Jan Lambrecht, «Final Judgments and Ultimate Blessings: The Climactic Visions of Revelation 20,11-21,8», Vol. 81 (2000) 362-385
Rev 20,11-15 and 21,1-8 contain the last two vision reports. The first does not deal with a general resurrection followed by a general judgment with respectively reward and condemnation. Attention is negatively focused on the final judgments of Death and Hades, as well as of those whose names are not found written in the book of life. In the second vision John sees a new heaven and a new earth and, more specifically, the new Jerusalem, i.e., the church universal of the end-time. The voice from the throne and God himself climactically proclaim final blessings. The covenant formula announces God's dwelling among the peoples, the adoption formula even a divine filial relationship: these are the main content of the ultimate blessings. Hermeneutical reflection on annihilation or transformation, on theocentrism versus human responsibilty and on the expectation of Christ's imminent parousia conclude the study.
The passage is best divided into two units: vv. 1-4 and vv. 5-8 19. In the first unit John reports what he sees (twice kai_ ei]don in vv. 1-2) and what he hears (kai_ h@kousa in vv. 3-4). Verse 4d (for the first things have passed away [a)ph=lqan]) forms an inclusion with verse 1b (for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away [a)ph=lqan]). In vv. 5-8 God (the one who was seated on the throne) speaks in the first person singular. This second unit does not begin with I heard; God takes the initiative. The end of the unit (v. 8b) repeats the identification of the lake of fire with the second death, which was already emphasized in 20,14b. As stated above, the whole of 21,8 recalls 20,15.
John sees a new cosmos; the dimensions point to completeness: heaven and earth and also what they contain (v. 1a; cf. all in v. 5b). The repetitive character of v. 1b and the additional note on the sea20 of v. 1c have already been pointed out. Johns attention, however, is not so much cosmic. The focus lies on the holy city, the new Jerusalem (v. 2a) which comes down out of heaven from God (v. 2b). One wonders whether in Johns vision much space is left for any reality that is not the holy city. Perhaps the new heaven and the new earth are just the background for Jerusalem21. The holy city has been prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (v. 2c). She represents the universal church of the end time. The loud voice from the throne (v. 3a) explains what the coming down of Jerusalem means. Is this voice that of one of the elders or one of the four living creatures (cf. ch. 5)? Or is it perhaps the voice of God who, in the third person singular, reflects upon his own actions? This remains uncertain.
A more literal translation of v. 3bcde may be helpful here: