The Study of Last Things
by James T. Bartsch
Learning about the Future to Live Better Today
"But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." 2 Peter 3:13
New Heaven and New Earth
A. Is There a Moral Component of the Universe?
1. Peter gives the most graphic description of the destruction of the existing universe (2 Pet. 3:7-12). In that passage, Peter states the reason for the destruction of the universe. It is “the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7). As soon as Adam and Eve sinned (Gen. 3), it was inevitable that the present universe would have to be destroyed. An eternal universe cannot exist with sin eating away as a cancer within it.
2. So it is fundamentally understandable that God’s new, eternal universe would be absent any evil. That is precisely what Peter guarantees – a new heaven and earth in which only righteousness exists (2 Pet. 3:13).
3. In preparation for the coming destruction of our present universe, both unbelievers and believers are exhorted to be holy. God doesn’t wish any unbeliever to perish, but for all to repent (2 Pet. 3:8-9). Believers are exhorted to be holy and godly (2 Pet. 3:11), looking forward to and actually, by their conduct, hastening the arrival of the day of God in which the universe will be destroyed (2 Pet. 3:12), and in which God will create a new universe permeated only by righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13)! What a glorious existence that will be, when sin will never again be an issue for man!
B. What Will New Heaven and New Earth Be Like?
1. In Rev. 21-22, the Apostle John gives the most extended, sequential description of the New Universe in the entire Bible.
a. John repeatedly is telling his readers what he saw in a series of visions. In Revelation 21:1 he wrote, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away ...” John leads us to believe that the new heaven and earth could not appear until the first heaven and earth are gone. It seems preferable to me to conclude, based on both Peter’s description of the destruction of the universe (2 Pet. 3:7-12) and John’s statements (Rev. 20:11; 21:1) that all the matter of the old order is forever gone and that God creates a brand new heaven and earth out of the same substance He created the first – nothing!
b. I believe two separate heavens are in view in this passage. New Heaven and New Earth constitutes the New Universe, complete with whatever celestial bodies such as stars will exist therein, as well as New Planet Earth. New Heaven and New Earth are to be distinguished from the Original Heavens and Earth originally created (Gen. 1:1). New Heaven(s), the New Physical Universe (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1), is to be distinguished from Heaven, the present abode of God (Rev. 21:2, 10).
2. Does the Old Testament predict the New Order? Certainly there are a number of prophecies of the Eternal Kingdom in the Old Testament. Often, however, these prophecies are blended in with a prophecy of the Millennial Kingdom.
a. For example, in Isaiah 65:17, God predicts He will “create new heavens and a new earth.” There will no longer be weeping or sorrow in Jerusalem (Isa. 65:18-19), a characteristic of the Eternal Kingdom (Rev. 21:4). Yet in Isa. 65:20 reference is made to the existence of death, although over-all, longevity will be greatly extended. The discussion of death clearly applies to the Millennial, not the Eternal Kingdom.
b. In Isaiah 66:22 Yahweh speaks of “the new heavens and the new earth.” Yet in Isa. 66:24, worshipers go outside Jerusalem and view the corpses of those who rebelled against Yahweh! This, evidently, will be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom, not the Eternal Kingdom. On a somber note, the prediction, “their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched” is taken by Jesus to refer to the horrible conditions of hellfire (Mark 9:47-48)!
3. John states that New Earth will contain no sea (Rev. 21:1), a startling contrast to the present earth, 70% of whose surface area is covered by sea! Obviously there are profound differences between the present earth and New Earth. God used the sea to judge the old earth (Gen. 6-8), and there will be no hint of judgment in the New Earth! The only water identified in the Eternal State is a river of water of life (Rev. 22:1-2).
4. The most marvelous and touching feature of the New Order is that God will descend out of Heaven, His abode, and will come and live with man in New Heaven and Earth (Rev. 21:3)! Literally, this amazing text reads, “And I heard a great voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the tent of the God is with the men, and He will tent with them, and they His people shall be, and the God Himself with them will be (Rev. 21:3)!’” On the significance of the word tent, see below. For most of eternity past, God has situated Himself in His celestial home, Heaven. Once man was created, God came down to visit man from time to time in the person of The Angel of the LORD (e.g., Gen. 16:7-13). From time to time the Angel, or Messenger, of the LORD identifies Himself as Yahweh (e.g., Gen. 16:10; 22:11-12). It is my conviction that the Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ, who served as Yahweh’s messenger to the Hebrews. So God appeared from time to time in the Old Testament. In the Messiah, God Himself became incarnate, clothing Himself with human flesh. Jesus lived for a brief thirty three years upon earth (Luke 3:23). During the Millennial Kingdom, Jesus will reign upon earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4). But when sin has finally been excluded from the human race, God will create a New Heaven and Earth and will come to dwell with man for eternity (Rev. 21:3)! What a marvelous, condescending, yet gracious arrangement! It is beyond human comprehension!
