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In Revelation 21:1, John writes:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

And in 21:2, he continues:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

What is the relationship between these two visions? Are they meant to be mutually interpretive as two visions describing the same thing but from two perspectives? Are they two separate visions? Or is the vision of the holy city a single (notable) aspect within the vision of the new heaven and new earth?

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I think its all one vision there: There was a new heaven and new earth, and a new Jerusalem descended from the new heaven to the new earth. –  david brainerd Jun 10 at 4:18

3 Answers 3

Revelation 21:1-8 belongs to a complex vision "block" that begins at some point in chapter 19 (v. 11? v. 1? hard to say), and continues into ch. 22. How are the acts of "seeing" which are found in 21:1-2 related to each other?

1 [NA28] Καὶ εἶδον οὐρανὸν καινὸν καὶ γῆν καινήν. ὁ γὰρ πρῶτος οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ πρώτη γῆ ἀπῆλθαν καὶ ἡ θάλασσα οὐκ ἔστιν ἔτι.
1 [WEB] I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more.

2 καὶ τὴν πόλιν τὴν ἁγίαν Ἰερουσαλὴμ καινὴν εἶδον καταβαίνουσαν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἡτοιμασμένην ὡς νύμφην κεκοσμημένην τῷ ἀνδρὶ αὐτῆς.
2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

The Greek's καὶ εἶδον (kai eidon, "And I saw") serves as a structural marker in the book of Revelation, although marking sections of different kinds. David Aune has done a careful study of these,1 the results laid out in his commentary at 5:1 which is the first occurrence:

5:1, 2, 6, 11; 6:1, 2, 5, 8, 12; 7:2; 8:2, 13; 9:1; 10:1; 13:1, 11; 14:1, 6, 14; 15:1, 2; 16:13; 17:3, 6; 19:11, 17, 19; 20:1, 4, 11, 12; 21:1

That's 32×, plus a "bonus" occurrence at 21:2 which is the only time the kai and eidon are broken up, with the object of the "seeing" (here, the new heaven and earth) interposed (so 33× in total). According to Aune, kai eidon can (1) initiate a new "vision narrative"; (2) begin a major new scene within a continuing vision narrative; or (3) introduce a new or significant figure or action within a continuing vision narrative.

The importance of this analysis for OP's main question should be immediately apparent: kai eidon, this formula of vision, signals movements as the scene unfolds. The question remains, though: what kind of transition(s) do these two occurrences of kai eidon mark?

In that full list above, we see prior occurrences in 19:11, 17, 19; 20:1, 4, 11, and 12 -- that's quite a few! Although there is no certainty (at all), 19:11 looks to me to be Aune's "Type 1" - with the opening of heaven, a new vision seems to commence. (Note, too, how 19:10 with its command, "Worship God", finds a parallel at 22:9, with both having a concluding character about them.) The rest, then, are either his Type 2 or 3, and it probably doesn't matter which: they mark "staging posts" within the unfolding of the single vision.

So 21:1-2, then, participate in that unfolding drama, and the question really isn't about 21:1-2 alone:

19:11  Καὶ εἶδον τὸν οὐρανὸν ἠνεῳγμένον, ...
       I saw the heaven opened, ...

19:17  Καὶ εἶδον ἕνα ἄγγελον ἑστῶτα ἐν τῷ ἡλίῳ ...
       I saw an angel standing in the sun. ...

19:19  Καὶ εἶδον τὸ θηρίον καὶ τοὺς βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς ...
       I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, ...

20:1   Καὶ εἶδον ἄγγελον καταβαίνοντα ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ...
       I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, ...

20:4   Καὶ εἶδον θρόνους ...
       I saw thrones, ...

20:11  Καὶ εἶδον θρόνον μέγαν λευκὸν ...
       I saw a great white throne, ...

20:12  καὶ εἶδον τοὺς νεκρούς ...
       I saw the dead, ...

21:1   Καὶ εἶδον οὐρανὸν καινὸν καὶ γῆν καινήν ...
       I saw a new heaven and a new earth ...

21:2   καὶ τὴν πόλιν τὴν ἁγίαν Ἰερουσαλὴμ καινὴν εἶδον ...
       I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem ...

In this way, 21:1-2 can be seen as consecutive, so that, as Brian Blount puts it on a comment on v. 2:

Following his sighting of the new heaven and new earth, apparently focusing more sharply this time, he locks in on a single city, the holy--and also new--Jerusalem.2

Two additional observations may help by way of conclusion:

  1. Commentators often draw attention to the parallel in Isaiah 65:17-19 for the making of the new heavens and earth (65:17) in combination with joy in Jerusalem (65:19) which provides a sort of structural parallel for Rev 21:1-2 as well.3
  2. As for the kai eidon "formula" itself, the precursor is probably to be found in the language of Ezekiel, translated into Greek -- which also accounts in part for the Semitic-influenced kai ... kai ... kai pattern; this language (Hebrew, usually וָאֵרֶא, wāʾēreʾ or וָאֶרְאֶה, wāʾērʾeh) is found 21× in the book, not all of which have this structure role. But eight of those are in the opening vision sequence of chs. 1-3 alone; again, not all need be "structural markers", but note, e.g., Ezek. 1:4, 15; 3:13 (where there is no reflex in the Hebrew); 8:2; 10:1; 37:8. The same sort of kai eidon is also found a few times in the vision section (chs. 8-12) of Greek Daniel, five or six, depending on which text you're looking at.

The presence of this language in John's Apocalypse has an excellent pedigree.


Notes

  1. See David Aune, Revelation 1-5 (Word, 52; Nelson, 1997), p. 338ff.
  2. Brian Blount, Revelation: A Commentary (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2009), p. 377.
  3. A couple examples, one old: Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John: the Greek text with introduction, notes and indices (3rd edn; Macmillan, 1911), pp. 274-275; and one new: W.J. Harrington, Revelation (Michael Glazier, 2008), p. 207.
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IDEA IN BRIEF

The relationship between the two visions is remarkable. That is, the "New Jerusalem" is the Zion above, which is the locus of the Kingdom or "Mount" of God in heaven. This heavenly Zion (New Jerusalem) will become the capital of the New Earth. This capital is not only the locus of the Presence of the Lord within heaven and earth, but also the dwelling place of all those who received eternal life through the New Covenant, and thus they, as citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, are the "bride" of the Lord, who now live with Him on the New Earth.

DISCUSSION

When Moses was at Mount Sinai, he received the instructions for the tabernacle based on the "pattern" which had existed in heaven. That is, the earthly tabernacle (the facsimile) was the analog to the actual tabernacle in heaven (the original).

Exodus 25:9, 40 (NASB)
9 According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.... 40 See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.
Number 8:4 (NASB)
4 Now this was the workmanship of the lampstand, hammered work of gold; from its base to its flowers it was hammered work; according to the pattern which the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.

For example, inside the tabernacle there were pictures of cherubim swarming around the tabernacle. These cherubim were depicted on the interior veil covering of the tabernacle (Ex 26:1; Ex 26:31; Ex 36:8; Ex 36:35). In other words, these pictures of cherubim (depicted on the veil swarming around) had represented the real tabernacle in heaven, where real cherubim were swarming around the actual tabernacle. The Book of Hebrews summarizes this truth as follows:

Hebrews 8:4-5 (NASB)
4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”

It was in this tabernacle in heaven (that was "not pitched by human hands" - Heb 8:2) in which Jesus had presented himself as both the priest and the sacrifice, by which the New Covenant came into effect (Heb 9:11-28), which replaced the Mosaic Covenant (Heb 8:6-12), which was just the facsimile, or "shadow" of what was in heaven (Heb 8:5).

Now this tabernacle in heaven was inside the heavenly Zion. That is, the Zion in heaven is the "mountain" or government of the God in heaven. Therefore, the Zion on earth was the analog of the government of God in heaven: The Jerusalem on earth therefore was the analog of the heavenly kingdom, which had become the theocratic kingdom of God on earth centered in Jerusalem. We see the Zion in heaven (or heavenly Jerusalem) in the two following passages... that is, we are able to see that there is the Kingdom of God in heaven, which is transposed over the earthly Jerusalem:

Isaiah 14:13 (NASB)
13 “But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.

Psalm 48:1-2 (NASB)
1 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
In the city of our God, His holy mountain.
2 Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion in the far north,
The city of the great King.

The "in the...north" found in these two verses (בְּיַרְכְּתֵ יצָפֹון) and (יַרְכְּתֵי צָפֹון) is not some reference to some pagan land somewhere up north in the Fertile Crescent, but is in direct reference to what is above ("north") in heaven.

Therefore the holy mount in these passages refers to the Government of God ("mount" or "mountain") of Zion, which has been the locus of the Lord's kingdom in heaven. This locus also included the earthly Zion, where the physical tabernacle was "housed" in the temple in Jerusalem, which was an analog or facsimile of what was in heaven. The throne of the Lord's Government is in heaven (the original), but His Glory also dwelt in his temple on earth in Zion, which was the earthly Jerusalem (the copy). Please see Ps 11:4 and Ps 103:19.

So to tie the ideas together, the Zion in heaven is the Jerusalem above. The Old Covenant (Mosaic Law) was centralized in the Jerusalem on earth, where the tabernacle was "housed" in the temple. The big difference between the New Covenant and Old Covenant was not only the parallel between heaven and earth, but that the Mosaic Covenant "governs" affairs relating to mortal life (was therefore temporal) whereas the New Covenant "governs" affairs relating to immortal life (and therefore eternal).

