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Our Eternal Home is the New Earth

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures


This morning, we're going to finish our summer series looking at our eternal home. You know, the way most people think about heaven - complete with halos, and wings, and floating around on clouds playing harps for eternity - frankly doesn't sound very appealing. There's nothing in that description that really excites me. Fortunately, the common human perception of heaven bears almost no resemblance to where we will spend eternity, those of us who are in Christ. And that's true for two reasons. First of all, it's true because the common view of heaven is a caricature of the real biblical heaven. But, secondly, and even more importantly, we need to understand that the real biblical heaven is not our eternal home. That may shock you. But the Bible teaches that our eternal home will be a new earth remarkably like the one on which we live. Rather than on some ethereal virtual world, we will live forever on a real earth with real cities and real people doing things that real human beings do. Sadly, today's church has almost forgotten that this is what the Bible teaches. But you and I must hold fast to the truth that our eternal home is a new earth.

Two weeks ago, we studied the eternal state of the wicked; that was a sobering message for me to preach and for you to hear. Jesus our Lord taught that there is actually a place, a terrible place, of conscious suffering where those who refuse to repent and trust in God's only provision for salvation, will be forever separated from God their Creator and from everything that's good, suffering and enduring what Revelation calls "the wrath of the Lamb in the presence of the Lamb" forever.

But today, it's our joy to consider the eternal state, not of the wicked, but of the righteous in the new heavens and the new earth. Now, before we can really look into the reality that is the new earth, we need to remind ourselves that our eternity actually begins with the destruction of the present universe. The Bible is clear that God will destroy the universe as we now know it. Now I need to admit to you that there is a lot of theological debate about how God will do that. There are those who are conservative evangelical theologians who argue that God will destroy this universe completely, and there are others who say no he won't destroy it completely, he will simply cleanse it and renovate it by fire. And that's what we will inhabit forever. The question really comes down to this: is the current universe a remodel or a teardown? Now the reason for the confusion is that there are some texts that seem to imply both. There are texts that seemed to imply a cleanse and remodel sort of approach to the new earth. For example, in Matthew 19:28 Jesus says, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me [listen to how He phrases this], in the regeneration [in the rebirth, the remaking], when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Now, the problem with using this versus is that, in context, it probably refers to the Millennium, that is, the 1000-year reign of Christ on this earth that has been renewed. And so that would be the perfect description of it. It's not talking about the eternal state. Same thing is really true with another verse that's often used - Acts 3:21. Peter's preaching and he says, "...heaven must receive [the Messiah] until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time." Again, you get that idea of restoration, renovation, remodel. At the same time, this passage also, in context, probably refers (properly interpreted) to the Millennium, to the thousand-year reign of Christ when it will be restored from its cursed state to a renovated state. Romans 8:21-22: "that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." Again, the implication is that it will be more of a remodel or renovation, set free from slavery into freedom.

While there are passages that seem to imply this sort of cleanse and remodel approach, there are other passages that seem clearly to state that God will destroy this current universe and make an entirely new one. Take Hebrews 1:11-12 for example. Quoting from the Old Testament, "They [the current heavens and earth] will perish, but You [God] remain; / And they all will become old like a garment, / And like a mantle You will roll them up; / Like a garment they will also be changed." The picture, here, is of an old piece of clothing that is no longer useful to wear; you take it off, and you throw it away, and you put a new one on. In 2 Peter 3:10 Peter writes, "...the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up." Revelation 20:11, speaking at the time of the great white throne judgment, says that "no place was found for them [the current heavens and the current earth]."