5. Man leads, oftentimes, a sad and dreary life upon this earth. Loss of health, failing eyesight, chronic illness, a fatal bout with cancer, a tragic car accident, the death of an infant, unbearable physical pain, aborted, unreconciled relationships that leave one overwhelmed with grief, sorrow and weeping. In the Eternal New Order, God will erase all the tragic consequences of sin for the redeemed. God Himself will tenderly wipe away every tear. Death will be banished. No longer will there be weeping or pain (Isa. 25:7-8; Rev. 21:4). What ecstasy! What joy! What a relief! Indeed, God will make all things New (Rev. 21:5)!
6. God loves every person, and deeply desires every person to come dwell with Him in New Jerusalem and upon New Earth (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 4:9-10). God is the First and the Last, the Beginning of All and the End of All, the First Cause, Himself uncaused. He is the Sovereign Creator who has the right to do whatever He chooses. Yet He graciously offers to every person who is thirsty for eternal life to come and drink deeply and freely, without charge, of the spring of the water of life (Rev. 21:6-7). You cannot buy eternal life. You cannot earn eternal life. You cannot do any good work whatever to have eternal life. You must trust in Jesus, the only way to God (John 14:6). He it is who died to pay for your sins to reconcile you to God (Rom. 5:8, 10). If you trust in Jesus, you will be forgiven and have everlasting life (John 3:16-18, 36; 5:24)! God offers it to you. Will you accept it? The alternative is almost too horrible to mention (Rev. 21:8).
C. What Will Be the Relation of New Jerusalem to New Heaven and New Earth?
1. What will turn out to be the most significant feature of New Heaven and New Earth, as far as the amount of text devoted to describing it, is the city of New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, 10). Literally, John describes it as “the city, the holy Jerusalem, new” (Rev. 21:2). There are three contrasts evident here.
a. The city of New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10) is sharply contrasted with the city of Babylon (Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21). New Jerusalem is the only city mentioned in connection with New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21-22), and it is obviously the Capital City. New Jerusalem is the city of God’s eternal blessing – He will live in it (Rev. 21:3-4, 22-23; 22:1, 3-5 ) while the city of Babylon is the object of His fierce contempt, anger, and judgment (Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:1, 16-17; 18:2-24; 19:1-2).
b. New Jerusalem is designated as a holy city (Rev. 21:2, 10). It is described as “a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2), and as “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9). No corrupting influence or person will ever enter New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:4, 8, 25, 27; 22:3, 5, 14-15). Babylon, on the other hand, is decidedly unholy, being filled with fornication (Rev. 14:8; 17:2, 4; 18:3, 9), detestable things and defilement (Rev. 17:4-5), a home of demons and unclean spirits and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird (Rev. 18:2), filled with sins and unrighteous acts (Rev. 18:4-5), given to sorcery and murdering the saints and people of the earth (Rev. 18:23-24). Babylon is called the great harlot, or prostitute (Rev. 17:1, 5, 15, 16; 19:2).
c. New Jerusalem, in New Earth, will exist in contrast to old Jerusalem, on the old earth. Old Jerusalem, while certainly God’s beloved city (Psalm 48; Rev. 20:9), has too often been the object of His anguished sorrow (Luke 13:34; 19:41-42). All tears and sorrow will be banished forever from New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:3-5)!
2. Having identified New Jerusalem as the city which he saw, the first thing John recorded about it was that it was in the process of coming down out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:2). Two observations are in order.
a. First, John twice records that he saw the city “coming down” (Rev. 21:2, 10). The word katabainousan is a present participle, indicating, in the context, durative action. John never observes that the city came to rest upon New Earth, and with good reason – I do not believe it ever will. I believe New Jerusalem will be a satellite city orbiting New Earth much as our present moon orbits our present earth. We know the dimensions of New Jerusalem, but we do not know the size of New Earth, nor do we know the altitude at which New Jerusalem will orbit New Earth. We do know that the altitude of New Jerusalem will present no obstacle whatever for people living on New Earth to access the city (Rev. 21:24-26).
