The New Jerusalem

Revelation 21:1-22:5

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
October 2012

Last week, we began looking at the seventh and final topic in the Book of Revelation, the eternal state. The eternal state will be a very different world. It will be a DIFFERENT world from the world we live in now. It will be DIFFERENT from the Tribulation Period when judgments are falling on people and believers are being slaughtered by the Antichrist. It will even be DIFFERENT from the Millennium when Jesus returns to rule and reign on the earth for a thousand years.

This earth will pass away. It will be gone and God will create a new heaven and a new earth. It will be different from the old heaven and earth. It will be better than the old heaven and earth, so much better that we will not even remember the first heaven and earth. So what will life in the eternal state be like? What will heaven be like? There are many misconceptions about heaven.

Common Myths About Heaven

This chapter may change some of the views that people have about heaven.  There are many misconceptions of heaven.   Here are four common myths.

1) Heaven is not a real place.

In some religions, heaven is but a state of mind.  It is some spiritual dimension.  It is a spiritual dimension but it is also a real place.  Jesus said, “I go to prepare a PLACE for you” (John 14:3).  Some may say that it is a real place but it is a spiritual place, not a physical place.

According to Revelation, it is a physical place.  We will be able to eat food there.  You can’t get any more physical than that.  It will have real streets to walk on.  It will have real walls, real gates, real rivers and a real foundation.  It is a real city that can actually be measured.  It has real dimensions (21:16-17).

We have seen some great cities built by men.  This will be a city built by God.  This will be a city “with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).  Jesus said that he is going to prepare a place for us (John 14:3).

This city will be made by Jesus himself.  He created the first heaven and earth and he will create the new heavens and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17).  It will be beautiful.  It will shine “with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (21:11).

2) Heaven is boring

We learn from the last two chapters of Revelation that we will not spend eternity in heaven, sitting on some cloud.  Heaven will be on earth, not on some cloud.  It will be on solid ground.  It will be in a city and that city will be on earth.

It will not be boring.  It will be exciting.  It will be the exact opposite of boring.  “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).  We will not be filled with boredom in God’s presence.  We will be filled with joy.

It will be so exciting that we will completely forget life on earth (Isaiah 65:17).  We will not be bored thinking of all the good times we had on earth.  We will be having so much fun, we will not even remember the first earth.  We will be busy.  Heaven will not be a place of inactivity.  We will have things to do (Revelation 22:3).  We will not just sit around all day in boredom.

3) Everyone goes to heaven

According to Revelation, everyone does not go to heaven.  John uses a double negative in Greek to emphasize that certain people will NOT be there.  He says that the impure will never ever (ού μή) enter it  in 21:27.  In fact, Revelation specifically mentions some people who are OUTSIDE the city and not in heaven (22:15).  That refutes universalism.

The only people who go to heaven are people whose names are written in the Book of Life (21:27).  Could there still be some people living on the new earth who cannot enter the New Jerusalem?  No.  Revelation 20:15 already mentioned that if your name is not in the book of life, you will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

Not everyone will get in.  Some will be excluded.  Revelation 22:15 says that dogs will be excluded.  There may be some cats in the New Jerusalem but there will not be any dogs.  I guess that verse answers the question, Do dogs go to heaven?

Americans like dogs.  Most families have at least one.  In ancient Israel, dogs were considered unclean animals and were not pets.  They were wild animals and were scavengers.  Here they are used as a metaphor for a certain type of person (people who act like dogs).

4) You can go to heaven no matter how you live

Since everyone is going to heaven, it doesn’t matter how you live. That is refuted by three verses in this section.

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (21:9)

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful” (21:27)

Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood”  (22:15).

Characteristics of Heaven

1. It is a place where God and Man live TOGETHER.

God and man will live in the same place. God will not be up in heaven, while people are down on earth. “Now the dwelling of God is WITH men, and he will live WITH them” (21:3). Heaven will come down to earth and be located on the new earth. God will change his dwelling place from the third heaven to the New Jerusalem.

Heaven is the dwelling pace of God. Heaven is where God is. Since God says that he will dwell with people, Heaven will eventually be on earth. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God. In the New Jerusalem, we will have the same kind of unhindered access to the presence of God and this is the greatest thing about heaven.

The greatest thing about heaven is not that we will be able to sit down with the Twelve Apostles or meet Joseph or Daniel. The greatest thing about heaven is not that we will meet Luther or Calvin, D. L. Moody or C.H. Spurgeon. The greatest thing about heaven is that we will be in the immediate presence of God. We will have face-to-face fellowship and communion with God for all eternity.

1 Corinthians 13:12 when it said, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” Revelation 22:4 says, “They will see his face.” No longer will we have to walk by faith. God’s immediate presence will be right there in the city and will never leave it. We will see God’s face. Even Moses was not allowed to see God’s face. God told Moses “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20).

