Understanding The New Heaven & The New Earth
If Our Destination is heaven Then Why is There a Need For a New Earth?
In Revelation 21, the recorded history of man is at its end. All of the ages have come and gone. Christ has gathered His Church in the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:15-17). The Tribulation has passed (Rev. 6 – 18). The battle of Armageddon has been fought and won by our Lord Jesus Christ (Rev 19:17-21). Satan has been chained for the 1000-year reign of Christ Jesus on earth (Rev 20:1-3). A new, glorious temple has been established in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40 – 48). The final rebellion against God has been quashed, and Satan has received his just punishment, an eternity in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:7-10). Next up before the Eternal State is discussed in chapter 21 is the Great White Throne Judgement where unbelievers are judged (Rev. 20:11-15).
The Great White Throne Judgment
Immediately after John views Satan being cast into the lake of fire, he receives another vision. This time it is of a Great White Throne. There have been other thrones mentioned in the Bible, but none are like this one. It is pure white, the type of white that makes everything else look dirty. Only the wicked, the unsaved, will appear before the throne of judgement. The one who sits upon the throne is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus Christ for “The Father judges no one, God has commanded all judgement to the Son (John 5:22).”
Are you ready to meet Jesus? In the end Christ Jesus is your judge as a Lamb or Lion – not your opinion of yourself, not some friend, not your mother or your father. Jesus is described in the Bible as a Lamb, but also as a Lion – Jesus is both Savior and Judge. One day you’re going to meet Him as Lamb or Lion. You may have cursed Him, you may have mocked Him, you may have ignored Him, but one day I can promise you on the authority of the Word of God that you are going to meet Christ Jesus. “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books (Revelation 20:11-12).”
Those who stand before the Great White Throne are the “dead, small and great (v.12).” Who are the dead, small and great who stand before God? These are the unbelievers of all ages. Two sets of books are opened. The “Book of Life” contains the names of all who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. The other books contain a detailed record of the works of the unsaved. No one who appears at this judgement is registered in the “Book of Life.” The fact that a person’s name is missing condemns them, but the record of their evil works here on earth determines the degree of their punishment they receive for eternity. It says in verse 13 that “they were judged, each one according to his works.” That can mean according to their deeds or according to what they had done on earth – some to a greater, some to a lesser punishment, as their sinful works deserved.
Just as there will be degrees of reward in heaven, so there will be degrees of punishment in hell. This will be based on their works.
The Lake of Fire
As a result of this Great White Throne Judgement “Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).” This means that the death that unsaved men die on earth is only temporary. All will one day be raised and judged. Since their names are not in the Book of Life, they cannot inherit eternal life. From this final death there is no resurrection. It is eternal separation from God in the darkness and punishment of hell and “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev. 20:10).” When the wicked die the first time, their fate is sealed. There is no second chance. When the dead are raised at the end of the Millennium and stand before the Great White Throne Judgement, they received the fruit of their wicked deeds and rejection of Christ. The wages of sin is death – eternal death, separation from God and everything desirable, forever.
The New Heaven and The New Earth-The Eternal State
With the Great White Throne Judgement and the 1000-year reign of Christ Jesus on earth with his peace and tranquility it all comes to an end. It’s hard to believe that anything can be better than this reign of world peace. However, when Christ’s 1000-year reign ends, the Millennium merges with eternity and no matter how you look at it there is nothing better than heaven. In chapter 21 John sees “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea (v.1).”
A New World Order
Now, when God sends a new heaven and a new earth, He doesn’t just clean up our polluted streams and rivers or simply remake this old planet by knocking off some rough edges. No, He doesn’t renovate the earth but God makes a new earth as He does a new heaven. In verse 5 God says, “Behold, I make all things new.” In the same way when God saved me, He didn’t just patch me up, wash me off or make me over and reform me. No, not at all, He made me a new creature, a new created being. Old things passed completely away and all things became new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17).” Hence, “according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13).”
The Bible doesn’t say much about how this new earth will look, but we know there will be no more seas to separate people. Children of God will be able to roam this new earthly paradise uninhibitedly. It will be far more beautiful than we can ever conceive.
The New Jerusalem
The new Jerusalem, the holy city, is seen by John “coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned with her husband (Rev. 21: 2)” With the descent of the new Jerusalem, we are placed in an even more desirable relationship with God then we have ever had. In verse 3 Scripture tells us, “God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Wow, just think! God the Son came to dwell among men in order to save them (John 1:14). God the Spirit came to dwell among men in order to teach, comfort, counsel, and intercede on our behalf and pray to God the Father in words that we could not express (Rom. 8:26; John 14:16, 26; 15:26). Now, God the Father comes to dwell among men in order to fellowship with them.