b. Second, we observe that the city was coming down out of heaven. That means that New Jerusalem is not heaven – it is to be distinguished from heaven. It may be a surprise to many Christians, but our final destination is not heaven. It is New Jerusalem, which is distinct from heaven. It is worthy of noting that neither God nor Jesus will be in heaven for eternity – it is their choice to live with man in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:3; 22:1, 3-4)! I believe New Jerusalem presently exists in Heaven, the abode of God, where Jesus is presently preparing a place for us among the many dwelling places that exist in the “Father’s house” (John 14:1-3). After the destruction of the present heavens and earth and the creation of New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21:1), God will cause New Jerusalem to descend out of Heaven, the abode of God, into New Heaven, situated in close proximity to New Earth (Rev. 21:2). John never sees the city arrive upon the New Earth, yet it is no longer in heaven. Again, I lean towards the notion that New Jerusalem is a gigantic satellite city orbiting New Earth.
3. John describes New Jerusalem next as a city “made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). The simile is not accidental. An angel invites John, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9). Immediately thereafter he carried John away in the power of the Holy Spirit to an exceedingly high mountain and showed John “the holy city, Jerusalem,” descending “out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:10). Why would a city be compared to a bride, and then called a specific bride, namely, the wife of the Lamb?
a. The answer is that there is by design, in the latter chapters of Revelation, a deliberate and stark contrast between the city of Babylon (Rev. 17-18) and the city of New Jerusalem (Rev. 21-22). Babylon is depicted by a woman who is the unholy (Rev. 14:8; 17:2, 4-5; 18:2-5, 9, 23-24) mother of harlots” (Rev. 17:1, 5, 15, 16; 19:2), while New Jerusalem is labeled “the holy city” (Rev. 21:2, 10), “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:2, 9). So, first of all, New Jerusalem is labeled “holy” because her inhabitants are pure and holy, and utterly devoted to God and to Jesus Christ. No unholy people, undevoted to God and Jesus, will ever be permitted access to this pristine city (Rev. 21:7-8, 27; 22:14-15).
b. The second reason New Jerusalem is called “the wife of the Lamb” is that it is the eternal capital city of the Church, the bride of Christ. The Church as the bride of Christ is hinted at in John 14:1-3, where Jesus uses “bridegroom talk.” He is going to prepare a place in His Father’s house for his bride to live. When it is completed, He will return and take His bride, the Church, to be with Him always. That the Church is the bride of Christ is implied in Eph. 5:22-32. It is clearly stated that the Lamb will be married, for His bride has made herself ready (Rev. 19:7-8). It makes the most sense to understand that the Church is the bride of Christ, and that those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9) are the redeemed among the nation of Israel (Matt. 25:1-13) and believers among the nations (Matt. 22:1-14). It is no accident that the names of the twelve apostles are inscribed on the twelve foundation stones of this gigantic city (Rev. 21:14). It goes without saying, of course, that New Jerusalem is first and foremost, as the name would imply, the capital city of redeemed Israel (Rev. 21:12). Even in the Old Testament, God takes great joy in granting “born in Zion” status to believing Gentiles (Psalm 87). It has always been his plan to include believing Gentiles as legitimate citizens of New Jerusalem!
4. A loud voice from the throne proclaims that, in New Jerusalem, in New Heaven and Earth, (lit.) the tent (skene) of God is with men, and He will tent (sken˘se) with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them (Rev. 21:3)! It could perhaps be said that New Earth in general, and New Jerusalem in particular is God's tent in which He will gladly dwell with man forever. Here the tent does not suggest that God's living with mankind is temporary, but only that the domicile is an artificial arrangement for God, inasmuch as living within any kind of physical, material structure is foreign to His essence. Here, He permanently "puts up" with an artificial living situation because He loves redeemed humans so intensely. Of course, for us redeemed humans, the New Jerusalem is a fabulously opulent permanent home! It should be remarked, again, that God and Jesus are going to leave heaven, their permanent abode, and come to live with man in New Jerusalem for eternity! What immense love God has for His children (1 John 3:1)!