But I think Revelation 21, where I invite you to turn with me, Revelation 21:1 settles the argument for me. Let me show it to you. John writes, "Then I saw..." Now the "then" refers to the timeline that has been unfolding here in the last chapters of Revelation. I don't want to go through this in detail, but in chapter 19 you have the second coming; you have earlier than that, of course, you have the tribulation period, the seven years of tribulation on this earth. Then you have, in chapter 19, the second coming. The saints, we come back with Christ from heaven; we were raptured before the tribulation. We come back at the second coming. That is followed, then, in early chapter 20, by the Millennium - the thousand-year reign of Christ on a renewed earth; this planet renewed, renovated. At the end of that thousand years, verse 7 says there is a rebellion that takes place. And then following that rebellion and God squashing that rebellion, comes in verse 11, the Great White Throne judgment. This is when all the unbelievers of all time will be judged - thrown into the lake of fire, we're told at the end of this chapter. But notice in verse 11 that, at the Great White Throne judgment, the earth and heaven fled from God's presence and no place was found for them. It's at this point God destroys this existing universe. Go back to chapter 21:1: "Then [on the heels of that] ...Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away..." Now notice, first of all, that he says, "the first earth" and "the first heaven". What does first imply? That there's a second. That the new one is a second one. But I think there's another bit of proof here that's even stronger. Notice in verse 1 John says, "the first heaven and the first earth passed away". John uses that same Greek word translated "passed away" down in verse 4. There he says, "there will no longer be any [no more] death; there will no longer be any [no more] mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have [here it is] passed away." Listen, God is not going to renovate pain and death and crying and reuse them in some way in the new heaven and new earth. No! They cease to exist. That's what he means by passed away. Now it is logical to assume that if John uses it that way, the same word in verse 4, then in verse 1 when he says "the first heaven and first earth passed away" he means they cease to exist. So, then, there is coming a day when the universe as we know it will come to an end in a divine act of un-creation.

2 Peter, turn back there with me. 2 Peter 3 explains how this will happen. Verse 10: "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. [Here's the application] Since all these things [that are all around us] are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness..." What Peter is saying is, 'Really? You're going to get caught up with this world when God is going to destroy it?' Instead, verse 12: "[you should be] looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth..." Now notice, first of all, that the conflagration Peter describes here includes, in verse 10, the "heavens" (plural). As you know, the Scripture speaks of three heavens. The first heaven is the atmosphere that surrounds this planet. We talk about you know the sky...the clouds being in the heavens; that's the use of that word. Then we talk about the second heaven which is the interstellar, intergalactic heaven; it's space as we know it, where all the galaxies are, the other galaxies etc., and the expression of our own galaxy. Then, you have the third heaven, as Paul calls it to the Corinthians, and that's where God dwells; the special place where He manifests His presence. What he says here when he says "the heavens" - he's talking about the visible physical realm of interstellar intergalactic space. And then he says, verse 10: "...the earth and its works..." You'll see the marginal note: "the earth and the works in it." In other words, our planet and everything on it will be destroyed. How will that happen? Look back in verse 7. It'll be destroyed by fire. And in verse 10 we're told that that fire will be accompanied with a roar. In Greek, the word "roar" is an onomatopoetic word, that is, it's a word that sounds like what it means; it describes a loud rushing sound; it's like this vacuum sound as everything is swept away. Verse 10 goes on to say, "the elements [that is the basic physical building blocks of the universe] will be destroyed with intense heat and the earth [this planet] ...will be burned up."

Now you don't have to wonder how God might do this. I mean the atomic structure of the creation itself makes our entire universe one huge potential nuclear bomb. And someday, at God's decision apparently, the universe as we know it will be destroyed by an atomic chain reaction and will simply cease to exist. No place will be found for it. At the time of the Great White Throne of Judgment, there will be nothing but God and the intelligent beings He's created. And then comes the creation of the new heavens and a new earth. After the old is destroyed, God makes new.

Now this was prophesied in the Old Testament. Isaiah, specifically, Isaiah 65:17 says, "For behold [this is God speaking], I create new heavens and a new earth; / And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind." God says, 'I'm going to make a new earth.' In Isaiah 66:22 we read: "'For just as the new heavens and the new earth / Which I make will endure before Me,' declares the Lord..." God says, 'I'm going to make a permanent universe unlike the disposable one in which we live.'

