If you have been keeping up with our previous articles on what the Bible says about the future, we have reached the end. Heaven and earth have passed away. All creation has gone from existence. Death and Hades and Satan have been thrown into the Lake of Fire, along with all the unredeemed who have ever lived. Evil has been permanently vanquished.
And so we arrive at the final event in the order of last things, the New Heaven and New Earth. This is God’s great and glorious grand finale, which is detailed for us in Revelation 21 and 22. It is here that we receive a glimpse of heaven as it will be for believers for all time. John writes,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I 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 the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. 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.’ And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’Rev 21:1-5
What do these six verses show us about the New Heaven and New Earth? Here we see five of its features:
1) a new Creation by God;
2) a new Capital for God;
3) a new Connection with God;
4) a new Condition of God’s elect, and
5) a new Confidence in God.
A New Creation
First, there is a new Creation by God. John writes, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Rev 21:1). This verse establishes, beyond any doubt, that the earth upon which we now exist is temporary. It has always been a disposable world to God, part of a disposable universe. It will not survive in its present form. God has established His intent to remake the heavens and the earth. This is not to say that we should be indiscriminate in how we care for the present earth’s resources. As in all things delegated to us by God, it should be our intent to be good stewards of the earth for the time it is entrusted to us. We are to care for it and to use it well.
But the idea of preserving this world in its present form is futile and runs contrary to the plan of God. The Bible presents a world which is unraveling, on the wane and winding down, because God cursed it when Adam and Eve sinned (Gen 5:29). Since that time all creation is “groaning” as it undergoes de-evolution and deterioration from the divine curse of the Creator (Rom 8:18-22). The processes God has in place are manifestly and unalterably leading to increasing disorder as Earth heads toward extinction. Jesus’ implication is undeniable when He claims in Luke 21:33 that “‘Heaven and earth will pass away….’” And when He who made the world and holds it together every moment of its existence (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3) makes such an assertion, you can bet on it. Thus, the ambitions of those who seek to save the earth in its present form are ultimately at odds with the determinations of God about its destiny, and their attempts to rescue it from certain extinction are a fool’s errand. So be comforted—the world’s ecological future is not in the hands of humanity; it is headed to a divinely ordained and divinely directed end.
But this does beg the question: why does the universe have to be destroyed and then remade? Why go to all that trouble? Why doesn’t God simply remodel the present one?
The answer? Because the present one is corrupted by sin.
The universe is not pure in God’s sight, and since God ultimately cannot abide any impurity (cf. Ps 24:4; Hab 1:13), it must be dissolved and remade. Job 15:15 declares, “Behold…the heavens are not pure in His [God’s] sight.” Isaiah 24:5 reads: “The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed the laws….” Therefore, Psalm 102:25-26 pronounces the consequence of such defilement: “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away.”
A New Capital
Second, we see a new Capital for God. This is the “new Jerusalem,” which John describes descending (v. 2) “out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This is the place that Abraham longed to see (Heb 11:10), the eternal city that was promised to come (13:14). This New Jerusalem becomes the capital city of God’s new creation. It is seen coming down from heaven, which means that the city existed prior to its descent. In fact, this is the place Jesus promised to go and prepare for His own (John 14:1-3), where deceased saints reside with Him from the time of their departure from the earth until their return in Christ’s glorious train at His Second Coming.
This eternal city now descends from its place on high into the New Heavens and New Earth. The metaphor used is of a bride coming to meet her husband (Matt 25:1-13; Eph 5:25-27). All the redeemed saints of all time are now with God in the New Jerusalem (Heb 12:23), and these saints compose the redeemed Bride promised to Christ by His Father before time began (John 6:37, 39; Titus 1:2; 2 Tim 1:9). God now delivers the New Jerusalem with all its saints down to His New Heaven and New Earth as a Bride for His Son, the beloved Bridegroom. And the New Jerusalem becomes the dwelling place of God, His new capital. The text reads, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God’” (Rev 21:3).
A New Connection
And so we see the third feature of the New Heaven and New Earth: a New Connection with God. In their present form on this earth, believers have fellowship with God the Father and with His Son (1 John 1:3). Not only do they have Christ’s abiding presence at all times (2 Cor 13:5; Col 1:27), but also the Father is residing within them as well (John 14:23). Not only that, they have God’s indwelling Spirit (Rom 8:11), sanctifying them moment by moment as He guides their thoughts, words, and deeds. In other words, the entire Trinity is present within the redeemed of God living upon the earth! In fact, that is the easiest, clearest way to understand the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian: a Christian is someone in whom God lives.
But believers in this world have a finite, carnal form that does not allow them to behold God as He truly is. They do not get to see God in the fullness of His glory…yet. In Exodus 33:20, God says to Moses, “You cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live” (Judges 13:22). In 1 Timothy 6:16, Paul reasserts that God “alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” The present mortality of all humans limits their experience of the wonders of God. However, all that changes in the New Heaven and New Earth. In that time, in their glorified form, believers will see the glory of God (Matt 5:8; 1 Cor 13:12). God will finally dwell with His people in fullness, which has always been His intent (Ezek 37:27; Rev 21:3). This is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s name, “Emmanuel” which means “God with us” (Isa 7:14).
How can this be? It is because believers will have exchanged their finite, sinful, fleshly bodies for eternal, holy, spiritual ones. Then, the new eternal nature already given to believers here on earth will be matched with a perfected body incapable of transgression. In this new, eternal, glorified state to come, believers will be free of sin. In fact, the Bible says redeemed believers in glory will be forever unable to sin (Rom 8:20-21; 2 Pet 1:4)! They will be forever pure, just as Jesus is pure (1 John 3:2).
