What will our eternal home look like? Will we enter through pearly gates and walk on streets of gold? Will it be dazzlingly beautiful with the decoration of all kinds of shiny, precious stones? Some of the old hymns about heaven speak of the beauty of heaven in such terms. After all, we do read in Revelation 21:21, “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” I don’t want to disappoint you, but this verse is not saying heaven will have pearly gates and streets of gold. This is actually a symbolic description of the church, not heaven. Maybe we will walk on streets of gold, but this is not what Revelation 21:21 is saying. Whether or not we walk on streets of gold, the new heavens and new earth will be amazing!
God has designed us to desire beautiful, dazzling things, whether a shiny diamond or mountain grandeur. By saving us, God has kindled in us a desire for a new life with a new body in a new heavens and new earth. We do not desire to eat gravel or drink gasoline because God did not design us to eat gravel or drink gasoline. By saving us, God makes us to desire life with him in the new heavens and new earth. We desire magnificent things. There is nothing more magnificent than the new heavens and new earth, which will be our everlasting home.
Let me tell you about it, not from the perspective of one who has gone there and returned, but from the perspective of what God reveals in his word.
The home in which we will live forever in our resurrected bodies is called in Revelation 21:1, “a new heaven and a new earth”. This place is different from the place our souls enter at death. That place is called heaven in distinction from this earth. We know very little about the heaven we will go to when we die. But God has revealed more about the new heavens and new earth. He has revealed that this place will be our magnificent home!
Revelation 21:1 speaks of a new heaven and new earth in contrast to the first heaven and first earth. In the beginning God created two distinct, separate places, which are called, “the first heaven and the first earth”. The first earth includes all that we see and experience on earth presently. Breathing, eating, and drinking are part of our present existence. This earth includes many living creatures: sparrows, deer, ostriches, spiders, and so many more. Although this world is marred by sin, it is filled with the breathtaking beauty of sunrises, sunsets, snow-capped mountains, red tulips, yellow roses, and so many other things. The first heaven is the spiritual realm where Christ now rules, angels dwell, and the souls of the elect who died pray for Christ’s return. The first heaven and earth are two distinct places that do not intersect. This is evident from what happens when we die: we go from earth to heaven, and we do not return.
In contrast to the first heaven and earth that are separate, the new heaven and new earth will be one place. When Jesus Christ returns, heaven and earth will not be two separate places, but they will be joined as one by Christ. This is evident from the language of Revelation 21:1, which speaks not of the new heaven and the new earth, but “a new heaven and a new earth”. By omitting “the” and using “a”, the Holy Spirit is saying that heaven and earth will be joined together.
Does this mean that God will completely destroy the first heaven and the first earth and will create a brand new place called heaven and earth? Will God scrap this creation and start over? No. We learn from scripture that God does not abandon this creation to start over. God renews it. He delivers it from the affects of sin. This is evident from God’s covenant with Noah, which included the creation (Genesis 9:9–10). We read there that God establishes his covenant with every living thing on the face of the earth. This is the testimony of what God did in the flood. He did not completely annihilate the world in the flood. He gave it a bath. He will cleanse this world again, finally, with fire, as we read in 2 Peter 3:7, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” The result of this will be a new earth joined to heaven to make the new heaven and new earth (2 Pet. 3:13).
This earth will be part of the new heavens and new earth, but not as it is right now. All the ways sin has affected the creation will be undone, and all sin will be removed from this world so that it will be new in the sense of renewed. Think about all the ways sin has affected this creation: death, the changing of the seasons, the separation of the continents and people. Think about the murders, the sexual sins, the stealing, the hurtful words that destroy people’s lives, and the way technology is used in the service of sin. All the affects of sin will be removed when Christ comes to form a new heaven and new earth.
Because this renewed earth will be part of our eternal home, there will be something familiar about heaven. Our eternal home is described as a city, a country, a kingdom with rivers, mountains, trees, and flowers. It will be a place where our senses are used. We will see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the things of the new heaven and new earth. The beauty that we see presently in this creation through the affects of sin will be part of what is to come.
