“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” (Revelation 21:1)
Satan’s master strategy is to have people think that what lies ahead will be far less than what we have now. He wants you to believe that life is more if it is in your hands and less if it is in God’s hands. Temptation gains power to the degree that a person believes that.
So if, in your heart, you believe that the life you have now is better than the life you will have in the presence of God in the future, you will be like a person who tries to hold onto sand as it slips through your fingers.
The pundits of pop psychology often talk about “living your best life now.” But living your best life now is only possible for a person who is going to hell. For the person who is going to hell, this life is as good as it is ever going to be.
But if you are a Christian, and you are headed for life in the new heaven and the new earth, how could you possibly live your best life now? Your best life lies ahead of you. All that you enjoy in this life, and all that you have in Christ in this world, is just a foretaste of the joys that are to come.
When a couple plans a wedding reception, they go for a tasting. They taste the meal that will be served on the great day. But the tasting is only a sample. It is preparation for the great event toward which the bride and groom are counting the days.
We saw that there is a good, better, best progression to the Christian life. To be in Christ is good, really good! Even when life in this world is at its worst, you are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. To be with Christ is better by far (Phil. 1:23). But even for those in heaven, the best is yet to be.
So I invite you to turn with me in your Bible to Revelation 21, where we read about the new heaven and the new earth. John has seen many things (throughout the book of Revelation) that relate to the joy of believers in heaven and the ongoing conflict with evil on earth, right up to the final triumph of Jesus and his righteous judgment on the wicked (Rev. 20).
Then John says, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). The Bible says that we are to set our minds on things above, and we will be greatly helped if we can grasp to some degree what God has prepared for those who love him.
I want to offer a simple grid for anticipating the unclouded joy that lies ahead of all who are in Christ: add, subtract, divide, and multiply.
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” (Rev. 21:1)
I use the word ‘add’ here because I want to communicate continuity. Life in the new heaven and earth will not be less than the life you have now. It will not be other than the life you have now. It will be more!
You will live this life! Your soul will be made perfect. Your body will be raised in the power of an endless life. So forget about floating on a cloud. You will have a ‘flesh and bones’ resurrection body as Jesus did: “A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).
You will live this life in the new heaven on earth. The word ‘new’ can be used in two ways: The first is to say, “I’m moving to a new house.” You are in a different place and there is no continuity between your old house and your new house, except that you lived in both places and you took some of your stuff with you.
The second is to decide to renovate your house. It’s an old house and it needs everything redone, but it is in a great location, it stands on a sure foundation, and you see that it can become something special. So you get new plumbing and new electric. You take down some walls that were put by the previous owners. You do a total rehab, and when you are done you say, “Everything is new!”
That is exactly what God says: “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Rev. 21:5). The apostle Paul makes it clear that what God makes new is this planet: “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). It is a new ‘earth.’
In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). What God made was good. But our sin brought a curse upon the ground. So all generations live with the effects of sin showing up in human nature as hatred, violence, murder, etc., and showing up on the planet in tornados, earthquakes, mudslides, floods and droughts, and aggression in animals.
Here is the great promise: When God has removed sin and all its effects from his people, then he will then remove all the effects of sin from his creation so that the new earth will become a fit place for God’s children to share a life of unclouded joy.
Think about the joys of life for unredeemed people in this fallen world, the joys of music, sport, the arts, science, technology, travel, food, and friendship. None of that will be less. All of it will be more as you enjoy life in the resurrection body on the new earth.
God redeems what he has created. He does not scrap it and start again. All that God has made is good, and when he redeems it, he will make it better than it was before.
Some years ago I was having lunch with Willem VanGemeren, who served as professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. We were talking about the new heaven and the new earth in Isaiah 65, and he said to me, “When I am enjoying the new earth, I think I would like to climb Mount Everest, because that is something I have neither the capacity nor the opportunity to do in this life.”
Why does John say that he saw new heaven as well as a new earth? John Macarthur says,
“God will remake the heavens and the earth, merging his heaven with this earth in a perfect dwelling place that will be our home forever. In other words, heaven, the realm where God dwells, will expand to encompass the entire universe of creation, which will be fashioned anew in a manner fit for the glory of heaven.” 
So it is entirely legitimate to speak of ‘heaven’ when we are referring to the new heaven and the new earth, because heaven will fill the earth. The earth will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev. 21:4)
Notice what is gone, subtracted, taken away. These are the things that you will not find or experience in the new heaven and earth.
No more death
Nobody in the new heaven and earth will ever die. No one will grow old. No one will become sick or ill. There will be no need for hospitals or for emergency services. You will have been at your last funeral, and you will never be at another.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). And beyond this, Jesus said: “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (11:26). Because there is no more dying, there will be no more mourning, no more saying “Goodbye.”
No more pain
There will be no more aching bones! The resurrection body is flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), but the flesh does not wrinkle, and the bones do not ache.
No more crying
There are two reasons for this: The first is that nothing in your future life will bring you sorrow, fear, sadness, or disappointment. When you share this life of joy, nothing will ever happen that would cause you to cry – not ever!
What about tears from the past? God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Rev. 21:4). There are tears on earth that even those who love us most cannot wipe away. They can sympathize with our pain, they can grieve with us in our sorrow, they cannot wipe away the tears. But God will wipe every tear from our eyes.
1. You will not spend eternity grieving over your past sins,
or your missed opportunities.
We will never forget that we were sinners because we will always be finding joy in the Lamb who was slain, the Son of God who redeemed us by the shedding of his blood!
We will know ourselves to be redeemed sinners, not in a way that will bring pain or regret, but in a way that will cause us to magnify and glorify Christ for all that he is and for all that he has done. And when you think about it, that is how we are to know ourselves right now!
2. You will not spend eternity carrying painful baggage
from difficult relationships with other believers.
Even at our best, Christians are so far from what we will be that it is sometimes hard for us to imagine broken relationships completely restored and deep wounds completely healed. But God is able to do more than we ask or imagine.
In heaven, every Christian will be made perfect in repentance, perfect in forgiveness, perfect in love, perfect in humility. Perfect in repentance means that none of us will have blind spots. There will be in all of us complete ownership of all that is ours and complete repentance from the heart with no evasions. Spurgeon says, “I cannot [imagine] a perfect man, looking at another perfect man without regretting that he ever ill-treated him.” 
And at the same time, in heaven, every Christian will be perfect in forgiveness. There will be no grudges, no withholding. How long do you think it would take for a person who is perfect in forgiveness to reconcile completely with a person who is perfect in repentance? I think we are talking about a moment, the twinkling of an eye!
There will be a giving and a receiving of forgiveness among God’s people that will position all of us for a life of harmony in the new heaven on earth and God will wipe all tears from our eyes. What a happy day it will be when we no longer grieve the heart of God and no longer bring pain or disappointment to our brothers and sisters.
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Rev. 21:8)
Precisely when God is telling us about the new heaven and the new earth, God tells us that he will separate all that is evil from his people and from his creation – the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars.
Notice that all of these are descriptions of character. This does not mean that all who have been guilty of these sins will be excluded from heaven.
There is a similar list of sins, consistent with Revelation 21, in which Paul says, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
Then we read these words, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). There is grace and forgiveness for every and any sin. Christ purchased this at the cross through the shedding of his blood. He holds this gift in his hand, and he offers it freely to every repentant sinner who will come and receive.
But there are men and women who do not turn in repentance towards God. They do not look to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and cleansing. They do not see a need for a Savior, and so they die in their sins (John 8:24). What this means is that the root of sin remains in them. They have tied themselves to it, and it has tied itself to them.
What would happen if they were allowed to enter the new earth? It would quickly become like the old earth. We know this from the history of the Bible. Evil and violence spread in the early history of the world to such an extent that God moved to cut it back in a massive judgment through the flood. Only one family was saved – the family of Noah.
But the family of Noah carried the root of sin in them, and they brought it with them into the new world! They were hardly out of the ark before there was dysfunction in the family, and the effects of sin were growing like weeds in fertile soil. Starting again is not enough.
God’s purpose is not to put people back into the Garden of Eden and say, “See that you don’t mess up this time!” No, God is redeeming a people for himself, people who love him freely, people who have a new heart, people in whom his Spirit lives, people from whom Christ will remove the last trace of sin. Nothing you have done could prevent you from becoming one of these people. If you are not one of these people, you’d have no one to blame except yourself.
