Yesterday, we were reminded that Christianity does not teach the dissolution of the physical world. The Christian’s final, eternal state will not be an ethereal reality in which wispy souls float through the clouds without bodies. Instead, there will be a cosmic renewal. Our bodies will be resurrected and reunited with our souls to dwell forever in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 20:11–15). Today’s passage describes this corporeal reality in great detail.
Revelation is an apocalyptic work, and so it contains many rich symbols and imagery. Whether or not all its images are to be taken as literal descriptions is debatable, but the most important lessons we learn are taken from the reality to which these symbols point. The first thing we notice is that in the new heavens and new earth the sea is “no more” (21:1). This might make little sense to us until we remember that the ocean was viewed by the ancients as a place of destruction and chaos. Israel never developed a thriving sea trade, and her enemies, the Philistines, ruled the coastlands. To be rescued from the waters was the great desire of the psalmist (Ps. 18:16–17). When John tells us there will be no sea, he is telling us that there will be no destruction there. God’s terrible judgment and wrath will not be upon those granted a place in His eternal kingdom.
We also read in Revelation 21:4 of the absence of tears. All of us grow sorrowful at times and need to be comforted. However, even when our tears are dried in this life, we know that sadness will bring them to us again. But when the Lord wipes away our tears in the new heavens and earth, they are gone forever. Perhaps we will shed tears of joy, but the tears of sorrow will be gone forever as there will be no pain, sickness, death, or any other tragedy to make us mourn.
In the new heavens and earth there will be a new Jerusalem (vv. 9–14). Note the dimensions of the city are a perfect cube (vv. 15–16), which is important because the Holy of Holies in the temple was also a cube (2 Chron. 3:8). Plainly, John is telling us that in the new Jerusalem we will have unhindered access to the Lord Almighty. It is there we will see His face (Rev. 22:4).