Eschatology: Heaven and the New Earth


The Prediction of a New Earth

The Bible tells us that God has a plan for a new earth that will be very different from the present earth.

The Apostle John saw a future new earth that would exist after the present earth. There was no more sea, which implies great changes in design of the earth (Revelation 21:1).

The Apostle Peter said that the present earth will be burned up and completely destroyed. He said that Christians are waiting for a new earth (2 Peter 3:10- 13).

The writer of Hebrews said that the earth will become old, will perish, and will be changed (Hebrews 1:10-12). He said that the earth will be shaken and removed by God so that only eternal things will remain. He said that we are waiting for an eternal kingdom (12:26-28). The Apostle Peter mentioned the time when everything will be renewed (Acts 3:21).

These scriptures tell us that Christians should not be attached to things of the world that will not endure. We should be working for eternal values. Our families and friends can be saved and share eternity with us. Our material possessions will be destroyed.

Read Hebrews 12:25-29. What did the apostle say about Christian living, based on eschatology?

The Faults of the Present Earth

Why must God change the earth completely? Because the present earth is not appropriate for God’s perfect plan for life in the future.

The earth has been under the curse of sin since the first human sins were committed (Genesis 3:17-19). Because of the curse, the earth is less productive of good things and produces things like thorns. Living creatures conflict with each other and survive by killing and eating others. Living creatures experience physical deterioration, pain, and death.

The earth shows the results of thousands of years of the curse. Many of the species of animals God created no longer exist. The earth has been abused and neglected by sinful man, who could not properly fulfill his role of managing the earth (Genesis 1:28).

Since the worldwide flood (Genesis 7:11-24) 71% of the earth has been covered by water. Large areas of the earth are covered with deserts, rocky wastelands, or ice. That means that a small percentage of the surface of the earth is useful and habitable for people.

God will make a new earth because the present earth is far from what he originally designed it to be.

Read Romans 8:17-23.

All of creation groans under the curse of sin. Christians still have physical bodies that suffer from the curse. We are waiting for the time when we will be completely delivered from all of the effects of sin. We are willing to suffer with Christ now because of the glory we will experience later. Paul’s immediate point was that Christians endure because of the promise of a renewed creation and eternal glory.

The Original Earth

The Bible tells us that before the world-wide flood there was no rain (Genesis 2:5-6). The earth was watered a different way.

There was a large river that divided into four rivers. This is different from the present earth, where rivers join one another and become larger until they flow into the sea. Apparently, the rivers originally were supplied by an underground source.

Apparently, the original earth had a large amount of water in the sky (Genesis 1:7-8), perhaps in the form of vapor. Many Christian scientists believe that this vapor could have caused a stable climate worldwide, making the entire earth habitable and productive.

During Noah’s flood, rain fell heavily for forty days, which would not be possible in the present earth. This amount of rain during the flood was possible because of the water canopy. Water also came from under the ground (Genesis 7:11-12). After the flood, the canopy no longer existed, and almost 3⁄4 of the earth’s surface continued to be covered with water.

The large amount of evaporation from the oceans makes possible the rain and flow of rivers that we have today. Before the flood there may not have been seas and oceans like we have today, and the present water cycle would not have existed. The fact that there will be no sea on the new earth (Revelation 21:1) implies that there will be another great change.

In the early centuries after creation, people lived for hundreds of years (Genesis 11:10-32). The numbers declined, especially after the flood. The changed conditions of the earth and the accumulated effects of the curse over time shortened human life.

We should not assume that God will make the new earth exactly like the original earth.  However, the original earth helps us to understand that God’s design is very different from the earth we see now. The contrast between the original earth and the present earth shows us the effects of sin.

A thought: Less than 1⁄4 of the surface of the earth is habitable for people, and life is difficult in much of that area. If the new earth will be entirely habitable and friendly for people, that is a multiplication of land area by 4. Imagine all the continents of Africa, North America, South America, Europe, and Asia and all other lands being multiplied by 4!

The New World

How can we describe life on the new earth? The Bible gives descriptions of the Millennium, the period of Jesus’ rule on the earth (see the lesson about the Millennium). Scholars do not agree on the interpretation of those details, and we don’t know if the description of the Millennium also describes the new earth.

