A New Heaven and a New Earth
In our midweek Bible study series we have just recently finished Mark 13 in which Jesus is asked a question by the disciples – v4 Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled? For those of you who don’t come to the bible study, let me tell what the question refers – Jesus and the disciples had spent the day in Jerusalem, there had been some debate with the religious leaders in the Temple. As Jesus leads his disciples out of the city one says to him Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here. V1 and Jesus replies Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down. V2.
They cross the valley to the mount of Olives and with the backdrop of Jerusalem and the Temple rising of it, Jesus is asked this question v4 Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled? In the rest of the chapter he gives some answers. And what the disciples hear is of terrible events coming shortly upon the nation of Israel – the end of it effectively. As a nation the Temple was it’s heart, here God had established His presence, here God had provided a meeting place between His people and Himself – all was to end! Terrible times lay just ahead for the nation so blessed by God and yet would reject Him and kill His Son, sent to redeem them from their sin.
Now in the course of the study, Jesus points away from the impending destruction of Israel and down through the generations to the end of the world – the time of His return as King and judge –
But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven. Mark 13:24-27.
A day that we as Christians look for with great expectation, but also tinged with some sadness for the day that is our fulfilling day, is also the day of eternal damnation for all who reject the Lord Jesus Christ. Many whom we know and love will fall into this latter category. Many with whom we laugh and joke today will fall into this category, even some here this day.
But what I want to draw your attention to this morning is not the final day but what comes after it – as a Christian you ought not have the dread that the non christian will know, death is a defeated enemy to you, Christ has over it. Judgement is taken from off you, for Christ has paid your account in full and Hell, well you shall never taste it in any way – No, what lies ahead of you is a home that God has prepared and about which the scripture – “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which god has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor.2:9).
There are many things about heaven that w don’t know, it is beyond our ability to comprehend. But one thing we can be sure of is that it will fulfil our greatest longings, it will dazzle us with its beauty, it will obliterate our greatest problems with its power and splendour, it will be greater than anything we could imagine or dream, it will be a place where love and joy will reign unspoiled. The Perfect God has made the perfect place for His people.
We will each be familiar with the preparation that we will go to when those whom we love are coming to visit us, the extra special food, the cleaning of the house, etc., well the Bible says, If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matt.7:11).
Jesus said, In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).
What a grand home awaits us! Unfortunately, heaven has met with bad press by those who do not understand what God has prepared for those who love him. People see heaven as sitting on a cloud wearing a halo, while little angels play harps as they float through the heavens. Others see it as an unending church service, or singing hymns for all eternity. Some think of it as a sort of a celestial retirement city. It all seems like an apparition — so unreal. No wonder so many people see heaven as a place of numbing boredom, or secretly say to themselves, “Is that all there is?”
There is so much that could be said about heaven, but first let me say that:
Heaven will be real.
Heaven will not be some ghostly existence where we float about as spirits without bodies. Why would God take the trouble to create a new earth if there was not going to be anyone to live on it? Why would we be given new bodies if we were not going to live in a material world? It is my understanding of Scripture that we were originally created to live as earth dwellers in a material world. Adam and Eve were not placed on a cloud, but on the earth. Heaven will be Eden restored. We have been living east of Eden since Adam and Eve sinned, but the day will come when the original paradise God intended us to be a part of will be restored.
The Bible contains this promise concerning the earth: For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Roms.8:19-21).
Heaven will be a real place with real, meaningful and rewarding work for us to do. Heaven will be the fulfilment of what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The Bible says, But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.. . . . Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10,13). The old earth will pass away and God will create a new earth which will be the home of righteousness. The life we now have as the persons we now are will continue in the universe in which we now exist. The real world we have known, only new and better. T. S. Elliot wrote:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
If this fallen world in all of its brokenness can be so wonderful, what must heaven be like?
Heaven will be right.
It will be a place of righteousness, or right-ness. All the wrongs of the world will be made right. It will be a place where everything evil is absent, and everything good is present; everything sad will be gone, and only joy will exist; everything disappointing will disappear, and everything exciting will appear; everything depressing will be gone, and everything hopeful will come; everything violent and hateful will be gone, and everything born of love will be prevail; every unfaithfulness will be in the past, and steadfast loyalty will be present; everything detestable will be gone, and everything desirable will abide with us; every sickness will be gone, And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Rev.21:4).