5. We have already learned that New Jerusalem is likely a satellite city orbiting the earth (Rev. 21:2, 10). One of the functions of New Jerusalem will be to serve as a light source for New Earth, around which it will orbit.
a. First, it is said that this city is lit up with the glory of God, its brilliance reflecting God’s glory as a costly stone reflects light (Rev. 21:11). John states, furthermore, that this city has no need, either of the sun or the moon, to shine upon it, inasmuch as the glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb (Rev. 21:23).
b. One must keep in mind that this city is unlike any city known to man today, both in its gargantuan size and in its volume (Rev. 21:16). Its length, width, and height are equal, 12,000 stadi˘n (1,343 miles) by measurement. The size of this city is so great that, if superimposed on the western half of the United States, it would blanket, approximately, the area bounded by San Diego, California to Seattle, Washington, on the west; and its eastern border would stretch approximately from Dallas, Texas to the U. S. - Canadian border!
c. As if that were not enough, its height would be equal to its length and width! It would tower 1,343 miles up into the earth’s atmosphere! If this city is a cube, not a pyramid, its volume is so great that it would comprise 45.7% of our moon’s volume.
d. The volume of light from this orbiting city cascading down on New Earth below will be so great that it will provide illumination for New Earth. John states, literally, “And will walk – the nations – by means of the light of it; and the kings of the earth will carry their glory into it” (Rev. 21:24). What a wealth of information is revealed in that short phrase. Let us consider some additional conclusions we can draw:
6. In Eternity there will be people upon New Earth.
a. I grew up all my life hearing about Christians going to heaven when they die, or when the Lord comes to rapture the Church. In fact, I myself was strongly motivated, as a child of four years of age in 1951, to trust in Jesus out of fear of going to hell. A teacher in a Child Evangelism Good News Club was teaching about heaven and hell in her lesson. As she taught, I became aghast at the thought of spending an eternity in hell. When she gave us the option of responding to her invitation to know that we could go to heaven instead of hell, my hand shot up immediately! If I had the option of going to heaven instead of hell, I wanted that, and I wanted to take that option now!
b. Now these are all accurate, Biblical concepts. We will go to be with the Lord in heaven immediately upon death if we have trusted in Him. When Jesus comes to collect all the Church age believers from the earth, bringing with Him the souls of dead Church age believers to be reunited with their resurrected and transformed bodies, we will all meet the Lord in the air and will be with Him forever. We will return to heaven with Him.
c. I had always assumed, and most Christians have assumed that all the redeemed of all ages would spend eternity in heaven with Jesus! It turns out, upon a closer study of this text, that assumption is not necessarily true!
d. There will be redeemed people on the earth throughout eternity! Does that mean they are a lesser class of people? Hardly! We have to learn that in God’s great administration, different is not inferior. Difference is fantastic, for in God’s great scheme, complexity and uniqueness, tied together with unity, is marvelous. The statement is often made, “You can’t put God in a box!” That is true, but if the world of animals and the world of microbiology is any indicator, God does compartmentalize His ways and means. That does not mean there is no interaction between the compartments. There is, but each segment of God’s creation, and each person in God’s creation has its own unique role to fulfill in God’s vast program. Why would we expect God to be boring?
e. Why would we expect it to be any different? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1).” The crown of God’s creation was man (Gen. 1:26-27), whom He placed in charge of ruling over the animals ( Gen. 1:26, 28), multiplying and filling the earth (Gen. 1:28), and subduing it (Gen. 1:28). Logically, why would God go to all the trouble of creating a pristine New Earth and have it barren of any people? And by direct statement we are explicitly informed, “The nations will walk by its [the city’s] light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it (Rev. 21:24).”
f. What does Rev. 21:24 mean? John was Jewish, and his statement, typical of the thought patterns of Hebrew poetry, contains two clauses, each of which helps to explain the other. Clause A, “The nations will walk by its light,” is both illuminated by and serves to explain Clause B, “and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” What does it mean “to walk?” The Greek word, peripatesousin, future of peripateo, means, if used in a literal sense, “to walk,” striding with one’s feet and legs. It is frequently used that way in the New Testament (e.g., Matt. 9:5, 11:5). But it also is frequently used in a figurative sense, meaning “to conduct one’s life” [entry G4043, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, Gen. Ed.]. Examples include 1 Cor. 7:17; Eph. 4:1, 17; Col. 1:10. So we can say with complete confidence, “There will be people on New Earth conducting their lives by the light of the city,” which apparently will be orbiting above them in New Heaven, much as our present moon orbits our present earth and sheds light upon it people down below. [Of course, the light emanating from New Jerusalem will far exceed that of our moon, rivaling or surpassing the light from the sun (Rev. 21:23).]
