3* And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,
A voice from the throne of God tells us that the tabernacle of God is among men. This is a reference to the church. When Israel wandered in the wilderness the priests communicated with God by entering into the tabernacle and then into the Most Holy Place located in the tabernacle. Today when one becomes a member of the church of Christ he becomes a priest of God and can communicate directly with him through the avenue of prayer. The tabernacle of the Old Testament was a likeness of the church today. When Christ died on the cross he did away with the old law and established the new (Heb. 10:9-10). He gave us the church which is the tabernacle of God and it is with men today. The church is the dwelling place of God today.
2 Cor. 6:16
16* Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
This verse clearly demonstrates that God is among his people here on earth today in His temple the church. Nothing is more important than the church because God dwells in it, and if we become members of it, we come into contact with God and have our sins forgiven. We have a much better law than the children of Israel had. We have God dwelling with us if we are members of his church. We do not need a “priest” to talk to God on our behalf; we can commune directly with him through our own prayers.
4* and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Since this verse has been lifted out of it context so frequently and applied to our eternal home in heaven, it is going to be very difficult for many people to accept the truth of what this verse teaches. The key is to look at the end of the verse first. “The first things have passed away” is a reference to the law of Moses. It is a reference to the old law. Verse 5 tells us that God is making all things new. In verse 6 he announces that “it is done,” and because of this we can partake of the water of life today. We are able to drink of the water of life because “the first things have passed away.” The water of life refers to the gospel, and we have the gospel because Christ did away with the old law of Moses and made all things new through his death on the cross. The law of Moses has been done away with. The law of Christ is now in effect, it is the “faithful and true” words of Jesus Christ. Because of this we have access to the water of life which is the gospel.
The tears here refer to the sorrow for sins that those who lived under the Law of Moses shed continuously. These statements figuratively describe our spiritual situation today under the law of Christ as compared to the situation of those who lived under the law of Moses. Under the law of Moses the children of Israel experienced the pain and sorrow of sin. The law of Moses was a law of spiritual death because it could not provide the forgiveness of sins. Many passages in the New Testament help us to see this.
20* because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
12* Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–
21* so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The people who lived under the Law of Moses could not experience spiritual life. They could only experience the pain and sorrow of sin. Because of the pain and sorrow of sin, they are figuratively described as weeping and crying and having tears in their eyes. Today, under the law of Christ, we have forgiveness of our sins. The tears of our spiritual sorrows have been wiped away.
Now we know when we take the entire Bible in the proper context that this is the proper interpretation of this section of Scripture regardless of the way that it has been used in the past by others. Consider for example these Old Testament prophecies about the coming of Christ and his kingdom.
The Old Testament prophets spoke of the coming one, the messiah, the Christ, and His Kingdom. Many in the “christian” world look to a future fulfillment of these prophecies, but the careful Bible student will see that the Old Testament prophets spoke of the FIRST coming of Christ as the fulfillment of these prophecies not the SECOND coming. Let me give you some examples:
7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.
Notice in Isaiah’s prophecy that the tears are to be wiped away at the same time as the veil which is cast over the people is destroyed. In order to know when these tears are wiped away all we have to do is determine when this veil was destroyed. We find the answer in second Corinthians.
2 Cor. 3:14-16
14* But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.
15* But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart;
16* but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
This veil was destroyed when Christ did away with the old law and established the new. Therefore, this is also when he wiped away tears. He wiped away the spiritual tears of being unable to receive forgiveness of sins. This meaning is confirmed in Isaiah 25:9.
9 ¶ And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
When Christ made salvation possible for all men, he wiped away spiritual tears form our eyes. This is what is meant in Revelation. Because the “first things have passed away” (the Old Law), God will now wipe away the spiritual tears form the eyes of those who enter into his spiritual city which is the tabernacle or church. Our tears are wiped away because we have obtained salvation. In this we must rejoice!
Another prophecy to consider is Isaiah 60:20:
20 “Your sun will no longer set, Nor will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be over.
And Isaiah 65:19:
19 “I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.
We know that these passages are prophesying about the coming of the church because Isaiah 60:3 says: “Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.” We know that the Nations (Gentiles) “came to the light” when they received the gospel of Christ. Paul says in Ephesians 3:6: “the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” The gospel is for all men, not just the Jewish nation. The Gentiles would “come to the light” at the same time the weeping and crying ceases. We know that all of these things took place when the church was established because Isaiah 61:8 says: “I will faithfully give them their recompense And make an everlasting covenant with them.” We know that this everlasting covenant was established by Christ’s death on the cross (see Hebrews chapters 8 – 10; 13:20).