Every wrong done to you in this world will be made right. Every injustice will meet with justice. Every sorrow will be reversed, and joy will wash over you like a waterfall. The prophet Isaiah wrote: For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. (Isaiah 65:17). He goes on to say, They shall not labour in vain, Nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, And their offspring with them. 24 “It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” Says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:23-25).
The corrupted, fallen part of the world will be gone, and God will restore the world to the way it was meant to be in the beginning — unspoiled by human sin. Everything false will disappear, and everything good and true will prevail. The Bible says, But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Revelation 21:27).
Heaven will be relational.
In 1991 Eric Clapton lost his five-year-old son, Conner, after he fell from the window of their forty-ninth floor Manhattan apartment. Clapton poured out his grief in song and wrote “Tears in Heaven.” In the song he asks the question:
Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
It is the question to which a lot of people would like an answer. The truth is, you will meet again those you have lost who have known Christ and lived for him — if you belong to Christ. Our relationships will not be lost, they will be regained and renewed. We will experience these relationships at a level we have never known before. Deep, rewarding and fulfilling relationships will be the hallmark of heaven. On earth we let each other down and disappoint each other. Many times, without knowing it, we hurt each other and fail each other. But there, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The apostle John writes, Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2). Our fallen, imperfect nature will be healed and we will be capable of intimacy in relationships that we cannot even imagine here and now.
Our relationship with God will be healed as well. No more will our love for God be compromised by a selfish love for ourselves and an enchantment with the things of the world. Our love for God and our relationship with him will be unspoiled. There will be nothing between us — no separation. Our sinful nature will be taken away, and we will no longer struggle with sin and temptation. Our relationship with God will be so intimate that the book of Revelation describes it as a bride coming to her husband — full of love and passion, with arms open wide.
Heaven will be rewarding.
John does the best he can at describing heaven, but he is limited by language and experience. He has never seen anything like this before, and he finds it impossible to fully depict what he witnesses in this vision. He talks about walls made out of translucent gold built on foundations made with precious jewels; gates made of a single pearl and streets of gold. The richness of heaven is so great that they use gold as paving material! Jewels are used for foundation stones! What a place this must be! It is so rich and real that the things of greatest value on earth are commonplace. It is so beautiful that he describes it with the best comparisons he can make.
Let’s say that you have worked very hard on earth. You have been faithful to God. You have done your best. You have kept your life free from any major sin. Yet nothing has gone right for you. Your health is bad, your finances are worse, your children have made nothing but bad choices and your relationships are unfulfilling. You want to say with the Psalmist: Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence (Psalm 73:13). It all seems so unfair. Where is the justice? Justice is not far away, but it is going to happen in another place.
Justice does not always happen in this world. This is not heaven, and we should not expect it to be. The accounts are settled and our rewards are given in another place and another time. That is what heaven is all about. It is delayed gratification, but gratification nonetheless.
C. S. Lewis in his great book The Problem of Pain, struggles with the problems caused by the pains of life. In writing, he says, “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
I think he is right. Home is on its way, but it is not here yet. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it is. And when it gets here he will make “everything new.” Jesus said, And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. (Revelation 22:12). Every sacrifice you have made will be remembered. Every sorrow you have experienced will be dispelled with countless joys. Every rejection will be overcome by an explosion of love. Every work will be rewarded. Far from every mistake being brought out, every good thing you have done will be honoured and recompensed.
Heaven will be the residence of God.
The greatest reward of heaven will be God himself. Nothing we see or experience will be greater than the fact that we are with God and see him face to face. Paul wrote: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12). How wonderful it will be to be in the presence of God where we will perfectly know him and know that we are perfectly known and loved. John writes in the book of Revelation: And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21:3). We will have no greater reward or relationship than being with our wonderful God and seeing him face to face.
At last we say, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5).
In C. S. Lewis’ wonderful books The Chronicles of Narnia, the characters who have lived in Narnia have completed their time and work there. In a closing chapter entitled “Further Up and Further In,” Aslan, the lion who represents Christ, has come for them in order to take them home. They are headed away from Narnia and are about to enter Aslan’s land. But they are met with familiar scenes. One of the characters cries out: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.”
I believe that when we enter the real heaven, we will say, “This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old earth so much is that it sometimes looked a little like this.” It will be a new earth — restored and redeemed — the place we were meant to live. At that time we will say with the Psalmist: The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance. (Psalm 16:6).
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).