A New Heaven and a New Earth
1. What does John describe when the angel takes him back to the beginning of the Thousand Year Reign?
THIS glorious vision continues to unfold as the angel takes John back to the beginning of the Thousand Year Reign. What does he describe? “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more.” (Revelation 21:1) A captivating panorama comes to view!
2. (a) How was Isaiah’s prophecy about new heavens and a new earth fulfilled upon the restored Jews in 537 B.C.E.? (b) How do we know that there will be a further application of Isaiah’s prophecy, and how is this promise fulfilled?
2 Hundreds of years before John’s day, Jehovah had said to Isaiah: “For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart.” (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22) This prophecy was initially fulfilled when faithful Jews returned to Jerusalem in 537 B.C.E. after their 70-year exile in Babylon. In that restoration, they formed a cleansed society, “a new earth,” under a new governmental system, “new heavens.” The apostle Peter, however, pointed to a further application of the prophecy, saying: “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) John now shows that this promise is fulfilled during the Lord’s day. “The former heaven and the former earth,” Satan’s organized system of things with its governmental structure influenced by Satan and his demons, will pass away. The turbulent “sea” of wicked, rebellious mankind will cease to exist. In its place will be “a new heaven and a new earth”—a new earthly society under a new government, God’s Kingdom.—Compare Revelation 20:11.
3. (a) What does John describe, and what is New Jerusalem? (b) How does New Jerusalem ‘come down out of heaven’?
3 John continues: “I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2) New Jerusalem is the bride of Christ, made up of the anointed Christians who remain faithful to death and who are raised to become kings and priests with the glorified Jesus. (Revelation 3:12; 20:6) Just as earthly Jerusalem became the seat of government in ancient Israel, the magnificent New Jerusalem and her Bridegroom make up the government of the new system of things. This is the new heaven. The ‘bride comes down out of heaven,’ not literally, but in the sense of directing attention to the earth. The Lamb’s bride is to be his loyal helpmeet in operating a righteous government over all mankind. A blessing indeed for the new earth!
4. What promise does God make that is similar to the one he made to the newly formed nation of Israel?
4 John tells us further: “With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them.’” (Revelation 21:3) When Jehovah made the Law covenant with the then new nation of Israel, he promised: “I shall certainly put my tabernacle in the midst of you, and my soul will not abhor you. And I shall indeed walk in the midst of you and prove myself your God, and you, on your part, will prove yourselves my people.” (Leviticus 26:11, 12) Now Jehovah is making a similar promise to faithful humans. During the thousand-year Judgment Day, they will become a very special people to him.
5. (a) How will God reside with mankind during the Millennial Reign? (b) How will God reside among mankind after the Thousand Year Reign?
5 During the Millennial Reign, Jehovah will “reside” among mankind in a temporary arrangement, he being represented by his royal Son, Jesus Christ. At the end of the Thousand Year Reign, however, when Jesus hands the Kingdom over to his Father, no royal representative or intercessor will be needed. Jehovah will reside spiritually with “his peoples” in a permanent and direct way. (Compare John 4:23, 24.) What a lofty privilege for restored humanity!
6, 7. (a) What grand promises does John disclose, and who will enjoy the blessings? (b) How does Isaiah describe a paradise that is both spiritual and physical?
6 John goes on to say: “And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Once again, we are reminded of earlier inspired promises. Isaiah also looked forward to the time when death and mourning would be no more and grief would be replaced by exultation. (Isaiah 25:8; 35:10; 51:11; 65:19) John now confirms that these promises have a wonderful fulfillment during the thousand-year Judgment Day. First the great crowd will enjoy the blessings. “The Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne,” continuing to shepherd them, “will guide them to fountains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9, 17) But eventually all those who are resurrected and exercise faith in Jehovah’s provisions will be there with them, enjoying a paradise that is both spiritual and physical.
7 “At that time,” says Isaiah, “the eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the deaf ones will be unstopped.” Yes, “at that time the lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness.” (Isaiah 35:5, 6) At that time, too, “they will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating. For like the days of a tree will the days of my people be; and the work of their own hands my chosen ones will use to the full.” (Isaiah 65:21, 22) So they will not be uprooted from the earth.