John says, “I saw the holy city coming down from heaven.” The new earth will be a holy place, and it is for people who have been made holy. Bishop Ryle says, “Most men hope to go to heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there… What could an unsanctified man do in heaven if by chance he got there?” 
John Owen says that people who are not made holy in this life cannot enter into the blessedness which consists in their enjoyment of God. Unholy persons “cannot enjoy God, nor would God be a reward to them.” 
So here’s the tragedy of sin: The sinner could not be happy in heaven and cannot be happy in hell. Sin is complete dead end. It leaves you with no place to go. Sinners will want to be out of hell, but they will not want to be in heaven.
The new heaven and the new earth will be the home of righteousness: “Nothing unclean will ever enter it” (Rev. 21:27). If it is the home of righteousness, and nothing unclean will ever enter, how can I be there? Only through the cleansing that comes from Jesus Christ. Put your trust in Jesus Christ and set your heart on holiness if you want to be in heaven.
“I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2)
The Lord Jesus stated clearly that there will no marriage in heaven: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mat. 22:30). We will still be male and female, because that is how God created us and it was good. But the gift of marriage was given to point to something greater that God has in store for all who love him.
Happy marriage at its best is a taster, a pointer, to the joy that we will find in Jesus Christ, and that Christ will find in his people in the new heaven and the new earth. And if you have an unhappy marriage, you have a sense of what marriage should be like.
Christ is the bridegroom, and he brings his people into union with himself, so that there is a shared life of God’s people with God himself. Nothing less could satisfy and nothing more could be desired.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Rev. 21:3).
Not only will the joys of life in the resurrection body be wonderful, as we’ve begun to describe just the edge of them, but this joy will go on increasing! The joys you experience in life remain in your memory so that you continue to derive happiness from them. And over time, you continue to accumulate more.
Jonathan Edwards argues that it will be the same in eternity. The joys of heaven will accumulate: “Think about what that will be like when you have been in heaven for a million, million ages… Their knowledge will increase to eternity; and if their knowledge, their holiness; for as they increase in the knowledge of God, they will see more of his excellency (beauty), and the more they see of his excellency (beauty) the more they will love him, and the more they love God, the more delight and happiness they will have in him.” 
Friends, heaven will be a life of ever-increasing joy! And that is what I think it means when the Bible says that Jesus, our shepherd, will lead us into springs of living water (Rev. 7:17).
Think About This…
1. If you are holding back from full commitment to Jesus Christ
However hard it is for you to come to Christ in repentance, however hard it is for you to look to him in faith, however costly it may be for you to confess Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, you cannot ultimately lose.
Nobody in the presence of Jesus regrets following him, not even those for whom it cost their lives! What they have now is better by far, and what lies ahead of them in the resurrection is even better still. What are you holding onto now that is so good it would be worth missing out on all that the people of God will share with Christ in the new heaven and the new earth?
- If you feel weighed down with the sheer pressure you face
on a difficult path in which God is calling you to walk
In the light of all that Christ has done for you, all that is to come – you can endure. God’s Spirit is with you and God’s joy lies ahead of you: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).
John Newton tells the story:
“Imagine a man on his way to New York. He is in a carriage drawn by a horse, and he is on his way to receive a million dollar inheritance. A mile outside New York, the wheel on his carriage breaks, so he has to walk the last mile to get his million dollar inheritance. And all the way to New York he grumbles, because his carriage is broken. What would you think of such a man?” 
In Christ, you are on the last mile of your journey to inherit the new heaven and a new earth, and you will find strength for the journey as you anticipate the joy that lies ahead.
 John Macarthur, The Glory of Heaven, p. 89, Crossway, 1998.
 C. H. Spurgeon, from the sermon, No Tears in Heaven, August 1865.
 J. C. Ryle, Holiness, p. 23-24, Evangelical Press, 1979.
 Cited in Ryle, p. 24.
 Jonathan Edwards, Works, Vol. 2, p. 618, Banner of Truth, 1988.
© Colin S. Smith
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