13. The New Heaven And EarthRelated Media
What is the new heaven and earth? It has been commonly said that “Earth is not my home; I’m just passing through.” However, that could rightly be said about the current heaven as well, where God dwells with his angels and the souls of believers. Revelation 21:1 describes the future eternal state when it says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more.” The current heaven is an intermediate heaven. It is not the final destination of believers. After the millennium and the final judgment, God will create a new heaven and earth where humans will dwell (cf. Rev 20). In fact, Revelation 21:2-4 says that the new heaven will descend onto the new earth. It says,
And I saw the holy city—the new Jerusalem—descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.”
The final destination of believers is not the current heaven. It is the new heaven and earth. What does Scripture teach us about the new heaven and earth?
1. The new heaven and earth will be a renewal of the current heaven and earth.
Some believe the current heaven and earth will be completely destroyed and God will make new ones (cf. Heb 1:10-11, 2 Peter 3:10-13, Rev 21:1, Matt 24:35). Verses like Hebrews 1:10-11 seem to point to this. It says, “And, ‘You founded the earth in the beginning, Lord, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you continue. And they will all grow old like a garment.’” However, verses like these seem to refer to the destruction of its present form—not that it ceases to exist. Actually, God will renovate the current heaven and earth. Second Peter 3:5-7 says this in comparing how God will destroy the present heaven and earth similarly to how he destroyed the earth through the Genesis flood. It says,
For they deliberately suppress this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water. Through these things the world existing at that time was destroyed when it was deluged with water. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, by being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
Since God did not destroy his original creation through the flood but simply purged the surface of it, it seems that he will do the same through fire in the end times. Heaven and earth will be renewed by fire. It will be set free from the curse and its bondage to decay.
Furthermore, Romans 8:19-23 seems to parallel creation being freed from bondage to the curse with believers receiving new bodies at their resurrection. It says,
For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly but because of God who subjected it—in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Paul pictures creation eagerly awaiting with groans for its freedom from bondage (v. 19-22), and it will groan until the redemption of believers’ bodies at the resurrection (v. 23). Since our bodies are renewed in a similar sense to a seed becoming a plant according to 1 Corinthians 15:35-37, this seems to reflect how the current heavens and earth will be renewed in the eternal state.
In addition, further evidence of a renewed creation is the renewal language is often used of the new creation. Consider the following verses:
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
This one heaven must receive until the time all things are restored, which God declared from times long ago through his holy prophets.
…and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross—through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
What else does Scripture teach about the new heaven and earth?
2. The new heaven and earth will be similar to the current heaven and earth but significantly better.
In the new heaven and earth, we will eat and drink, though we will not need to (Lk 22:18, Rev 19:9, 22:2). There will be rivers and trees (Rev 22:1-2). The tree of life is described as “producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year” (Rev 22:2). This pictures the immense diversity (twelve kinds of fruit) and productivity (yielding its fruit every month) in the renewed heaven and earth. Revelation 22:2 says this about the tree of life, “Its leaves are for the healing of the nations.” Why do the nations need healing if there is no sin or sickness in the eternal state (cf. Rev 21:4)? This must refer to enhancing the enjoyment of the renewed creation rather than healing from some pain. The fact that “nations” are referred to means that we will maintain our cultural and national differences in the coming kingdom (Rev 21:24, 22:2); however, we will be one people united under Christ. Also, the new heaven and earth will be full of worship, serving, and knowing God intimately. He will be the center of this renewed creation. Revelation 21:3 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: ‘Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them.’” Also, Revelation 22:3-4 says, “… the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
3. The new heaven and earth will be significantly different from the current heaven and earth in that many things will be absent.
Revelation 21:1-4, 22:3, and verse 5 says,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. And I saw the holy city—the new Jerusalem—descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.”
And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him … Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.
According to these verses, there will be:
- no more sea (21:1)
- no more death (21:4)
- no more mourning (21:4)
- no more weeping (21:4)
- no more pain (21:4)
- no more curse (22:3)
- no more night (22:5)
About seventy percent of the earth’s surface is ocean, but since there will be no more sea, the new heaven and earth will be a beautiful garden with mountains and streams dispersed throughout. Isaiah, in describing the millennial kingdom, says that the deserts will be replaced with vegetation that has streams of water flowing through them. Isaiah 35:1-2 and 5-7 says,
Let the desert and dry region be happy; let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily! Let it richly bloom; let it rejoice and shout with delight! … Then blind eyes will open, deaf ears will hear. Then the lame will leap like a deer, the mute tongue will shout for joy; for water will flow in the desert, streams in the wilderness. The dry soil will become a pool of water, the parched ground springs of water. Where jackals once lived and sprawled out, grass, reeds, and papyrus will grow.
