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Heaven (Part 3) - New Heavens & Earth

Heaven's Gates

by Dennis Pollock

In our previous two studies about heaven we have seen that heaven is a very real place, just as real and just as tangible as Des Moines, Iowa, Kampala, Uganda, and London, England. We have seen that it is evidently important in God’s mind that we possess a keen awareness of heaven, and that there are, in fact, far more details about heaven in the Bible than most people realize. In this study we are going to briefly take a look at two major components that essentially make up the heaven which will be our eternal residence: New Earth and New Jerusalem.

The concept of a new and purified earth is found even in the Old Testament. Isaiah speaks of this twice in the final chapters of his writings. First we read:

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind (Isaiah 65:17).

In the passage that follows, the prophet describes the wolf and the lamb feeding together and the lion eating straw like an ox. He declares that the era of dangerous animals which strike fear into the hearts of men will be over, writing, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD. Many assume this refers to the thousand-year reign of Jesus described in Revelation 20. It probably does apply to that unique time, but since it follows Isaiah’s declaration of new heavens and a new earth, it would seem that the millennium is a foreshadowing and a prototype of the eternal state defined by new heavens and a new earth.

The End of the Earth

Peter gives us a clue as to the means by which this new earth shall be created, writing:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up… (2 Peter 3:10)

Peter is not describing the Rapture of the church here, but rather a time when the earth shall be “burned up” and will “pass away.” For the last two thousand years Christians have passed away. They have died, gone to be with Christ in heaven, and their bodies placed in the ground or sometimes burned up. And yet the Bible assures us that our bodies will be raised at the coming of Christ, perfected, made imperishable, and restored to all that God meant the human body to be. Could it be that the same thing will happen to this earth? We know for sure that there will be a new earth, just as certainly as we know that we shall receive a new, improved, restored body. After writing about how the earth will melt with fervent heat, Peter goes on to say:

Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13)

It would seem that out of the ashes of a cremated planet our God shall raise up a new and pristine earth which will be larger and more beautiful than the old earth ever was, and will come complete with the perfect climate, perfect rainfall, and without any trace of hurricanes, tornadoes, violent storms, blistering heat or bone-penetrating cold. In our old earth, before the flood of Noah, men used to live around nine hundred years. But on this new earth men and women will live eternally.

Theologian John Piper writes:

What happens to our bodies and what happens to the creation go together. And what happens to our bodies is not annihilation but redemption: we await the redemption of our bodies. Our bodies will be redeemed, restored, made new, not thrown away. And so it is with the heavens and the earth.

Earth Filled with Righteousness and Peace

Jesus hinted at this amazing new earth when He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). But we can actually go back further still and find a prophetic promise of this new earth. In the Psalms we read, “But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11). From the passages we have observed, we find two specific moral features associated with this new earth. From Peter we learn that righteousness will dwell there. There will be no crime, no sin, no mocking of God, no cruel words, no trace of selfishness anywhere to be found on this new earth.

And from Jesus we learn that there will be an “abundance of peace.” From north to south, from east to west there will be no wars, no conflicts, no striving, and no broken relationships. Jesus will rule every heart, and there will not only be peace with God, but the peace of God overshadowing all those who live, work, play, and enjoy this beautiful new place of habitation for the children of God.

But the New Earth does not tell the whole story. There is another, extremely important aspect of that holy place where the children of God will live eternally. It is called the New Jerusalem. In the Book of Revelation Jesus promises:

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God (Revelation 3:12).

Jesus declares that New Jerusalem is the very “city of God” and that it will one day come down out of heaven from God. Do you remember how Jesus taught us to address God in prayer: “Our Father which art in heaven?” This New Jerusalem is the heaven where our divine Father lives. It is His home, His tabernacle, and His city. Sometimes we hear people say, “God is everywhere.” That is partly true. His Spirit is indeed everywhere. David wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:7). So in that sense God is everywhere. But the Person of God the Father has a definite location. He is “Our Father which art in heaven.”

