Then I saw ‘a new heaven and
a new earth,’
for the first heaven and
the first earth
had passed away.
Revelation 21:1, NIV
We know that there will be a New Heaven and a New Earth after all evil has been removed. Although details are somewhat limited, we know that Jesus will be the King and the Church will be his bride. He will rule forever, and there will be peace and goodwill.
Then the Son of God shall sit upon the throne of David, ruling over His kingdom with righteousness and justice. To Him will be given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, where all the peoples, nations, and men of every language will serve Him. His dominion will be an everlasting dominion that will not pass away; His kingdom will not be destroyed (Dan. 7:14, paraphrased).
“In that day there will be inscribed on the bells of horses, ‘HOLY TO THE LORD.’ And the cooking pots in the Lord’s house will be like the bowls before the altar. Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the Lord of hosts; and all who sacrifice will come and take of them and boil in them. And there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts in that day” (Zech. 14:20-21, NASB1995). At long last, God will have cleansed or purged His kingdom of all evil, and He will again dwell among His people and have fellowship with them.
The Bible tells us that the New Earth will not have seas; however, it will probably have lots of areas with water. It will be as it was in the Garden of Eden when all was peaceful, beautiful, and perfect.
We enjoy singing the hymns that give the details concerning heaven. However, our mind’s eye cannot comprehend what awaits us in the New Heaven and the New Earth. God gives us this promise which Paul quotes from Isaiah: “but just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1 Cor. 2:9. NASB1995).
Chapters twenty-one and twenty-two of The Revelation provide a preview of what the New Heaven and the New Earth will be like in eternity. In chapter twenty-one, verses one through eight, we have a summary review of eternal issues. The New Jerusalem is described in verses nine through twenty-seven and the first six verses of chapter twenty-two. The remaining verses of chapter twenty-two provide a Divine epilogue of practical messages from the glorified Lord.
The twenty-first chapter begins with a statement about a New Heaven and a New Earth. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea” (Rev. 21:1, NASB1995). The concept of a New Earth is foreign to most of us since we have always assumed that we will go to heaven when we die.We sing about its beauty and of our going there. But what do we know about the earth? We know it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10-12) and assume there will be no need for the earth. However, Jesus said that both heaven and earth will pass away (Matt. 24:35). The New Heaven and New Earth will move close to each other – may even touch – the New Jerusalem will be the center of the universe. All creation will revolve around the New Jerusalem.
We know more about the New Heaven from the details given in The Revelation, chapter twenty-one, and perhaps, from visions that people have had as they were dying or having near-death experiences. I believe we can rely on most deathbed visions, and it seems that some of the near-death experiences are true. Don Piper reported one of these near-death experiences in his book “90 Minutes in Heaven.” Don, who was and has been a Baptist minister for many years, was in an automobile accident in 1989, and the authorities of the state of Texas documented that Don was dead for ninety minutes.
No one can be brain dead for ninety minutes and return to life without a miracle from God. Don’s story states that he was taken to heaven during this time and saw and experienced amazing things, including meeting with some of his deceased family members. Don has shared his story and served as a witness for Christ throughout the world. His ministry can only have come from God – no way would Satan have allowed him to testify about Christ. I believe that Don’s testimony has been checked out thoroughly, and we can trust his recollection of his many experiences. Others have had out-of-body experiences whose stories I believe have been well scrutinized.
We are warned about adding to or taking away from Scriptural prophecy or theology in the last few verses of The Revelation. Still, I do not believe that the details reported in these stories add to or take away from Scripture. However, we must be careful as some of these reported stories may not be from God, thus taking away from Scripture – especially if they reference the plan of salvation incorrectly or dispute Scripture any other way. For some reason, it seems that God, at this time, is giving us more details about heaven.
Many of us have had moments when we have had a touch from heaven. How many of you have seen a vision of an angel, gotten a glimpse of some feature of heaven, experienced a premonition, heard a voice that you didn’t expect as no one else was around, or just encountered a special moment or feeling which is different from anything you have ever experienced before? Some of you may have been beside the deathbed of a loved one during the final moments before they died and watched a smile come across their face as they catch a glimpse of loved ones who have passed away earlier.
Also, you may have seen a dying person raise their hands above their head, seemingly reaching for something that we ourselves could not see. My wife’s brother, Joe, periodically raised his hands above his head during the last week of his life. After his death, his aunt, who was living in a nursing home, frequently asked family members why Joe no longer visited her. For fear that her nephew’s passing would upset her, the family chose not to tell her of his passing. Later, as she was departing this life, she lifted her hands and said, “Joe.” We believe that she had finally found her beloved nephew. Deathbed visions have been around for many years, and we are blessed to have some of these experiences recorded for us.
