14. Heaven and the Eternal State
Finally, we come to the end of the beginning and the beginning of the never-ending.
The life for which creation was originally designed is just about to start. The Bible gives us very less information about the eternal state. However, we can gather some exciting information from what is revealed in Scripture. Everything will be perfect and to the superlative degree.
1. Relationships (21:1–7)
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
Peter predicts the disappearance of the current heavens and the earth. 2 Pet 3:10–13
There seems to be a complete cleansing of the old, before the new comes and not just a renovation of sorts.
Everything melts away. The heaven mentioned here most likely includes the atmosphere and the intergalactic space, the areas that have been corrupted with sin. There will then be the appearance of a new heaven and earth to be the home of believers, the home of righteousness.
“There is no longer any sea”. This is an interesting observation by John. It cannot be that the crystal sea mentioned in chp 4 is no more. The meaning is more likely that there will be no more separation of any kind. (John was separated from his church in Ephesus by the Aegean Sea while he languished in Patmos).
Then John sees the new heavens and the new earth and the Holy City, the new Jerusalem prepared and coming down The word “prepare” is in the perfect passive participle form of the verb meaning “prepare” or “make ready,”, which is what Jesus said he going to do. John 14:1-3
The beauty of the new Jerusalem stuns John and he explains it as a bride being adorned for her wedding day. But the focus of the super-physical beauty quickly gives way to what makes heaven heaven. The dwelling of God is now with people and he himself will be with them – a relationship that is deeper than one that God had in the garden of Eden. With Adam and Eve, God came down frequently and communed with them. Gen 3:8. After the separation by sin, in the OT, the Spirit of God came upon people on occasion and in the NT, the holy spirit permanently indwelled believers in the New Testament. But this is on a much higher plane of communion with God.
The word for dwelling has the meaning of tent or tabernacle. This is an interesting choice of word by John. He did not use the word for Temple, a more permanent structure, but a tent. The first Jewish temple built by Solomon was modeled after the Tent from the wilderness, which is reminiscent of the Israelite journey in the wilderness. God lived among them, they moved when He moved. His glory then was muted to enable the survival of the grumbling Israelites. His direct encounters with humans was limited to once a year. But his continuous dwelling among the Israelites was the most contact any human on earth ever had with God at that time. In the NT, the continuous dwelling by the Holy Spirit was more personal and permanent. The frailty of human life, the presence of sin, the continued desire of humans to sin, all resulted in a communion that was significantly compromised. Now, without those constraints, the dwelling of God being among humans will reach its full potential.
The results of being in the presence of God in heaven is much more than a fuzzy feeling and floating on clouds.
There will be no more tears.
There will be no more death.
There will be no more pain.
The gravity of those three facts are mind-boggling. Think about it. Imagine an existence without pain, tears, death or sin.
The one on the Great White Throne speaks. The creator of everything speaks. Eons ago He had willed the universe into being and said that He found it good. But the corruption wrought by sin started a vortex that could end only with the dissolution of everything. Now he declares that he is making everything new. And then he follows up that statement by declaring that it is true and trustworthy.
It is done.
He then proclaims that what He had just said is completed. Only One who is the beginning and the end of everything including time and purpose, can make such a statement. In the timelessness of God, the final redemption is here, on its way to be fulfilled.
The promise to satisfy our thirst with the water of life calls to mind the promise that Jesus made to the Samaritan woman. The water that Jesus would give would satisfy. John 4:13-14. The promise of satisfaction stands in stark contrast to the perpetual human pursuit to obtain happiness and satisfaction in the things of the world, things that would never satisfy. This is also the promise that Jesus made about coming to offer life to the full – a fully satisfying, abundant life. John 10:10
The reality of heaven is now made complete with the relationship between God and humans – it is as father and child. Even though Jesus is his only Son, John 3:16, anyone who believes is Jesus become the children of God by adoption (Rom 8:15, 23; Gal 4:5). The adopted children are as much a part of the family and have full access to the inheritance as the Only begotten son of God. The blessing of the inheritance of God in heaven for eternity, our minds are not capable of grasping.
8. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Unfortunately, with any inclusion there are always exclusions. A mention of a human family or a company or school or nation, means that there are people who are part of the family/company/school or nation and there are people that are not a part of it. There are usually criteria that determine the basis of inclusion and exclusion. The criterion is simple: All those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord is included and adopted into the family of God. All those who don’t are excluded. The entry could not be simpler. All those who are excluded from the family of God will also be excluded from living with God. As a result, they will now face an eternal, second death
2. Beauty ( Rev 21:9–27)
9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.
13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.
14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.
16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.
17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick.
18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.
19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald,
20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.
21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
John is invited to see the new Jerusalem and is carried by the Spirit to a great mountain. When we see the dimensions of the city, we understand why John had to go to a high mountain.
The whole city was said to shine with the brilliance of a jasper stone – green and clear.
There is a high wall and 12 gates, each with an angel.
The gates have the names of the 12 tribes
The foundations have the names of the 12 disciples
The angel measures the city.
It is cubic in its construction. Each side is 12000 stadia long. (1400 miles)
The wall is 144cubits thick and is made of jasper.
The city is made of pure gold.
John writes about the foundations of the city walls. But there are more questions about it than answers. We don’t know the layout of the foundations and how the foundations function for a cubic edifice.
John uses a wide variety of previous stones to try to describe the foundations of the new city.
Then are the 12 gates each of which are made from a single pearl. Hard to understand since the gates are never closed. (Rev 21:25). Completely safe with no sin or evil intentions, life will be peaceful. (Rev 21:27)
The streets of pure, almost translucent gold.
There is no temple. A clear contrast to the first Jerusalem temple. This was the temple of Solomon built with grandeur and with no expenses spared. It was located on Mount Moriah and it looked down onto Bethlehem on one side, Kidron valley the other, Mount of Olives to the east and Hinnom Valley to the west. To any person coming to the city of Jerusalem, the first arresting sight would be that of the Temple.
But in the new Jerusalem there is no temple.
Additionally, as is true of other eastern cultures, the priestly class held the most prominence. However, in contrast with the other cultures, Judaism was a monotheistic faith. The end result was that at the head of the Jewish culture and faith was a single God, Yahweh, who resided in the Temple.
In Heaven, there is no need for a temple. There are no lights. He reversed the first act of creation. The glory of God overshadows any need for light.
The nations will bring their glory into the city. Is this glory from the earthly kingdoms? Unlikely, since earthly rule was marred by sin. Is this from the millennium? Unlikely, since the millennial earth melted in the heat. This is most likely talking about the structure and function in the new heavens and earth.
Heaven is not a place for eternal snoozing. The idea that there will be rest in heaven does not mean lazily sleeping in in a continuous day. Instead, rest implies the opposite of unrest and the presence of peace.
Heaven is a place of activity, of the fulness of life without the limitation of sin, sickness, pain, death, suffering and weakness. Matt 25:21
In the eternal state, there will be endless assignments, learning and growth and people come in and out from the expansive cosmos to and from the Holy City.
The only people who are allowed into this state, into this place are those whose names have been written in the Book of Life, those who have believed in Jesus. The word for “have been written” is a perfect passive participle, which means that it has permanent effects. No one can unwrite it and each person has access forever into the holy city.
3. Blessings (Rev 22:1–6)
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
6 The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”
In the prophecy in Ezekiel 47, there is a fountain of water from the temple and going east. It starts small and then becomes a mighty river. Fruit trees are seen along the banks.
In John’s vision, the river flows not from the temple, but from the throne. Along the sides of the river are trees. The tree of life on each side, bearing fruit every month and not just for one season like earthly trees.
The reason why Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden was because they disobeyed and also, so that they would not access eternal life having become sinners. Gen 3:21-24. Once they were out of the Garden of Eden, death was inevitable.
Now being righteous, human access to the tree of life gives perpetual sinless existence.
No more curse. Human labor was cursed at the fall making it hard and less productive Gen 3:17. Now, in a reversal of that curse, labor will produce fruit.
“Reign forever” shows a kingly priesthood. Rev 22:5 There will be responsibility and achievement.
John is told about the veracity of the prophetical office and the trustworthiness of the words of this prophecy. 2 Pet 1:21
Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012)