Chapter 27: THE NEW EARTH


Seventh-day Adventists Believe...

On the new earth, in which righteousness dwells, God will

provide an eternal home for the redeemed and a perfect

environment for everlasting life, love, joy, and learning in

His presence. For here God Himself will dwell with His

people, and suffering and death will have passed away. The

great controversy will be ended, and sin will be no more.

All things, animate and inanimate, will declare that God is

love; and He shall reign forever. Amen.--Fundamental

Beliefs, 27

 

THE NEW EARTH

After a close brush with death a boy said in relief, "My

home's in heaven, but I'm not homesick." Like him, many feel

that at death heaven is a preferable alternative to the

"other place," but that it runs a poor second to the reality

and stimulus of life here and now. If the views many have

about the hereafter were true, this feeling would be

justifiable. But from the descriptions and hints Scripture

provides, what God is preparing for the redeemed to enjoy so

outshines the life we live now that few would hesitate to

give up this world for the new one.

The Nature of the New Earth

A Tangible Reality

The first two chapters of the Bible tell of God's

creation of a perfect world as a home for the human beings

He created. The Bible's last two chapters also speak of

God's creating a perfect world for humanity--but this time

it's a re-creation, a restoration of the earth from the

ravages sin brought.

Over and over the Bible declares that this eternal home

of the redeemed will be a real place, a locality that real

people with bodies and brains can see, hear, touch, taste,

smell, measure, picture, test, and fully experience. It is

on the new earth that God will locate this real heaven.

Second Peter 3 tersely summarizes the scriptural

background of this concept. Peter speaks of the antediluvian

world as "the world that then existed" and was destroyed by

water. The second world is "the earth which now exists," a

world that will be cleansed by fire to make way for the

third world, "a new earth in which righteousness dwells"

(verses 6, 7, 13).(*1) The "third" world will be as real as

the first two.

Continuity and Difference

The term "new earth" expresses both a continuity with and

difference from the present earth.(*2) Peter and John

envision the old earth cleansed by fire from all defilement

and then renovated (2 Peter 3:10-13; Rev. 21:1).(*3) The new

earth is, then, first of all, this earth, not some alien

place. Though renewed, it will remain familiar, known--home.

That's good! It is, however, new in the sense that God will

remove from the earth every blemish sin has caused.

The New Jerusalem

The New Jerusalem is the capital city of this new earth.

In the Hebrew language, Jerusalem means "city of peace."

The earthly Jerusalem has seldom lived up to its name, but

the name New Jerusalem will accurately reflect reality.

A Connecting Link

In one sense that city links heaven and the new earth.

Primarily, the term heaven means "sky." Scripture uses it to

refer to (1) the atmospheric heavens (Gen. 1:20), (2) the

starry heavens (Gen. 1:14-17), and (3) the "third heaven,"

where Paradise is located (2 Cor. 12:2-4). From this

connection of "heaven" with Paradise, it became synonymous

with Paradise, the place of God's throne and dwelling.

Hence, by extension, Scripture terms God's realm and

rulership and the people who willingly accept His rule the

"kingdom of heaven."

God answers beyond all expectations the petition in the

Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth,

as it is in heaven" when He relocates the New Jerusalem to

Planet Earth (Rev. 21:1,2). He not only refurbishes the

earth, He exalts it. Transcending its pre-Fall status, it

becomes the capital of the universe.

The Physical Description

John uses romantic terms to convey the beauty of the New

Jerusalem: The city is like a "bride adorned for her

husband" (Rev. 21:2). His description of the physical

attributes of the city portray to us its reality.

1. Its light.

The first specific attribute John noticed as he viewed

"`the bride, the Lamb's wife'" was "her light" (Rev.

21:9,11). God's glory illuminates the city, making the light

of sun and moon super-fluous (Rev. 21:23,24). No dark alleys

will mar the New Jerusalem, for the walls and streets are

translucent and "there shall be no night there" (Rev.

21:25). "They need no lamp, nor light of the sun, for the

Lord God gives them light" (Rev. 22:5).

2. Its construction.

God has used only the very finest materials in building

the city. The wall is of jasper, a "most precious stone"

(Rev. 21:11,18). The foundations are adorned with twelve

different gems: jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald,

sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase,

jacinth, and amethyst (Rev. 21:19,20).

