He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)
Here is an interesting realization I had the other day as I was thinking on this verse: I noticed that it is not in the aorist tense, that is, describing a completed action. It is in the present tense, the active voice and the indicative mood. In other words, it describes an ongoing action.
What is interesting is that it is said at the end of the book of Revelation, after the Great Battle has taken place and John is shown the new heavens and the new earth, with the Lord Jesus seated on his throne — but Jesus does not say, “I have made everything new.” He says, “I am making everything new.” This shows us a couple of things. First, it indicates an ongoing process that has not yet, at that time, been completed. Second, it indicates that the end point of this process is everything made new. This, then, is not the final scene, for there is more yet to do. In the final scene, everything will be restored and reconciled to God, for as Paul says, God will be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
But what yet remains to be done in between “I am making everything new” and “God will be all in all”? I think we can see an indication just a couple of verses later. Christ speaks of the water of life being given freely to those who thirst (v. 6), and of those who have “overcome” inheriting all things (v. 7). But then he speaks of a different group: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (v. 8). Clearly, these have not yet been renewed. But in verse 5, Christ says that he is making everything new.
Is this “fiery lake of burning sulfur,” which is called “the second death,” a point of no return beyond which nothing can be renewed? That would seem to contradict the words of King Jesus in verse 5. But let’s look a moment at what fire and burning sulfur (or brimstone) signify. Fire was often used for the purpose of testing or purification. Sulfur, especially in conjunction with fire, was used for cleansing and purification. (See Fire, Brimstone and Torment)
As we read further in Revelation, we see the great city, Jerusalem, come down from heaven to earth (vv. 9-21). There is no temple built therein, for God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple (v. 22). The glory of God illuminates the city and the Lamb is its Light (v. 23). But then something occurs that is quite unexpected, if we have been reading Revelation from the beginning: “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it” (v. 24). Where did these suddenly come from? Throughout the book of Revelation, the nations and the kings of the earth are the ones who have been the enemies of Christ and the Church.
The nations are shown in Revelation as being prophesied against (10:10-11), as the angry recipients of God’s wrath (11:18), as drinking the “maddening wine” of Babylon the Great (14:8 and 18:3), as those whose cities collapsed in their war against God (16:19), as part of the waters upon which the Great Prostitute was seated (17:15), as led astray (18:23) and as stuck down by the “sharp sword” coming out of the mouth of Christ (19:15). The kings of the earth are chief among those who hid in caves and begged the mountains to fall on them, to hide them from the face of the Lord and the wrath of the Lamb (6:15-17). They are the ones who have “committed adultery” with the Great Prostitute and become “intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries” (17:1-2). They “committed adultery” with her (18:3) and mourned over her destruction (18:9). Finally, they aligned with the “beast” and gathered their armies together to wage war against Christ and the saints. But they are defeated and dispatched, destroyed by the “sword” from the mouth of Christ.
But that is not the end of their story nor the final word on their destiny, for here they come now, the nations and the kings of the earth, entering into the Holy City, bringing their splendor with them in honor of the King. What accounts for this sweeping change? They have been cleansed and purified. They have been made new. (See After the Lake of Fire)
King Jesus is in the process of making everything new, and we will know when it is completed, for then God will be “all in all.”