16. What Will Heaven Be Like?
Article contributed by www.walvoord.com
The Loosing of Satan and the Final Revolt against Christ
At the conclusion of the thousand-year reign of Christ, Satan, who has been bound, will be let loose again, and he will immediately continue his opposition to the things of God by enticing those who were not genuinely saved in the Millennium to follow him in conquering the city of Jerusalem. Though everyone who enters the Millennium as an adult will be saved, it is obvious that as children are born, they have to make a decision to receive Christ. Under the circumstances, in the millennial kingdom all will be required to profess faith in Christ, but in some cases this will not be real, and, actually, they will be unsaved. When Satan is loosed, they follow him and attempt to conquer the city of Jerusalem. This is stated in Revelation 20:7-9:
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
The rebellion is short-lived. And when it is over, the devil is cast into the lake of burning sulfur, where he will be tormented forever (Rev. 20:10). It is significant that the beast and the false prophet who were thrown into the lake of burning sulfur a thousand years earlier are still there and are still under torment.
The Judgment at the Great White Throne
The closing verses of Revelation 20 describe a white throne in space where the wicked dead will be judged. This is revealed in Revelation 20:11-15:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
As this Scripture makes clear, those who will be raised whose names are not in the Book of Life (the record of those who are saved) will be cast into the lake of fire, which is described as the second death. Though it is difficult for people to believe that this will be literally fulfilled, the doctrine of eternal punishment is just as clear in Scripture as the doctrine of eternal heaven. Accordingly, this passage emphasizes the importance of winning people to Christ and helping them accept the gospel that their eternal destiny might be in heaven.
The earth and sky that characterize our present existence will flee away and be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10; Rev. 20:11; 21:1). According to Revelation 21-22, the eternal destiny of those who are saved will be the new Jerusalem in the new heaven and the new earth.
There is remarkable little revelation given concerning the characteristics of the new heaven and the new earth. All we know about the new heaven is that there will be no sun or moon, and probably no stars (Rev. 21:23-24). The new earth will be illuminated by the presence of the glory of God. Little is known about the new earth, but it apparently is round because there are directions of north, south, east, and west mentioned (Rev. 21:13). There will also be no sea or oceans. The physical qualities that enter into the eternal state differ greatly from what we now experience.
Major attention is focused upon the new Jerusalem which apparently will adorn the new earth. The new Jerusalem will be as beautiful and fresh as a bride, and it will come down from God out of heaven. In contrast to the earth, which is destroyed, the new Jerusalem was apparently in existence in space during the millennial kingdom. Though Scriptures are not clear on this point, some believe that the new Jerusalem during the Millennium will actually be the home of all the resurrected saints as a satellite city, and they will be able to commute to the earth to carry on their earthly functions and then return home to their place in the new Jerusalem. In any case, the Scriptures are clear that the new Jerusalem will be located on earth in the eternal state and be the home of all who are saved.
A great deal of attention is given to the design of the new Jerusalem. According to the Scriptures, it will have twelve foundations, which seems to make sure that it will rest on the new earth. Surrounding the city will be a high wall with three gates on each of the four sides with the gates bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The description of the city indicates that it is glorious and brilliant like a gigantic jewel. The size of the city will be 12,000 stadia (Rev. 21:16) or about 1,400 miles, and its length will be the same as its width. It will also be 1,400 miles high.
The city is described as made of jasper and pure gold. The jasper is a different stone than exists today as a jasper because it is said to be clear in contrast to the jasper of today which is opaque. Gold also seems to differ from what is gold metal today because it is pictured as glass so that the light will go right through it. The foundation of the city has twelve stones mentioned, representing every color of the rainbow, and the scene will be indescribably beautiful, being illuminated by the glory of God.
The high wall about the city indicates that only those worthy may enter. According to Hebrews 12:22-24, the new Jerusalem will be inhabited by angels, the church, righteous people in general, and Jesus Christ:
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
The twelve gates in the city, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, are said to resemble a single giant pearl. The streets will be made of pure gold, but transparent like glass, and God is said to give it light (Rev. 21:23). Though the city has gates, the gates will not be shut, but no one will be allowed to enter who is not considered worthy.
In Revelation 22 a river is described with water as clear as crystal, which comes from the throne of God and flows through the city, representing abundance of spiritual life. The Tree of Life, which is described as bearing twelve kinds of fruit, one each month, is on either side of the river, apparently indicating that there will be more than one tree with the river flowing between. The leaves of the tree are for the health, or for the healing, of the nations. As all those who are there have been resurrected, they will not have physical maladies, and the tree simply adds to their health and enjoyment.
Many questions are left unanswered, but Scripture does describe very simply that the lot of those who are saved will be to “serve him” (Rev. 22:3). Our greatest privilege in heaven will be to serve God in some significant role.
The fact that heaven is an ideal place where there will be no tears, sorrow, or death is a great comfort to Christians, some of whom endure much in this life. For the Christian, there is no setting sun but a glorious future of being with the Lord forever. Our final home will be in the new Jerusalem.
Because the future of a Christian is so wonderful, our present task is to tell others that they may partake freely of eternal life (Rev. 22:17). The final note of the book of Revelation is that Christ is coming soon (Rev. 22:20).
Christians living today in a world that is increasingly difficult have the wonderful anticipation that the rapture of the church may occur any day, when they will find themselves in the presence of the Lord to be forever in His joyous fellowship.
1. Describe the loosing of Satan and the final revolt against Christ.
2. What happens to those who join in Satan’s revolt?
3. What happens to Satan?
4. What is the significance of the fact that the beast and the false prophet are still in the lake of fire after one thousand years?
5. What happens to the earth and the heavens when the great white throne is set up in space?
6. What happens to those whose names are not in the Book of Life?
7. What does the judgment of the great white throne indicate regarding the necessity of leading people to Christ?
8. What does the Bible teach about the new heavens?
9. What does the Bible teach about the new earth?
10. What is the significance of the fact that the new Jerusalem is not said to be created but descends from God out of heaven?
11. If the new Jerusalem will be a satellite city over the earth during the Millennium, what is the possibility that this might explain where the resurrected saints live when they are not engaged in ministry in the millennial earth?
12. How is the new Jerusalem described in general?
13. What are the dimensions of the new Jerusalem?
14. What is the significance of the wall around Jerusalem and the gates?
15. Who will inhabit the new Jerusalem according to Hebrews 12:22-24?
16. What provides light for the city?
17. What does the river described in Revelation 22 represent?
18. How do you explain the tree with its twelve months of fruit relating to the health and well-being of the nations?
19. What, according to Revelation 22:3, will be our function in the new Jerusalem?
20. How do you summarize the fact that heaven is an ideal place for the children of God?
21. In view of the fact that we have such a wonderful future, what is our present task on the earth?