g. How do we know that the nations are external to the city and not inside of it? Because Clause B, which expands upon Clause A, expressly states that “the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Rev. 21:24, emphasis mine). So regardless of whether I am correct in my view that New Jerusalem orbits New Earth, or whether, less likely, New Jerusalem rests upon New Earth, towering above it to a height of 1,343 miles, in either case, this fact remains – there will be people conducting their lives on New Earth outside New Jerusalem. Lest anyone jump to the wrong conclusion, please observe that these citizens of New Earth are permitted access to New Jerusalem. They are permitted to enter it (Rev. 21:24; 22:14), for its gates will never be closed (Rev. 21:25).
h. Will these people conducting their lives upon New Earth actually reside on New Earth, or will they reside in New Jerusalem and come out from the city to do whatever they elect to do? The Scriptures are silent. But consider this: would you say that they would do their work during the day and then come back to Jerusalem by night? Then you would be in error, for there is no night in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:25; 22:4)! Day and night cycles are certainly part of our present reality, but not necessarily part of our future reality. Will people who live in New Jerusalem be obliged to sleep? It does not appear so. Again, there is no night there, the customary time for sleeping. If people within new Jerusalem are not obliged to sleep, then it would not be sensible to imagine that people living on New Earth will not be obliged to sleep, either? I am inclined to believe that, for those citizens conducting their lives upon New Earth, New Earth will be their home, their residence, their primary place of activity and sphere of influence. Undoubtedly they will make frequent trips to New Jerusalem, New Earth’s capital city. The gates of that city will be open continually, so there will be no time that is more or less appropriate to enter the city. What will draw them there? Perhaps some business trip, or to see friends in the city, or to worship Jesus in person, or to fulfill some Divine assignment. We are told that in the Millennial Kingdom, people from all over the world will eagerly desire to come to Jerusalem so that Jesus may teach them concerning His ways so that they can walk in His paths (Isa. 2:2-3). Should we not expect that people living on New Earth will eagerly flock to New Jerusalem for an audience with God and the Lamb? Will they not want to learn of God’s ways so they can better walk in His paths?
7. What is the identity of the people who will be living upon New Earth?
a. A clue is given twice. We are told that it is the nations upon New Earth who will conduct their lives by the light of New Jerusalem, and that it is the kings of these nations living upon New Earth who will bring their glory into New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24). We are told again that “they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it” (the city) (Rev. 21:25, emphasis mine). The word in question is the Greek word ethne in Rev. 21:24 and ethnown in Rev. 21:26, from the word ethnos. We derive, of course, our English adjective ethnic from Greek, by which we mean various national groupings or entities. Sometimes in Scripture this word is translation nations, and at other times Gentiles. In either case it refers to the non-Jewish nations of the world. In Jewish thought, Israel is the chosen nation while the pagans around them are lumped derogatorily into the classification of “the nations” or Gentiles.
b. Now it is true that God chose Israel to be His special nation (Ex. 19:5; Deut. 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Ps. 135:4). But it is also true that God chose Israel to be His holy kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6). In other words, Israel was to serve as a magnet and a lighthouse – drawing people from all the nations of the world to Himself. It is the function of a priest to mediate between God and man. Israel was to be a kingdom of priests.
c. Even when God called Abraham to be his own, promising to bless him and his descendants in the land of promise, God had a plan to bless all the nations of the world (Gen. 12:3; 2 Sam. 22:50; Ps. 18:49; Acts 15:17; Gal. 3:8, 14). So God has always had a soft spot in His heart for the nations – He loves the entire world of people (John 3:16)!
d. What is more, God has a marvelous plan to make Gentiles, people of the nations of the world, natural-born citizens of Zion (Psa. 87)!
e. So all these believing citizens from among the nations of New Earth, even though they do not reside within the walls of New Jerusalem, will have rights to enter the beautiful city at will and worship the Great King.
8. A further characteristic of the people living upon New Earth is that they will be righteous people.
a. We should have picked up the clue when Peter revealed the coming destruction of the present heavens and earth (2 Pet. 3:7, 10, 12). After describing the termination of our present universe in horrifying terms, Peter offers a final outcome that is a sheer relief, both in terms of personal comfort in both a physical and a moral, spiritual sense: “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13) (emphasis mine). Are we to believe that soil will be righteous, or that trees or animals will be righteous? I think not. Righteousness has to do with moral agents who have the capacity to make moral choices. No, righteousness has to do with people. There can only be righteousness on earth if righteous people are dwelling on it.
b. Scripture makes it clear that unrighteous people will be excluded from New Earth and New Jerusalem (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:8, 27; 22:15). Neither on New Earth nor within New Jerusalem will any of us ever be plagued with fear, disbelief, abominable practices, murder, immorality, the occult, idolatry, or deception. What a privilege not to be bombarded by evil or innuendo or unholiness. There will be only eternal fellowship with people of Godly character. Truth, love, faith, and purity will prevail.