These gems are not, however, the primary building

material. For the most part, God has made the city--its

buildings and streets--of gold (Rev. 21:18,21), using that

precious metal as freely as people now use concrete. This

gold is finer than any now known, for John calls it "pure

gold, like clear glass" (Rev. 21:18).

Twelve gates, each made of a single pearl, grant access

to the city. "Pearls are the product of suffering: a tiny

irritant slips inside an oyster's shell, and as the little

creature suffers, it transforms that irritant into a

lustrous gem. The gates are of pearl. Your entrance, my

entrance, God provided at infinite personal suffering as in

Christ He reconciled all things to Himself."(*4)

Just as meaningful today as the list of materials that

went into the construction of the city is the fact that the

angel who showed the city to John measured its walls. That

they could be measured, that they have height and length and

thickness, conveys to the modern, data-oriented mentality

the city's reality.

3. Its food and water supply.

From the throne of God in the center of the city flows

the "river of water of life" (Rev. 22:1). And like a banyan

tree with multiple trunks, the tree of life grows "on either

side of the river." Its twelve fruits contain the vital

element the human race has gone without since Adam and Eve

had to leave Eden--the antidote for aging, burnout, and

simple fatigue (Rev. 22:2; Gen. 3:22). Those who eat the

fruit of this tree need no night in which to rest (cf. Rev.

21:25), for in the new earth they will never feel tired.

Our Eternal Home

The Bible makes clear that ultimately the saved will

inherit this earth (Matt. 5:5; Ps. 37:9,29; 115:16). Jesus

promised to prepare for His followers "dwelling places" in

His Father's house (John 14:1-3). As we have noted,

Scripture locates the Father's throne and heavenly

headquarters in the New Jerusalem, which will descend to

this earth (Rev. 21:2,3,5).

City Home

The New Jerusalem is the city for which Abraham looked

(Heb. 11:10). Within that vast city Christ is preparing

"mansions" (John 14:2), or as the original word indicates,

"abiding places"--real homes.

Country Homes

But the redeemed will not be confined within the walls of

the New Jerusalem. They will inherit the earth. From their

city homes the redeemed will go out into the country to

design and build their dream homes, to plant crops, and

harvest and eat them (Isa. 65:21).

At Home With God and Christ

On the new earth the promise Jesus made to His disciples

will find eternal fulfillment: "`That where I am there you

may be also'" (John 14:3). The purpose of the Incarnation,

"God with us," will have finally reached its goal. "`Behold,

the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with

them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be

with them and be their God'" (Rev. 21:3). Here the saved

have the privilege of living in the presence of the Father

and the Son, of fellowshipping with them.

Life in the New Earth

What will life on the new earth be like?

Reigning With God and Christ

God will involve the redeemed in the affairs of His

kingdom. "The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the

city, and his servants will serve him....And they will reign

for ever and ever" (Rev. 22:3-5, NIV; cf. 5:10).

We do not know the extent of their rule. However, we may

safely assume that as an important part of their role in the

kingdom, the redeemed will serve as Christ's ambassadors to

the universe, testifying to their experience of God's love.

Their greatest delight will be to glorify God.

Physical Activities in the New Earth

Life in the new earth will challenge the most ambitious

for eternity. The glimpses of the categories of activities

available to the redeemed there whet our appetites, but do

not even begin to delimit the possibilities.

We have already seen the scriptural promises that the

redeemed will "build houses and inhabit them" (see Isa.

65:21). Building implies design, construction, furnishing,

and the potential for remodeling or rebuilding. And from the

word "inhabit" we may infer a whole spectrum of activities

relating to daily life.

The underlying motif of the entire new earth existence is

the restoration of what God had planned for His original

creation. In Eden God gave the first human beings a garden

to "tend and keep" (Gen. 2:15). If, as Isaiah said, in the

new earth they shall plant vineyards, why not orchards and

grain fields? If, as Revelation indicates, they shall play

harps, why not trumpets and other instruments? It was, after

all, God Himself who implanted in humanity the creative urge

and placed them in a world of unlimited potential

(Gen. 1:28-31).

