The statement “Behold, I make all things new” spoken by Jesus in Revelation 21:5 is incredibly significant and reveals key truths about God’s plans for the future. This verse comes after John’s vision of a “new heaven and a new earth” in Revelation 21, pointing to God’s promise to restore and renew creation from the effects of sin and death. Let’s explore the meaning and significance of this powerful statement:
The Context of Revelation 21
To properly understand this verse, we first need to look at the broader context of Revelation 21. In this chapter, John sees a vision of the “new Jerusalem” coming down out of heaven (Rev 21:2). An angel tells John that God will dwell with His people and “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:3-4).
What an incredible promise! God will undo all the effects of the Fall and eliminate every form of suffering and pain from human existence. John then sees a vision of the New Jerusalem as a beautiful city, shining with the glory of God (21:9-21). The New Jerusalem represents God’s presence with His redeemed people in the new creation. So Revelation 21 paints a glorious picture of God making everything new and restoring His perfect communion with humanity.
The Significance of “Behold I Make All Things New”
With this context in mind, we can better grasp the significance of Jesus proclaiming “Behold, I make all things new” (21:5). Here are several key implications of this statement:
- Jesus is the divine agent of renewal and restoration. By using the emphatic “I,” Jesus claims this act of renewal as His own. The same divine Word through whom “all things were made” (John 1:3) will one day renew all of creation.
- God is making everything new. This renewal is comprehensive – it includes heaven, earth, humanity, and creation itself. God is undoing the decay and brokenness brought by sin and restoring the world to its original perfect state.
- Continuity with the old. Though God is making everything new, there is continuity with the old creation. The new heaven and new earth still retain characteristics of the original good creation (see Isaiah 65:17).
- The fulfillment of prophecy. God promised through the Old Testament prophets that He would one day restore Israel and make all things new (Isaiah 43:19; 65:17). This verse signifies the fulfillment of those messianic prophecies.
- The end of death, suffering, and pain. As mentioned in Revelation 21:4, all grief, crying and pain will cease in the new creation. Everything sad will come untrue (in the words of Tolkien).
- The glory of eternity with God. The promise of eternity with God depicted in the New Jerusalem is possible because God is making all things new. We will enjoy intimate fellowship with God forever.
- The triumph over Satan. The new creation represents God’s decisive victory over Satan, sin and evil. The effects of the Fall are ultimately reversed.
- Our hope for the future. This promise gives believers incredible hope as we look forward to the day when God will restore this broken world and make all things new.
What an amazing statement and promise! No wonder John was told in Revelation 21:5 to “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” God’s people can depend fully on His promise to make everything new one day. It will be a day of wonder, joy, and restoration beyond what we can even imagine.
The “New Creation” Theme in Scripture
The promise of God making all things new is not isolated to Revelation 21. It builds on a theme that flows throughout Scripture. Here are some other key passages on God’s future “new creation”:
- Isaiah 65:17 – “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”
- Isaiah 66:22 – “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord.”
- 2 Peter 3:13 – “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
- Romans 8:19-21 – “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God…that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
- Revelation 22:1-5 – Describes the New Jerusalem, the river of life, and the curse being no more.
These passages give us a unified vision of God’s redemptive plan to not just save people, but to redeem all of creation. The scope of Christ’s redeeming work is cosmic. God will completely undo the effects of sin and make the entire universe new.
The Meaning for Our Present Lives
How should this incredible promise of God making all things new impact our lives in the present? Here are a few key implications:
- Our hope is empowered. We can persevere through present sufferings and trials knowing these will not last forever. God is making all things new (Romans 8:18-25).
- We long for Christ’s return. We should eagerly look forward to and pray for the day when God fully establishes His kingdom and makes everything new (Revelation 22:20).
- We seek to live holy lives. Since we look forward to the new creation, we should strive to live holy lives worthy of the perfected state to come (2 Peter 3:14).
- We care for the environment. If God values His physical creation, we should care for the environment now in anticipation of its future renewal.
- We use resources generously. Knowing this world is not permanent should produce generosity and detachment from material things (2 Corinthians 4:18).
- We build for eternity. Since only Christ’s kingdom will last, we should build our lives around His eternal purposes rather than temporary earthly goals.
- We find comfort. When we lose loved ones in Christ, we take hope knowing the “former things” of grief and pain will pass away in the new creation (Revelation 21:4).
The promise of God making everything new infuses our lives with unshakable hope. This hope should spur us on to persevere in doing God’s will and living for His kingdom purposes each day until Christ returns.
The Oneness of God’s People
An important aspect of the promise “Behold, I make all things new” is the picture of oneness between God’s people from all nations. In Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem contains the names of the “twelve tribes” of Israel and the “twelve apostles” (21:12-14), representing the one people of God from both Old and New Covenant eras.
The new creation will include people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” as the redeemed worship Jesus together (Revelation 5:9; 7:9). The divisions and barriers that separate people in this age will be erased. God’s people will be unified in their diversity, together enjoying intimate fellowship with God.
