Saying Goodbye to the Former Things
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:4).- Revelation 21:1–22:5
Heaven, as the place where our spirits will enjoy God’s presence between our deaths and Christ’s return, will one day give way to a new creation. As Christians, we do not confess the dissolution of the physical world but rather its transformation. Our existence as disembodied souls in heaven is only an intermediate state, for one day our bodies will be resurrected, our spirits will be joined to them again, and we will live forever in the new heaven and earth described in Revelation 21:1–22:5.
As an apocalyptic work, the book of Revelation features rich imagery that unveils the reality to come. We can debate the degree to which the symbols in Revelation are literal depictions of the world to come, but there is no doubt that the final state awaiting us is more incredible than we can imagine. Let us first consider the fact that John describes the sea as being “no more” in the new heaven and earth (21:1). The ancient Jews saw the ocean as a place of chaos and destruction. The Philistines, Israel’s great enemies during the period of the judges and the early monarchy, came from beyond the sea and ruled the coastlands. Psalmists such as David hoped for rescue from the waters (Ps. 18:16–17; 69:1; 124:1–5). That there will be no sea in the new heaven and earth means that there will be no destruction or divine judgment and wrath for those who are citizens of God’s kingdom.
All of the tragic things that presently characterize life in this fallen world will have passed away in the new heaven and earth. Revelation 21:4 reveals that there will be no more tears. Our Creator will wipe away our tears, and there will be no sadness, pain, sickness, violence, or any other tragedy that causes us to mourn. If there are any tears at all, they will be tears of joy, for as John says about our dwelling place in the new creation, “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” (v. 27).
In the new heaven and earth, we will also live in a new Jerusalem shaped like a perfect cube (vv. 9–16). This detail is significant because the Holy of Holies in the old covenant temple was also a perfect cube, and Ezekiel foresaw that the new temple would be a perfect cube (2 Chron. 3:8; Ezek. 41:4). In other words, our home, the new Jerusalem, will be the new Holy of Holies. Our access to the Lord will be unhindered, unlike under the old covenant in which only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies. We will see God’s face, which is the greatest but as-yet-unfulfilled blessing of the new covenant (Rev. 22:4).
The Bible depicts the vision of God’s face as the supreme blessing of salvation (Num. 6:22–27; 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2). We can hardly envision what seeing our Lord’s countenance will be like, but it will be far more wonderful than the most glorious reality we can imagine. When we see God face-to-face, we will be enraptured with His beauty that will consume us for eternity and never bore us. May we long for that day and let that hope shape us in all the years to come.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 13:12