Here is what the Scriptures teach: God wiped away the tears of spiritual sorrow from our eyes when he made the new covenant with mankind. This covenant provided for forgiveness of sins which was not attainable under the old law of Moses until Christ died on the cross. When verse 4 says; “and there will no longer be any death,” it is a reference to spiritual death. Rev. 20:6 says; “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power.” When one obeys the gospel, he obtains everlasting life. He will never die again spiritually, providing he remains faithful to Christ (Rev. 2:10).
5* And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
The things which are made new are those things which took the place of the “first things” (vs. 4). Since the “first things” refer to the law of Moses, then “all things new” would refer to the new law of Christ.
Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
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Heb. 10:20 says that Christ made a “new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.”
This is in contrast to the old law which could never take away sins (Heb. 10:11). Christ has made us a new way. He has given us a new law of grace in which we have forgiveness of sins through His blood.
6* Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
Remember Jesus’ words to the woman at the well in John 4 ?
14* but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
The water that Jesus had reference to is the gospel. In John chapter 7 Jesus said:
37* ¶ Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.
If we are thirsty for the truth of the gospel, Jesus will freely give it to us today. The “water of life” is the gospel because Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel is God’s power for salvation. Obedience to the gospel will save us now and for eternity.
In verse 6, “It is done” is a reference to the completing of God will by the establishment of the new law of faith. In John 19:30 we have recorded the last few seconds of Jesus’ life, the Scripture record Jesus as saying , “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
In John 17:4 Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father just before his crucifixion “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” Then in verse 8 of the same chapter Jesus said:
8* for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.
The work that Jesus came to earth to do was to speak the commandments of God which established the new law or the gospel. When he died on the cross, he finished that work. It was done! He had made all things new (v.5) and the first things were done away with (v4).
7* “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
Revelation 2:7 says “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”
A key to understanding the entire book of Revelation is the term “overcome”. Many assume that the term in Revelation is applied to the final victory of the faithful Christian after he receives his reward in eternity. While there is no doubt that we will finally “overcome” when Christ returns, the book of Revelation uses this term to talk about something that happens when we are obedient to the Gospel.
1 Jn. 5:4-5
4* For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.
5* Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
To overcome the world is to separate oneself from a world of sin by becoming obedient to God’s commands.
When we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, have faith in him, and are born again by baptism, we “overcome” this world of sin. We have our sins forgiven and enter into that holy city of God which is his church. In 1 John 4:3, those who do not believe that Jesus came to earth in a fleshly form are called the “antichrist.” Then, 1 Jn. 4:5 says they are “of the world.” This refers to their being outside of Christ or his church and living in a world of sin. In 1 Jn. 4:4 we read that those who are of God (Christians) have already “overcome them.”
This is what happens when we obey the gospel. We first “overcome” the world of sin by our obedience; then we serve God faithfully by doing his deeds for the remainder of our lives.
In Rev. 22:2 the tree of life is located in the holy city. The holy city symbolizes the church because Rev. 21:9 calls it “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” The “Holy City” and the “Paradise of God” are two different ways of describing the church of our Lord.
When we “overcome,” we conquer this world of sin and enter into the church, the holy city, the paradise of God, the bride of Christ, where we have access to our spiritual tree of life, Jesus Christ our Lord. If we remain faithful, we continue to have access to the spiritual tree of life, and , finally, we will receive the crown of life or heaven (Rev. 2:10). According to Rev. 22:19, if we are disobedient, we can have our names removed from the book of life and from the holy city.
8* “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Here is a list of those who have not overcome the world but who live their lives continuing to commit things which are sinful in the eyes of God. Since they have not overcome the world, they have not received forgiveness for their sins, they are not children of God. They are children of the devil. Therefore, they will have their place in that eternal hell that burns with fire and brimstone.
The “second death” is a description of the final destruction of all things opposed to God. Death and Hades will be destroyed. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. Paul wrote:
1 Cor. 15:26
26* The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
Man brought death into the world by his sins (Rom. 5:12) and Christ through his righteousness will destroy that death. God’s people will dwell eternally in a place where there will be no death and no grave.
This is the second death. This is the final destruction of the soul. It is a spiritual death to which those who oppose God will be doomed to suffer for all eternity.
The first section of chapter 21 is a contrast between those who are obedient to the will of God and those who oppose him. Those who thirst, or seek to find and do the will of God, will be able to partake of the water of life (the gospel) freely. When we partake of this water of life, we overcome the sinful things of this world world and become children of God. We will inherit all things. We are the chosen people of God. We are the church. Those who do not overcome or partake of the water of life will not inherit these things but will receive a place of eternal torment, completely separated form God where nothing good can exist.