Revelation Jewish New Testament, JNT, CJNT, David H. Stern

chapter 21
1. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22), for the old heaven and the old earth had passed away, and the sea was no longer there.
2. Also I saw the holy city, New Yerushalayim, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
The sea was no longer there. See 20:13-14&N. Early JNT editions have "There was no longer any sea." The change reflects my conclusion that the author, whose viewpoint is the Land of Israel, is not saying that there will no longer be oceans on the earth but that the Mediterranean Sea will no longer be the Land's western boundary. (Is my being a surfer influencing my exegesis?)

The Bible depicts creation as war. Light conquers darkness (Genesis 1:1-5, Yn 1:1-5), but the sea is allied with the darkness. (This metaphor does not require our text to refer to all the oceans; the Mediterranean suffices.) Therefore the sea has to be contained, limited — this is done on the second day of creation (Genesis 1:6-10; see also Job 38:8-11, Isaiah 27:1, and possibly Isaiah 51:9-52:12). The sea is active in bringing destruction and death through the flood of Noach, an event mentioned five times in the New Testament (Mt 24:37-38, Lk 17:26-27, MJ 11:7, 1 Ke 3:20, 2 Ke 2:5). But the sea is under God's control, as seen most clearly in the Exodus, where God's "strong hand and outstretched arm" turn the Red Sea into a means of salvation for the Israelites, though a means of destruction for the Egyptians. God has promised never again to use water as a means of universal destruction (Genesis 9:11), but equally he has promised that he will use fire for that purpose (2 Ke 3:10-12). The Lake of Fire (20:15) is a fiery sea of eternal destruction; it conquers finally and universally what the Red Sea conquered temporally and locally — namely, sin. Water is powerful, but fire is more powerful; hence Yochanan the Immerser says he immerses in water but another is coming, Yeshua, who will immerse in the Holy Spirit and in fire (Lk 3:16-17).

The holy city, New Yerushalayim, "the Jerusalem above" which "is our mother" (Ga 4:26), "the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God" (MJ 11:10, 16), "the city of the living God, heavenly Yerushalayim" (MJ 12:22&N), the permanent city to come (MJ 13:14), is seen coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband, as described in 21:9-22:5 below. The wedding imagery here, at v. 9 and at 22:17 identifies the New Jerusalem with God's people (compare 19:7-9; also in the New Testament Mt 9:15,25:1-13; Yn 3:27-30; 2C 11:2; Ep 5:21-33; and in the Tanakh Isaiah 54:1-8; Jeremiah 3:1.20; Hosea 1-2). Contrast "the great whore.... Babylon" (17:1,5). 

3. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See! God’s Sh’khinah is with mankind, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and he himself, God-with-them, will be their God (Leviticus 26:11–12; Isaiah 7:14; 8:8, 10; Jeremiah 31:33(34); Ezekiel 37:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18).
This important verse tells the final fulfillment of one of the most frequently repeated covenant promises in the Tanakh, that God will dwell with his people and be their God, with full fellowship restored as in the Garden of Eden. See Genesis 17:7; Exodus 6:7, 29:45; Leviticus 26:11-12 (which is particularly related to this verse); Numbers 15:41; Deuteronomy 29:12(13); 2 Samuel 7:24: Jeremiah 7:23, 11:4, 24:7, 30:22, 31:33(34), 32:38; Ezekiel 11:20, 34:24, 36:28, 37:23, 27; Zechariah 8:8; MJ8:10; and v. 7 below.

"Sh'khinah" and "he will live" translate the Greek words "skeni" ("tent, tabernacle, lodging") and "skenosei" ("he will dwell"); and both are related to the Hebrew word "shakhan" ("to dwell"), from which is derived "Sh'khinah," referring to the glorious manifesting presence of God who can dwell among men (see 7:15N). Thus God will dwell with them, be the Sh 'khinah and the Tabernacle with them, be the glory {kavod = Sh'khinah) in the midst of them (Zechariah 2:9(10)). "But will God indeed dwell with man on earth?" (2 Chronicles 6:18). Yes, he will.
Peoples or "people"; the manuscripts vary. Here are Bruce M. Metzger's remarks on this:

"It is extremely difficult to decide between the reading laoi [peoples], which is supported by [several very important early manuscripts], and the reading laos [people], which is supported by [a larger number of mostly less important sources]. Has the author followed the prophetic Scriptures that consistently speak of the one people of God (e.g., Jeremiah 31:32(33), Ezekiel 37:27, Zechariah 8:8)? In that case, laoi was introduced by copyists who pedantically conformed the word to the preceding autoi [they]. Or [on the other hand], did the author deliberately modify the traditional concept, substituting 'the many peoples of redeemed humanity for the single elect nation, the world for Israel' (Swete)? In that case, laos betrays the hand of the emendator, who conformed the reading to the imagery of the Old Testament. Chiefly on the basis of what was taken to be very slightly superior manuscript evidence a majority of the Committee [who put together the UBS edition of the Greek New Testament] preferred laoi." (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, London & New York: United Bible Societies, 1975, p. 763)

If the correct reading is "peoples," it confirms not only that God "made every nation living on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the limits of their territory and the periods when they would flourish" (Ac 17:26), but that God will save entire non-Jewish peoples, corporately; compare Isaiah 19:25.

God-with-them. This phrase tells us of the consummation of Isaiah 7:14, which foresees that the Messiah is to be called Immanu'el ("God with us"); see Mt 1:23&N. 

4. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will no longer be any death; and there will no longer be any mourning, crying or pain; because the old order has passed away.”
Wipe away every tear... no longer any death, as written at Isaiah 25:8. 

5. Then the One sitting on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new!” Also he said, “Write, ‘These words are true and trustworthy!’”
6. And he said to me, “It is done! I am the ‘A’ and the ‘Z,’ the Beginning and the End. To anyone who is thirsty I myself will give water free of charge from the Fountain of Life.
I am the "A" and the "Z," the Beginning and the End, here and at 22:13. See 1:8N and the last paragraph of 20:11-15N. Compare Ro 11:36&N. Beginning, Greek arche, "beginning, ruler, initiator, beginner," that is, he who stands above and beyond time, who created and rules everything (see 3:14N).

To anyone who is thirsty I myself will give water free of charge from the Fountain of Life. Thirst represents spiritual need, water spiritual satisfaction. Compare Psalm 36:9 ("For with you is the fountain of life"); Proverbs 13:14 ('The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life"), 14:27 ('The fear of Adonai is a fountain of life"); Mt 5:6, 10:42; Yn 4:5-14, 7:37-39; and especially Rv 7:17; 22:1. 17. 

7. He who wins the victory will receive these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.
He who wins the victory. The phrase occurs seven times in Chapters 2-3; see 2:7N, 3:21N. "They defeated him," won the victory over the dragon, "because of the Lamb's blood and because of the message of their witness" (12:11). 

8. But as for the cowardly, the untrustworthy, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those involved with the occult and with drugs, idol-worshippers, and all liars — their destiny is the lake burning with fire and sulfur, the second death.”
See 9:21N and 22:15N.

The judgment of Chapter 20 is one side of a coin; this is the other. The sinless conditions of the Garden of Eden are restored (see last paragraph of 20:11-15N). It is the time when "the creation," which "has been groaning as with the pains of childbirth," will be "set free from its bondage to decay" to "enjoy the freedom accompanying the glory that God's children will have" (Ro 8:19-23). It is the restoration spoken of in Ac 3:21. in which Yeshua "has to remain in heaven until the time comes for restoring everything, as God said long ago, when he spoke through the holy prophets." It is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy:
"Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.
Rather, you will be glad, you will rejoice forever over what I create,
for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy;
and I will rejoice in Jerusalem and take joy in my people —
no longer shall there be heard in her the sound of weeping or crying."
(Isaiah 65:17-19)

The interconnection between new creation and judgment is even clearer in the words of Isaiah 66:22-24:
"For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, are to remain before me, says Adonai, so will your seed and your name remain. And it will come to pass that every new moon and every Shabbat all flesh will come to worship before me, says Adonai. And they will go out and look at the carcasses of the people who rebelled against me, for their worm will not die, and their fire will not be quenched, and all flesh will regard them with disgrace." 