God will design a new structure for the universe. For example, right now the earth orbits around the sun. If the sun continues as it is, it will eventually be consumed and no longer provide a center for the orbit of the earth. The new heaven and earth will not wear out; therefore, God has a new design that we do not understand yet.

“Whatever remains after the world is renewed will remain forever, generation and corruption being done away” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica).

All of our ideas about life are based on the natural life on earth that we have known. We have never lived without the presence of sin and its results. We have never lived without the reality of suffering. We are not able to imagine eternity as God has planned it, and he has not revealed many details to us.

The world will be free from all of the results of sin, including pain, sorrow, conflicts, and danger (Revelation 21:4). There will be no more of the curse upon creation, including sickness, aging, and death (Revelation 22:3).

What will be our occupation for eternity? Whatever it is, it is the purpose for which we were created. The centuries of human history on earth were preparation for God’s ultimate plan, and sin caused an interruption of God’s plan. God has not chosen to reveal very much about eternity. We do know that worship of God is central to our purpose.

The saints will rule with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12). We don’t know exactly what it will mean to rule.  The Bible also says we will rule over angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

The Apostle Paul contrasted earthly conditions with eternal conditions in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. People who are focused on the earth think that they things they see and feel are more real than spiritual and eternal things. Paul emphasized that the things we see will pass away. He even calls our suffering “light” and refers to the “weight of glory.”

Heaven: God’s City

Revelation 21:27 – 22:5 describes a city coming down to the earth from God. It is lighted by the glory of God. The passage gives measurements and describes walls and gates. Scholars do not agree about whether the details should be considered literal or figurative. We know that the most important fact is that it is the home where we will live in the presence of God (21:22, 22:3-4). We know that it is a place of beauty because of the description of gems. We know that it is safe, because the people there never need to close the gates (21:25). We know that no sin ever enters the city (21:27).

We cannot imagine what it will be like to be in the presence of God. Moses asked to see God, and God said that a man could not survive a direct vision of God (Exodus 33:20). The mortal human body is too weak to experience the glory of heaven. Paul said that the mortal body would be changed for the experience of heaven (1 Corinthians 15:50-51). We cannot imagine the joys and pleasures of heaven, because they are beyond what our present bodies could experience. In the presence of God is fullness of joy and pleasure (Psalm 16:11).

Imagine a child who thinks that romantic love is not interesting because it is not like chocolate or ice cream. He cannot imagine something that is beyond his experience, especially because he is incapable of experiencing it. To persist in sin is the awful mistake of holding to something earthly because we cannot imagine that God offers something better.

All of creation exists for the glory of God, but heaven is the central scene of the universe, where God is worshipped at the highest level by the creatures he made in his image (Revelation 5:11-14).

God’s glory will be revealed in heaven in such fullness that it will be the light of the city (Revelation 21:23). It is the place where we will so know God that we will “see his face” (Revelation 22:4).

“Life doesn’t seem like a mist that quickly vanishes. We don’t really believe it’s going to end, do we? If God hadn’t told us differently, we’d all think this parade of life would go on forever. But it will end. This life is not forever, nor is it the best life that will ever be.

“I can’t wait to be clothed in righteousness. Without a trace of sin. True, it will be wonderful to stand, stretch, and reach for the sky, but it will be more wonderful to offer praise that is pure. I won’t be crippled by distractions [or] disabled by insincerity. I won’t be handicapped by a ho-hum half- heartedness. My heart will join with yours and bubble over with an effervescent adoration. We will finally be able to fellowship fully with the Father and the Son. For me, this will be the best part of heaven.

“You can hear the yearning in Jesus’ voice in John 17:24: ‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.’ My heart glows to think of His delight over our joy. I keep picturing His pleasure when He sees us dressed in white raiment for the Wedding Supper.

“Praise in heaven will have substance. We shall eat from the tree of life. Taste hidden manna like honey. Smell truth like a flower. Wear righteousness like light. Hold the morning star like a scepter. Shine like the stars of the heavens. Enter into the joy of the Lord.

When I see two of my friends interact with each other, I see aspects of their personalities that I would not see otherwise. Each person causes each other person to reveal something of himself. Likewise, each redeemed person shows us something more about God.