Social Life in the New Earth

We will realize no small part of our joy in eternity in

relationships.

1. Friends and family.

Will we recognize our friends and family after we have

been glorified, changed into Jesus' image? After Christ's

resurrection His disciples had no trouble recognizing Him.

Mary recognized His voice (John 20:11-16), Thomas His

physical appearance (John 20:27,28), and the disciples from

Emmaus His mannerisms (Luke 24:30,31,35). In the kingdom of

heaven, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob still bear their

individual names and identity (Matt. 8:11). We may safely

assume that on the new earth we will continue our

relationships with those we know and love now.

In fact, it is the relationships that we will enjoy

there--and not just those with family and current

friends--that makes heaven our hope. Its many material

benefits "will seem as nothing compared with the eternal

values of relationships with God the Father; with our

Saviour; with the Holy Spirit; with angels; with the saints

from every kindred, nation, tongue, and people; and with our

families....No more shattered personalities, fractured

families, or disrupted communion. Wholeness and

wholesomeness will be universal. Physical and mental

integration will make heaven and eternity the perfect

fulfillment."(*5)

"The loves and sympathies which God Himself has planted

in the soul shall there find truest and sweetest exercise.

The pure communion with holy beings, the harmonious social

life with the blessed angels and with the faithful ones of

all ages...--these help to constitute the happiness of the

redeemed."(*6)

2. Marriage?

Some of Christ's contemporaries related the case of a

woman repeatedly widowed who had had seven husbands in all.

They asked Him whose wife she would be after the

resurrection. It takes but little imagination to see the

endless complications that would be introduced if the

marriage relationships of this earth were renewed in heaven.

Christ's answer reveals the divine wisdom: "In the

resurrection they neither marry; nor are given in marriage,

but are as the angels of God in heaven" (Matt. 22:29,30,

KJV).

Then will the redeemed be deprived of the benefits now

associated with marriage? In the new earth the redeemed will

not be deprived of any good thing! God has promised that "no

good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly"

(Ps. 84:11). If that is true in this life, how much more

will it be true in the next.

The quintessence of marriage is love. The epitome of joy

is in the expression of love. Scripture says, "God is love,"

and "in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand

are pleasures forevermore" (1 John 4:8; Ps. 16:11). In the

new earth no one will lack for either love or joy or

pleasure. No one there will feel lonely, empty, or unloved.

We can trust that the loving Creator who designed

marriage to bring joy in this present world will have

something even better in the next--something that will be as

superior to marriage as His new world will be to this one.

Intellectual Life in the New Earth

Mental restoration.

"The leaves of the tree [of life] were for the healing of

the nations" (Rev. 22:2). The healing Revelation speaks of

means more than "cure"; it means "restoration," since no one

there will ever become sick (Isa. 33:24, 20). As they eat of

the tree of life, the redeemed will outgrow the physical and

mental dwarfing that centuries of sin have brought about;

they will be restored into the image of God.

Unlimited Potential

Eternity offers unlimited intellectual horizons. In the

new earth "immortal minds will contemplate with

never-failing delight the wonders of creative power, the

mysteries of redeeming love. There will be no cruel,

deceiving foe to tempt to forgetfulness of God. Every

faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. The

acquirement of knowledge will not weary the mind or exhaust

the energies. There the grandest enterprises may be carried

forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest

ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights

to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to

comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind

and soul and body."(*7)

Spiritual Pursuits in the New Earth

Apart from Christ, everlasting life would be meaningless.

Throughout eternity the redeemed will ever hunger and thirst

for more of Jesus--for greater understanding of His life and

work, for more communion with Him, for more time to witness

to unfallen worlds about His matchless love, for a character

that reflects His more closely. The redeemed will live for

and with Christ. They will rest, fully satisfied, in Him

forever!

Christ Himself lived to serve (Matt. 20:28), and He

called His followers to the same life. Working with Him now

is, in itself, rewarding. And the relationship it engenders

offers in addition the greater blessing and privilege of

working with Him on the new earth. There, with great joy and

satisfaction, "His servants shall serve Him" (Rev. 22:3).