Home is never a foreign place to us. It is familiar. When we are away from home on vacation, we are ready to go home because it is familiar. God created us to live on this earth, and this earth will be a part of our eternal home. This should be one of the reasons we desire to live in the new heavens and new earth. When Jesus returns, we will live forever in a familiar home.
Because our everlasting home will include this earth, we should not despise or hate this earth, but we should have a proper love and respect for it. This earth is not like an old clunker we may buy as our first vehicle. If it only cost a thousand dollars, is full of rust holes, and is a mess inside, why wash it, vacuum it, or take very good care of it? After a couple of years it will end up in the junkyard. This creation will not end up in the junkyard, as it were. Instead, this world will be part of the new heavens and new earth. We are called to be good stewards of the creation by using the things of it in the service of Christ.
Our eternal home will not be a return to Eden. There are many today who wrongfully teach that heaven will be this earth without sin. I heard this many times from my professors at the Christian college I attended. They said that heaven will be the continued development of culture on this earth, but without sin. They are looking for a heaven on earth. Our eternal home will not be this earth without sin. It will be so much better! What makes it better is that it will be new. The word new does not mean brand new, but superior in quality or character. To put this in computer language, right now we have heaven and earth 1.0. What is coming is heaven and earth 2.0. But there is nothing better than 2.0. 2.0 is the best! There is no 3.0 or 4.0.
What makes the new heavens and new earth better? Heaven and earth will be one. The hymn, This Is My Father’s World, includes these biblical lyrics: “and earth and heaven be one…” This is what Paul says in Ephesians 1:10, “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him.” Earth and heaven, the physical and the spiritual, will be joined together so that God and his people are united in fellowship forever without sin. There will be one universe and one place where we will dwell with God forever. No longer will there exist an inseparable gulf between the spiritual and physical realms. There will be no more need for two separate places of heaven and earth. Presently they serve God’s purpose for the salvation of his people. God said his original creation is good. And it is for the accomplishing of his sovereign purpose. Life on this earth serves the purpose of God—bringing us to heaven when we die. This is why we are identified in scripture as strangers and pilgrims in this earth. When history comes to an end, there will be no need for the two places, heaven and earth. Instead, the two separate places at the end of the world will be heaven and hell.
Do we desire to be at home in the new heaven and new earth? Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we will live there forever. Do we want to live there? Do our lives show we want to live with Jesus in the new heavens and new earth more than anything else?
As we live on this earth, at times we think certain things will satisfy and will make us happy. We set our hearts on these things. If I had a better job, a raise, a better boss, a boyfriend, a newer car, a cottage on the lake, my own bedroom, or a condo in Hawaii, I would be satisfied. These are the desires of those who want heaven on this earth as it is right now. But we know none of this will satisfy. If we set our hearts on these things, it will never be enough.
What we should really want is Jesus and the heaven we were saved to inhabit. The new heaven and new earth will be our home.
Longing for this home does not mean that we must hate all things earthly. In fact, God says we should not. 1 Timothy 4:4, 5 says, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Let us not fall into thinking that the things of this earth are bad. This creates hypocrisy in our own lives for then we think that on Sunday, while sitting in church, we must disdain the very things we enjoy during the week: work, golf, riding bikes, gardening, a cup of coffee, or a good book. We enjoy these things Monday through Saturday not because we are sinners, but because we live on this earth. These things are not essentially evil. And maybe, just maybe, some of these things will be part of heavenly life. The problem is that we set our hearts on them so that they become more important than they should. They can become idols. We must despise the idolatry of our hearts, but not the good things that God gives. When we hate the idolatry, this is an evidence that we desire our eternal home.
We love things about life on this earth and that is okay. In this life, we experience foretastes of heaven. We experience this most fully in our worship services on the Lord’s day. Yet we experience tastes of heaven around our dinner tables, fellowshipping with each other, and seeing the beauty of this creation. We taste heavenly life in so many small ways on this earth. But they are only previews of the greater life with is to come. May this desire grow in our hearts and lives by turning from sin and to God.
Life in heaven and earth 2.0 will be magnificent! God designed us, as his children, to crave this life.