This will probably be true of the eternal state as well. Dead and unproductive areas will become fruitful and full of life.
Furthermore, since there will be no more curse, creation will no longer rot and decay (cf. Rev 21:3, Rom 8:21). In fact, Romans 8:21-23 talks about creation being “set free from the bondage of decay” when the children of God experience the “redemption” of their bodies—at the resurrection. Likewise, in Revelation 21:5, God says, “Look! I am making all things new!” Apparently, everything will stay in a state of newness, instead of the continual death and renewal of nature, which happens in the winter and springtime.
In addition, there will be no more sin or those who practice sin. Revelation 21:27 and 22:15 say this about the heavenly city:
…but nothing ritually unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or practices falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, and the murderers, and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood!
4. As mentioned previously, the new heaven and earth will be a unification of heaven and earth, as the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, descends to the earth.
Revelation 21:2 says, “And I saw the holy city—the new Jerusalem—descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband.” This city was anticipated in the Old Testament. Hebrews 11:10 says this about Abraham: “For he was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Before Christ died and went to heaven, he promised the disciples that he would make this city. In John 14:1-3, Christ said:
Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.
The heavenly city was also talked about in the epistles. In Galatians 4:26, Paul said, “But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” And the writer of Hebrews said, “But you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the assembly.”
In addition, in Revelation 21:11-22:5, the city’s beauty is described in detail. It says,
The city possesses the glory of God; its brilliance is like a precious jewel, like a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It has a massive, high wall with twelve gates, with twelve angels at the gates, and the names of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel are written on the gates. There are three gates on the east side, three gates on the north side, three gates on the south side and three gates on the west side. The wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The angel who spoke to me had a golden measuring rod with which to measure the city and its foundation stones and wall. Now the city is laid out as a square, its length and width the same. He measured the city with the measuring rod at fourteen hundred miles (its length and width and height are equal). He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits according to human measurement, which is also the angel’s. The city’s wall is made of jasper and the city is pure gold, like transparent glass. The foundations of the city’s wall are decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation is jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates are twelve pearls—each one of the gates is made from just one pearl! The main street of the city is pure gold, like transparent glass. Now I saw no temple in the city, because the Lord God—the All-Powerful—and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their grandeur into it. Its gates will never be closed during the day (and there will be no night there). They will bring the grandeur and the wealth of the nations into it, but nothing ritually unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or practices falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life—water as clear as crystal—pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations. And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.
According to Revelation 21:16-17, the city is immense. It says,
Now the city is laid out as a square, its length and width the same. He measured the city with the measuring rod at fourteen hundred miles (its length and width and height are equal). He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits according to human measurement, which is also the angel’s.
Since this is given in “human measurements” (21:17), it seems to be the city’s literal size and not something figurative. It is 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers) long on each side and shaped like a cube (Rev 21:16).
Harold Wilmington said this about the New Jerusalem:
How big is a city this size? Our earth has approximately 120 million square miles of water surface and 60 million square miles of land surface. If one multiplies 1,400 by 1,400 by 1,400 (the dimensions of the new Jerusalem), he arrives at the total cubic miles of the city, a staggering figure of 2.744 billion. This is some 14 times the combined surface of the entire earth, including both land and water area.
It has been estimated that approximately 40 billion people have lived on our planet since the creation of Adam. Of this number, over 5 billion are living today. Density studies of city populations assure us that every single one of these 40 billion could easily be accommodated upon just the first “foundational floor” of this marvelous 1,400-layer metropolis.
Taking a different approach, heaven will consist of 396,000 stories (at 20 feet per story) each having an area as big as half the size of the United States.1
Randy Alcorn’s comments about the New Jerusalem are also helpful:
A metropolis of this size in the middle of the United States would stretch from Canada to Mexico and from the Appalachian Mountains to the California border. The New Jerusalem is all the square footage anyone could ask for…
We don’t need to worry that Heaven will be crowded. The ground level of the city will be nearly two million square miles. This is forty times bigger than England and fifteen thousand times bigger than London. It’s ten times as big as France or Germany and far larger than India. But remember, that’s just the ground level.
