It’s over. The wrath is done. The reign is established. The judgment is complete. The punishments have been enacted. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.
What will it be like? Of course, we can only speculate. For years there had been so much activity with reigning and judging. Then there was the big flurry at the end with the release of the devil, followed by the final battle. When the time comes for the Great White Throne judgment, I don’t know what we will be doing. I can’t imagine watching because it would be so heartbreaking. It’s possible that we will have such a clear understanding of God’s holiness that we can compartmentalize our sorrow over others’ suffering in favor of our understanding of God’s justice. But to me, it is that empathy we feel at others’ pain that, in part, expresses our Imago Dei, the image of God in us. But that is a tangent.
Now that the judgment is all done, what’s left are the people who love God and have committed themselves to Him. While our eternal life began when we received Jesus as our Savior and Lord, this is when eternity truly starts.
The New Heaven and New Earth
Not long ago, I watched a video from China. There were fifteen unfinished high-rise buildings that were sitting on a property. From what I could glean, the new owner of the property wanted them gone so that he could erect his own development. As I watched, charges exploded at the bases of the buildings, and one after another, they toppled to the ground. Soon, all that could be seen was a massive cloud of dust.
God spares us the details of the demolition of the original heaven and earth, although I am thinking that it will be even more spectacular to watch than the destruction of those fifteen Chinese buildings. Instead, God jumps John forward to the pulling of the great curtain and the unveiling of the new heaven and the new earth.
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 (Revelation 21:1-2).
A new beginning—how wonderful! Sometimes something is just so far gone that there is nothing left to do except start over. In Greek, there are two words that can be translated as “new.” One is Chronos and it primarily refers to something that is “new in time.” You used to drive an old car, but now you drive a new car. The second word is Kainos and it means “new in kind.” This is what we find John using in this passage. The new heaven and the new earth are not only more recent but, more importantly, they are superior in quality to the old. These will never perish, as did the old ones. This new creation has not been infected with sin, nor will it ever be. Death will never be seen in God’s upgraded handiwork. When the old goes and the new comes, everything will be made better.
Just because the new is improved it doesn’t mean that the old was bad. When God created everything, He declared it to be good. It’s when we got our sinful little hands-on what God had made that it all deteriorated. There is precedent for God looking around and deciding to start over.
While creation began with a close relationship between God and the first two humans, the moment sin entered the world, the corrosion began. If there is one activity that people excel at, it is rebellion. As the generations following Adam and Eve expanded and multiplied, so did their capacity and creativity for sin. By the time Noah came along, everything was irrevocably out of hand.
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:5-8).
The hope of mankind appears in that last line. The righteousness of that one man is the reason why you and I are alive today. God saw that He had to get rid of the old before He could create the new, so He sent a flood to destroy everything except for what was in the ark. Once the flood subsided and Noah again stood on solid ground, he experienced God’s new beginning.
When humanity sinned against God, it brought death. This mortality was not just for living creatures but for nature as well. The prophet Isaiah alluded to this fact:
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished (Isaiah 51:6).
That will be the state of the earth after the tribulation. It will be old and torn up, like a shirt that is stained, fraying at the seams, and full of holes. No amount of loving care and careful tailoring can restore it. It’s best to break down and buy a new shirt. Isaiah tells us that is exactly what God says He will do: “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17). The apostle Peter also refers to this new creation, even giving us a possible look into what the demolition of the old might look like:
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:11-13).
Like in Noah’s time, God will protect the righteous from the destruction of the old and will release us onto the solid ground of His new beginning. As John checks out God’s new creation, he notes that there is no sea.
“Amir, how can this be heaven? I can’t imagine, never wiggling my toes in the sand of the beach or watching the sunset over the ocean.” First, we’re nearing the “no more sun” part of chapter 21, so you’re about to be doubly disappointed. But second, this is where you need to trust God and the amazingness of what He will do. What the great Creator has planned for His new heaven and new earth will make you forget sandy toe-wiggling ever existed.
The question remains: Why is there no sea? We don’t know. However, before those of you who crave a thinly sliced tuna sashimi get too worked up, notice that John says there will be “no more sea.” He doesn’t say that there will be no more bodies of water. Currently, a majority of the earth is covered by salt water. It is possible that God is simply reworking that water-to-land ratio.
Then the loud voice from the throne speaks once again: 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” (Revelation 21:3-4).
This will be a world of Emmanuel—God with us! No longer will our prayers be just spirit to Spirit or heart to heart but face to face. Imagine that! It is no wonder that there will be no tears or sorrow. We will be in the presence of the Almighty! And, of course, there will be no more death or pain. We’ll be sporting our incorruptible resurrection bodies.
New bodies equal physical peace.
The presence of God equals spiritual peace.
Lord, I am so ready for this day!