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The following is an excerpt from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Revelation 21.
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.” 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.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (21:4–6a)Heaven will be so dramatically different from the present world that to describe it requires the use of negatives, as well as the previous positives. To describe what is totally beyond human understanding also requires pointing out how it differs from present human experience.
The first change from their earthly life believers in heaven will experience is that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (cf. 7:17; Isa. 25:8). That does not mean that people who arrive in heaven will be crying and God will comfort them. They will not, as some imagine, be weeping as they face the record of their sins. There is no such record, because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), since Christ “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). What it declares is the absence of anything to be sorry about—no sadness, no disappointment, no pain. There will be no tears of misfortune, tears over lost love, tears of remorse, tears of regret, tears over the death of loved ones, or tears for any other reason.
Another dramatic difference from the present world will be that in heaven there will no longer be any death (cf. Isa. 25:8). The greatest curse of human existence will be no more. “Death,” as Paul promised, “is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Both Satan, who had the power of death (Heb. 2:14) and death itself will have been cast into the lake of fire (20:10, 14).
Nor will there be any mourning, or crying in heaven. The grief, sorrow, and distress that produce mourning and its outward manifestation, crying, will not exist in heaven. This glorious reality will be the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:3–4: “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” When Christ bore believers’ sins on the cross, He also bore their sorrows, since sin is the cause of sorrow.
The perfect holiness and absence of sin that will characterize heaven will also mean that there will be no more pain. On the cross, Jesus was “pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). While the healing in view in that verse is primarily spiritual healing, it also includes physical healing. Commenting on Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, Matthew 8:17 says, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.’ ” The healing ministry of Jesus was a preview of the well-being that will characterize the millennial kingdom and the eternal state. The glorified sin free bodies believers will possess in heaven will not be subject to pain of any kind.
All those changes that will mark the new heaven and the new earth indicate that the first things have passed away. Old human experience related to the original, fallen creation is gone forever, and with it all the mourning, suffering, sorrow, disease, pain, and death that has characterized it since the Fall. Summarizing those changes in a positive way, He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” The One who sits on the throne is the same One “from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (20:11). As noted in chapter 17 of this volume, the present universe will be uncreated. The new heaven and the new earth will be truly a new creation, and not merely a refurbishing of the present heaven and earth. In that forever new creation, there will be no entropy, no atrophy, no decay, no decline, and no waste.
Overwhelmed by all that he had seen, John seems to have lost his concentration. Thus, God Himself, the glorious, majestic One on the throne said to him “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (cf. 1:19). The words John was commanded by God to write are as faithful and true (cf. 22:6) as the One revealing them to him (3:14; 19:11). Though the present “heaven and earth will pass away,” still God’s “words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). There will be an end to the universe, but not to the truth God reveals to His people. Whether or not men understand and believe that truth, it will come to pass.
Also by way of summary, the majestic voice of the One sitting on heaven’s throne said to John, “It is done.” Those words are reminiscent of Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Jesus’ words marked the completion of the work of redemption; these words mark the end of redemptive history. It is the time of which Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:24–28: Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.The One who sits on the throne is qualified to declare the end of redemptive history, because He is the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; cf. 1:8), the beginning and the end (cf. Isa. 44:6; 48:12). God started history, and He will end it, and all of it has unfolded according to His sovereign plan. That this same phrase is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ in 22:13 offers proof of His full deity and equality with the Father.