God also provides many hints in Scripture, especially in the Psalms, that support some of these visions and reports, which we have listed below, thus helping us to understand better what heaven might be like. I believe that these visions and reports are just snapshots of heaven, which God has chosen to share with us at this time in history, a time when Satan is trying very hard to deceive us and, unfortunately, has had great success.
Now let me share some of my thoughts on what I think heaven will look like from reading scripture, and from reading many reports of deathbed visions and out-of-body experiences. These comments are about the present heaven, which we assume will be carried over, in part, into the New Heaven. There is also the question of whether the present heaven is also the New Heaven – perhaps it is, and perhaps not. From reports, it seems that part of what exists in heaven is also the same as what will exist in the New Heaven as described in The Revelation – streets, gates, walls, etc.
For years, I have studied reports of deathbed visions and some out-of-body experiences. I believe that what they have observed may be enhanced and will also be part of the New Heaven and New Earth. First, there will never be any sin, sickness, or death. Nothing in God’s New Kingdom will ever die – people, animals, or anything that we call physical. Second, there will be everlasting love, joy, and peace – a peace that passes all understanding.
We will now look at some other things that may be common in the New Heaven and New Earth.
Our senses will be heightened to levels that we have never dreamed of. We will have eyesight greater than the eagle, hearing greater than the elephant, and a sense of smell greater than the bloodhound. The air will smell fresh and clean rather than having an unpleasant odor. The light that surrounds us is a warm, vigilant light that gives you a feeling of love, joy, and peace, such as we have never experienced on earth. Many of the heavenly colors are the same as we see on earth – however, others are new to us. There will be soft hues and tones, and others will be vivid, dazzling colors – many surpassing anything we have seen on earth. The trees, grass, and vegetation will always be faultlessly manicured – no need to mow the grass – none of these will ever die. There will be many beautiful flowers with many stunning colors.
The angels and saints will join together to form a heavenly choir producing reverential, glorious praises to God. Many of the songs will be those that we have sung while on earth, but there will also be new ones. Much to our surprise, we may also discover that we will be able to play musical instruments – golden harps, trumpets, etc.
There will be people of all ages throughout heaven, yet they will all be young-looking, beautiful, and vibrant in their dazzling white garments and perhaps golden sashes. We will have jobs that Jesus has assigned to us – not stressful jobs but ones that allow us to use our God-given gifts. While strolling around, we will see playful, happy children. There will be various kinds of gentle animals and birds, those that we have on earth and perhaps others.
There will be lots of books in heaven as God has probably recorded all of history – Scripture supports that everything is recorded in heaven in His Book of Remembrance (Malachi 3:16–18). Thus, we will be able to continue to study and learn. Since time may no longer be a factor, maybe we can relive parts of history. We may find that time in heaven is more like a stopwatch that moves from scene to scene rather than continuous as we know time here on earth. We may not be as concerned about what time it is or what day it is. Perhaps, time will be much different in heaven – moving faster at times and slower at other times.
The apostle Peter said, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8, ESV).
There may also be uniquely designed houses in heaven that best fit our personality and taste. They will be made of precious materials of varying colors and may also have enormous verandas for relaxing outdoors. Maybe there will even be a waterfall. They will serve as gathering places for fellowship with family and friends. How about having lunch with our great, great grandparents and/or our great, great grandchildren?
The animals and birds in heaven will be domesticated as they were in the Garden of Eden. They will be at peace with each other and with us. We will probably react with them as we do with our domesticated pets today. In Isaiah, we are told that the lion will lie down with the lamb.
Hosea tells us that God will enter into a covenant with the animals. “And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.” (Hosea 2:18, ESV). The prophet Ezekiel said, “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods” (Ezek. 34:25, ESV).
The Bible tells us that God, the Father, sits on the throne in Heaven and that Jesus sits on His right side. As the third member of the Trinity, I believe that the Holy Spirit sits on the left side. If you want to read the best description of the throne area, read the fourth chapter of The Revelation. We need to keep in mind that all three persons of the Godhead are omnipresent – they can be in many places simultaneously. Because of this, Jesus and the Holy Spirit can sit on the throne and interact with people in other areas concurrently.
Perhaps our heavenly relationship with Jesus will be both formal and casual. We will be aware that He is God, and we will praise and worship Him along with God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit. However, Jesus also had a causal relationship with his disciples while He was here on earth. Perhaps we will walk, talk, and fellowship with him casually from time to time.
Yes, there will be food in heaven. At least some of the trees will bear fruit, and, seemingly, our sense of taste will be enhanced. The Revelation speaks of the trees bearing fruit and the leaves used for healing. Perhaps there will also be other foods there.
The New Earth
We read in the book of Romans about the conditions of the present earth. “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 freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:20-22, NIV).
