There are many different interpretations about the New Heavens, New Earth and the New Jerusalem. Most of the opinions are based on speculation. The following merely provide the writers personal understanding:
GOD – THE BEGINNING AND THE END
Revelation 21:6a says, “And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. ” The words “It is done” almost reminds of the last words of Christ on the cross when He said, “It is finished,” as we read in John 19:30. Christ achieved the redemptive purpose of God on the cross but here redemptive history finally ends.
1 Corinthians 15:24-28 says, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” As the last enemy, which is death, has now been abolished, Christ delivers up the Kingdom to God the Father.
God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. This is also repeated in Revelation 1:8 and in Revelation 22:13. He was in control in starting everything and He will be in control, ending everything. His sovereign purpose and plan with human history will be fulfilled.
HEAVEN FOR THE FAITHFUL
Heaven is spoken of 582 times in the KJV, 622 times in the NIV and 692 times in the NKJV. Of these, the word Heaven on average appears 54 times in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5 gives us a description of heaven.
Revelation 21:6b-8 makes it clear that not everybody would enter heaven. “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.””
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 we also find a list of those who would not inherent the Kingdom and thus eternity, “ Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”
In Galatians 5:19-21 we basically find a repeat, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
In 1 John 2:15-17 we read, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
In Revelation 22:17 we find the last invitation in the Bible. “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
In Isaiah 55:1 we also read, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.” Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” John 4:13-14 is another great text, “ Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.””
But seeking salvation is not adequate to ensure entrance to heaven. We also need to live in faith in Christ to overcome the world. Already in Revelation 2:7 we read, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 3:5 also says, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” 1 John 5:4-5 says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
There will be no sin or ungodliness in heaven and everyone will be holy. Matthew 5:8 says we will see God, “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Hebrews 12:14 confirms it, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”
Revelation 21:27 puts it this way, “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” In Revelation 22:14-15 it says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
Scripture actually describes three levels of heavens. The first heaven is the atmosphere around the earth and the air that we breathe. The second heaven is the stratospheric heaven, the heaven of the heavenly bodies such as the planets, the stars and the moons. In 2 Corinthians 12:2 Paul was taken up into the third heaven, the divine heaven where God dwells and where angels and believers are. Men like Enoch and Elijah already have their glorified bodies in heaven as they have been raptured.
Everything regarding our spiritual life and destiny is in heaven. Our Father, our Saviour, our Comforter, our citizenship and our reward are there. A true longing for heaven is evidence of true salvation and demonstrates one’s love for the Lord. The more we set our affections on the things above, the less likely we are to follow the things of the flesh. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” Without the hope and anticipation of heaven and eternity there is very little reason and meaning to live for.
Christ is already preparing a place for us in heaven, the “New Jerusalem.” John 14:1-4 provides so much comfort for true believers, including the Tribulation saints. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
1 John 3:1-2 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
END OF THE PRESENT EARTH AND HEAVEN
Revelation 20:11 said, “I saw a Great White Throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away and no place was found for them.”
Satan, the Antichrist, the false prophet and the ungodly are now in the eternal Lake of Fire. The entire universe has also been destroyed. In 2 Peter 3:7 we read, “But the present heavens and earth by His Word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men.” The present heaven and earth will be uncreated simultaneously with the destruction of the ungodly.
CREATION OF A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed. And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” (Isaiah 51:6,16)
God creates a New eternal dwelling place for the godly of all the ages, the angels and the four creatures. Not only will we have a New dwelling but also our glorified bodies!
Revelation 21:1-3 says, “Now I saw a New heaven and a New earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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.”
The terminology of a New heaven and a New earth is borrowed from the Old Testament. Isaiah 65:17 says, “For behold, I create New heavens and a New earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” In Isaiah 66:22 we read, “For as the New heavens and the New earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the LORD, “So shall your descendants and your name remain.”
In this instance, the use of the word “New” does not refer to the word “neos” which means New as in opposed to old. It relates to the ancient Greek word “kainos” which means New in quality. It is basically a replacement of the heaven and earth we now know. Psalm 102:26 says, “They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed.” Sin and death entered and corrupted the world and the universe and therefore, God has to wipe it out. Satan and his demons will never enter the New heaven and neither will sin enter the New earth.
Heaven will be the capital city within the infinity of the New heaven and the New earth.