World’s Largest Metropolis
The new heaven, the holy city, is so fantastically beautiful it almost defies words. However, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, John attempts a description in Revelation 21. Let’s note how he describes it. First, it is a literal city “coming down from God out of heaven (v.2).” John again repeats it in verse 10 saying it is a “great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” It is important to note that nowhere is the city said to rest upon the new earth. It comes down or descends from God out of heaven and apparently hovers over the new earth. The city itself is immense. It is, “laid out as a square, and its length is as great as its breath. And he measured the city with the reed (rod): 12,000 furlongs. Its length, breath, and height are equal (v. 17).” A furlong is about 600 feet which means that the new Jerusalem is roughly 1500 miles long, 1500 miles wide, and 1500 miles high.
Wow – let this sink in for a moment! Here is a city which covers an area of 15,000 miles by 15,000 miles or 2,250,000 square miles. This means that the base of the new Jerusalem is more than eight times the size of the entire state of Texas or two thirds the size of the United States. And in addition to that, it towers 1500 miles straight up as a gigantic skyscraper. In verse 17 it tells us that the wall of the new Jerusalem is 144 cubits which equals approximately 216 feet. It is huge and is most certainly capable of housing the Bride of Christ – the Church.
Around this 216-foot wall we have 12 gates with an angel posted at each gate. The names written on the gates are of the 12 tribes of Israel, perhaps to remind each of us living in our heavenly home that we owe our Bible, our Savior and much more to Israel. John said, “Salvation is of the Jews (4:22).” Each of the gates is made of one giant pearl (v.21). This should remind us, by the very process needed to make a pearl, that much suffering was undergone in order to provide an entrance into the holy city. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9).” In order to become the door the Lord had to suffer the anguish of dying on the cross. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed (Isa. 53:5).” Yes, Jesus paid a great price to be the door of our salvation. He suffered immensely and it is a proper fitting that the gates in the new Jerusalem be of pearl.
The foundations of the city number 12 as well and each one bears the name of one of the 12 apostles. Perhaps this is to remind us that the Church began with these apostles (Eph. 2:20). Each of the foundations is garnished with all manner of precious stones – clear jasper, blue sapphire, sky-blue chalcedony, green emerald, red and white sardonyx, reddish sardius, golden chrysolyte, see green beryl, yellow-green topaz, green chrysoprasus, violet jacinth, and purple amethyst. Each one contributing to the unimaginable beauty of this holy city.
The whole city is described as being of “pure gold, like glass (v.18).” Now we all know that gold is a precious metal and a very expensive commodity. Yet the city foursquare is lavishly made from pure gold, indicating an abode fit to be the dwelling place of God.
What Will it be Like in Heaven?
Have you ever wondered what we will do in heaven? I don’t think it will be a place that we’re going to be sitting around under a shade tree, strumming on a harp, and being bored all day long with not much to do. With God in our midst, we will have the capacity to know, love and serve Him more. I’m sure there will be plenty to do in heaven and it will cause unimaginable joy. Perhaps I can best describe our future eternal home with the sentiments of Isaiah and the apostle Paul. “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him (Isa. 64:4).” Again, this is cross referenced in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
After you finish reading chapter 21 of Revelation there is a good chance that you will have questions that go unanswered. As an example: If heaven, God’s current abode, were the eternal reward of the righteous, as traditional Christianity teaches, then there would be no purpose for a new earth. Other readers may ask other legitimate or curious questions such as:
(1). Since heaven is perfect, why do we need the New Heavens and New Earth?
(2). What is the difference between the New Earth, New Jerusalem, and New Heaven?
(3). Is our final destination really the “New Jerusalem” and not heaven?
(4). If God is going to dwell with us on the New Earth or in the New Jerusalem, why does He still need a heaven?
(5). The apostle John sees the New Jerusalem descending down from heaven so it must presently exist in heaven. John never sees the city arrive upon the New Earth, yet it is no longer in heaven. Is it a gigantic satellite city orbiting the New Earth? Will there be people conducting their lives on the New Earth outside of the New Jerusalem? (I could ask many more questions, but I’ll stop here).
The Scriptures are silent. Obviously, we don’t know the answers to the questions and God isn’t going to reveal it to us before we get there.