Heaven and Earth
We have spent the last few weeks talking about “What Happens Next.”
We have seen that Jesus, the Apostles and the Scriptures teach that there is life after death. At some point in the future, we will receive new bodies and we will all stand before the Judge.
While Jesus walked among us, He showed us how the Father wants us to live. The Apostle Paul says, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1 NKJV) These instructions to imitate Christ by following the example of Paul are one of several places that the Scriptures tell us to follow Jesus’ example.
Life is often likened to a journey. I want to present a different idea today. I want to show how life is like a mission. The Bible uses metaphors such as a farmer, a soldier and a race. Then in 2 Corinthians 5:20 it says:
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (II Corinthians 5:20 NKJV)
This verse says we are Ambassadors for Christ. As Ambassadors, we have a mission, a charge to keep. Any ambassador is given a job by his or her sending country. An ambassador is on a mission. An ambassador is by definition a foreigner living in a foreign land. We are ambassadors for Christ. The metaphor of a journey is helpful. However, an ambassador is what we are. It is not a metaphor. It is a fact.
As ambassadors, our citizenship and our home are not in this world. As the Apostle Paul was describing his goals in life, he said:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.... (Philippians 3:20 NKJV)
All believers, both those from Old Testament times and those from New Testament times, are citizens of heaven. Hebrews 11 tells us the following about the men and women of faith from of old:
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:16 NKJV)
It is this city that God has prepared for them, for us, that I want to talk about today.
Prior to taking up residence in that city, our bodies will have to be renewed. This is why the full statement of the passage just quoted from the Apostle Paul is:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV)
The Lord Jesus will transform our bodies. Our bodies will be conformed to His glorious body to make us fit for our residence in the city that God has prepared for us. We talked about this new body when we considered the resurrection. When Jesus returns, those of us who are alive will be transformed and those who have gone before will be resurrected, and so, we will all have new bodies.
Our new bodies will be fit for living in our new home. Jesus spoke of this new home in John 14:2.
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. (John 14:2 NKJV)
Revelation 21 speaks of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven. This is the city of our citizenship. This will be our new home. This is the place of many mansions of which the Lord Jesus spoke. We will speak of this more in a little while, but first we must consider what will happen to the present heaven and earth.
Revelation 20:1 says:
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. (Revelation 20:11 NKJV)
This passage is speaking of the final judgment known as the Great White Throne Judgment. We spoke of this coming judgment last week. However, I am returning to this passage this week because as you will notice, the earth and the heaven have fled away from the face of Him who sits on the throne. This is speaking of the destruction of this present earth and heaven. 2 Peter 3 speaks of this destruction of heaven and earth when it 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. (II Peter 3:10 NKJV)
As we can see, the present heavens and earth will be burned up. This is why Revelation 21 begins with:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. (Revelation 21:1 NKJV)
There will be a new heaven and a new earth. At the final judgment, Death, Hades and those whose names are not in the Book of Life will be cast into the Lake of Fire. However, those whose names are in the Book of Life will dwell in the new heaven and new earth. 2 Peter 3:10 tells us that the present earth will be burned up, but 2 Peter 3:13 tells us:
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (II Peter 3:13 NKJV)
The new heavens and new earth are described as a place where righteousness dwells. In Genesis 1:31, God looked at the world He created and said it was very good. This present world is cursed and subject to decay. Romans 8:19-21 tells us that the creation eagerly waits for its deliverance from bondage of decay (corruption). When this happens, the creation will once again be “very good.”
This new, very good creation will not be a mystical place. The Scripture is not using a metaphor here. The new earth will be a physical place, just as the first creation is a physical place. The Bible speaks of us eating and drinking in the world to come. It also speaks of trees and rivers in this new world. We have no reason to think that these are metaphors. These references are meant to convey physical realities of the world to come.
When sin first entered this present creation, Genesis 3:22 tells us:
Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— (Genesis 3:22 NKJV)
God prevented humans from living forever in a sinful state. He sent the man and the woman out of the garden and stationed an angel to guard the entrance so that no one could eat of the tree of life. However, in describing the New Jerusalem, Revelation 22 says:
In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2 NKJV)
In the New Jerusalem, we will have free access to the tree of life. We will live forever.
It is time we talk a little about the New Jerusalem.
Revelation 21:1speaks of a new heaven and a new earth. Then Revelation 21:2 says:
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2 NKJV)
This new Jerusalem is lavishly adorned and decorated so the metaphor is used of a bride ready for her wedding. Revelation 21:9 says:
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (Revelation 21:9 NKJV)
The Church is the bride of Christ. But here we find this city described as the bride. This might raise some questions until we see that Revelation 17 starts with almost the same words but in Revelation 17 it is speaking of Babylon, described as the great harlot with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication. Just as the city of Babylon represents the mystery of evil at work in the world, the new Jerusalem represents the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church. Although saying we are being built into a building is a metaphor, this does not mean the city that comes down from heaven is a metaphor. Babylon was an actual city and the new Jerusalem is an actual city.
As the new Jerusalem is set up on earth, a loud voice says, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them....” This alerts us to the significance of the new Jerusalem. God is omnipresent. He is present everywhere. And yet, from time to time, the Scriptures speak of His presence being somewhere or of Him dwelling with His people. Whenever God is said to dwell with someone, His presence is there in a special way to bless. His presence brings blessing. The Father and Son, while being present everywhere, will be present in a special way in the new Jerusalem. This city represents a combining of heaven and earth in a way that we do not see in this present creation.
Each of us will have a room or a mansion in the new Jerusalem, and we will also be on the new earth and be able to roam around and explore the new creation at will. As the Scripture tells us:
But as it is written: “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.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (I Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV)
God has prepared wonderful things for us. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard the things God has prepared. However, it says that God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.
We have the Word of God that tells us of a city — a city for which we eagerly wait and hope.
In the meantime, we are here as ambassadors. We are here to represent our God and Savior. If we are too concentrated on making this world our home, we will store up our treasures in the wrong place. Since this world is going to be destroyed, we should be concentrating on living godly lives and storing up treasures in heaven.
On which city is your heart set, Babylon or Jerusalem?