Although the redeemed will have the opportunity of

investigating God's treasure house of nature, the most

popular science will be the science of the cross. With

intellects restored to the acuity God intended them to

possess, and with the blindness of sin removed, they will be

able to perceive spiritual truth in a way they can only long

for here. They will make the subject of salvation--a subject

that contains a depth, a height, and a breadth that

surpasses all imagination--their study and song throughout

eternity. Through this study the redeemed will see ever

greater vistas of the truth as it is in Jesus.

Week by week the saved will meet together for Sabbath

worship: "`And from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall

come to worship before Me,' says the Lord" (Isa. 66:23).

There Shall Be No More...

Every Evil Eradicated

Some of the most cheering promises about the new earth

concern what will not be there. "There shall be no more

death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be

any more pain: for the former things are passed away"

(Rev. 21:4, KJV).

All these evils will disappear forever because God will

eradicate every form of sin, the cause of all evil.

Scripture mentions the tree of life as part of the new

earth, but not once does it include there the tree of

knowledge of good and evil or any other source of

temptation. In that good land the Christian will never have

to battle the world, the flesh, or the devil.

The guarantee that the new earth will remain "new"

despite the influx of immigrants from the sin-polluted, old

Planet Earth is the fact that God will exclude the "vile,

the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice

magic arts, the idolaters and all liars" (Rev. 21:8, NIV;

22:15). He must--for whatever sin enters, it ruins.

"Every trace of the curse is swept away....One reminder

alone remains: Our Redeemer will ever bear the marks of His

crucifixion. Upon His wounded head, upon His side, His hands

and feet, are the only traces of the cruel work that sin has

wrought. Says the prophet, beholding Christ in His glory:

`He had bright beams coming out of his side: and there was

the hiding of his power.' Habakkuk 3:4, margin... Through

the eternal ages the wounds of Calvary will show forth His

praise and declare His power."(*8)

The Former Shall Not Be Remembered

On the new earth, Isaiah says, "the former shall not be

remembered, nor come into mind" (Isa. 65:17, KJV). Read in

context, however, it becomes evident that it is the troubles

of the old life that the redeemed will forget (see Isa.

65:16). They will not forget the good things God has done,

the abundant grace by which He saved them, else this whole

sin-struggle would be in vain. The saints' own experience of

Christ's saving grace is the essence of their witness

throughout eternity.

In addition, the history of sin forms an important

element of the assurance that "affliction will not rise up a

second time" (Nahum 1:9). Thoughts of the sad results sin

has produced will serve as an eternal deterrent to anyone

ever tempted to choose that suicidal path again. But while

the events of the past serve an important purpose, heaven's

atmosphere cleanses those terrible memories of their pain.

The promise is that their memories will not evoke in the

redeemed remorse, regret, disappointment, grief, or

vexation.

Value of Belief in a New Creation

Belief in the doctrine of the new earth brings a number

of very practical benefits to the Christian.

It Gives an Incentive to Endure

Christ Himself, "for the joy that was set before Him

endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). Paul

renewed his courage by contemplating the future glory:

"Therefore we do not lose heart....For our light affliction,

which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more

exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:16,17).

It Brings the Joy and Certainty of a Reward

Christ Himself said, "`Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad,

for great is your reward in heaven'" (Matt. 5:12). Paul

reiterates, "If any man's work abide,...he shall receive a

reward" (1 Cor. 3:14, KJV).

It Gives Strength Against Temptation

Moses was enabled to walk away from the "pleasures of

sin" and the "treasures of Egypt" because he "looked to the

reward" (Heb. 11:26).

It Provides a Foretaste of Heaven

The Christian's reward is not only future. Christ

Himself, by the Holy Spirit, comes to the Christian and

dwells in him as an "earnest" or down payment guaranteeing

the blessings to come (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). Christ

says, "`If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will

come in'" (Rev. 3:20). "And when Christ comes He always

brings heaven with Him." Communing with Him "is heaven in

the heart; it is glory begun; it is salvation anticipated."

