In this episode, we begin to explore what The Bible says about the coming of the New Jerusalem. What does it mean for heaven and earth to pass away and what will come in its place? As we answer this question, we will unpack how the New Jerusalem relates to the bride of Christ. We will examine, to the best of our ability, the physical realities of the new heaven and the new earth. Finally, we wrap up by looking at the role of the temple in the newness to come and what all of this means for our present age.
Today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics. I can’t get enough of this topic.
I had a friend visiting, and he had a great saying. I’ll probably butcher it, but it was something to the effect of, “When we die, we’ll all go to heaven, but it won’t be the end of the world.”
Let’s go to Revelation 21, and let’s talk about the new earth.
Cultural expectations of heaven are wrong
As we ponder the new earth, in terms of what we are given as a culture—let’s say, as a culture, about where we go when we die, it’s almost always talked about as heaven. And it’s more of a mythology, really, than it is a biblical picture.
We’re always talking about going to heaven, and when you go to heaven who do you meet? St. Peter. He’s standing in front of the pearly gates. Then you walk the streets of gold. This is in heaven, right?
There’s an element of truth in all those things; but, really, it’s a wrong picture for a lot of reasons.
One of my favorite stories about this is this guy. He’s really wealthy, and he started begging God, “I want to take my wealth to heaven with me. I want to be the one guy who can take it with me.” He prayed and prayed and prayed, and just struggled with God.
And finally God said, “OK. What do you want?”
“I want to take my gold with me.”
He gets to the pearly gates, and he’s got this big bag, and Peter says, “Whatcha got in the bag?”
He says, “God gave me permission to bring this.”
He said, “I’ve never seen this before. Let me see what’s in there.” He opened it up, and he says, “What did you want to bring pavement for?”
We’re actually going to find out that even that story is a miss. We’re going to look at the new earth.
The first heaven and the first earth will pass away
Chapter 21 of Revelation. Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Had passed away.
Let’s look at passed away for a minute. Probably the most blatant passage I know about passing away is in 2 Peter. Let’s flip back over to 2 Peter 3:10.
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.
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
This is pretty startling, really. The heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt.
Does anybody know what elements are? He doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing we think of here of elements; but let’s say he does. What are elements? Hydrogen. Helium. Carbon. It’s like the stuff everything’s made out of, and that melts away.
You got to ask yourself, well, what are the new building blocks? Very interesting question, don’t you think? “Legos!” my grandson Brady would say.
We have this picture that what we know now is going to be completely diminished and replaced with something new. Wen we hear “new,” “I’m making a new heaven and a new earth,” it’s certainly the possibility that it’s brand new.
There is a strong vein of thought that says that the words about creating a new heaven and a new earth, the root words and so forth, are actually about recreating. It could be that what we’re talking about here is just like the potter’s clay. It’s possible that, as opposed to brand new building blocks, it may be that you just take the clay and just melt it back down and remake a whole new thing.
Whatever it is, the picture is very clear: It’s not going to be like it is now.
There are two things that are made new in verse 1. What are they? A new heaven and a new earth. We’re going to learn quite a bit about the new earth. Although relative to what we know about our earth, what we learn about this earth is very, very tiny.
We’re told basically nothing about the new heaven. We’re told that the sun and the moon are not necessary. We’re not really even told that there is a sun and a moon, just that there is a new heaven.
That’s just left for us to find out.
You’re saying that Jerusalem is the new heaven?
No. I’m just saying it says in verse 1 there’s a new heaven. I’m just saying as we go through the passage, I can’t find any description of what the new heaven is.
We see space exploration and shows about space, and most of what there is about space and the cosmos is speculation on our part because it’s so big and so expansive. Here we are with a brand new heaven, and we’re told nothing about it. That’s kind of exciting to me because I think that’s going to be something that’ll be probably an endless adventure to find out what this new heaven is about.
That’s about all we know about the new heaven, that there is one. But we are going to learn a little bit about the new earth.