HEAVEN COMING DOWN
In Hebrews 11:8-10 it says, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” He went to his temporary inheritance but was actually looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:13-16 speaks about the heavenly hope of all who lives in faith and in Hebrews 11:16 it refers to the heavenly city, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
In Hebrews 12:22-23 we read, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect.” Hebrews 13:14 says, “We do not here have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.”
In the book of Revelation, we find the first reference to the New Jerusalem in Revelation 3:12. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My New name.”
This will be the eternal “holy city,” from where God will reign and where every single being would be holy. Revelation 20:6 of Revelation says, “Blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection that takes people to heaven.”
Every Old Testament saint and everybody who died in Christ throughout the ages are already there in their spirits. The “New Jerusalem” is actually none other than the current third heaven spoken about earlier. The New heaven and a New earth will be a complete new universe and once it has been created, heaven will come down and completely fill the new universe. This is where all of the redeemed will live in the heavenly city, the “New Jerusalem.”
Revelation 21:10 says, “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”
John MacArthur is of the opinion that even during the time of the Millennial Kingdom, we will go back and forth into the earth in glorified form and back to the holy city, the “New” Jerusalem. And then finally the holy city will become the capital city of eternity.
The city is like a bride because all of the redeemed are forever united to God and to the Lamb. In Revelation 21:2 we read that the “New” Jerusalem was “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” In Revelation 21:9 the angel said to John, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” The marriage between Christ and His bride is now entering its eternal stage. The citizens are the eternal bride of Christ, now enlarged beyond the raptured Church as it includes all of the redeemed throughout all ages, the Old Testament saints, the Tribulation saints, the redeemed remnant of Israel and everybody redeemed during the time of the Millennial Kingdom.
Revelation 21:3 says, “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.”
The tabernacle is symbolically the Father’s house in the “New” Jerusalem in the midst of the redeemed.
This reminds of Leviticus 26:11-12 where God also once said to the Jews, “ I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” The difference is that there would now be no need for a temple or offerings, as seen in Revelation 21:22, as God and the Lamb are our Temple. “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”
LIFE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” And that is exactly what we will experience in heaven.
In Revelation 21:4 we read these comforting words, “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.” There will not be any tests, trials, tribulations, heartaches, pain or any sad or bad things happening in heaven, as we experience in this current life on earth.
There will be no more pain because the healing promise in the atonement is fulfilled. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” These words do not only refer to spiritual healing but also to physical healing as we see in Matthew 8:17, “In order that He might fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah, He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”
In addition, Revelation 7:16 says, “ They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat”
Revelation 21:1 mentions that there will no longer be a sea. Currently, three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered with water in the oceans and on the land. This means that our glorified bodies would not be dependent on physical water. Revelation 22:1 says “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” As there is no more sea which it could flow to, this also cannot be a river as we know it. Once again we cannot add our own views on this. All that the Bible teaches is that the water of life is as clear as crystal and comes down from the throne of God and of the Lamb. The water of life is symbolically of salvation, purity, holiness and eternal life flowing down through the city from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Psalm 46:4 said, “There is a river, the streams of which make glad the city of God.”
The greatest joy of heaven is not the beauty or the experience of praise and worship with reunited loved ones, to be with God as Christ and to have fellowship with Him.
In Revelation 22:3-5 it says there will also no longer be any curse. We will serve Him and have His name on our foreheads, marked as His personal possessions. “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”
We will reign with God, as Revelation 3:21 says, “To him who overcomes I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne.”
We will adore God and worship day and night as we read in all passages in Revelation which deal with heaven. Revelation 7:15 for example said, “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.”
Revelation 22:2 says, “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
The tree of life is another symbol and not a tree as we know one. In Genesis 2:9 God also spoke of a tree of life. “And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The tree of life was a symbol of eternal life and of blessing.
Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise.” A righteous person produces a tree of life, which eventually leads to blessing, fulfilment, contentment, joy and happiness and this is exactly what heaven would be like.
The twelve kinds of fruit probably indicate that life will have a variety of good things. There will be praise and worship, singing and many other things, all for the glory of God. The reference to “months” could also indicate that our activities would be changing all the time. The healing leaves spoken of cannot relate to illness or pain as we learned that there would not be any sickness in heaven.
CHARACTERISTICS OF HEAVEN
Revelation 21:11 starts with the greatest characteristic of heaven as, “Having the glory of God.” God’s glory is who He is and He manifests His invisible spiritual attributes as light. Psalm 36:9 says, “In Thy light we see light.” In Psalm 104:2 we read, “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.” In Exodus 24:17 it says, “The appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top.”
There will be no need for the sun or the moon to shine as the glory of God illumines it and the lamp is the Lamb as we read in Revelation 21:23-24a. “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light” Revelation 22:5 says, “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”
Isaiah also prophesied this in Isaiah 60:19. “No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light, but you will have the Lord for an everlasting light and your God for your glory.”
It literally says that heaven dwells within the very presence of God and Christ which literally fills the whole New heaven and New earth. God is already omnipresent right now, but currently Satan and his demons are still present in the universe.
Revelation 21:24 says, “And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.” Some scholars see this as describing something in the Millennial Kingdom but it cannot be as the entire chapter is about the New heaven and the New earth which come after the Millennial Kingdom. The use of the word “nations” in this context basically refers to the redeemed from every tongue and tribe and nation who will all be walking in the light. Everybody will now be of the same tongue and tribe and nation with no division.
Some scholars see the reference to “the kings of the earth” as some structural hierarchy in heaven, but all of the redeemed would be at the same level. This most probably relates to rulers still being alive at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, taken into the New heavens and the New earth without going through death.
The light makes heaven astonishing beautiful and in Revelation 21:11, John says, “Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal”
Revelation 21:12-13 describes the outside of heaven. “Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.”
To add anything to the literal meaning of these verses would be wild guessing, which is strictly prohibited in Revelation 22:18-19. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
It is a place with dimensions and it has an outer wall. Citizens can go in and out of it because it has gates. Revelation 21:21 mentions that the twelve gates were twelve pearls – each individual gate was of one pearl.
Heaven is clearly a place for believers under both the Old and the New covenant. Revelation 21:12 says that a name of one of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel was written on each gate. At all of the twelve gates, there would be an angel. These gates are placed in the same way that God will organize His people around the Millennial temple as described in Ezekiel 48. Furthermore, “the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones and on them were the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” According to Ephesians 2:19-20 the Apostles are the foundation of the Church. “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, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”
God is always measuring out what belongs to Him. In Ezekiel 40 to 48 it gives a description of the Millennial temple and in Ezekiel 40:3 God is measuring it. In Revelation 11:1 John referred to the Tribulation temple when he said, “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.” Now Revelation 21:15 mentions that the angel “had a gold measuring rod to measure the city and its gates and its wall.”
The city is laid out as a square as all sides and angels are equal. In Revelation 21:16 we see that it is measured out as about 1500 miles cubed. When God gave orders for the building of the holy place in the tabernacle and the temple on earth, it was also a cube. It was the same with Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 6:20.
It says that the wall is about 18 inches or 216 feet which is rather short and most probably refers to its width. The wall was made of jasper and the city was pure gold like clear glass. Just imagine how great this should be as not even the gold currently here on earth is like clear glass. This is unique.
The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. Eight of these twelve stones are found in the breastplate of the high priest as seen in Exodus 28 and Exodus 39. The brilliant colours of these stones through which the light of God’s glory is shining must be indescribably beautiful.
In Revelation 21:25 we see that the gates will never be closed as there will never be night and heaven is a place of rest, safety and security. The same is said in Isaiah 60:11. “Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession.” (Isaiah 60:11)
There is often confusion as some scholars interpret Ezekiel 40-48 as referring to the same holy city as the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. Jehovah-Shammah is a Christian transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “Jehovah is there.” It is the name given to the city in Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 48:35. Here is a comparison, indicating that Ezekiel actually spoke about Jerusalem during the Millennial reign.
New Jerusalem / Jehovah Shammah
1) 12 gates named after Israel (Revelation 21:12)/ 12 gates named after Israel (Ezekiel 48:30)
2) 12 foundations named for Apostles (Revelation 21:14)/ Foundation not described
3) 1500 miles square and tall (Revelation 21:16)/ One mile square (Ezekiel 48:30)
4) Coming Down from heaven (Revelation 21:2)/Located in Israel on Earth (Ezekiel 40:2)
5) No Temple. God and the Lamb are its Temple (Revelation 21:22)/ Temple just north of the city (Ezekiel 40:2)
6) No sin; nothing impure can enter (Revelation 21:27)/Daily sin offerings in the Temple (Ezekiel 45:13-15,17)
7) No more death (Revelation 21:4)/Still death (Ezekiel 44:25 also Isaiah 65:20)
No natural beings. Only the perfected (21:27)/ Natural Beings (Ezekiel 46:16)
(Main source of external influence: The teachings of John MacArthur)