8. What does Jehovah himself say with regard to the reliability of these grand promises?
8 What magnificent foregleams fill our minds as we meditate on these promises! Wondrous provisions are in store for faithful mankind under heaven’s loving government. Are such promises too good to be true? Are they just the dreams of an old man exiled on the island of Patmos? Jehovah himself answers: “And the One seated on the throne said: ‘Look! I am making all things new.’ Also, he says: ‘Write, because these words are faithful and true.’ And he said to me: ‘They have come to pass! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.’”—Revelation 21:5, 6a.
9. Why can these future blessings be viewed as absolutely certain of realization?
9 It is as though Jehovah himself were signing for faithful mankind a guarantee, or title deed, to these future blessings. Who would dare question such a Guarantor? Why, so certain are these promises of Jehovah that he speaks as though they were already fulfilled: “They have come to pass!” Is not Jehovah “the Alpha and the Omega . . . , the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty”? (Revelation 1:8) Indeed he is! He himself declares: “I am the first and I am the last, and besides me there is no God.” (Isaiah 44:6) As such, he can inspire prophecies and fulfill them in every detail. How faith strengthening! So he promises: “Look! I am making all things new”! Rather than questioning whether these marvels will really happen, surely we should be wondering: ‘What do I personally have to do to inherit such blessings?’
“Water” for the Thirsty Ones
10. What “water” does Jehovah offer, and what does it stand for?
10 It is Jehovah himself who declares: “To anyone thirsting I will give from the fountain of the water of life free.” (Revelation 21:6b) To quench that thirst, a person has to be conscious of his spiritual need and be willing to accept “the water” that Jehovah provides. (Isaiah 55:1; Matthew 5:3) What “water”? Jesus himself answered that question when witnessing to a woman beside a well in Samaria. He told her: “Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” That “fountain of the water of life” flows from God through Christ as his provision for restoring mankind to perfection of life. Like the Samaritan woman, how eager we should be to drink deep from that fountain! And like that woman, how ready we should be to drop mundane interests in favor of telling others the good news!—John 4:14, 15, 28, 29.
The Ones Conquering
11. What promise does Jehovah make, and to whom do the words first apply?
11 Those who drink of that refreshing “water” must also conquer, as Jehovah goes on to say: “Anyone conquering will inherit these things, and I shall be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:7) This promise is similar to the promises found in the messages to the seven congregations; hence, these words must apply in the first place to anointed disciples. (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21) Christ’s spiritual brothers throughout the ages have eagerly anticipated the privilege of being part of New Jerusalem. If they conquer, as Jesus conquered, their hopes will be realized.—John 16:33.
12. How will Jehovah’s promise at Revelation 21:7 be fulfilled toward the great crowd?
12 The great crowd out of all nations also look to this promise. They too must conquer, loyally serving God until they come out of the great tribulation. Then they will enter into their earthly inheritance, ‘the kingdom prepared for them from the founding of the world.’ (Matthew 25:34) These and others of the Lord’s earthly sheep who pass the test at the end of the thousand years are called “holy ones.” (Revelation 20:9) They will enjoy a sacred and filial relationship with their Creator, Jehovah God, as members of his universal organization.—Isaiah 66:22; John 20:31; Romans 8:21.
13, 14. To inherit God’s grand promises, what practices must we resolutely avoid, and why?
13 With this grand prospect in view, how important it is that Jehovah’s Witnesses now remain clean from the defiling things of Satan’s world! We need to be strong, resolute, and determined that the Devil will never drag us down into the company that Jehovah himself here describes: “But as for the cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.” (Revelation 21:8) Yes, the would-be inheritor has to avoid the practices that have befouled this old system of things. He has to conquer by remaining faithful in the face of all pressures and temptations.—Romans 8:35-39.
14 Christendom, though she claims to be the bride of Christ, is characterized by the disgusting practices that John here describes. So she goes down to eternal destruction with the rest of Babylon the Great. (Revelation 18:8, 21) Likewise, any of the anointed or of the great crowd who take up the practice of such evildoing, or start encouraging it, face everlasting destruction. If they persist in these actions, they will not inherit the promises. And in the new earth, any who try to introduce such practices will be destroyed speedily, going into the second death without hope of a resurrection.—Isaiah 65:20.
15. Who are outstanding as conquerors, and with what vision is Revelation brought to a sublime climax?
15 Outstanding as conquerors are the Lamb, Jesus Christ, and his bride of 144,000, New Jerusalem. How fitting, then, that Revelation should be brought to a sublime climax by a final, transcendent view of New Jerusalem! John now describes one last vision.
[Pictures on page 302]
In the new earth society, there will be joyful work and fellowship for all