“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.” (Revelation 21:4)
How are we to understand this famous passage in Revelation? Will this become a future reality for us on earth? Indeed, some Christians think this will be an actual reality during a literal utopian millennium on earth. Others think that this only becomes a reality in heaven. Still others think that, like much of Revelation, this is a metaphoric statement―and concerns the New Covenant life. Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, I will show that the latter two views together are correct.
“No more tears” is a biblical metaphor about the long-awaited New Covenant through the Messiah, as reflected in the Old Testament, especially from Isaiah. Notice how these things tie to Messiah, salvation, and forgiveness of sins for all people in the new covenant world:
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine. . . . He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people He will take away from the earth. . . . let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6-9)
“And no inhabitant will say, ‘I am sick;’ the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.” (Isaiah 33:24)
“Behold, your God will come with vengeance [ref. Luke 21:22] with the recompense of God. He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. . . . everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35:4, 5, 10)
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities. . . . and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
“His servants He will call by another name. . . . I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” (Isaiah 65:15, 19)
Messiah has arrived, bringing the new covenant of grace through faith (Jeremiah 31:31-34)! The fulfillment of the promises begins with the life of the believer in Christ, ushered in with Christ’s first-century work. So, just as the individual believer is a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), there is a present reality for the Christian that even death has already been abolished! Just as Jesus said:
“Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:26)
The New Testament declares that we were once dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13), but are NOW ALIVE IN CHRIST (Romans 6:1-14; Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:11-14).
The Messianic promise of no more weeping of Isaiah and Revelation has been fulfilled with Jesus in the context of his living water (John 4:10-15; 7:38; Revelation 7:9-17; 21:5-7; 22:17). The living water is not just a promise for the future. The living water from Jesus is available to all who believe now (John 7:38), just like it was for the woman at the well in John 4:10-14!
The living water is available now, and we no longer need to thirst or mourn. Indeed, for the Christian, “old things have passed away; behold, ALL things have become new” (2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:17; Revelation 21:5). The pain of Revelation 21:4 was not physical pain, but rather the pain of longing.
Revelation is littered with statements that demand its fulfillment in the first century: “must shortly take place,” “the time is near,” “about to happen,” and “soon.” (Revelation 1:1-3; 22:6-20; etc.) These statements refer to the final judgment of apostate Israel and end of the Jewish age when Jerusalem fell and the temple was destroyed in AD 70, ushering in the Christian age to its fullest. Yet, our new-covenant life in Christ here on earth is but a spiritual foretaste of truly realizing (in a literal sense) no more death or suffering—IN HEAVEN.
For more on Revelation, Restoration, the New Heaven and New Earth, and the New Jerusalem―see section B of the articles page of my website: