New heaven and new earth


The choices people make, the values they hold and those things they prioritise are often determined only by temporal or earthly realities.  For example, when people buy a house they first consider its size, location, price and state of repair.  Jesus, however, taught something quite different, he taught that people’s decisions should take into account eternal and heavenly realities.

He said to his disciples ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:19-21).  It is important that as Christians we recapture that eternal dimension to our thinking.

Cultivating an eternity-orientated mind-set

Cultivating an eternity-orientated mind-set is greatly helped by considering what God says in the Bible about life in eternity.  The Bible references time and again the fact that God seeks to dwell with mankind in perfect union and to bridge the gap between heaven and earth.  In Ephesians 1:9-10 Paul says ‘And he (God) made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.’

This theme is clarified through the recurring idea of a new heaven and new earth that God will bring into existence after the day of judgement.  Isaiah spoke prophetically of this reality when he said ‘Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.  The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind’ (Isaiah 65:17).  Again in 66:22 he said ‘As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me, declares the Lord.’  Peter picked up on this theme when he said in 2 Peter 3:13 ‘But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.’

The Apostle John's vision

Perhaps the clearest picture of what the new heaven and new earth will look like is to be found in John’s vision recorded in the book of Revelation.  John says in Revelation 21:1-2 ‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.’

In his vision he describes the dynamic uniting of what is in heaven with what is on earth.  He goes on to say that ‘the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’ (21:4).  At this point God himself speaks and says ‘I am making everything new!’ (21:5).

God's desire is to be with us

Christians will often say that after death they will go to live with God forever in heaven but this is only partially true.  The greater truth is that God will one day restore and recreate all of his creation and will dwell in unity and intimacy with his people forever.  The emphasis here is very different.  Rather than us going to be with God in heaven, God will one day come to dwell with us in a new heaven and earth.  More than our desire to be with God is his desire to be with us, a fact he demonstrated through the incarnation and will demonstrate again throughout eternity.

How God will actually bring about this new reality is a matter of debate.  Some verses seem to suggest that God will destroy what’s already here and will create a new heaven and new earth.  In 2 Peter 3:10, for example, it says ‘But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.’

Creation to be liberated from bondage and decay

Other passages, however, seem to indicate that creation will be renewed rather than destroyed.  In Romans 8:19-21 it says ‘The creation waits in eager expectation for the Sons of God to be revealed in us.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.’  However God chooses to accomplish his will we may be confident that the outcome will be far greater and more perfect than anything we can imagine.

Characterised by the beauty and joy of God

The new heaven and new earth will be characterised by the beauty and joy of God.  The new Jerusalem is described as a ‘bride beautifully dressed for her husband’ (Revelation 21:2) and in it there will be ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Revelation 21:4).

Most amazingly the people living in the city will do so within the manifest and tangible glory and presence of God and will have unhindered access to fellowship with him.  John says in Revelation 21:3 that ‘the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them and be their God’ and in 21:23 that ‘The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.’  In 1 Timothy 6:16 Paul says that God ‘lives in unapproachable light’.  That is certainly true of our current reality but it is not our eternal destiny.  John says in Revelation 22:4 that the servants of God ‘will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.’  In that hour the psalmist’s prayer will be fully realised:

‘One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple’ (Psalm 27:4).

Shaped by our future hope

As we begin to ponder these things we should be asking the Holy Spirit to create in us an appetite for eternity.  The people of God should be a people whose present reality is shaped by their future hope.  Our lives and the choices we make should not be determined by purely temporal realities but should reflect eternity’s reality.

Peter says ‘Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming’ (2 Peter 3:11-12).  Our hearts should also be stirred to share the gospel with those we live, work and socialise with.  It says in Revelation 21:27 that ‘only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life’ will be allowed to enter the new Jerusalem.  Our eternal destiny rests on our present-day decisions.

Rather than us going to be with God in heaven, God will one day come to dwell with us in a new heaven and earth. More than our desire to be with God is his desire to be with us, a fact he demonstrated through the incarnation and will demonstrate again throughout eternity

website designed and maintained by adept