C.H. Spurgeon suggested this is why redeemed people will number more than the grains of sand on the beach or the stars in the sky. An endless number of saints will be required to fully reflect the infinite facets of God’s love. Everyone is necessary in heaven. Could it be that without you, some wonderful nuance of God’s love, dare I say, might not get reflected were you not in heaven?

How should the hope of heaven change our character?

I want to put to death every selfish motive and prideful pretense so that when the Lord’s eyes scan my service, what I have built will stand the test. I want to be careful how I build, and realize that every smile, prayer, or ounce of muscle or money sacrificed is a golden girder, brick, or two-by-four [board]. I want everything I do here to be an eternal investment, a way of building something bright and beautiful there. That’s how much things down here count.

How should the hope of heaven change our lifestyle?

When a Christian realizes his citizenship is in heaven, he begins acting as a responsible citizen of earth. He invests wisely in relationships because he knows they are eternal. His conversations, goals, and motives become pure and honest because he realizes these will have a bearing on everlasting reward. He gives generously of time, money, and talent because he’s laying up treasures for eternity. He spreads the good news of Christ because he longs to fill heaven’s ranks with his friends and neighbors. All this serves the pilgrim well not only in heaven, but on earth, for it serves everyone around him.”

A Concluding Discussion

We have come to the end of this eschatology course. While we endure by faith and wait for the return of Jesus, we should have a positive faith that lets us participate in God’s work on the earth during the last days.

Read Acts 2:14-21.

Peter said that Pentecost was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, but not all of the details were fulfilled that day. The Holy Spirit filled the disciples, but the darkening of the sun and other heavenly signs did not happen. Pentecost began the period that would end with the heavenly signs and the Day of the Lord.

The activity of the Holy Spirit through the church would change the world. Peter’s immediate point was that the work of the Spirit, as he worked at Pentecost, should be expected in the last days.

If we live in the last days, we can expect persecution and difficulties. However, we should remember that God promises to do great things by his Spirit in the last days.

Worship is the business of heaven. Joy is the other side of worship. A psalm writer said, “In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). It is fitting that joy and worship are so connected. God created us in his image, so that we could understand his nature enough to worship him for who he is. Our emotions, ability to love, and intelligence are all given so that we can give God the highest possible worship.

Jesus made these statements to his disciples:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).

Jesus’ words tell us some things about heaven. The most important thing we know is that heaven is God’s home because Jesus called it his Father’s house. Another fact that is important to us is that we can someday live there with God.

The promise of heaven should guide the way we live on earth. The person who lives by eternal values will do the most good on earth. The person who expects a heavenly reward has an incentive to endure hardship of all kinds and strive to accomplish God’s will. Jesus says to the one in persecution, “Rejoice, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).

What are some details we know about heaven?

Sometimes people on earth cannot buy the home they want, and they may not be able to make their home into all that they want it to be. But God has infinite power and resources, so we know that his home is exactly what he wants it to be. Therefore, heaven is perfectly consistent with the nature of God.

The beauty of heaven is beyond description. Details given to us include walls of jasper, gates of pearl, foundations of rare gems, and streets of gold (Revelation 21:18-21).

Heaven is populated by millions of redeemed people and angels (Revelation 5:8-11). Heaven is prepared for those who repent of sin and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (John 3:16).

The Bible tells us that if we live by eternal values, we invest in an eternal and secure treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

Created in the image of God, the redeemed person will live forever. We are not accustomed to living without the limitations of time. Empires decline and fall, but a soul never dies. Even the stars will eventually be consumed and disappear unless God renews them, but a soul never ceases to exist. Jesus said it would be a foolish choice if you could gain the whole world but lose your soul (Mark 8:36).

Near the end of God’s Book is an invitation (22:17). Everyone can receive the water of life. God offers to every person the opportunity to be part of his eternal kingdom.

Heaven, Your Real Home

This section gives quotations from the book Heaven, Your Real Home, by Joni Eareckson Tada.

I still can hardly believe it. I, with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed with righteousness – powerful and dazzling.

Can you imagine the hope this gives to someone spinal cord-injured like me? Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or has multiple sclerosis? Imagine the hope this gives to someone who is manic depressive. No other religion, no other philosophy promises new bodies, hearts, and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope.

Full course available at Shepherds Global Classroom.