When you come to the New Testament, as we will see in the Book of Revelation, this new heaven and this new earth are prophesied as well. But, in addition to that, the New Testament authors point back to the Old Testament prophecy. In the passage where we just were, in 2 Peter 3:13, Peter says this: "...according to His [God's] promise..." Where did He promise it? In Isaiah. "...according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." By the way, I love that word "dwells". It's a word that in Greek can be translated "is at home". We're looking for a new earth in which righteousness is perfectly at home. Certainly not ours.

Now understand, then, that both testaments, old and new, promise that this universe will be destroyed, and that God will create a new universe like a phoenix from the ashes. And what will the new universe be like? Well, the details of the internal state - that's really what we're talking about - come almost exclusively and appropriately in the last two chapters of our Bible. Turn with me to Revelation chapter 21 and chapter 22. This is where we'll spend the rest of our time this morning.

I want us to briefly walk through Revelation's description of this new creation, this new universe, here in chapters 21 and a portion of chapter 22. Notice how 21 begins: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away..." Now God is going to create, then, a new heaven, that is, a new interstellar intergalactic space, what we know as space. He's going to recreate that and a new earth. Now what's interesting about this, honestly astounding, is that by using the same terms, earth and heaven, for both the old and the new, the first and the second, this implies that there's going to be great similarity between the old and the new. The new will be like the old, physical and material, like our current universe. There may be some figurative language here in John's description but, understand this, John chooses these familiar images, images that are very familiar to us, because they are the closest earthly counterparts to what he saw in this vision. In fact, listen for a moment to the points of similarity between this earth, on which we live, and the new earth that John describes here. Let me just pull them from these two chapters. Here are the points of similarity. These will be in the new earth just as they are here. There will be cities, mountains, walls, gates, compass directions, foundations and foundation stones, similar measurements to what we know now, the same precious stones and metals but perfected, streets, nations, kings, daytime, a river, trees with fruit and leaves, months (that is the passing of sequential moments), and Christian people. All of those appear in the new earth that we're studying about together this morning. And there's nothing in the context here to suggest that these things are anything but real, just as they are described. In fact, I think it's fair to say, and many theologians believe, that it is highly likely that either all or at least most of the things, that God said back in Genesis chapter 1 in the first creation were very good, will also be present in the new creation.

But let's look at the new world a little closer. First of all, in chapter 21:1-4, John has an initial vision of the new heaven and new earth. This is sort of his introduction. He says, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth" and there was one huge difference between the new earth and our existing one. Verse 1 says, "and there was no longer any sea", that is, oceans. There will be water; we'll learn that later. But there won't be oceans. Why is that? Well, there are a lot of explanations for that, and I think there's some truth in several of them. But I think the one that stands out is this: although oceans are not evil, in and of themselves (remember God said they were very good back in Genesis 1), nevertheless, they are often used in Scripture to picture the sort of unrest of the human fallen soul that the disorder, the violence, that's a part of the sinful creation, a fallen world in which we live. For example, even Isaiah talks about the wicked are like the waves of the sea which cannot rest, constantly churning. And so, in the new world there will be no more sea. There will be no reminders of man's fallen sinful condition.

Notice in verse 2: "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband." Coming down out of the third heaven, where God specially manifests His presence, comes this city having already been prepared. Now if you're biblically literate, that should take your mind back to the upper room discourse on the night before our Lord's crucifixion when He said, 'I have to go away and if I go away, I will prepare a place for you.' What we have here is the unveiling of the place Christ has been preparing. And what a place it must be! I mean, think about this, Jesus Christ spoke this universe into existence using small portions of six days. But He's been working on this city for 2000 years. John runs short of words to describe its magnificence. Notice he calls it the "new Jerusalem" in verse 2. This city will serve as the capital city of the new earth. In fact, heaven and earth will be united together by this remarkable city.