9. One of the seven angels having the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues approached me and said, “Come! I will show you the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb.”
10. He carried me off in the Spirit to the top of a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Yerushalayim, coming down out of heaven from God.
The bride, the wife of the Lamb,... the New Yenishalayim. See v. 2&N. 

11. It had the Sh’khinah of God, so that its brilliance was like that of a priceless jewel, like a crystal-clear diamond.
12. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates; at the gates were twelve angels; and inscribed on the gates were the names of the twelve tribes of Isra’el.
13. There were three gates to the east, three gates to the north, three gates to the south and three gates to the west.
14. The wall of the city was built on twelve foundation-stones, and on these were the twelve names of the twelve emissaries of the Lamb.
Inscribed on the gates were the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.... twelve foundation-stones, and on these were the twelve names of the twelve emissaries of the Lamb (compare Ep 2:20). The twelve tribes of Israel are mentioned in the New Testament at Mt 19:28 and Lk 22:30. where the emissaries are to judge them; at Ac 26:7 as a synonym for the entire Jewish people; at Ya 1:1 in the greeting; and at 7:4-8 above (by name). The twenty-four elders of 4:4 may represent the tribes plus the emissaries. See notes in all these places. Conclusion: there is no Church apart from the Jewish people and no Israel apart from the New Covenant. See related discussions in Ro 11:26aN, Ga 6:16N, and Ep 2:11-13&NN. 

15. The angel speaking with me had a gold measuring-rod with which to measure the city, its gates and its wall.
16. The city is laid out in a square, its length equal to its width. With his rod he measured the city at 1,500 miles, with length, width and height the same.
17. He measured its wall at 216 feet by human standards of measurement, which the angel was using.
18. The wall was made of diamond and the city of pure gold resembling pure glass.
19. The foundations of the city wall were decorated with all kinds of precious stones — the first foundation stone was diamond, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,
20. the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh turquoise and the twelfth amethyst.
Compare the judgment breastplate of the cohen hagadol, which also had twelve different stones. They represented the twelve tribes of Israel, whose judgment Aaron was to "bear on his heart before Adonai continually" (Exodus 28:15-21, 29-30). Also see Isaiah 54:11-12. 

21. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, with each gate made of a single pearl. The city’s main street was pure gold, transparent as glass.
A cubical city 1500 miles on a side — can one imagine it projecting so far from the earth without setting up gravitational and other forces that would destroy it? Gold resembling glass — whatever can that mean? A wall of diamond 216 feet high? On the one hand, the world's largest cut diamond weighs less than 5 ounces; on the other, this wall is minuscule in relation to the city. Each gate made of a single pearl — from what size oyster? It is all a dramatic way of saying that the new heaven and earth and the New Jerusalem are beautiful, valuable, wondrous and glorious beyond anything we can know or imagine. 

22. I saw no Temple in the city, for Adonai, God of heaven’s armies, is its Temple, as is the Lamb.
23. The city has no need for the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s Sh’khinah gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
24. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
25. Its gates will never close, they stay open all day because night will not exist there,
26. and the honor and splendor of the nations will be brought into it.
This section draws on the imagery of Isaiah 60:
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of Adonai has risen upon you.... Nations will walk at your light, and kings at the brightness of your rising.... The wealth of the nations will come to you.... Your gates will be open continually — day and night they will not be shut, so that people can bring you the wealth of the nations, and their kings in procession.... The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the moon give light to you for brightness, but Adonai will be for you an everlasting light, and your God your glory." (Isaiah 60:1-5, 11, 16, 19-20)

The nations (or "Gentiles") will walk by its light. There are not unregenerate nations living outside the city. Rather, as George E. Ladd says in his comment on this verse,

"In the divine consummation, the redeemed will consist of peoples from every nation and tribe and people and tongue (7:9) who will not lose their national identity. John's language means no more than the statements of the prophets: 'and many peoples shall come and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob"' (Isaiah 2:3).... This is the affirmation of the universality of the knowledge of God, as promised in Jeremiah's presentation of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:30-33(31-34))." (Revelation, p. 284) 

27. Nothing impure may enter it, nor anyone who does shameful things or lies; the only ones who may enter are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
See 20:12bN, 22:15N. 

next chapter...