An Examination of
Revelation 21:1-27 and 22:1-6
WHAT IS MEANT BY THE WORDS “A new heaven and a new earth?” What did John mean when he said, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea?” How are we to “spiritually discern” these words? It doesn’t take a Bible Scholar to realize that some of the language in The Revelation is to be taken in a literal sense and some as metaphorical or symbolic language. This principle is true if we were studying a Parable. Taking words in a literal sense and/or in a metaphorical sense does not change the fact they must be “spiritually discerned."
BUT which words do we take as literal
and which ones as metaphorical? If we look back chapter one of
Revelation the Scriptures will help to know the answer. In verse one (1)
we read, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God
The word “signified” tells us that some hidden things or mysteries written in this book are in “SIGN language” and “made known” unto John, while other inspired words are literal and easily understood. For instance in 1:4 we read, “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne –“. John is literal. The seven churches in Asia were literal. God’s grace and peace from Christ which is, and which was, and which is to come is literal. But “the seven Spirits which are before his throne” must be understood in a metaphorical sense. How many Spirits of God are there? Is there literally seven (7) Spirits of God or seven aspects of The Holy Spirit of God? The Holy Spirit of God is ONE with the Godhead, “for these three are one." But in power and demonstration of the presence of Christ IN the seven churches, as in ALL of his churches at the same time (He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches), Christ and the Spirit of God is manifested in complete and perfect harmony.
In Rev 4:5 and 5:6 the “sign language” of the “seven Spirits of God” is enlarged. In 4:5 we read, “And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God." From here we would have to determine what the symbolic language describing the seven Spirits of God means. In 5:6 we read, “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth." Again, from here we would have to determine what the symbolic language describing the seven Spirits of God means. This teaches me that metaphorical language is often, if not always, explained in the Scriptures, either in the same book or elsewhere in other Scriptures. Scripture interprets Scripture. This precept can be confirmed by the fact that the “seven golden candlesticks” (1:13) and the “seven stars” (1:16) are explained in Rev 1:20. There we read, “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” Having said that, it appears to me that literal language has no need for explanation, and stands alone. Of course, some will always try to make the Scriptures mean something other than what they mean, no matter whether the words are literal or metaphorical. That is why Jesus warned against the false doctrine of the Pharisees. This is why Paul warned against Teachers, having itching ears, for “they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
John saw “a new heaven and a new earth - FOR (because) the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” The FIRST heaven and the FIRST earth recorded in Scripture is that which God created. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1). We all should realize that the EARTH that God created in Genesis 1:1 is this earth upon which we all dwell. The same earth that was flooded with water in Genesis 6. God created Adam from the “dust of the earth," so we all dwell in “earthen vessels." But if I understand it correctly, the heaven God created in Genesis 1:1 was not God’s dwelling place, sometimes called heaven in the Scriptures. Since God is eternal, He was dwelling in his dwelling place when He created the “heaven and the earth” in the beginning. In Job we read, “Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!” Hold on to this thought! There is more than one heaven taught in the scriptures. Paul said he knew a man who was “caught up to the third heaven." If there is a third heaven, there must also be a first and a second.
In my opinion, the first heaven God created in Genesis 1:1 is the earth’s ATMOSPHERE, which is AIR that extends about 1,000 miles above the earth. Clouds float around in the lowest part of the atmosphere, which is called the troposphere, and extends upward to about 10 miles above the earth. Above the troposphere, from 10 to 30 miles is the stratosphere, and above the stratosphere is the mesosphere, and above that is the thermosphere. The higher up one goes the thinner the air gets, and above 50 miles the temperature gets extremely hot. At about 1,000 miles above the earth, they say the atmosphere gradually fades into Space, however most experts say space begins about 60 miles above the earth. This First Heaven is by no means the extent of God’s creation – for “God made two great lights; the greater light (the Sun) to rule the day, and the lesser light (the Moon) to rule the night: he made the stars also” (Genesis 1:16). The Sun is about 93 million miles from the earth, and the average distance from the earth to the Moon is 238,857 miles.
BUT the Sun and the Moon is not the extent of God’s creation, for it says “He made the stars also." How many stars are there? No one really knows how many stars there are. They say on a clear, dark night you might be able to see as many as 3,000 stars. They say about 6,000 of the brightest stars can be seen from earth without a telescope. A telescope with a 3 inch lens allows one to see about 600,000 stars, and the powerful telescopes used by astronomers allow them to see millions if not billions. Only a few stars have names given them by man, BUT “God telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (Psalms 147:4-5). HOW FAR above the first heaven and the first earth are the stars? The answer is millions of miles above the earth.
The earth’s weather – rain, snow, wind and storms all take place in the troposphere. In Gen. 1:6-8 we read, And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven." We know that we have water in the firmament which God called Heaven, or in the clouds in the sky (troposphere), from which we get rain and snow, etc. As we read on in Genesis 1:9-10, God said, “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good." So IF we go back to the beginning we find the FIRST heaven and the FIRST earth to be that which God created and we find the SEA of which John said, “and there was no more sea." But is this enough to give us the correct understanding of these words?