Verse 3: "And I heard a loud voice from the throne..." This isn't the voice of God; God's going to speak in a moment. This is one of the beings around the throne of God saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them..." I wish you'd never heard that before. I wish that were new to you and you could really wrap your mouth...your mind around what's being said. The thing that will make the new earth the most wonderful, the most desirable for us, isn't streets of gold. It's that God will be there. He will dwell with us. God will specially manifest His presence among His people on this new earth forever.

Verse 4, and I love the personal nature of this: "and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes..." Listen, God Himself will remove from your heart the troubles of this life. He will wipe them away. He will remove the tears. And then it says: "...there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain..." Listen, how remarkable is this? In the new earth there will be no tears, not one tear; not a tear of pain, or of suffering, or a misfortune, or of regret, disappointment, crying in sympathy for the pain of others, and no crying because of death. No tears. In fact, there will be no death. Paul says death is the last enemy that will be destroyed. Christ will crush it and death will die. And there will no longer be any mourning or crying and no pain. You know what, even as I speak to you this morning, there are people sitting in this room who, because of the fact that we live in a fallen world, deal with relentless, constant pain. God wants you to know there's coming a new earth in which no one who knows Him will experience one single moment of pain. Verse four says: "the first things have passed away" - they've gone out of existence. Everything in this life that is connected to sin and the curse will be gone - all sorrow, all suffering, all tragedy, all evil, all sin.

You say, 'That sounds almost too good to be true.' But it does almost sound too good to be true. And so, in verses 5 through 8, God underscores the certainty that this will happen, the certainty of the new heaven and the new earth. Notice in verse 5 God speaks: "And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" And then He underscores that it is trustworthy because of His character. He says, "[Write these things down, John] for [because] these words are faithful and true." Why? Because God's faithful and true. God's never lied. This is what He will do. And then He says it's true as well because of My nature: "I am the Alpha and the Omega." I'm the first letter in the alphabet, I'm the last letter in the alphabet. I am the source of all things; I am the end of all things. And I encompass all things. All things live and move and have their being in Me. I am A-Z. I can do this. God says, 'Trust me, it will happen. I am making all things new.' And then He says, 'How do you get in?' Verse 6: "I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost." You don't have to pay anything to get into the new earth, to get into this eternal city. "He who overcomes..." That's, in the Book of Revelation, that's the one who stays faithful, who remains committed to Christ, who has accepted the sacrifice of Christ. That's the overcomer. "[He] will inherit these things and I will be his God and he will be my son." God says, 'It's certain. You can trust Me.'

Now beginning in chapter 21:9 and running down through chapter 22:5, John gives us a detailed description of the eternal city of the new world, the crown jewel of the new universe. Let's look at it together. Now after meeting John's tour guide in verses 9 and 10, one of the angels we met earlier in the Book of Revelation, then beginning in verse 11 and running down to verse 21 John describes, and the angel describes to him, the architectural details and features of this city. First of all, there's sort of this initial overall impression. Verse 11: "Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper." Again, you see John is having trouble explaining this to us. He says it's's like a precious stone. It's like a clear, radiant stone. Think diamond. The entire city is like a giant diamond turning and sparkling in the sunlight, casting its dazzling refracted colors across the universe. That's what it looks like. Think a massive diamond turning in the sun.