Well, Jesus gave a statement about purity in Matthew 5:8. Do you recall this Beatitude? He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Those who are pure in heart will, for the first time, actually see God’s glory. On this earth, believers never attain purity. They are to strive for it, but it eludes them as a result of their innate sinfulness (Rom 7:17-19). But one day, all that will change. Believers will be pure and, as a result, they will see God. This will be a new connection to God, a new experience of God. That promise should get the believer’s heart to race and spirit to soar!
And something else in the believer’s connection with God will change. In this world, the Bible says the blood of Christ purifies believers so that they are able to serve God (Heb 9:14). In heaven, too, believers will serve God. It says in Revelation 7:15 that the saints “are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple.” But do you realize that in the New Heaven and New Earth, not only will believers serve God, but Christ will serve them? This is also part of the new Connection with God! Jesus says in Luke 12:37, “Blessed are those servants whom the Master finds awake when He comes. Truly, I say to you, He will dress Himself for service and have them recline at table, and He will come and serve them” (emphasis added). Such a promise is almost too marvelous to imagine—the Savior of the world, God Himself, serving the sinners He has redeemed!
A New Condition
Fourth, there is a new Condition of God’s elect. John writes, “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. And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Rev 21:4-5). The believer’s condition is so wondrously new that John has trouble characterizing it! Notice how John can only describe it negative terms: no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. He can only report what he sees by reporting what he doesn’t see! The joyful vision that John is given is so new and glorious that there is no apt description for it. John has no words to describe the heavenly state because he is limited to communicate only with that which can be experienced or imagined. In other words, John is saying this New Heaven and New Earth is beyond our experience or imagination—present language cannot do justice in presenting the image.
All things will be brand new for believers: their resurrected bodies (1 Cor 15:53; 1 John 3:2), their eternal dwelling place, all that can be experienced—brand new. First Corinthians 15:42-44 says of believers that here they are perishable; there they are imperishable. Here they know dishonor; there they will know glory. Here they know weakness; there they will know power. It will be absolute eternal bliss. Everyone will forever experience unceasing joy in the presence of God—unmitigated, unlimited, undiminished elation, forever and ever.
A New Confidence
Fifth, there is a new Confidence in God for believers to have—now, in the present. Jesus says, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev 21:5).This is not to say that some portion of Scripture is not trustworthy and true. All Scripture is “breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16), and what God says is always perfectly trustworthy and always completely true. So we can be assured Jesus is not trying to qualify here what He has just told John as being more trustworthy or truer than other biblical passages.Rather, Jesus is giving all these revelations to John and commanding that he should write them down so that believers can have a renewed confidence in Him. As we draw near to the end of His story, Jesus wants to reinvigorate the believer’s confidence in Him, to assure the believer that He is guiding all things along according to His perfect will and in His perfect power (Eph 1:11).
Then He tells John, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev 21:6). Jesus uses the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet to describe Himself. By doing so, He establishes that He was there at the beginning, receiving the promise of glory from His Father. And He is there at the end, ensuring the perfect culmination of all things. He uses this moniker to express the extent and finality of all that He has accomplished and all that He has revealed, and to affirm His credentials in telling us what will be.
The Eternal Glory of God
And now comes the end, and it is divinely sublime. This final act in God’s Word is provided by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus, the Bridegroom, has assumed rulership over the Kingdom given to Him by His Father. He has received from the Father His Bride of redeemed sinners, prepared for Him from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4; Rev 13:8; 17:8). Now, in an act of reciprocal love, Jesus returns to His Father the love gift given to Him. Beginning at verses 24-25, Paul writes: “Then comes the end, when He delivers the Kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” This is what Jesus Christ does in returning to Earth, destroying His enemies and reigning upon David’s throne in Jerusalem in the Millennial Kingdom.
Paul then continues: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under His feet” (1 Cor 15:26-27). This is reminiscent of Matthew 28:18, where Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me” (John 3:35; 5:22).And then in 1 Corinthians 15:28 comes a most magnificent promise: “When all things are subjected to Him [in other words, to Jesus, the Son of God], then the Son Himself will also be subjected to Him [that is, God the Father], that God may be all in all.”
It all started with God desiring that His Son would receive the glory due His name (John 17:5). And so the Father set about to redeem a Bride of sinners for His Son, a Bride over which He would rejoice, for this Bride would render perfect praise to the Son throughout eternity (Isa 62:5). Now we have arrived at the end, and we see it recapitulates the beginning: Father and Son and Holy Spirit enjoying perfect inter-Trinitarian fellowship. Christ, through His death and resurrection, has received all the glory due His name (Phil 2:9-11).
But something has been added to the Trinity in going from the beginning to the end of God’s glorious story: the redeemed Bride of Christ! All the believers of all time are now there with the Trinity in glory as the Bride of Christ, having been delivered by the Bridegroom back to the Father. Believers are forever, “set free from…bondage to corruption,” having obtained “…the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). Believers experience true freedom in being permanently united with the Godhead forevermore! (John 8:36). Jesus had prayed to His Father, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that you have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). And here, when everything is completed, we find that Jesus’ prayer has come true, exactly as He prayed it!
Before time began, God the Father determined to glorify His Son by giving to Him a Bride, who would forever extol Him for His glory. And in John 17:10, in prayer to His Father, Jesus encapsulates this final state: “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” This is the conclusion toward which all things are inexorably moving. Christ is to be forever glorified with perfect praise from the Bride He has redeemed. This will all come true, just as God purposed from the beginning.
This is the hope of all who believe in Jesus, to be with Him, to see His glory, to eternally praise and glorify God, the Three in One. This is the destiny for all God’s redeemed—a state of eternal bliss: eternal joy from an eternal communion with an eternal God.