A New Heaven and Earth
A new heaven and earth appears
The old has passed away (II Peter 3:7-13). Along with its passing, the sea no longer exists. This refers to the crystal sea that separated people from God (Revelation 4:6; 15:2). The people are no longer separated from.
The bride comes from heaven and is called the new Jerusalem. It was mentioned earlier in Revelation 3:12. Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, but it is replaced by the church in this age (Galatians 4:25-26; Hebrews 12:22). Here there is no lasting city (Hebrews 13:14), but the new Jerusalem from heaven will be different. The city is personified as a bride, being pure (Ephesians 5:25-27).
God announces that no longer will He be separate from men. That separation which started with the sin of Adam is now at an end. All the consequences of sin are removed because sin is gone. Death no longer exists -- it was destroyed (Revelation 20:14). Because of what people have overcome God brings them comfort. The past is now gone and the inheritance is given (Matthew 19:29; 25:34; Hebrews 1:14).
The rest, those caught up in sin, will suffer the second death.
The new Jerusalem is revealed
The vision shifts from a beautiful bride to a holy city. John gets a bird’s eye view, much like Moses seeing the promised land. Since God is light and the city is holy, everything used to describe the city is bright and clear. There is no shadow of darkness here. Nothing is separated from the glory of God.
There are twelve gates, three in each direction, like the city in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 48:30-35). However, it is also different from Ezekiel’s vision. Then gates in Ezekiel’s vision were for exiting the city. The gates in John’s vision is for entering the city (II Peter 1:11).
The city is founded on the twelve apostles, represented by twelve foundation stones (Ephesians 2:19-22).
John is invited to measure the city. Earlier he measured the temple, the church, with an ordinary reed (Revelation 11:1). Now he is given a golden reed to measure the holy city. The size is staggering: 12,000 furlongs in length, depth, and height. A furlong is 1/8 of a mile, thus each dimension of the city is 1,500 miles or half-way across the United States, and that includes its height. The wall is 144 cubits (about 218 feet) in height. Huge, but insignificant in comparison to the city. It is not a defensive wall because all enemies have been destroyed.
The beauty of the city is hard to fathom (I Corinthians 2:9), but it makes a strong contrast to the ugly beauty of the great harlot (Revelation 18:18).
The gates of the city never close. Again emphasizing that there is no need for defense when there are no enemies. No sin can enter the city.
Inside the city
A river of living water flows from the throne of God. This goes back to Jesus’ discussions while he was on earth (John 4:10-11; 7:38). It is unpolluted and gives life to those who drink from it. The image is similar to rivers seen by Old Testament prophets (Ezekiel 47:1-12; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 14:8).
Lining the banks of the river is the tree of life. The phrase is awkward in Greek because it is a singular tree, but appearing on both sides of the river, indicating easy access to the tree. The tree of life was removed from mankind when they sinned (Genesis 2:9; 3:22). Thus, the lost paradise of the Garden of Eden has been restored to man.
Lifted, too, are the curses on man. Curses bound judgment on man because of sin (Genesis 3:14-19). This is alluded to in Zechariah 14:11. God’s face is no longer hidden from us ( I John 3:2).
This is a city and a kingdom without end.