Given the dimensions of a 1,400-mile cube, if the city consisted of different levels (we don’t know this), and if each story were a generous twelve feet high, the city could have over 600,000 stories. If they were on different levels, billions of people could occupy the New Jerusalem, with many square miles per person.2
There will be no temple in this city, as God and Christ are its temple (Rev 21:22). It also has no need for a sun and moon because God and Christ light up the city (Rev 21:23). It will be the center of the earth in that all the nations will bring their splendor into the city and walk by its light, which God and Christ provide (Rev 21:24). The river of life flows through this city and the tree of life is in it (Rev 22:1-2). Nothing impure, nor anyone who practices sin will ever enter into this city—only those who are born again (Rev 21:27, 22:15).
The fact that heaven is a city implies many things about it. In cities, they have commerce, theatre, restaurants, sports, and a diversity of people and cultures. Possibly all these things are true about the New Jerusalem as well. Sometimes, people think going to heaven will be boring, as though we are sitting on a cloud, singing, and praying all day. It will be a lot more than that. The heavenly city will demonstrate the diversity, creativity, and beauty of God, even as the first creation did, but even more so.
5. The new heaven and earth will be ruled by God and humans.
God’s original intention for the earth was for humans to rule it. Hebrews 2:8-9 says,
You put all things under his control.” For when he put all things under his control, he left nothing outside of his control. At present we do not yet see all things under his control, but we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God’s grace he would experience death on behalf of everyone.
Because of the fall, humanity forfeited the ability to rule; however, because of Christ, who became human and lived a perfect life, died for people’s sin, and resurrected, as God accepted his sacrifice, humans will rule with Christ over the earth. In Matthew 5:5, Christ said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” In addition, humans will rule heaven with Christ. Revelation 22:5 says this about God’s people in the context of descriptions about the heavenly city, “Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.”
1. As we consider the new heaven and earth, it should encourage us to think more about eternal things.
Colossians 3:1-3 says,
Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Whatever we continually think about affects how we live. Proverbs 23:7 (NASB) says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” If we think about worldly things, we will become more worldly. However, if we think more about heavenly things, we will increasingly develop the character of heaven. In Romans 8:18, when Paul considered our glorification and that of creation (cf. Rom 8:20-23), he said, “For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.” Thinking about the glories of eternity made him think less consumed with his present sufferings. The sufferings on earth are incomparable to the glory that we shall experience in eternity.
2. In addition, as we consider the new heaven and earth, it should challenge us to not store up earthly treasures but instead to store up heavenly ones.
In Matthew 6:19-21, Christ said this to his disciples:
Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We must be careful of dulling our appetite for the eternal state by over-focusing on temporary, earthly treasures. Instead, we should store up riches in heaven by sacrificing to serve God and others. Having riches in heaven could be briefly summarized as having a greater capacity to enjoy the eternal state. Certainly, that should be our goal when we consider the great glory that awaits us in the new heaven and earth.
3. As we consider the new heaven and earth, it must challenge us to live holy lives and forsake sin as we wait on God to bring the eternal state.
In 2 Peter 3:11-13, Peter said this:
Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze! But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides.
4. Finally, as we consider the new heaven and earth, we must endeavor to populate it by evangelizing the lost.
God loves unbelievers and sent his Son to die for them, so they could have eternal life spent with him in the heavenly kingdom (John 3:16). He also commissioned us to share this gospel—this good news—with others (Matt 28:18-20). In light of this, we must aim to never lose our zeal to see our friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers come to know the Lord. Also, we must labor and partner with others to reach the nations with the gospel. Let us faithfully pray for the salvation of the lost and seek to strategically share the gospel with them. Lord, help us!
- What stood out most in the reading?
- Why will God create a new heaven and earth?
- What are some characteristics of the new heaven and earth?
- How will the new heaven and earth be similar to the current heaven and earth?
- How will the new heaven and earth be different from the current heaven and earth?
- Will God destroy the old heaven and earth or renew them? Support your view with Scripture.
- What are some practical ways we can respond to God’s promise of a new heaven and earth?
- What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?
Copyright © 2021 Gregory Brown
Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.
All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.
BTG Publishing all rights reserved.
Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)