This promise of oneness means we should pursue greater unity across racial, cultural, and denominational lines even now as we look forward to the day when those distinctions will be inconsequential. Our sharing in the glory of the new creation should foster love and oneness between believers (John 17:20-23).
The Necessity of New Birth
For people to take part in this glorious renewed creation, they must experience new birth through faith in Christ. Jesus said “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). To enter the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21, one must have their name “written in the Lamb’s book of life” (v.27). A personal relationship with Christ is the only way to take part in the new creation.
Just as God will one day make all things new physically, He makes people new spiritually when they trust in Christ. We are “new creations” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Without this spiritual rebirth and renewal, we would remain in our fallen state and be ill-suited for eternity with God. The promise of the new heavens and new earth means we must make sure we have new hearts now through faith in Jesus.
C.S. Lewis on the New Creation
C.S. Lewis provides some helpful insight into this promised renewal of creation: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.”
Lewis reminds us that the new creation means the raising and glorifying of mortal men and women to share in Christ’s immortal glory. Even the most humble person we encounter will one day stun us with the radiance of their renewed state. This truth should shape how we see and treat others made in God’s image.
The Guarantee of Christ’s Resurrection
How can we be sure God will finally make everything new? The resurrection of Christ gives us assurance. His resurrection was the “firstfruits” and guarantee that His people will also experience resurrected life in renewed bodies (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). The risen Christ is called the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). His resurrection inaugurates and guarantees the future resurrection life of all who belong to Him.
The risen Christ is also called the “firstborn over all creation” (v.15). He is sovereign over the new creation and His resurrection power ensures creation itself will be liberated and renewed (as described in Romans 8:18-25). So Christ’s resurrection provides the down payment and certainty that the new creation will indeed come.
This also means we can trust Christ’s promise “Behold, I make all things new.” His resurrection demonstrated His authority as the divine Son to bring about the future renewal of all things. Because He lives, we can be confident that the creation itself will one day be made new.
Implications for Our Care for Creation
Some critics charge that a focus on the future new creation implies we should neglect or even exploit the current creation. But this is mistaken. As mentioned earlier, the hope of creation’s renewal should actually inspire greater care for creation now. If we despise the earth God made good, how can we expect to take part in its future glorified state?
Plus God displays His glory through the wonders and beauty of the current natural world. Why would we neglect something God takes delight in and purposes for His glory? As the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship states, “We aspire to a world in which human beings care for creation and act as good stewards of it.”
Our hope in future renewal calls us to be faithful stewards of the earth’s resources and environment today. However, we recognize that harboring illusions about perfecting the current fallen state through human effort is not feasible this side of Christ’s return. Our ultimate hope is God’s future deliverance.
New Jerusalem vs. the Eternal State
Some confusion exists over the relationship between the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21-22 and the “eternal state” following the Millennial Kingdom. Are they one and the same? Or distinct stages?
There are good biblical reasons to see the New Jerusalem as Christ’s headquarters during the Millennium, which then transitions into the final eternal kingdom. The New Jerusalem appears to exist within measured boundaries on earth during the Millennium (see Revelation 21:15-17). But after the Millennium and final judgment, the New Jerusalem continues into the eternal state as the dwelling of God’s people in the new creation (Revelation 22:5).
There seems to be both continuity and progression from the intermediate New Jerusalem phase to the final eternal state. The two are not exactly identical. So it is likely the New Jerusalem transforms from its initial millennium phase on earth to its eternal existence in the new creation after the Millennium concludes.
The Contrast with Garden of Eden
Revelation 21-22 purposefully contrasts the New Jerusalem with the Garden of Eden to underscore God’s plan of restoration. In Genesis 1-2, God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to begin humanity’s story. In Revelation 21-22, Scripture ends with the scene of the New Jerusalem and the garden-temple of God’s presence.
What was lost in the early Garden is regained in the eternal Garden-City. But there are also notable differences. Unlike the Garden of Eden which could be forfeited due to sin, the New Jerusalem will never be lost. God’s people will never be expelled from this perfected garden-city because sin and death will be forever banned.
The biblical drama comes full circle. What was initiated in a garden ends in a Garden-City! Paradise lost becomes Paradise restored. God’s original purposes for humanity and creation are finally fulfilled in the New Jerusalem.
The Ultimate Display of God’s Glory
The promise of God making everything new gives Him ultimate glory. His defeat of sin and restoration of paradise displays His majesty and power. The New Jerusalem shines with “the glory of God” (Revelation 21:11). The fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan puts His gracious character on full display.
The new creation will be filled with the knowledge of God and worship of Christ. Believers will finally experience God face-to-face and serve Him without hindrance. God’s glory will achieve full manifestation throughout the new heavens and earth. The renewal of creation allows God’s glory to be perfectly revealed.
In the end, God gets glory through both His acts of judgment and His redemptive grace. His wrath and justice deal finally with sin and rebellion. But His mercy and love win the eternal victory through the cross-work of Christ applied in the new creation. God will be eternally praised for the wonder of making all things new!