“N” is for new heaven and new earth. We read these words in Revelation 21, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (vv. 1-2, 5a). Life in the new heaven and new earth will be something new to us. For Jesus says that he is making “all things new” (v. 5a). For Jesus said in v. 4, “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Every believer looks forward to a day when tears, hurt, pain, and death itself is no more. In fact even creation itself looks forward to such a day. Paul writes in Romans 8:20-21, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Creation “was subjected to futility” because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Their disobedience had grave and far reaching consequences not only on themselves and their posterity but on creation as well. The Lord had created everything and declared it to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31) but when Adam and Eve sinned their relationship to God, to each other, to creation, and to themselves was negatively impacted.
While we do not know as much as we might like to about the new heavens and new earth we can be certain that it will be “very good” (cf. 2 Pt. 3:11-13). For not only will things like death, mourning, crying, and pain be no more but far better still believers will be with the Lord. The new heavens and new earth is a description of a renewed creation in which believers will dwell with the Lord following the final judgment. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Rev. 21:3).
As a quick review, while we do not know everything about the new heaven and new earth we know what won’t be there (death, mourning, pain), we know who will be there (the Lord Jesus and believers), and we also know what state believers will be in. By looking at the new heavens and new earth we have fast forwarded to the end of eschatology (study of the end times or last things). So looking back briefly will help us better understand the state believers will be in when we are in the new heavens and new earth.
In 1 Cor. 15 we learn of the Christian hope. The common understanding is that the full Christian hope is when I die my body is buried and my soul goes to be with the Lord in heaven. It is hard to talk about the Christian hope in its fullness without making it sound like that doesn’t matter. Paul says in Phil. 1, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (v. 23a) to which I echo a hearty, “Amen!” But the Christian hope is not merely that we depart from our bodies and go to be with the Lord but that our departed souls will one day be reunited with our resurrected bodies at the last trumpet when Christ returns (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-52). What Rev. 21 makes clear is that heaven will come down to us. “We don’t hope merely for the day when we go to live with God, but ultimately for that final day when God comes to live with us” (Wittmer, Heaven is a Place on Earth, 17). We read in 1 Cor. 15, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 53-57). Death still hurts now because it is a present reminder of the effects of the Fall and sin in our world and in our own hearts. But when our souls and bodies are reunited at Christ coming death will lose its sting and be no more because death and Hades will be cast into the lake of fire followed by those whose names are not written in the book of life (cf. Rev. 20:14-15). Revelation 21:6-8 says, “And 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 from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’”
What are we to do right now? “To paraphrase Abraham Kuyper, we must diligently labor to bring every square inch of human existence beneath the lordship of the Christ who proclaims, ‘It’s mine!’” (Wittmer, 198). We should strive to see everything of this creation subject to the lordship of Christ and look forward to that day, and our hope, when soul AND body are with our Lord forever! Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”