So often we think of God creating a new heaven and a new earth and we have the impression of time. We think these simply follow the old ones chronologically, but the reality is these are new in the sense of quality. The Heaven and Earth God wants to create is something completely different from what we have now.
Isaiah 65:17–25 NRSV
For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:42–50 NRSV
So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Genesis 1:1–3 NRSV
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
Questions to Consider
Why is the sea not present?
What is the meaning of “new”?
What is special about the New Jerusalem descending to sit on a high Mountain?
What is the Water of Life? What is the incoherence?
Most people approaching this passage never think to ask what the word “new” means. Why is it that God creates a new heaven and new earth? to understand we must think about the first creation (Genesis 1:1) and the idea that Eden was place where God could interact freely with humanity. When humanity sinned they were forced out of the place where God communed intimately with them and confined to a new world. Since that point, God has worked to overcome the breach and restore the communion. Revelation 21 is a picture of this communion restored. When we think about Revelation 21 we must think about it in terms of not simply a new world that follows this world in time but something completely new and different which restores the intimacy God always wanted. The New Jerusalem is on the highest mountain as a symbol that it is halfway between God and humanity. The geography represents a place that provides complete access to God. The sea is not present because the turbulence of the the sea represents the presence of chaos in the world. There is not much we can say about what the New Heavens and New Earth look like based on this passage, but they will be completely different from anything we know, chaos will be absent and God will be more present than we can currently understand. Reflecting on this passage I ask what is the newness we are meant to expect. “New” means that we cannot understand it but we can try, what does this new land look like in my imagination. Also, am I living in anticipation of this day or am I content with this current world full of sin and death. How do I push myself to be ready for this new earth?