We don’t need the Scriptural references to know that this earth is in big trouble. Satan controls it, and it desperately needs to be replaced. When Satan is removed, God will replace it. Any present-day understanding of the New Earth is pure speculation as we are told very little about the New Earth – perhaps the exception being some verses found in the book of Isaiah.
Both Isaiah and Peter wrote of new heavens and a new earth. However, they may have placed the new creation in the Millennium context. “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isa. 65:17, NIV).
Chapters sixty-five and sixty-six of Isaiah provide us with some of the details of the Millennium and perhaps of the New Earth. We should also note that Isaiah and Peter use the plural word, heavens, indicating that they are talking about the physical universal – not the City of God. We don’t exactly know why they used the plural term.
From the writings of Isaiah and Peter, it is easy to surmise that the New Heaven and New Earth will be created before or during the Millennium. However, since the New Heaven and the New Earth are sin-free, this can only be true if the Millennium precedes the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth. Sometimes, it is difficult to determine the sequence of events and programs from the written prophecy. All prophecy must be looked at as a whole and in view of God’s grand plan for the ages.
Perhaps, we have a double prophecy in the book of Isaiah – whereas the Millennial Kingdom is a shadow of the New Earth. We know that Jesus Christ will require many renovations of the earth before the Millennium takes place. Perhaps Isaiah referred to the renovation when he used the term new earth. Peter was probably quoting Isaiah.
There will be many changes made in the creation of the New Earth. First, all sin and evil will be banished in the New Earth, whereas there will be sin during the Millennium. Second, no one will live in their natural earthly bodies on the New Earth. Everyone living on the New Earth will have resurrected bodies like Jesus. Third, there will be no night because the light will not come from the present sun – just as in the New Jerusalem, the glory of God will be the light of the New Earth, and the Lamb is its lamp.
We need to remember that our present universe is molecular in structure – composed of atoms and subatomic particles – slowly dying. This means that the Millennial earth will be molecular in structure – the New Earth will be non-molecular in composition. We can assume that heaven, heavenly creatures, and future structures will not be composed of atoms and subatomic particles. We don’t know exactly what the materials will be, but we know that when Jesus received His resurrected body, He could walk through walls and disappear and reappear at will. We also know that angels can appear and disappear at will.
I have always wondered who will be on the New Earth. It seems that the ones on the New Earth will be able to go back and forth between the New Earth and the New Jerusalem.
We read this in the verse that describes the New Jerusalem, “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. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it” (Rev. 21:23-26), NIV). In the Old Testament, the word “nations” always refers to the Gentile Nations.
The above verse seems similar to Isaiah’s, “Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you compassion. Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations – their kings led in triumphal procession. For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined” (Isa. 60:10-12, NIV).
This verse makes it clear that salvation will come to the Gentiles and that the Gentiles will serve the Jews in the last days. We have applied this verse to the Millennial Kingdom, but it may have an application on the New Earth. Notice that the gates will be open in both scriptural references, and the nations will enter. Since we know that some Gentiles will be saved outside of The Church, perhaps these Gentiles will live on the New Earth.
Many believe that the Jews will inherit the New Earth. Perhaps both Jews and Gentiles will occupy the New Earth – going back and forth between the New Earth and New Jerusalem. As stated before, the bride of Christ, The Church, will live in the New Jerusalem. There will be a lot of going back and forth between the two places.
Chapter twenty-one of The Revelation states that the New Earth does not have seas. I assume this statement refers to oceans that have previously divided people. This does not mean that there will be no bodies of water for our enjoyment. We envision large lakes, rivers, mountain streams, and waterfalls. The water will be clear, free of trash and pollution – it may be clear enough for people to see the fish swimming in the water.
Since there is a great debate about what the New Earth will be like – let us discuss some possibilities. Some believe that it will look like the Garden of Eden. However, others think it will be similar to the Garden of Eden but enhanced with beautiful cities and lovely small towns and villages. Imagine some of your favorite places you have visited on this earth being significantly enhanced. And yes, there will probably be mansions on the New Earth. Some people believe that all the great parks and beautiful landscapes on the present earth will also be on the New Earth.
You may be thinking about transportation in heaven. Again, from the reports from some who have had out-of-body experiences, we will glide along at a leisurely pace with no effort – even uphill. We can think about where we want to go and be there for long-distance travel. One more consideration. What will happen to our universe with all its Galaxies, stars, and planets?
Will God create new ones for us to visit – the Bible does not say. It only says, “But just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1 Cor, 2:9. NASB1995).
I want to end this discussion with a final thought. I believe that life in the New Heaven and on the New Earth is a continuation of the Millennial Kingdom; the exception is that it is in a sin-free environment, with a non-molecular structure, and forever incorruptible. Jesus will reign from the capital, the New Jerusalem, God’s holy mountain, with righteousness and justice. I hope you have plans to be there; there is only one way – by way of the cross.
Now let us look at what John saw in his vision of the New Jerusalem.
Description of the New Jerusalem
John described the New Jerusalem as a foursquare city 1500 miles (12000 furlongs) wide, 1500 miles long, and 1500 miles tall. The city’s shape could be that of a cube or perhaps a pyramid. As we are not told how tall the walls are, we must assume that something makes the city 1500 miles high – it could be the walls, something inside the walls, or both. The tallest point in the city is the apex where the throne sits. I believe that the New Jerusalem is built on a very, very tall mountain with many slopes, valleys, meadows, and foothills – a park-like landscape. The walls surround the city and may reach the top – creating a cube-like structure without a top. The Old Testament speaks about “God’s Holy Mountain” – is it earthly, heavenly, or both?
The glory of God will provide the light of the city, and it will shine like a precious jasper stone – clear as a crystal. The city’s walls will be over two hundred feet thick and made of jasper. The walls will be symbolic of the exclusiveness of the city – the gates will never close.
We will get a better understanding of the size of the city when we compare it to a landmass with which we are familiar. The city would encompass an area from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Mississippi River to the Eastern Seaboard. There will be enough room for everyone to have a fabulous mansion – maybe with a hilltop view or along a river or lake. A waterfall would also be lovely.
The wall sits upon twelve foundations made of twelve precious stones. Some have speculated exactly how these stones will be laid. They may be side by side, with each being about 500 miles long, or laid on top of each other. Some have suggested that they will become columns supporting the New Jerusalem above the New Earth. On each foundation is written the name of one of the twelve apostles.
Jesus promised the twelve apostles that they would sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:27-28).
Now we see that their names are written on the twelve foundations of the city. This symbolizes their role in bringing the gospel to the world. Paul tells us: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Eph. 2:19-20, NASB1995). The question remains, who will be the twelfth apostle – will it be Matthias (Acts 1:26) or Paul?
The city has twelve gates, three on each side, and each gate is made of a single pearl. Standing beside each gate are twelve angels, and on each gate is the name of one of the tribes of Israel. Through Israel, God revealed Himself by the law and the prophets, and from Israel, God sent His Son to pay the ultimate price of sin.
The city is made of pure gold and appears as pure glass. At the city’s apex is the throne of the Lord God Almighty, with the Lamb on His right side and probably the Holy Spirit on His left side. There is no temple in the city since the Lord is the temple. There is no longer a need for a temple as the people have free access and fellowship with the Lord. The people will worship God at His throne. From the throne, the glory of God shines with more brilliance than the sun.
A great street will run down from the throne of God, and the river of life, which is as clear as crystal, will flow through the middle of the street. No one will ever thirst again. The trees of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, are on each side of the river. The trees will yield fruit each month, leading many to speculate that there will be a different type of fruit each month. In the Garden of Eden, the man was not allowed to eat from the tree of life, but now he can eat freely thereof. The leaves of the trees are used for the healing of the nations on earth – a symbol of peace and goodwill to all.
In the New Jerusalem, there will be many rooms or dwelling places – some versions of the Bible mention mansions; however, we are not told this in The Revelation, but Jesus did say that in His Father’s house, there are many dwelling places and that He was going to prepare a home for us (John 14:2). Based on the size of the city, it seems that these dwelling places will be very impressive.
There will no longer be a curse on God’s creation – no longer will there be sickness, death, mourning, crying, or pain.
Since there will always be light, there will be no darkness. The people will serve the Lord and the Lamb, and his name will be upon their foreheads.
In the last few verses of the Bible, we are told that the words of the Bible are faithful and true and that these things must shortly take place; however, we must remember that the apostle Peter said, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8, ESV).
Jesus says that He will come quickly, and blessed are those who keep the words of the prophecy of this book. Jesus also said that He would bring His reward with Him. We will be receiving crowns and rewards based on our works while we were on this earth. Jesus said that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and those who do His commandments will have the right to the tree of life and may freely enter the city.
John is told not to seal the words of prophecy that he received. We will remember that Daniel was told to seal his words of prophecy. The word of prophecy is now complete, and John is not to seal them. They can now be understood in light of fulfilled prophecy. A final warning is given to us not to add to or take away from prophecy or our names will be taken out of the Book of Life, and we will be eternally separated from God. He will not allow mankind to modify His plan for the ages, and we absolutely cannot devise a plan to save ourselves.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9, ESV).
“Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose… I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isa. 46:10-11, ESV).
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® 2011 by Zondervan Corporation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Used with permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked NASB1995 are taken from the New American Standard Bible, copyright @ 1960, 1971,1977, 1995, by The Lockman Foundation, LA Habra, California. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked ESV are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.