9. What will the people upon New Earth be doing? That is an excellent question. We may not have as clear an answer as we might like, but personally, I believe there are sufficient clues in Scripture that we can make an educated guess.
a. Back in the very beginning of our present earth, God had some very specific plans He wanted man to fulfill. God made man like Himself, not in a physical, but in a moral and spiritual sense (Gen. 1:26). Perhaps the most significant feature about God, at least as evidenced by His plan for man, is that He is Sovereign. That means He is the Great Ruler Who Rules Over His Kingdom. Since God made man like Himself, it is significant that the first assignment for man which He voiced was that man should rule over the fish, the birds, the cattle, over all the earth, and over creature upon it (Gen. 1:26). Having made man as male and female, God commanded them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28).
b. To my way of thinking, man has never successfully achieved that mandate. Very quickly, man sinned, and man as a moral agent degenerated exponentially, destroying not only himself, but the environment in which he found himself. God placed a curse upon the soil and upon man himself (Gen. 3:17-19), a curse which remains upon all of nature to this very day (Rom. 8:19-23). Animals necessarily became, first, a consumable item in regard to man’s clothing (Gen. 3:21), and later, a consumable item in regard to man’s food supply (Gen. 9:1-4). Man was expelled from the beauty of Eden to prevent him from consuming the beneficial, life-giving qualities of the tree of life (Gen. 3:22-24). Death and corrosion took over the planet because man had sinned (Gen. 3:1-6) and died in his relation to God (Spiritual Death – Gen. 3:7-10), and had begun to die physically (Gen. 4:8; 5:1-31). Since man will never sin in holy New Jerusalem or upon New Earth (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:2, 8, 10, 27; 22:15), the consequence of sin – curse, corrosion and death – will also be excluded (Isa. 25:7-8; Rev. 21:4; 22:3). Productivity and beauty will be restored to the New Planet beyond man’s present ability to imagine!
c. Call it speculation if you will, but I believe that man’s role upon New Earth will be to fulfill the mandate that God assigned to him in the present earth, but that man was unable to fulfill. In New Earth, man will, I believe, achieve that benevolent rulership over animals and over the earth itself that he had lost. There will be no fear of man in the animal kingdom. There will be no death and dying. Man will never again eat meat, but only fruit and vegetables, as God designed him in the first place. There will be no carnivorous animals, and there will be peace and harmony between man and animal and among animals. Man’s first glimpse of this accord will take place during Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. I have no reason to believe that eternity will far short of that ideal, but will far surpass it, with the abolition of pain, suffering, sin, decay, and death. There is not a lot of evidence to support my hypothesis, but there is a fragment here and there. It just seems to me that, having issued His most basic command to man, and having that command be horribly violated, God is not going to be defeated. “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29).” Man will rule New Earth benevolently in a fitting display of God’s own benevolent rule over His Own Kingdom!
d. Will there be animals in New Jerusalem and upon New Earth? I have already given you my answer, but let me support it.
1) In Revelation four, John is taken by God’s Spirit into heaven to view a majestic scene around the throne. In the center around the throne were four living creatures unlike any we have ever seen on earth. In the first place, they had many eyes both in front and behind. The first creature was like a lion, the second like a calf, the third had a face like that of a man, and the fourth was flying like an eagle. Each of these four creatures possessed three pairs of wings, but these wings were covered with eyes. As if these magnificent creatures were not unusual enough, they had great intelligence and a spiritual awareness that no animal on earth possesses. They ascribed holiness to the Lord God Almighty of the Past, Present, and Future. They gave glory and honor and thanks to the One sitting on the throne (Rev. 4:6-9). There are creatures up in heaven right now with greater intelligence and wisdom than most, if not all people on earth today. Will there be any creatures on New Earth unknown to man today? It would not surprise me in the least?
2) When Jesus returns from heaven to judge the earth and rule over it, He will descend from heaven on a white horse (Rev. 19:11). The armies which accompany Him will also be riding white horses (Rev. 19:14). There are right now, horses up in heaven, and they will descend to earth with Jesus and His troops. True, that is a thousand years prior to the creation of New Heaven and Earth, but the point remains the same. God created animals for our present earth. There are animals and creatures the like of which we have never seen on earth up in heaven right now. Do we think that New Earth, which will be, I presume, an improvement over Old Earth, will be absent any animals? I think not. I think there will be delightful species of animals on New Earth and in New Jerusalem that will stagger our imagination and leave us utterly delighted.
