This is the ninth in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.
In the previous column we saw how Scripture describes heaven as the intermediate state between death and resurrection for followers of Jesus as they await future resurrection and glorification. Now, we look in more detail at heaven as well as the new heavens and new earth.
What about heaven?
The New Testament reveals many truths about this intermediate state for followers of Jesus. Here are 12:
(1) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reside in heaven, yet they have immediate access to earth (Matt. 3:16-17).
(2) God’s will is done completely in heaven – and one day will be done on earth (Matt. 6:9-10).
(3) Angels surround the throne in heaven (Matt. 18:10), as do majestic heavenly creatures and redeemed people (Revelation 4-5).
(4) The heavenly throne is the heart of God’s authority and majesty (Mark 16:19).
(5) Heaven is the place from which Satan fell and has no future part (Luke 10:18; Rev. 20:10).
(6) Heaven is where believers’ names are written down, providing assurance of everlasting life (Luke 10:20; Heb. 12:23).
Rev. 21:1 – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. 2 I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.
5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. 7 The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. 8 But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars – their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (HCSB)
A brief summary
Verses 1-8 appear to offer us a brief summary of what is described in more detail in the remainder of chapters 21-22. John sees a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. The Greek word John uses for “new” is kainos, which means “different from the usual, impressive, better than the old, superior in value or attraction,” according to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. In other words, God does not simply annihilate the old order of things and start again from scratch; He purges the sinful and fallen cosmos and restores it to its pristine beauty.
Steve Gregg explains in Revelation: Four Views, “One way of understanding the structure of these final chapters is to see this whole segment (vv. 1-8) as an outline or summary of the remaining portion of the book. A remarkable correspondence exists between the progression of thought in these first verses and in the remaining chapters” (p. 492).
- In verse 2 we see the New Jerusalem, explained more fully in Rev. 21:9-21.
- In verse 3 we see that God dwells among men, described in more detail in Rev. 21:22-27.
- In verse 5 we see the renewal of the world, for which we are provided more information in Rev. 22:1-5.
- In verse 5 we also see, “These words are faithful and true,” which is expanded upon in Rev. 22:6-10.
- In verse 6 we see Jesus declare His work completed, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega,” more fully revealed in Rev. 22:11-15.
- In verses 6-7 we see a final blessing, the water of life to all who thirst, expanded upon in Rev. 22:16-17.
- And in verse 8 we see the final curse upon the rebellious, repeated in Rev. 22:18-19.