Also there was no more sea.
This might be very sad to some people because a lot of people love the ocean. The sea, however, or the ocean in the Bible is always a picture of something bad. What is it a picture of? Chaos. Turmoil. Destruction. Unpredictability.
I don’t think this is saying that there’s no more water. As a matter of fact, I know it’s not saying that because we’re going to encounter a river. And it is possible that the river flows down and then just evaporates and then recycles.
But if there’s no sun or moon, you wouldn’t—
We’re not really told there’s no sun or moon. We’re told there’s no need of a sun or moon.
In Jewish thought, they say the sea represents the nations. It says, “Why do the nations rage?” It’s kind of like there’s a correlation between the two.
OK. Yeah, the nations represent the sea. And we’re going to see the nations a lot in this. We’re going to see the nations a lot.
It could well be that there’s tons of water, it’s just not chaotic. So if you’re a huge water lover, don’t despair. There may well be water and fish and all sorts of things. What there’s not going to be is tsunamis and chaos.
The New Jerusalem and the bride of Christ
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
John is writing this, and he sees the new Jerusalem; what’s the new Jerusalem? What’s happening here?
It’s coming down out of heaven. What does that tell us? It’s tall. It’s prebuilt. Prefab. Anybody a fan of prefab?
What else? It’s not heaven. Yeah, it’s coming down out of heaven. It was somewhere. It may be if we went to heaven today you could say, hey, show me where they’re constructing the new Jerusalem.” It may be behind a curtain. And they say, “Nope. Can’t see it. It’s a surprise.” I don’t know. I could be that there’s somewhere else. It’s possible. All we know is it’s already built and it’s coming down.
The first heaven’s passed away.
It’s the Lamb’s bride.
It’s the Lamb’s bride. Now that’s very interesting, isn’t it? Because what do we think of as the bride of Christ? The church. And we see in verse 2, as a bride, so this verse 2 here doesn’t necessarily mean that the city is the bride, but as a bride it’s adorned and walking down.
Let’s look at verse 9. 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—
It’s very interesting that he says, “Oh, I’ve seen this guy before. He was one of the plague guys, and now he’s going to give me a tour of the new Jerusalem.” That is an interesting job description, right? “I’m the angel that plagues the earth, and I have the new Jerusalem.”
He says, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem—
There’s some very interesting things associated with this. Let’s look also in 22:17.
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
Which is interesting. Who’s the bride in this passage? And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come.
Let’s go back and look at this, Ephesians 5:32. Let’s start in 30. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a quote of Genesis.
This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
What we usually take from this is that a husband and wife becoming one flesh is a symbol of Jesus and the church becoming one.
Let’s hold off on talking about that until we discuss another concept that’s very interesting in this. Hold that for a minute. Bride. So we’ve got to come back and say what the bride of Christ and the new Jerusalem are.
The culmination of human history: God comes to earth
Let’s look back at chapter 21 in Revelation. Verse 3. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
This is the culmination of human history. This is it. This is where the end is, and a new beginning starts. And the new beginning is, with God doing what? With heaven doing what? Coming to earth.
See this is really cool, isn’t it? We tend to get this heaven mythology as the end of human existence is we go to heaven. That’s just a weigh station. The end of this real human history time period, I would argue, is heaven comes to earth.
It’s not just us dwelling with God, as cool as that is. It’s the unthinkable that God is dwelling with us. It’s really neat. I’m getting goosebumps right now just thinking about it. So cool. God comes to earth to dwell with us.
He’s already done it once. He just stayed for a little while. He offered us some amazing things that have changed all of the cosmos, all of the history.
The next time is going to be a complete fulfillment. How cool is that?
Verse 5. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
I take this as an encapsulation of the whole message, the whole message of history. The whole message of history is “It ends here.” There’s a new beginning. I am the God of beginnings and ends. Everything starts with me; everything ends with me. I started this and I’m starting something new.
In the spectrum here, the beginning and the end of what your opportunity is, you who are supposed to, according to Revelation, very simple. Do three things which are—read, hear, do. That’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s the whole point of Revelation. Very simple, OK?
You people, here’s the spectrum of what can happen to you, humanity. On the positive end, you can be an overcomer. Overcomers inherit everything. This is what I want you to be. I shall be to you a father. You shall be to me a son. That is an ancient reward of inheritance for one who’s been faithful in the kingdom.
Or you can live your own life your own way for your own passions, and that deserves the lake of fire. That’s the end of the spectrum.
Verse 9. 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.”
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.
Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates—
You notice how he’s referring to the city? She. Interesting, right? Bride.
What we know about The City
and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
This is as close as we get to Peter standing at the gate. He will have his name by a gate.
Revelation is very allegorical. There are lots of images, and the images can very well stand for something else that is real. I don’t believe there’s anything here that’s not real. But it could be that there really is their name by the gate. It could be something else. We’ll talk about that here in a second.
And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.
The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.
Twelve thousand furlongs is about 1500 miles. So you get this city, to just give you an idea, it’s roughly Dallas to the west coast, something like that. Dallas to the northern border of Canada. Mississippi River to the west coast. Something like that. And kind of Dallas to the border of Canada. Something along those lines. It’s a 1500 mile square.
And 1500 miles high. Now when you see an airplane fly over, how many miles up? About five. If you see a satellite go over, if it’s a low-level satellite, that might be about 500 miles. So 1500 miles is way up there. There’s no atmosphere for most of 1500 miles on our earth.
We’re starting to get a hint that this new earth’s really different. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t tell us the new earth is a ball. It could be. It could be a cube. It doesn’t really tell us that the new earth revolves around anything because it didn’t tell us what the heavens were like.
Our cosmos is a clock. It’s a clock with all the gears going around. And I don’t know if you’re a fan of the Star of Bethlehem video, but he does a really great job, I think, of just showing how clocklike the universe is.
We get senses of that going through Revelation, that everything has its specific time. But we don’t really know. He doesn’t tell us if it’s going to be that way or not.
Verse 17. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits—the walls are like 250 feet thick. —according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.
The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
Here’s the gold thing, but it’s not gold like we think of it. Is a gold coin as clear as glass? It’s not, is it?
There’s something translucent here with a gold hue. That’s interesting to think what that is. Maybe some kind of new element. Don’t know.
The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.
There’s only one reason God put that there, and that was so that geologists wouldn’t be demoralized. I don’t think anybody else would care about any of that. If we have time we can talk a little bit about that too, some real fascinating things about that.
21. The twelve gates were twelve pearls—hence the pearly gates—each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
Are you starting to get an image in your mind of what this thing’s like? It’s probably wrong. Right? We can’t really imagine this thing.
Scientists say we can only—they’ll change their mind. It’s kind of like eggs. You know, they’re bad for you one decade, and they’re good for you the next decade. Isn’t that the way it is?––This latest scientific group says that we can actually observe about 5 percent of the universe. Ninety five percent of it’s unobservable. That’s why they’re doing all these particle accelerators and stuff looking for antimatter, is what they call it; and they have all these ideas about wormholes and particles that, if you hit a particle here, some particle on the other side of the universe resonates and flips around.
Even with what we know of our current universe and our current physics, it’s really not inconceivable at all that you could just step through a wormhole and pop up in China. That’s something that our own thinkers are starting to think is possible in our own universe.
It may be we don’t need cars like the Jetsons. I don’t know. It could be also, you could have an angel, “Come over here guys. Can you take me over there?”.
The marriage of the physical and the spiritual
Paul says something very interesting in 1 Corinthians 15. He says when we are resurrected, we will have a spiritual body.
In our current world, spiritual and body are two separate things, but this is a spiritual body. It’s something that’s both.
Jesus said an interesting thing. He said, “Feel my nail prints,” right? They went and felt his nail prints. Did anybody say, “My finger went through your hand!”? They felt his nail prints, right?
He said, “Cook me some food.” He ate it. Did they say, “It plopped down on the beach!”? No. He ate it.
He was making a point, right? I’m not a ghost. Then he walked through a wall. Spiritual body. It’s really interesting.
Is there a temple, or not?
Verse 22. But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
Let’s just stop for a minute. We’ve got some amazing, cool stuff to do; so I don’t want to get bogged down. I just want to look at a couple other verses regarding temple and go back to this bride idea for a minute.
Look at 3:12. We just got through there’s no temple in it; but actually there is a temple. What is the temple? Jesus is the temple.
We went through this Revelation 2 and 3 and the overcomers. Just as a reminder, an overcomer is a conqueror.
Chapter 3, the last letter to the churches. These letters are all to churches. The last letter to the churches is the church of Laodicea. And Jesus says, “If you overcome—” In every one of the letters he says, “If you overcome, I’ll give you this.”
In the last one he says, “If you overcome as I overcame.” So Jesus is an overcomer.
Overcomer cannot mean believing in Jesus as your savior. That’s the starting place for overcoming for us. Jesus overcame temptation. He overcame temptation. He overcame the temptation not to do the will of his father. He learned obedience, even to death on a cross. Because of that, he was lifted up, his name above every name. He’s an overcomer. The very first one.
He’s inviting us to go down that road, and it’s a reward to be an overcomer.
He says in 3:12, he says, He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.
If you’re an overcomer— We saw just a second ago, that the overcomer will inherit all things, he says. This is even in the new earth he’s talking about.
The other end of this is if you’re immoral, etc., you have the lake of fire waiting for you. He has this dichotomy here.
Here he’s saying, if you overcome, I’ll make you a pillar in the temple of my God. He said there’s no more temple. There’s just Jesus as the temple.
Let’s look at 7:15. In 7:15, he says,
Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.
What’s going on? If we look at this word temple and the way it’s used earlier in the scripture, it’s very interesting.
Look at John 2:20, if you would. This is starting to give us a clue of what’s going on with “There’s no temple,” “The temple is Jesus,” “We’re a pillar in the temple,” and “We’ll serve in the throne in the temple.” What’s going on?
John 2:20. Let’s start with 18.
So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
I think tfhis is a clue. Jesus is standing there, right in this Solomonic temple; and he says, “Destroy this temple, and I’ll build it back in three days.” This guy says, “This took 46 years to build. Herod the Great built this. You’re a carpenter. You’re a stone guy. But you’re going to build this in three days?”
He was talking about his body.
Let’s also look at Acts 7:48.
“However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
‘Heaven is My throne,
My earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me?
The new Jerusalem is not necessarily built with hands.
Then, let’s look at two other things. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 3:16.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
Very chastising verse.
We are the temple of God.
Let’s look at Ephesians 2:21. Let’s start with 19. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets—does that sound familiar? —Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
As I’ve emphasized throughout this prophetic series, the big point’s real clear. The minor points we need to hold with an open hand. Have models. Seek understanding. There’s more we don’t know than what we do know.
The picture I began to get from this of—“There’s no temple,” “There’s just Jesus,” “But we’re a pillar in the temple,” “The throne is in the temple,” “Jesus is the temple,” and he said that standing in the temple. Then you have the building with foundations, and it’s us. Somehow it seems to me like there’s some mysterious union between buildings and people here.
Somehow Peter really is at one of the pearly gates. Maybe he’s actually part of the gate. I don’t even know how this would work. It’s a really fascinating picture, don’t you think?
Have you ever noticed that God is kind of paradoxical? Well, no, I haven’t. He’s totally paradoxical. Not kind of paradoxical. We get these somewhat paradoxical images.
To what extent is this spiritual, and to what extent is it physical when it’s both somehow? It’s going to be a brand new experience for us.
We’re getting a clue somehow; but this is going to be a new deal. He said it’s new, and he’s given us some ideas, but somehow it seems that physical bodies and union with us is going to go together.