Then he tells us that it has real walls and gates - verses 12 through 14. Notice verse 12: "It had a great and high wall..." Now that's a surprise. What are walls in the ancient world for? There for defense against your enemies. But there are no enemies to threaten this city; they've all been destroyed. So, why are there walls here? The walls symbolize this city's permanent, impenetrable security. In addition, there are twelve gates or, literally, gate towers. It's a big complex rather than a single little door. And, specifically, you'll notice verse 12 says, "...twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels..." And, by the way, notice that on these gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were written. And then down in verse 14, on the foundation stones of the wall of the city, the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb were written. What's the point? The point is, in eternity, there will be one unified people of God. When I grew up there was a sort of odd kind of dispensationalism taught that said the Jews would live on the earth and the Christians would live in this satellite city with God. No! Just like in the church, those who are redeemed, those who have come to embrace the Messiah, we will be one people of God united together forever. Notice that there are these gate towers, the twelve of them. There are three in each compass direction. That implies that we will come and go from this city to the rest of the earth and probably to the rest of the infinite universe. For those of us who enjoy travel (notice I didn't say the process) but who enjoy travel there will be no shortage of that in the eternal state. And I am confident there will be no economy class. Notice there is an angel posted at each gate, it says in verse 12. That also is further proof of the safety of the city. It has walls, it has it has gates, it has an angel. Remember, now, angels are these powerful, intelligent beings. One angel killed 185,000 men in one night in the Old Testament. There's an angel at each gate. This is an impenetrable, absolutely, perfectly safe city. No reason to ever fear.

Now you notice in verse 14, that we're told that the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones. I think implied in that...a foundation stone implies that it goes down into the earth. So, I think the city will rest on the earth as opposed to what some teach - sort of a satellite city hovering above the earth. Seems that it's connected. It sits on the surface of this new earth. That's surprising when you consider its size. And you see this in verses 15 to 17: "The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards..." That's probably not the height of the wall but likely the thickness of the wall. Seventy-two yards, three quarters of football field. The wall is thick, again, symbolizing the absolute safety and security of this city. It's massive.

When the angel measures the city, John discovers that it is a perfectly symmetrical cube. And depending on how long a stadium or the stadia are, that are mentioned here (that biblical measurement), it's somewhere between 1400 and 1500 miles cubed. In other words, think that the footprint of this city is roughly the size of the US from the Mississippi River to the Pacific, from the southern border with Mexico to the northern border with Canada. Some, because of that, say, 'This can't be a real city. I mean, if you attached a cube that size to our planet, it would give the earth a distinct wobble.' It's like, really? I mean you think a being who can speak the universe into existence can't figure that out? I'm really not worried. Now, why is the new Jerusalem a cube? Why would it be a cube? There is one very famous cube in the Old Testament. What is it? It's the holy of holies. It was 30 feet by 30 feet by 30 feet. It was a perfect cube. And here you have a city that is a perfect cube. Why? Because it will be the holy of holies for eternity. It will be in the new earth what the holy of holies was for the people of God in the Old Testament. It will be the special dwelling place of God among His people. Now think of how the size of a city this massive, how much it would be, a city 1400 miles square - that's the footprint. And then imagine if you multiply that times the number of levels, that a city 1400 miles high can accommodate, with millions of intersecting golden streets, and boulevards, and avenues. Massive!

Notice its materials in verses 18 to 21: "The material of the wall was jasper [think a clear diamond-like stone] and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone." Verse 21: "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass." So, overall, the city is like a diamond, but it's also made of a kind of gold that is so pure, it's translucent. And the walls, and much of the city, is made up of a variety of precious stones. We know some of these stones, others of them we can't be quite as sure about. But what's intended here is to tell us that there will be a huge variety of transparent color. There will be greens and blues and purples and reds, with many other tones and hues and shades. And when you add all of those stones to the glass-like gold and to the diamond-like translucent quality of the entire city, this city will be like a magnificent multicolor jewel, splashing its radiance around the universe with the colors of the rainbow. Sometimes when I'm driving in my car, my hands on the steering wheel and I have a couple of diamonds in the ring on my hand my wife gave to me, and the sun will catch those diamonds and refract the colors of the rainbow around my car. It's beautiful! Well, with that city, there isn't some external source of light. The light is the glory of God within the city and the glory of God will radiate out through that diamond-like, gold-like multi-colored city, refracting its beauty around the universe. What a city! Those are the architectural features.

