over them and protected them against the enemies that were round about them. But we must remember that the earthly Jerusalem was imperfect. It is true that God dwelt among His people; but He did not dwell in them. The relation in the old dispensation was more or less external. Nor did the presence of God fill the city: He dwelt in the temple, particularly in the most holy place. Hence, in the old dispensation Jerusalem existed only in a typical form. And that typical form was ended through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His death the old Jerusalem passed away, as is evident from the fact that the veil of the temple was rent in twain. And therefore, the new Jerusalem is first of all realized in the church of the New Testament. It is the holy city of the new dispensation. It differs from that of the Old Testament form, first of all, in that it is no city of brick and stone. The believers themselves are the dwelling place of God. In the second place, it differs in that God does not merely dwell among His people, but in them. Through the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ God dwells in their hearts. And therefore, they have spiritual communion, are spiritually blessed. The Lord reigns over them from within. But also this New Testament form of the new Jerusalem is still imperfect: first of all, because the entire church is not filled with God’s presence. There are in the midst of the church as it develops in the world in the line of continued generations unbelievers and hypocrites. Moreover, the communion between God and His people is not perfect: for sin still reigns in their members. Perfectly God dwells only in Christ. And therefore the new Jerusalem is realized ultimately in the perfected church triumphant. That perfect church, that church triumphant, is the perfect city of God. In it is neither unbeliever nor hypocrite. In it there is no sin and no power of evil. The communion between God and His people in the new Jerusalem is perfect. And therefore, we may briefly summarize all that we have said of Jerusalem by the following remarks. First, the new Jerusalem is the perfect antitype of the old Jerusalem, the city of God perfected and glorified. Cf. Gal. 4:26; Heb. 11:16; Rev. 3:12. In the second place, it is the perfected and glorified church, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. In the third place, this new Jerusalem comes out of heaven to dwell on the new earth. In the fourth place, it comes from God as its author. Cf. Heb. 11:10. And finally, it is a holy community, free from sin and consecrated to God, and therefore, beautiful, adorned as a bride for her husband, that is, Christ.
The passage continues by emphasizing the cause of the great blessedness that will be in the new creation, particularly in the new Jerusalem. Thus we read in verse 3: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” This is undoubtedly the principle and the cause of the blessedness in the new Jerusalem. “I heard a great voice,” the apostle says. This great voice, whose author is not mentioned here, expresses emphatically the central idea of the new Jerusalem, “the tabernacle of God is with men.” This idea is further explained in what follows: “He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” The idea of the tabernacle of God is undoubtedly the perfect fellowship of God’s covenant. That covenant with its perfect fellowship of friendship is now fully realized and is the essence of the blessedness of the city of God. This is also the ultimate realization of all prophecy. Thus, for instance, we read in Ezekiel 37:27: “My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The same is truly expressed in Isaiah 25:6-8: “And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.” And almost the entire sixtieth chapter of Isaiah refers to the same thing. We will quote verses 18 and 19: “Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.” We could continue this, as, for instance, in verse 20: “Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.”
In verse 4 we read: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” A state of blessedness results from God’s fellowship with His people that is described here in terms that denote the absence of all suffering and sickness and death. God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: that is, He shall comfort them for all their suffering which they endured while they were in the present world, causing them to inherit the exceeding great reward of heavenly glory. And too, there shall be no more cause for weeping forevermore. And thus the text continues: “And there shall be no more death.” Death is completely and in all its forms and operations swallowed up in victory. Positively, this indicates, of course, that the saints shall live forever in glory with Christ; and they shall reign forevermore. Death can never enter in the new Jerusalem and in the new creation. It follows that there shall be no more sorrow, which means, positively speaking, that there shall be everlasting joy and gladness. There shall be no more crying, but everlasting rejoicing, with songs of gladness. There shall be no more pain, but everlasting well-being and prosperity. For all these—sorrow, crying, pain—are implied in and are the result of death. When death is swallowed up and everlasting life reigns supreme in Christ, none of these shall ever enter into the glory that shall then be revealed. “For the former things are passed away.” This is stated as the reason for the absence of all suffering. The “former things” are the present economy of things since the fall, since sin entered into the world. For then we are under the curse, characterized by death and suffering. And these are now passed away forevermore. And therefore we can shout with the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15:51-57: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”