We will be in glorified bodies and will be able to see God’s face and not die. In fact, we will not be able to die anymore. D. L. Moody said, “Someone once asked a Christian what he expected to do when he got to heaven? He said he expected to spend the first thousand years looking at Jesus Christ, and after that he would look for Peter, and then for James, and for John”

2. It is a place where everything will be NEW.

John mentions three new things in this chapter – a new heaven (21:1), a new earth (21:1) and a New Jerusalem (21:2; 3:12) but then he heard the one who was sitting on the throne saying “I am making everything new!” (21:5). He does not say, “I make some things new.” He says, “I make ALL THINGS new.”

He tells John to write it down “for these words are trustworthy and true” (21:5). We like new things (new house, car, clothes, shoes). We like the way new things look. We even like the way they smell. In heaven, everything will be new all the time.

3. It is a place where people will be perfectly SAFE.

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do NOT destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

4. It is a place where people will be perfectly HEALTHY.

We will not be old and sick.  We will all look like we are in our prime in perfect health.  We will have perfect health in mind, in body and in spirit.

5. It is a place where people will be perfectly HOLY.

The New Jerusalem is called a “holy city” (21:2, 10). It will perfect. It is a place where God’s will is done ALL of the time (Matthew 6:10).

6. It is a place where people will be perfectly content, happy and fulfilled.

How could we be happy without  coffee in the morning? Will there be any Starbucks in heaven?  If we would need it to be happy in heaven, it would be there because everyone will be perfectly happy in heaven.

Eating from a fruit tree sounds good to a health nut but some may want to know if there will be any cheesecake in heaven. We don’t know the answer to those questions but we do know that the food will be so much better we will not even think about the food we ate on earth.

What Will Not be in Heaven?

1. Sin

The word holy means not only perfect but separate from anything evil, unclean or imperfect. The Bible teaches that God cannot live with sinners. “Nothing impure will ever enter it” (21:27). “For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence” (Psalm 5:4-5).

There will be no sin or sinners in the New Jerusalem. They will all be in Hell. “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (21:8).

There will be no more sin, even lying.  We don’t think that lying is a mortal sin.  We think of it more as a venial sin but God says that all liars will be in hell.  Now it is a sin that can be forgiven but apparently God takes lying very seriously.  God puts lying right up with other big sins, like murder.

II Peter 3:13 says, “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” The earth today is the home of sin. Sin reigns on the planet. The new earth will be the home of righteousness. Can you imagine a world without one single sinner in it? We will be sinless in the New Jerusalem

We will not sin and there will be no temptation to sin. Satan will be in the Lake of Fire. We will not have a sin nature anymore. There will not be any quarreling or fighting in heaven. There will not be any annoying people in heaven.

If heaven was full of annoying people, it would not be perfect and you would not want to be there. There will not be any annoying people in heaven, because we will all be perfect. All of our rough edges will be gone.

There will not be any divisions in heaven. We will all be perfectly united. When we get to heaven, we will not find Baptists or Methodists. We will not find Charismatics or Non-Charismatics. We will not find Pre-Millennialists or Post-Millenialists. We will not find Calvinists or Arminians.

We will just find saints. All of our theology will be corrected in heaven. We will not need to hear any sermons in heaven because we will already be perfect. There will still be learning in heaven. We will learn about God for all eternity and worship Him.

2. Crime

Big cities today have problems with crime. If you live in a big city today, you worry about crime. If you live in a big city today, you have to worry about violent crime (being mugged or robbed or shot), because the crime rates are much higher in big cities.

In heaven, we will not have to worry about crime or criminals because there will be no criminals there. “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” (21:27).

The city will have gates and walls (21:12-21). Walls were used in the ancient world for protection.  People today think it is immoral to have walls around a country but there will be walls around the New Jerusalem in heaven.

The city will have twelve gates (21:12-13) with an angel at each gate and the gates will never be shut or locked (21:25) because they will be perfectly safe. You won’t have to lock your door. We will have no fear. It will be perfectly safe.

3. Sickness

No one will ever be able to hurt you again. “The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat” (7:16). There will be “no more pain” (21:4). That is an incredible thought. I guess that also means that there will be no more accidents. You will not stub your toe in heaven. We have people today that live every day in some kind of physical pain but in heaven there will be no more pain. Your back won’t hurt.

There will be no more arthritis or bursitis. There will be no more headaches. Things that cause pain will also be gone. There will be no more debilitating diseases or illnesses. Pain is often just the symptom of another problem. If there will be no sickness or diseases in heaven.

That means that there will be no doctors or dentists in heaven. We will all be healthy and we will have perfect eye sight. There will be no hospitals, because there will be no sick people and we will not need to take any medicine.  One might get a different impression from reading the final chapter of the book.

Revelation 22:1-2 says, “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.” The leaves of the tree will be the healing of the nations. What does it mean that the nations will be healed? Why would the nations need to be healed? Will they be sick?

This is another way of saying that they will always be healthy because there will be constant provision from God for all of their needs. The Tree of Life will be symbolic of immortality and it will be symbolic of health. It is a life-giving river. Not only is the fruit healthy, so are the leaves of the tree. The tree will offer a variety of healthy fruit and medicinal leaves.