(*9)

It Leads to Greater Effectiveness

Some view Christians as being so heavenly minded as to be

of no earthly value. But it is that very belief in the

hereafter that gives Christians a solid base from which to

move the world. As C.S. Lewis observed: "If you read history

you will find that the Christians who did most for the

present world were just those who thought most of the

next....It is since Christians have largely ceased to think

of the other world that they have become so ineffective in

this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth `thrown in'; aim

at earth and you will get neither."(*10)

"The wise man will give more care to the carving of a

statue in marble than to the building of a snowman."(*11)

The Christian, who plans on living forever, will naturally

structure his life with more care (and thus impact society

more constructively) than the person who thinks he's

disposable, born only to be thrown away.

The "occupation with celestial themes, which the Holy

Spirit fosters, has a mighty assimilating power. By it the

soul is elevated and ennobled. Its field and its powers of

vision are enlarged, and the relative proportions and value

of things seen and unseen are more clearly

appreciated."(*12)

It Reveals God's Character

The world as we now see it grossly misrepresents both

God's character and His original plan for this planet. Sin

has so damaged earth's physical ecosystems that many can

scarcely imagine a connection between this world and the

paradise portrayed in Genesis 1 and 2. Now a constant

struggle for survival characterizes life. Even the life of

the believer, who must do battle with the world, the flesh,

and the devil, does not accurately portray God's original

plan. In what God has planned for the redeemed--a world

untouched by Satan's influence, a world in which God's

purpose rules alone--we have a truer representation of His

character.

It Draws Us to God

Ultimately, the Bible describes the new earth in order to

attract the nonreligious person to Christ. One person, on

hearing that "the earth restored to its Eden beauty, as real

as `the earth that now is,' was to be the final home of the

saints," where they would be "free from all sorrow, pain,

and death, and know and see each other fact-to-face,"

strenuously objected.

"Why," said he, "that cannot be: that is just what would

suit the world; that is just what the wicked would like."

Many "seem to think that religion, with...its final

reward, must be something for which the world could have no

desire; hence when any state of happiness is named, for

which the heart of man, in his fallen condition, would truly

long, they think it can be no part of true religion."(*13)

Nothing could be further from the truth.

God's very purpose in making known what He has prepared

for those who love Him is to attract individuals from their

preoccupation with this world--to help them discern the

value of the next and glimpse in the beautiful things

prepared the Father's heart of love.

Forever New

In this old earth it is often said that "all good things

come to an end." The best of the good news regarding the new

earth is that it will never come to an end. Then will come

to pass those lyrics from the "Hallelujah Chorus": "The

kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and

of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever" (see

Rev. 11:15; cf. Dan. 2:44; 7:27). And, Scripture says, every

creature will join in the anthem: "Blessing, and honour, and

glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne,

and unto the Lamb for ever and ever" (Rev. 5:13, KJV).

"The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no

more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and

gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who

created all flow life and light and gladness throughout the

realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the

greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their

unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is

love."(*14)

References

1. See James White, "The New Earth. The Dominion Lost in

Adam Restored Through Christ," Review and Herald, Mar. 22,

1877, pp. 92,93.

2. The English word "new" translates two Greek words used

in the New Testament. Neos "expresses the idea of newness in

respect to time, and may be translated `new,' `recent,'

`young.' It is the opposite of archaios, `old,' `original,'

`ancient.'" Kainos, on the other hand, connotes "newness as

to form or quality, and may be translated `new,' `fresh,'

`different as to nature.' It is opposed to palaios, `old,'

`aged,' `worn out,' `marred.' Kainos is the term that is

used to describe the `new earth'" ("New Earth," SDA Bible

Dictionary, rev. ed., p. 792).

3. Ibid.

4. Richard W. Coffen, "New Life, New Heaven, New Earth,"

These Times, Sept. 1969, p. 7.

5. Neal C. Wilson, "God's Family Reunited," Adventist

Review, Oct. 8, 1981, p. 23.

6. White, Great Controversy, p. 677.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid., p. 674

9. "Clusters of Eschol," Review and Herald, Nov. 14, 1854,

pp. 111,112.

10.C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Westwood,NJ: Barbour and

Co., 1952), p. 113.

11.Fagal, Heaven Is for You, p. 37.

12."Clusters of Eschol," pp. 111,112.

13.Uriah Smith, "The Popular Hope, and Ours," Review and

Herald, Feb. 7, 1854, p. 20.

14.White, Great Controversy, p. 678.