Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” (NLT)
We can get so bogged down in this last book of the Bible, trying to figure out its precise symbolism: what is literal, what is metaphorical. We need not sort it all out: this is complex apocalyptic language, foreign to our own mindset.
What we can do is focus on what seems clear amidst the complexity. God will one day make everything new. Not by wiping out the earth but by transforming it so that it becomes what he always intended it to be. It is not so much a matter of us going to heaven but of heaven coming to us. This has already happened once in the person of Jesus. One day, heaven and earth will be joined fully and forever.
The ‘new Jerusalem’ is new because it is not a literal city but the historic location of the temple which represented God’s living with his people. God will one day live fully and forever with his people, not confined to a place or a building.
That is the essence of eternal life: life lived fully and forever with our Creator. No more chaos, which is symbolised by ‘the sea’. A place of beauty, a place free of tears and pain and regret. Getting all worked up about the details must not blind us to the beauty of a place without tears.