We know that is the correct interpretation because the very next verse says that there will be no more curse (22:3). No curse means that there will be no more sin or sickness. There will not be any healing in heaven, because no one will be sick.

This verse does not mean that the nations will be sick anymore than 21:4 means that there will be tears in heaven, since God will wipe them all away. Our bodies today can feel pain but our resurrection bodies will be impervious to pain. That body will not get tired or wear out.

4. Death

Death is a big part of our world today. People die every day. Every time we breathe someone dies. One hundred people die every minute and 146,000 die every day. In heaven, no one will die. We will all be immortal. The death rate will go from one hundred percent to zero percent.

Death will not just be rare (like it will be in the Millennium), it will be impossible. Paul said that death will be swallowed up (I Corinthians 15:42). Right now, death is swallowing people up but eventually death itself will be swallowed up.

Death will die. If there is no more death, there will be no more graves, no more tombstones, no more cemeteries and no more funerals. Death will be gone because the curse will be gone (22:3) and the curse will be gone because sin will be gone. Death will be gone and everything that causes death will be gone as well.

There will be a symbol of immortality right in the middle of the city. The River of Life will flow right in the middle of the city and the Tree of Life will be on both sides of the river (22:1-2). Adam and Eve were kicked out the garden after they sinned. God didn’t want them to eat from the Tree of Life. In fact, he sent an angel to guard access to that tree to make sure that no one ate from it (Genesis 3:22-24).

In heaven, everyone will have full access to that tree. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (2:7).

We will have resurrection bodies and will be physically immortal. Right now, people fear death. In heaven, we will not fear death because it will not even be a possibility.

5. Sadness

In heaven, there will be no mourning or sorrow (21:4) and there will not be any mourning because the causes of mourning and sorrow will be gone. People will not be sad in heaven. They will be perfectly happy all of the time.

6. Tears

If we have tears, they will be wiped away. “God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Not only will all of our tears be gone but God will wipe them away. That’s what we do to our kids when they are little. When they cry, we wipe their tears away and that is what Jesus will do to us. His is just symbolic. God is not going to have a big handkerchief in heaven.

Revelation 7:16 says, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.” People will not be hungry or thirsty. There will be no starvation in heaven be there will be food in heaven.

A more difficult question is this: Will we be vegetarians in heaven? Will we get to eat any Big Macs in heaven? Will we eat meat in heaven? Jesus ate meat in his glorified body (Luke 24:42-43). Many believe that the eternal state is described as a new paradise like the Garden of Eden.

There will be no sin, no curse and no death.  The city will contain both a tree of life and a river of life.  Animals could not be killed in the eternal state because there will be no death. However, we do not know for sure the answer to that question.

We do know that we will be able to eat anything we want and it will not hurt us because we can’t get sick and we can’t die. It will not make us fat. It will not make us sick. We will have glorified bodies. This chapter mentions a fruit tree with twelve different kinds of fruit on it (22:2). There will be abundant variety of food.

We will have glorified bodies but we will still be able to eat. Jesus had a glorified body and ate after his resurrection. If we don’t eat, we will not die. There is no death in heaven. We will not eat to keep us alive. We will eat for sheer enjoyment.

Many wonder if they will be able to have their favorite hobby in heaven (e.g., golf). I do not know but I do know that we will be perfectly happy in heaven. We will not lack anything.

Two old men had been best friends for years, and they both live to their early 90’s, when one of them suddenly falls deathly ill. His friend comes to visit him on his deathbed, and they’re reminiscing about their long friendship, when the dying man’s friend asks, “Listen, when you die, do me a favor. I want to know if there’s baseball in heaven.”

The dying man said, “We’ve been friends for years, this I’ll do for you.” And then he dies. A couple days later, his surviving friend is sleeping when he hears his friend’s voice. The voice says, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that there’s baseball in heaven. “What’s the bad news?” “You’re pitching on Wednesday.”

Who Will Live On The New Earth?

The Bible mentions several different groups that will live on the New Earth.

1) God will be there.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).  “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them” (Revelation 21:3).

2) Angels will be there

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders” (Revelation 5:11). “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” (Hebrews 12:22).  They have been in heaven since God created them.

3) The Bride of Christ will be there.

Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem” (21:9-10).  Saints from all ages will be there.  There will also be two subgroups below which will make up all of these saints.

4) Saved Jews will be there.

On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel” (21:12).  “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure” (Isaiah 66:22).  Hebrews 11 says that Abraham looked for a heavenly city (11:10-16)

5) Saved Gentiles will be there.

Revelation mentions nations in the new earth three times (21:24, 26; 22:2).  We do not know if this means that there will be national distinctions in heaven.   Will we still be Americans in heaven?  That word can also mean “Gentiles.”  What we know for sure is that Heaven will be a place where all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues will be represented, standing before the throne (7:9).

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