In other words, in the Bible the term "Jerusalem" can refer either to the earthly "mother" or to the heavenly "mother": in the earth sense, her sons live mortal lives according to avoiding what is wrong (Law) - thus slavery to sin; in the heavenly sense, her sons live lives according to the Promise of eternal life, which end in immortality (Gal 4:21-30).

Galatians 4:26 (NASB)
26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.

This "mother" is not only the locus of the Mountain of God (Zion), but is also the place where the tabernacle in heaven in located; that is, the locus of the New Covenant, which is the source of eternal life.

Hebrews 12:22-24 (NASB)
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

The "firstborn" are those who have received eternal life at the Mount Zion of heaven. No one can be "born" if some life is not associated with "born"; in this case, being born from above, from heaven, refers to eternal life, which is the New Covenant.

In conclusion, the current heavens and current earth are temporary. Both will one day burn with intense fire (2 Pet 3:12-13), because both are "created things," which are to be removed.

Hebrews 12:25-28 (NASB)
25 See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. 26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” 27 This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;

The reason why the Jerusalem in heaven remains to become the New Jerusalem in the New Earth is because she is born, not created. (The verses in Hebrews, above, allude to the removal of those things created.) She is the bride, or as noted above, the general assembly of those who are "firstborn." What is also remarkable is that this New Jerusalem from heaven merges into the New Earth, and what was heavenly and what was earthly, now become indistinguishable. Thus, gold is "transparent" (Rev 21:18) and dimensions of space as understood by humans now become indistinguishable from those understood by angels (Rev 21:17).

In conclusion, the merging of the Zion from heaven to become the New Jerusalem of the New Earth is the consummation of the New Covenant, which provides eternal life (as a child is born from its mother). The New Jerusalem is the Government, or Mountain of God (Zion), which becomes not only the locus of the New Creation (merging human and angelic realms) but also the Presence of God (tabernacle of heaven now comes to earth) by whose glory the elect will dwell into eternity.

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To truly understand this a better biblical understanding on how God uses the word sea is needed. Now from this narrative one would assume that the waters of the sea are a real sea.

And the land did exist in confusion and unfilled darkness was upon the surface of the deep sea and a powerful wind did flutter upon the water's surface. (Genesis 1:2)

Yet Jesus uses water as another type of metaphor. One from breath.

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38 NKJV)

Now to understand the word sea let us analyze the word for [ אלהים ] Elohiym usually translated as God.

אל [ The Oxhead - Shepherd Staff ] The Oxhead represents its strength, and the Shepherd Staff represents the teacher or authority. Today this word could be understood as "The Strong Teacher". Whom our God has choose us to learn from him.

הים [ Reveal - Working - Water ] Now we know that God is the Word of God as he Reveals the Truth. This Truth of Knowledge and Understanding is the Water.

So when Jesus says come to me and drink. He means hear what he is telling you.

So to understand how the sea will be no more. We must understand the First Commandment.

Do not come to power when more is almost present 4 Do not signal accomplishment to gouge the yoke ...(Exodus 20:3-4)

The word for power is that same word for God "Elohiym". So When should someone not come to the Oxhead Teacher Revealing the Working Water? Commonly translated as other but meaning "another one after" or "more to come" is almost present! So if God is working his water we have no other god besides him! Therefore we do not take the power of the word.

Love righteousness, ye that be judges of the earth: think of the Lord with a good (heart,) and in simplicity of heart seek him. 2 For he will be found of them that tempt him not; and sheweth himself unto such as do not distrust him. 3 For froward thoughts separate from God: and his power, when it is tried, reproveth the unwise. 4 For into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin. 5 For the holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding, and will not abide when unrighteousness cometh in. 6 For wisdom is a loving spirit; and will not acquit a blasphemer of his words: for God is witness of his reins, and a true beholder of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue. 7 For the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world: and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice. (Book of Wisdom 1:1-7)

Therefore when it says that "the sea is not any longer". This does not mean a literal sea. It means instead, the sea of your own knowledge that you used to rely on is no more. The one who takes the power is the blasphemer and also the lawbreaker (aka cutting off what the truth is telling you).

If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. (1 Peter 4:14 NKJV)

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When it says a new heaven and a new earth this does not mean a literal new sky and planet. Comparing our current world to 2000 years ago one could easily present this reality as a new earth. The same writer as Revelation wrote this:

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:8 NKJV)

And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:17 NKJV)

Notice how the concept of the world is associated to the darkness. This concept carries over to Revelation. The darkness passes away and the true light comes down upon us. This true light is considered the new Jerusalem.

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14 NKJV)

Now you can understand that confusion did fill the land for the world was in darkness, and when you come into the light you are a new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

This should be considered a Catholic Teaching blessed by the Holy Jesus - Amen.

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