3) One of the tasks of people living on New Earth will be, I suspect, to manage the animals and rule over them, just as God assigned Adam and Eve to do.
e. A fascinating clue is given to us in Rev. 21:24, 26. It says that the nations will walk (conduct their lives) by the light emanating from the brilliant city of New Jerusalem orbiting above New Earth (Rev. 21:24). But it also says that the kings of the earth will bring their glory into the city. Clearly these kings are representatives of the multitude of nations living and laboring upon New Earth (Rev. 21:26). In what sense can these kings bring “the glory and honor of the nations” into New Jerusalem?
1) Let us remember that in the Garden of Eden, absent any sin, God assigned man to work. From the very beginning, it was God’s intention for man to cultivate the soil out of which he was made (Gen. 2:5, 7). Once man was created, God placed man in the Garden and assigned him to cultivate and keep the Garden (Gen. 2:15). Work is good. Work is therapeutic. Work is creative. That is, work without sin. Part of God’s punishment of man was to place a curse upon the ground – to make his work burdensome, harsh, difficult – fraught with thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:17-19).
2) But in New Earth there will be no sin. There will be no death. There will be no decay, no corruption, no pain, and no sorrow (Rev. 21:4). So work will be productive. It will be exhilarating. It will be fulfilling. And it will be done to the glory of God.
3) So I believe there will be gardeners and farmers upon sinless New Earth, just as God assigned Adam to be a gardener and a farmer in the sinless Garden of Eden. The crops and fruit will be abundant and magnificent in their vast quantity and in their delectable taste. I believe part of the honor and the glory that is brought into New Jerusalem will be abundant produce and crops from the earth below. Transportation will be no problem whatever, and the citizens of New Earth will be filled with pride and joy as they bring the fruits of their labor to the heavenly city for the enjoyment and consumption by its citizens. The products that are borne into New Jerusalem are called “glory and honor” (Rev. 21:4, 6) because they represent something tangible that people on New Earth can bring to glorify and honor God and the Lamb, co-regents of the City.
f. Another clue is left us in the early chapters of the Bible, before sin ever entered the world.
1) Moses, in recording man’s earliest and innocent history in Eden, uttered a curious aside. He was describing the river that flowed out of Eden and, curiously, dispersed into four other rivers (Gen. 2:10). (In our present earth rivers drain into larger rivers, which drain into a larger river which eventually flows to the sea. Here the reverse process was at work!) In describing the land of Havilah, watered by the river Pishon, Moses remarked, almost incidentally, that there was gold in the land of Havilah, and that Havilah gold was of exceptional quality. He observed also that there was an abundance of bdellium and onyx (Gen. 2:11-12).
2) Before there was any sin, God had placed quantities of precious metals and semi-precious stones on pristine, sinless first earth. Why had He done so? He expected that man would mine these precious substances and make use of them!
3) It is my belief that citizens of New Earth will take great pleasure and pride out of unlocking the precious secrets that God has placed in the New Planet. Are we to think that there will be no gold upon New Earth to be mined? What precious metal is found in abundance in New Jerusalem? Gold! (See Rev. 21:15, 18, 21.) The street of the city will be made of pure gold, of a quality unknown upon earth (Rev. 21:21)! And what else is present in New Jerusalem in prodigious quantity and quality? Semi-precious stones! (See Rev. 21:18-20.) Each of the gates of the city is a solitary pearl of enormous size (Rev. 21:21)! Are we to think that there will be precious metals and stones in New Jerusalem and none upon New Earth! And do you think God will be pleased if the precious substances He has hidden on New Earth are ignored and never mined, never formed into jewelry and never used for furniture or any other purpose whereby He might be honored? “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter (Prov. 25:2).” God takes great delight in concealing his secrets in the earth, and God has created man to take great delight in unlocking the secrets God has tucked away.
