What Will the New Heaven Be Like?
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him."
-1 Corinthians 2:9, emphasis added
In Revelation 21, I want you to understand these points in particular: heaven is made of new materials; heaven includes the New Jerusalem; and heaven is inhabited by new people. So then, let us look at these aspects of the new heaven.
The heavens and the earth will be made of new materials (21:1). In verse 1, God says that there will be "no more sea." To the ancients, the seas were dangerous, unpredictable, and caused separation. So it is a glorious thought that God is going to make everything new-including us! Everything will be affected right down to the atomic level. There is a dissonance in the core of every atom-an atomic flux. Paul said that the whole universe is groaning, waiting for the redemption, because Satan, his rebellion, and evil have infected the universe.
Look at what Peter says in 2 Peter 3:10-13: "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 [at an atomic level] will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God . . . ? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:10-13, emphasis added).
This passage is not describing the Rapture, because the Rapture does not come as a thief in the night. That has a negative connotation, but the coming of Christ to take His own to be with Him is a positive thing. The "day of the Lord" (the major theme of Old Testament prophetic writings) speaks of His return in glory and judgment at the Second Coming. Peter (who wrote after Paul explained the two-part Second Coming of Christ to the Thessalonians and Corinthians) merely lumps all the Old Testament and New Testament prophetic events together; he truncates the whole thing into the "day of the Lord."
Peter envisioned what we see in Revelation 21:1a: "I saw a new heaven and a new earth." That which Peter and all the Old Testament prophets longed for is what finally comes about in Revelation 21-the heavens and the earth will be made new. The original was not a failure; rather, God is going to correct and triumph over His initial creation where He allowed man to go into sin and then redeemed him. The place where God intersected with time, winning the victory and paying the price for man's salvation, will be redeemed and made brand new.
Heaven includes a New Jerusalem (21:2, 10): "Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God . . . And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city." The concept here is like that of a John Wayne western movie in which the hero conquers all the bad guys, and then takes his bride up to the top of the hill to show her his ranch. We are the bride on the honeymoon, and our glorious Husband, who paid a great price for us, will take us to a mountain top to show off the gorgeous lay of His land. The One crucified in the old Jerusalem will now be crowned in the New Jerusalem.
The gospel message is that the Lamb is the Foundation "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets [the church], Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone " (Ephesians 2:20). The foundation of the New Jerusalem is the Lamb.
Heaven is founded on the Lamb and His sacrifice. The New Jerusalem is the city that all saints of all time have been waiting and longing for: "[Abraham] waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. . . . These all [the heroes of the faith] died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them [the promises of God] and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. . . . They desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:10, 13-16).
Born in 2166 B.C., Abraham was looking for this city. He knew what it was because God had revealed it to him. All of the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 lived their lives with it being "very far off." Isaiah said, "Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; They will see the land that is very far off" (Isaiah 33:17). In spite of that, they embraced the promises of God and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (a rare attitude today).
When we desire a better country, a heavenly one, God is pleased to be called our God, and He has prepared a city for us: it is a holy city (Revelation 21:27); it is a prepared city (John 14:1-6); and it is a gorgeous city (Revelation 21:10-21).
Heaven is inhabited by new people (21:3-8). At last, Christ's High Priestly prayer "that they may be as one" will be fulfilled (John 17:11). His prayer was not only for His twelve disciples but also for those in the future who would believe. Until this point in Revelation, the church will never have been truly united. Some in the Old Testament were in "the waiting room" of Abraham's bosom, but after His resurrection Jesus took them to be with Him. However, they presently are still waiting for all the redeemed to come home too. The people yet to be redeemed will be gathered together in Revelation 21. John 17 will then be fulfilled when we are all finally united as one-from Eden's first redeemed to the last of every kindred, nation, and tribe. All repentant sinners, transformed by grace, will live together in this new heaven. Will you be among them?
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