BEHOLD I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (Revelation 21:1-2)
The New Earth – The original condition of the earth was affected by the curse of Adam and Eve’s sinful fall (Genesis 3:17–19). Today, the curse continues as even the scientific community generally agrees that the ecology of the earth is suffering due to the poor stewardship of man. The earth still lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19), a daily reminder that many of the earth’s inhabitants are living outside of fellowship with God (Ephesians 2:1, 2).
Various Bible passages (Ezra 47; Joel 3:18, 19; Amos 9:13–15; Zechariah 14:6–9) point to the coming age when the earth will be set free from its bondage to decay, a deliverance for which the whole creation is said to be “groaning” in anticipation (Romans 8:19–23). At that time, “the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Afterwards, when “the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea,” John looked up and saw “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).(1) It will be so wonderful that the “former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).(2)
Very little information has been provided about this new earth. There is, however, one curious fact. There will no longer be any sea. No other descriptions are given concerning the new earth, and nothing is known of its characteristics, its vegetation, color, or form. What few other references that are found in the Scripture (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; and 2 Peter 3:10–13) reveal no other details.(3) Perhaps it is sufficient to look back at the description of the earth in its original state in Genesis before for fall?
The reference to no more sea could also be a symbolic reference to the removal of evil and chaos (compare Genesis 1:2). It may also be meant to unify the earth’s inhabitants that were separated after the flood and the tower of Babel.(4) A literal view would correspond with ancient Jewish interpretations of Isaiah 65:17, which mentions heaven and earth but does not mention the sea. The symbolic view is seen by some as a reference to the evil powers earlier in Revelation 13:1.(5) If no more sea is taken literally, it does not necessarily mean no more water. It could simply indicate that the new earth will have a different arrangement as far as water is concerned. While today three fourths of our globe consist of water, this may not be the case in the eternal state. In John’s day, the sea meant danger, storms, and separation (John himself was on an island at the time separated from his flock). Thus, if taken symbolically John was giving us more than a geography lesson on the new earth.(6)
Up Next – The New Jerusalem.
- Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 647). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
- Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1547). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
- Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 983). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 21:1). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 21:1). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 622). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.