4) This will be a sinless New Earth, and sinless men will make use of the natural resources of New Earth, but they will do so responsibly. They will not despoil New Earth, nor will they taint its environment. There will be no fossil fuels on New Earth, for there will be no fossils! I believe there will be responsible forestry, mining, manufacturing, industry, inventions, and commerce upon New Earth. But there will be no exploitation, no slave labor, no greed, no envy, and no subjugation of certain races or nations. There will be perfect peace and harmony upon New Earth and everything will be done for the glory of God and of the Lamb! What an exciting and scintillating, industrious future awaits redeemed man upon New Earth. Never again will life be dull or boring. Life will be one series of adventures after another, all for the glory of God!
g. One final comment regarding life upon New Earth. The Scriptures say that there will not only be various nations upon earth, but there will be kings as well (Rev. 21:24). Certain individuals with talents and abilities given to them by God will be assigned to help God and Christ administer this vast and far-flung kingdom that not only fills New Jerusalem, but extends out upon the entirety of Planet New Earth below. Redeemed citizens of Eternity will undoubtedly have enhanced gifts and talents, unfettered by an aging, sin-cursed body and brain that slowly loses its capacity for recall and reasoning. Everyone will have minds that retain everything they ever hear or smell or taste or see or experience! But some will be more gifted in certain areas than others. That is the glory of God to create men with various gifts. And so some will have the capacity to administer and guide citizens of New Jerusalem, and citizens of New Earth. In some capacity or another each and every citizen of New Jerusalem and New Earth will participate in reigning with Christ upon New Earth (Rev. 5:10; 22:5). That reigning is not just a meaningless title, with no responsibility. Each of us will be assigned tasks in which to fulfill our own individual responsibility in reigning with Christ. Work and worship and activity on behalf of God and the Lamb will be more fulfilling and rewarding and meaningful than anything we can possibly imagine here on present earth. The joy and the fellowship and the worship and the activity will go on forever and ever and ever. We cannot possibly conceive how great and grand and marvelous and glorious and exciting Eternal Life in New Jerusalem and on New Earth will be (1 Cor. 2:9)! “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways (Rom. 11:33)!”
D. What Can I Do to Secure a Place for Myself in New Jerusalem?
1. What can I do to make sure I go to heaven? Can I know for certain that I possess eternal life? What a marvelous and appropriate question to ask!
2. Here are several things you need to know about yourself and God.
a. Every one of us has sinned (Rom. 3:23). Whether we are priest, pastor or parishioner, President, Prime Minister or Pope, each one of us has sinned. Each of us has violated God’s standards. There is not one of us who is as perfect as God is. To allow us into New Earth and New Jerusalem on our own merits, we must be perfect. That is utterly impossible!
b. A second thing we need to know is that what we earn from our sin is death. We are told, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). Death exists in three stages.
1) There is spiritual death. Spiritual death means that man is separated from God because of his sin (Eph. 2:1). We are all born spiritually dead.
2) There is physical death. Some time in lives we begin to show signs of aging. That means the process of physical death is at work in our bodies. There comes a time when we die physically. Our soul is separated from our body, and our body expires. Our soul continues to exist somewhere, awaiting the resurrection (Heb. 9:27).
3) Finally, there is second death. Second death is being separated from God eternally in a ghastly place known as The Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:6, 11-15). We are all born dead spiritually and in the process of dying physically. If spiritual death is not remedied before the arrival of physical death, the sad consequence is second death!
c. A third thing we need to know is that God loves dead and dying humans so much that He sent His Eternal Son to become man, and then, voluntarily, to die for us in our place. God demonstrates His great love toward us in this, that while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us on our behalf (Rom. 5:8).
d. A fourth truth we need to know is that we can access God’s forgiveness and receive eternal life as a free gift apart from any work or merit of our own. All we are required to do is to place our trust and confidence in Jesus Christ, who is the only way to God (John 14:6). If we trust in Jesus, we are forgiven, and God causes us to become one of His children. We are born into God’s family and we have His life within us, which is eternal life because God is eternal (John 1:10-12; 3:16; Acts 10:43).
e. Dear reader – my prayer for you is that you will place your confidence in God’s Son and receive the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life (Eph. 2:8-9). It is impossible for your good works to save you from God’s judgment. We are saved from God’s judgment of our sin by grace through faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9). Once we have been saved from judgment, we perform the good works that God has planned for us as a “Thank You” back to Him (Eph. 2:10). If you trust in Jesus (John 3:36) you will escape judgment and pass from the realm of Death into the realm of Life (John 5:24). You will find that your name will have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15). You will have access to New Jerusalem and New Earth (Rev. 21:27; 22:14)! Do you know that you have eternal life (John 20:30-31)? It is possible for each of us to know we have Eternal Life (1 John 5:10-13). Do you?
This study is based on, and the links reference the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE «, Copyright ę 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.
WordExplain by James T. Bartsch
(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Used by Permission.)
This page last updated July 17, 2016
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