But John moves on from that, in verse 22 of chapter 21 and going down through chapter 22:5, to explain the spiritual realities of the city. He explains, here, some things that won't be in heaven. First of all, in verse 22, there's no temple: "I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple." We won't need a temple because God will be there. He will be its temple. We will worship in the very presence of God Himself. In verses 23 and 24, we learned that in that new universe, particularly in conjunction with the new earth, there will be no cosmic light source: "And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it." Listen, it won't need a sun like we need now. It won't need a moon. Why? Because the glory of God will provide its light. I love the way Isaiah describes it, talking about this very reality in Isaiah 24:23. He says, "Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, [why?] for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and His glory will be before His elders." Isaiah's saying, 'Listen, when God's glory is the light, you don't need the sun. In fact, the sun will be ashamed to show up because it will look, in comparison to the glory of God, like the fading glowing spark of an extinguished candle.'

Verses 25 and 26, John tells us there is going to be no danger there: "In the daytime (for there will be no night there) ..." Isn't that a wonderful thing? Everything looks worse at night, have you noticed that? And that's when a lot of the evil in our world is done. "In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it..." Its gates will never close, never be closed, because there will never be a threat to its peace or its prosperity or its security. Verse 27 tells us there will be no evil there: "...nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." There's how you get into this city. Your name has be written in the Lamb's book of life. You say, how does that happen? It happens when you are willing to humble yourself before your Creator, confess your sin, express a willingness to turn from your sin, and seek the forgiveness that's found in His Son, the Lamb of God as John refers to Him. What He purchased through His death on the cross - that's the only way you get into the city. But everyone else, everything evil, everyone evil, will never be there.

In chapter 22:1-2 we find that there are no needs in this city because God's throne is there. Notice verse 1: "...the throne of God and of the Lamb..." is there. And remember, Hebrews tells us that the throne of God is a throne of grace where we get everything we need. Not only that. There's a crystal-clear river. Notice, "he showed me [verse 1] a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street." There's a crystal-clear river that flows from beneath the throne of God, our King, down the middle of the city's main street and becomes a cascading course of waterfalls and streams that flow through the rest of that 1400-mile cube. This was huge. In the ancient world, and particularly in a barren country like Israel, rivers were everything. You always built your cities near rivers. This city has a river that flows through its center just like in the original garden of Eden. This will be paradise regained. Notice verse 2: "On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." It's unclear how many trees John intends for us to see here. There could be two or, frankly, it could be a tree line boulevard. But each of these trees is the mysterious tree of life (going back to the garden) symbolic, not only of eternal life, but also of eternal blessing. Notice it bears twelve kinds of fruit, one each month. This is the new-earth version of Harry and David's. It's the "Fruit of the Month" tree - incredible variety! And here's the amazing thing: we won't eat its fruit for nourishment. Jesus didn't have to eat but He could eat. We will eat for sheer enjoyment and for social interaction. "The leaves of the tree were [will be] for the healing of the nations". What does that mean? By the way, there will be nations in the new world. There will be kings. There will be hierarchies of leadership. But the tree of life will have healed the nations. In other words, there will be righteous rulers. There will be justice. There will be love. There will be everything that reflects the character of God and nothing else. Every part of these trees enhances our lives, making them rich and satisfying.

Verse 3 of chapter 22 says there will be no curse. I love that. "There will no longer be any curse." Everything that came after the fall of Adam will be erased. It'll be gone. And verses 4 and 5 says... say to us, there will be no separation. Notice, "They [that's us, the saints] will see His face [the face of the Lamb], and His name will be on their foreheads." They will permanently belong to Him. "And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and [here it is] they will reign forever and ever." There's no end to this relationship. No end.