A City Coming Down from Heaven

New JerusalemIn Revelation 21, after describing the 1,000-year millennial reign of Jesus on our present earth, John then writes: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…” Here he is agreeing with Peter, who wrote of the present earth being destroyed by fire. He goes on to speak of a New Jerusalem, writing:

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God (John 21:2-3).

John is describing the most amazing cosmological event in the history of our planet since creation – the merging of God’s dwelling place, New Jerusalem with our restored and re-created planet earth. What we have here is the very opposite of the way we normally think about heaven. Our normal view is that we die and we go up to heaven to be with God. But in this scenario, we have been raised from the dead, and at this point God comes down from heaven to live with us! Wow!

Fifteen times in Revelation 21-22, the place where God and His people will live together is called a city. But this city is far from a typical city that we know today. John gives us its dimensions: 1400 miles long, 1400 miles wide, and 1400 miles high. This would make this city larger than the nation of India. And the height of it would rise far into outer space, well beyond our earth’s present atmosphere. Its building and streets are created from something that resembles a sort of transparent gold. This city will serve as our earth’s capital city, where the Father and the Son shall reign, administrating over an unspoiled, un-polluted, undefiled, pristine world filled with righteousness, peace, and joy.

Sing Forever or Reign Forever?

reiging

But what will we do there? Many have assumed that eternity will be one giant song-fest. Sometimes you hear worship leaders say, “If you’re not comfortable with lengthy praise and worship, you’d better get used to it, because once we get to heaven that’s all we’ll be doing.” But if the truth be told, most of us find it hard to get excited about a 24/7 worship service that will go on forever and ever.

But the Bible never says such a thing. Rather we are told that in eternity the saints shall reign forever and ever – not sing forever and ever. We are meant to rule and reign with Christ on this new earth, and perhaps throughout other galaxies and on other planets. When Adam and Eve were placed in Eden, they were not given songbooks and told to sing non-stop all day and night, every day and every night, week-in and week-out, year-in and year-out. They were given responsibilities and work to do. They were authorized to have dominion over the earth. Thus it shall be in this new earth. We will carry a ruler’s scepter, not a songbook as we reign with and under Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ parable about the talents, the servant who was faithful with what he had been given was told, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:21). Not “I will make you song leader” or “I will give you a few extra songs to sing,” but “I will make you ruler…”

When you were born again through faith in Jesus Christ, you received automatic citizenship in this heavenly kingdom. Paul writes, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). And Jesus has told us that He has gone there to prepare a place for us. We eagerly wait for Him to take us to that place where He is.

From Nigeria to America

When I married my wife, Benedicta, in Lagos, Nigeria, I soon realized that it was not going to be an easy and quick process to bring her to America to be with me. There were countless forms to complete and there was a lengthy waiting period before her visa application was approved. While she waited to come to America, she lived in a tiny room which had been her home for years. The room had electricity, but the power was usually only on for about one hour each day. Her small room had no bathroom, no running water, no kitchen, and no dining or living room. It was simply one little room, about the size of an American’s second bathroom. It was just large enough to fit one bed and a few personal items. Often Benedicta would sleep on the floor, because of the oppressive heat of the night.

I wanted to encourage my new bride and sent her pictures of the home where she would live in America with me. She was thrilled to see the two bathrooms, the bedroom, the kitchen, the living room and the dining room. Some people who knew her mocked her, telling her that I had forgotten her; others thought she was lying when she said that she had an American husband. But Benedicta knew better. We talked every day over the phone and she heard me tell her that I loved her every day. She knew that her day would come.

And of course it did come. One day the visa was approved and Benedicta found herself on a large airplane headed for America. When she stepped through the gate that separated the immigration section from the regular airport I was there to hug and greet her, welcoming her to her new home.

In a similar manner, our Lord Jesus is our heavenly bridegroom and has prepared an amazing home for us. It will be far beyond anything we have ever experienced here on the earth. And when we step across the demarcation line that separates earth from heaven, He will be there to greet us. Knowing these things, we can be faithful, praying, serving, and seeking our God.

We know, as Paul puts it, “Our labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Our day will come.

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