There's one other thing that won't be in heaven, and that is, there will be no sinners in heaven, that is, no unrepentant, unredeemed sinners. Let me show you three passages here. Look at chapter 21:8. Remember, now, this is God talking. This comes from the throne of God. The One who sits on the throne says this, verse 8: "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers..." And, by the way, Christ adds if you're angry in your heart or you express that anger in words, you're guilty of murder. "...and immoral persons..." - that is, those who actually commit sexual sin and Christ said if there's an unrepentant pattern of sexual lust. "...and sorcerers" - the Greek word is pharmakeia. It's the word from which we get our word pharmacy. It's the word that implies using hallucinatory drugs to get in connection with the gods or with those who had already died. "...and idolaters..." - worship something other than God. "...and all liars, [shall have] their part... in the lake that burns [or, excuse me, the lake that burns] with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." They won't be there.

Verse 27: "and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it..." Listen, if you hold onto your sin, if you're unwilling to repent and believe in Christ, you will never see the new earth. You will never see this magnificent city. You will, according to God Himself, have your part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. In chapter 22:14 it says, "Blessed are those who wash their robes..." It's a picture of the forgiveness that comes through Christ, that's offered down in verse 17 of the same chapter. "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city." But verse 15: "Outside [that is outside this city, outside the new earth, outside the new universe, are those who live in unrepentant sin] ...the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying."

In 1978, I was in a service like this one, and the pastor just read those verses. And for the first time in my life, I came to grips with the fact that my life was described in those verses. And that though I professed Christ, I would not be in the new heavens and the new earth. And the Lord used these passages, that night, to bring me to Himself. That's my prayer for you, if you're here today and you're not in Christ. Listen, please understand what this passage is saying. You will never darken the gates of the new Jerusalem, of the new earth that God has created. You will never be there but, instead, you will forever be separated from God, enduring the wrath of the Lamb. I plead with you to come to Christ today. Repent! Turn to Him.

Now, couple of common questions about the new earth. Very quickly. What will we be like there? Well, in our characters, we'll be just like Christ. All the divine qualities that humans can share will be ours. But, understand this, we'll still be completely human. Unlike Mormon teaching, we will not be gods. We will be perfected human beings in our characters. What will our new bodies be like? Well, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells us our new bodies will be imperishable, that is, they will never grow old. They will never wear out. You will never look in the mirror and grimace. They will be glorious, that is, they'll be beautiful and attractive. I'm looking forward to that. They'll be powerful. They will have remarkable strength, Paul says. They will be spiritual bodies. He doesn't mean, by that, they're like ghosts. He means they're like our Lord's resurrected body, His glorified body - recognizable but different, able to eat but without hunger, able to pass through matter but still be touched. There will be continuity between the old and the new. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, the relationship between our old bodies and our new bodies will be like the relationship between a seed and the plant that springs from it. That's what we'll be like.

What will we do? Well, we'll worship, we'll worship. Look at verse 4 of chapter 22: "they [we] will see His face [the face of the Lamb]". We'll see the human form, the human body, of the second member of the Trinity who is still human. And, in addition, just as in the Old Testament, God the Father will likely choose to reveal Himself, although He is spirit, He'll choose to reveal Himself in some physical manifestation, likely like the shekinah, the blazing glorious light. But, regardless, we will enjoy what theologians call the beatific vision. We will gaze on God. And I can promise you this: forever, as you look at God, as you look at Christ, it will be a moving, compelling enrapturing, life changing, vision. And we will worship Him. Notice verse 9 of chapter 22. The angel says to John, "Don't worship me. Worship God." And that's the occupation of heaven. That will be our occupation in the new earth. We will serve Him.

Secondly, notice verse 3 of chapter 22: "...His bond-servants [literally, His douloi, the plural of doulos (slaves), His slaves] will serve Him." John MacArthur says, "We will spend all eternity carrying out the infinite variety of task that the limitless mind of God can conceive." And not only will we serve Him, but incredibly, according to Luke 12:37, He will serve us.

Thirdly, we'll reign with Him. Look at verse 5: "...they [speaking of the saints] will reign forever and ever." Now that invites the question, reign over what or whom? Well, obviously, over the new creation. Just as Adam was installed as the vice-regent over the earth and its creatures (there was work to do before the fall in the Garden of Eden), there will be work for us to do in eternity, over the new earth. But also, we will reign over other believers. Remember there are kings, there are nations, there is a hierarchy. That's true in the character of God, it's true among the angels, it's true in every human institution God's ever created. There will be structure and order. Oh and, by the way, who gets the opportunities there? Jesus taught that our opportunities in the new world are directly linked to our faithfulness in this world.

And, finally, we'll live perfectly human lives before Him. We'll live perfectly human lives before God. We don't have many descriptions of what life in the new earth will be like but there are some clues. And the clues tell us that it's going to be remarkably like the life we have now, without sin. For example, there'll be eating and drinking; that's true in the Millennium. Luke 22:18 Jesus says, "...I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." During that thousand years, we're going to eat and drink with Christ. But it's true also in eternity. Revelation 22:1 talks about the river of the water of life that's offered to those in that city. In chapter 22:2, there's the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit. Wayne Grudem writes, "There is no strong reason to say that these expressions are merely symbolic without any literal reference. Are symbolic banquets and symbolic wine and symbolic rivers and trees somehow superior to real banquets and real wine and real rivers and trees in God's eternal plan?" There's also going to be music. Revelation 4 and 5, there's music in the presence of God and there will be in this new earth forever. There'll be learning. God is infinite and we have finite minds so we will never learn all that can be known about God. We will spend eternity trying. There'll be other normal human activities. Princeton theologian A.A. Hodge writes this: "The eternal home of the divine man, Christ, and of all the redeemed members of the human race, that's us, must necessarily be thoroughly human in its structure, conditions, and activities. Its joys and its occupations must all be rational, moral, emotional, voluntary, and active. There must be the exercise of all faculties, the gratification of all tastes, the development of all talent capacities, the realization of all ideals, the reason, the intellectual curiosity, the imagination, the aesthetic instincts, the holy affections, the social affinities, the inexhaustible resources of strength and power native to the human soul, must all find exercise and satisfaction." In other words, you will never be bored in eternity. And whatever you do, you will find perfect, complete joy and satisfaction in it and you'll always do it perfectly to the glory of God. What a world!

You know, one of my favorite places on this planet is Yosemite. If you've ever been there, you've probably come into the park through the southern entrance. There's this winding road for about 30 miles and then you come upon a tunnel. And for about a quarter mile, you drive through this rock tunnel cut through the heart of a mountain. And then suddenly, you emerge from that tunnel and before you lies the expansive view of the Yosemite Valley floor. And frankly, it just takes your breath away. Think of this world with all of its joys and beauties; it's like that tunnel. It's like we live in the tunnel. But someday, our Lord will make a new heaven and a new earth, and it'll be like stepping from that tunnel into the full expression of the creativity and the beauty and the glory of God. Folks, that's a world worth waiting for. And it's just around the next turn.

As you think about, talk about, sing songs about heaven, that's okay. But don't just think about the intermediate state. Think about the new earth on which we will live forever. John MacArthur writes, "The eternal capital city, the new Jerusalem, will be a place of indescribable, unimaginable beauty. From the center of it, the brilliant glory of God will shine forth through the gold and the precious stones to illuminate the new heaven and the new earth. (I love this). But the most glorious reality of all will be that sinful rebels will be made righteous, enjoy intimate fellowship with God and the Lamb, serve them, and reign with them forever in sheer joy and incessant praise." Beloved, hold fast to the truth that our eternal home is a new earth.

Let's pray together.

Father thank You for these magnificent truths. Help us to apply them, to live in light of them. Lord for those who are going through the troubles of this life, I pray that You would give them hope for a world in which there's no more pain, and no more sorrow, no more tears, no more death, no more trials. And Father, for those who are here like I was many years ago, self-deceived, open their eyes to see the beauty of this eternal city, the beauty of the gospel and of Christ and the ugliness of their own sin. And bring them to Christ today. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen!