What will the New Heaven and New Earth be like?

Category: The End Times 1,405

In part 1 of this series about Life in Heaven, I began looking at what Scripture teaches us about the life to come. We have seen that after Christ returns we will live forever in a physical world in physical bodies. We discussed what our resurrection bodies will look like and the fact that we will continue to be ourselves – only in a sinless way. In this article, I want to study the characteristics of the New Heaven and New Earth. What will our environment look like? However, many Christians wonder if things such as time, space, weather, seasons, and oceans will exist in Heaven. And, of course, what about animals? Will they exist in the New Creation? What will the New Heaven and New Earth be like? Let’s take a look.

Will space and time exist?

Will we live in a spatial world? Will time exist? Since many people think that heaven is some kind of spiritual realm where we will float around forever, they think there will be no more time or space. Heaven is to be some kind of state, not a place.[1] Some may even go as far to say that we will be able to be in multiple places at the same time since there will be no space.

I’ll come right out and say it – there is nothing biblical about the idea that there will be no space and time in heaven. People who believe this have either never read their Bibles or want to interpret it out of context. Remember what I said in part 1, a good way to think about heaven is to remember Christ’s resurrection body, and to think about what God created in his “very good” creation before sin entered it.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that the resurrected Jesus was in multiple places at the same time. He was flesh and blood (Luke 24:39) and he occupied both space and time after his resurrection. Eden was a real place in space and time, and so will the restored Eden. Space is not evil. It was pronounced “very good” at the beginning, and it will continue to be good for all eternity.[2]

You’ll often hear that we never have enough time in this world, and that is a bad thing. There is even an old Arab proverb that says, “Everything fears Time, only the pyramids laugh at it.” This is, of course, a reference to the Egyptian pyramids and how they continue to stand after countless generations. Since we have so little time in this life before we die, we fear it and want to get as much done as we possibly can. This is the way an unbeliever thinks. A Christian should never entertain such thoughts. There is no such thing as “the end of time.” Time will continue on forever.

Will Time exist in Heaven? http://jimking.deviantart.com/art/Mechanical-Clock-HD-FULL-SCREEN-for-xwidget-381489492
Will Time exist in Heaven? http://jimking.deviantart.com/art/Mechanical-Clock-HD-FULL-SCREEN-for-xwidget-381489492

Some Christians get the idea of no more time in Heaven by a single verse in The King James Version of the Bible. It translates Revelation 10:6 as “there should be time no longer.” However, the correct way to translate the verse is “There will be no more delay.” This is the way other Bible versions translate it (see the NIV for example). The context of this passage is not the end of time, but the judgments coming on the earth during the tribulation and the second coming of Christ.

There are actually passages in Scripture that specifically mention time in Heaven. Luke 15:7 notes that there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. Revelation 6:10-11 has Christians in heaven asking God “how long” will it be before Christ’s judgment on the wicked. Although these are speaking of the present heaven, this shows that even now, Christians in heaven are living within time. Time is required to know “when” a person accepts Christ and repents.

However, there are places in Scripture that mention time will continue on forever. Paul speaks of Heaven as “the coming ages” in Ephesians 2:7. Note that he said “ages” (plural) and not “age” (singular). God says in Genesis 8:22 that day and night will never cease as long as the earth endures. Remember, the earth will exist forever.  Bible scholar Randy Alcorn summarizes the “problem” of time very well:

“But time isn’t the problem, the Curse is. Time isn’t the enemy, death is (1 Corinthians 15:26). Time predated sin and the Curse. When the Curse is lifted, time will remain. Without the Curse, time will never work against us. We won’t run out of it. Time will bring gain, not less. The passing of time will no longer threaten us. It will bring new adventures without a sense of loss for what must end…Buddhism, which knows no resurrection, teaches that time will be extinguished. Christianity, solidly based on a resurrection of cosmic dimensions, teaches time will go on forever. For too long we’ve allowed an unbiblical assumption (‘there will be no time in Heaven’) to obscure overwhelming biblical revelation to the contrary. This has served Satan’s purposes of dehumanizing Heaven and divorcing it from the existence we know. Since we cannot desire what we can’t imagine, this misunderstanding has robbed us of desire for Heaven.”[3]

What about Outer Space?

One of the biggest wonders of God’s creation is outer space. There are billions upon billions of stars in the universe. There are galaxies, planets, comets, and many other things that make up the heavens. Genesis 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word for heaven is used for everything above the earth: the atmosphere, the sun, moon, and stars, and everything else in outer space.

“To help us understand the size of the universe let’s take a look at how long it would take for us to travel across it. The maximum speed possible according to Einstein’s theory of special relativity is 186,000 miles per second. That’s fast! ‘Taking off, you could circle the earth seven times in one second. Leaving our planet, you would pass the moon in two seconds and Mars in just four minutes, and it would take you only five hours to reach Pluto.’

Once we leave our solar system, the next closest star is Proxima Centauri, which is 4.2 light years away. Traveling at 186,000 miles per second you would reach this star in 4.2 years. To reach the edge of the Milky Way, it would take you about 100,000 years. However, it would take you, after leaving the Milky Way, another 2.3 million years to reach Andromeda, the next closest galaxy.

It would take 20 million years to reach the next galaxy after Andromeda. And all of this is only a very, very small fraction of what is out there. Remember there are billions of galaxies. If you were to do nothing but count the stars you would not live long enough to finish.”[4]

Will we visit other places in the universe? http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap120406.html
Will we visit other places in the universe?
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap120406.html

The universe is vast – too vast to even comprehend completely. Yet, it is real. God created it. And what’s more – it will be redeemed at the resurrection of the dead (Romans 8:19-23) and will be a part of the Restored World. Remember that Scripture tells us that there will be a new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1; 2 Peter 3:13). This corresponds with Genesis 1:1.[5]

Will we only look up at them throughout eternity, or will something even greater happen? “Will the new planets be mere ornaments, or does God intend for us to reach them one day? Even under the Curse, we’ve been able to explore the moon, and we have the technology to land on Mars. What will we be able to accomplish for God’s glory when we have resurrected minds, unlimited resources, complete scientific cooperation, and no more death? Will the far edges of our galaxy be within reach? And what about other galaxies, which are plentiful as blades of grass in a meadow? I imagine we will expand the borders of righteous mankind’s Christ-centered dominion, not as conquerors who seize what belongs to others, but as faithful stewards who will occupy and manage the full extent of God’s physical creation.”[6]

If this really does happen, I’ll be one of the first in line to travel around God’s vast creation. But wouldn’t traveling to these places take millions of years? Yes, but remember we will have forever to do so. There is also another way we may get there. Acts 8:39-40 tells us that the Holy Spirit actually teleported Philip from one location to another in a blink of the eye. Jesus also disappeared and appeared in other places (Luke 24:31). He also could move through doors (John 20:26). This teaches us that God can have us travel far distances without the need for automobiles or any other form of transportation, and move through solid objects. If he can do this, what other things will he do in Heaven? It boggles and excites the mind to think about such things.

Will the sun and moon exist?

The obvious answer is yes considering what we just discussed about outer space. However, many people think there will be no sun or moon because of the following verses:

“The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your sorrow will end. Then will your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever.” (Isaiah 60:19-21)

“The city [the New Jerusalem] does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Revelation 21:23)

“There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Revelation 22:5).[7]

There are, however, some problems with taking these verses too literally. First, notice that Isaiah 60:19-21 says that we will no longer need the light of the sun or moon, yet it then it immediately says that the sun will never set or that the moon will never wane. The passage is not being literal. It is using light and darkness figuratively.

The same is for Revelation. The apostle John, who wrote Revelation, likes to use the imagery of light and darkness for good and evil. In John 1:5 he says, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood.” In verses 8-9 John says, “He himself [John the Baptist] was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light [Jesus] that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” Jesus calls himself the light of the world and says that “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

John 3:19-21 says, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what has been done has been done through God.” It is clear from the context of these passages that the light is righteousness and anything associated with God while the darkness is sin and rebellion.

Revelation 22:5 also says that there will be no more night. “Some people believe this is figurative, speaking of the moral perfection of the New Earth. Darkness is associated with crime, evil done under cover of night. Darkness is synonymous with distressed travelers unable to find their way. Prostitution, drunkenness, and idol worship often happened at night. In the modern era of electric lights, it’s difficult to understand the utter dread of traveling in the dark and the threat of being locked out of the city gates that would close at night to prevent robbers, bands of marauders, or enemy soldiers from invading a city. To be outside the city at night was to be exceedingly vulnerable. This will be no longer.”[8]

Writer Andrew Kulikovsky notes, “the point of this vision is not to describe the lighting arrangements in the city but to emphasize that the city gates will always be open, and that God’s people will have unlimited access to His glorious presence. Indeed, God’s divine glory will be completely manifested because the new creation will contain no more ‘darkness’ or evil.”[9]

To sum it up, the sun and moon will be a part of Heaven. The sun will never set or the moon wane permanently.

Will there be oceans?

Revelation 21:1 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” Does this literally mean there will be no oceans?[10] Or is it figurative like the issue with the sun and moon?

God created the oceans before sin tainted the world, so the seas were originally “very good.” Like everything else, they were placed under the curse when man fell into sin. But, as we have seen, all of creation is to be restored. So, why does Revelation say there will be no more sea?

Scholars have noted that in the book of Revelation, the “sea” often refers to other things besides literal bodies of water. For example, 1) the origin of cosmic evil; 2) the many pagan nations that persecute God’s people; 3) the location of the dead; 4) the primary place of idolatrous trading; or 5) a literal body of water.[11] It can mean different things depending on the context. Revelation 13:1, for example, tells us that the Antichrist arises out of the sea, and 17:15 says that the waters that the woman on the beast sits on “are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.” The Antichrist doesn’t literally arise out of the sea like Godzilla, and the woman does not literally sit in a puddle of water.

Will we get to visit the beach in Heaven? http://webneel.com/wallpaper/sites/default/files/images/04-2013/20-beach-sea-photography.jpg
Will we get to visit the beach in Heaven? http://webneel.com/wallpaper/sites/default/files/images/04-2013/20-beach-sea-photography.jpg

Kulikovsky says it well:

“In other words, when the creation is restored, Satan will no longer be a threat, nor will pagan nations. Neither will there be any death, nor idolatrous trade activity. Note that this figurative use of ‘sea’ does not necessarily mean that there will be no physical seas in the new creation. Such an interpretation is a possibility given that the sea is often perilous and separates nation from nation, but the allusion to Isaiah 65 and the immediate context suggests that persecution from other nations is primarily in view. Therefore, to say that ‘the sea is no longer’ simply means that the corrupt order of things and the power of evil have been removed from John’s sight.”[12]

Yes, there will be large bodies of water in Heaven. We will be able to go to the beach, swim in its waters, and even enjoy dolphins and other life that live within it (see below for more on animals).

Will there be weather and seasons?

In today’s world, we often have to deal with floods, lightning strikes, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, and other forms of weather that kill and destroy. However, will these kinds of phenomenon exist in Heaven? First, Scripture says that thunder, lightning, and snow show us God’s greatness (Job 37:3-6). Genesis 8:22 says, “ As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

This is clear evidence that weather, along with temperature, will exist in Heaven. Of course, no one will be harmed by them or be killed. But how could lightning and extreme heat and cold (along with other things) exist if no one can be harmed by them? Matthew 8:23-27 tell us that Jesus can control the weather, and Ezekiel 34:26-27 says that it is God who sends rain. God can have the weather do what he wants. This often leads to the question, “why does God allow so much destruction by weather today?” The answer is simple, although we do not like to hear it. It is because of sin. Because of sin and rebellion, God no longer fully sustains his world today. He allows death because of the evil ways of mankind. However, in Heaven, he will once again sustain his creation so that nothing bad will ever happen.

Weather and seasons (see Genesis 8:22 above) will exist throughout eternity. We will get to experience the colors of autumn, the green of spring and summer, and even winter (although most will have a hard time understanding the latter). I personally hate winter. But Scripture is clear that cold itself is not evil. God will redeem it as well.

What about animals?

This is admittedly one of my favorite topics – so much in fact, that I have already written an article on it. Let me briefly summarize it. First, God created animals to be a part of the original creation. Animals lived in Eden. Second, Romans 8:19-23 tells us that animals have been affected by the curse, and that they are waiting for the day when the world is restored. Third, there are passages that indicate that animals do, in fact, have souls (see my article linked above for the details). And fourth, God cares deeply for animals, and he holds us accountable for them (Exodus 20:9-10; Proverbs 12:10; Psalm 50:10-11).

Animals will once again roam the earth in a perfect world like they were supposed to before the Fall. They were created with us and will live with us and be our companions forever. This naturally leads to another question about animals. Will God resurrect extinct animals? The question is intriguing. Although Scripture never says “And God will bring back T-Rex” (although that would be awesome) there is nothing inconsistent with the idea of God brining back those animals that have ceased to exist on his creation. I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.

Conclusion

I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait for the New Heaven and New Earth. The fact that we will be able to experience animals, weather, the seasons, and the entire universe in a perfect world should get any Christian excited. It should also motivate us to share the Gospel with everyone we meet. In part 3, I will discuss what our daily lives will be like in Heaven.

 

Part 1 – Will we be ourselves in Heaven? (Life in Heaven series)

Part 3 – Work and Human Cultures in Heaven? (Life in Heaven series)

Part 4 – What will our Daily Lives be like in Heaven? (Life in Heaven series)

 

[1] See for example, Millard Erickson. Christian Theology 2nd Ed. (Grand rapids: Baker Academic, 1998). 1239. Here he says, “It is probably safe to say that while heaven is both a place and a state, it is primarily a state.”

[2] Wayne Grudem has made an excellent point concerning Erickson’s comment (see footnote #1): Erickson’s “statement [is] difficult to understand. Something is either a place or it is not place; it is not somewhat a place but ‘primarily a state.’” He also notes (in response to another scholar who thinks that heaven is not a place, but only the presence of God) that “If a person is present, then by definition there is a place, because to be ‘present’ means to be ‘located in a place.” Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994). 1159 fn. 2.

[3] Randy Alcorn. Heaven (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2004). 268-269. See also Hank Hanegraaff. Afterlife (Brentwood: Worthy Publishing, 2013). 48.

[4] Taken from my article Why did God create the universe so big?

[5] There are some passages that indicate that the universe will wear out, perish, or be discarded (see Psalm 102:25-27 for example). However, I have already indicated in another article that these kinds of passages are not to be taken literal – they are figurative.

[6] Alcorn, 262.

[7] Tim Lahaye. Revelation Revealed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999). 365. John Walvoord. The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966). 326-327.

[8] Alcorn, 272-273.

[9] Andrew S. Kulikovsky. Creation, Fall, Restoration (Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2009). 281. See also, Gregory Beale. The Book of Revelation. In “The New International Greek Testament Commentary. Ed. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999). 1093-1094, 1096. Robert H. Mounce. The Book of Revelation. In “The New International Commentary on the New Testament.” Revised. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997). 395-396. George R. Beasley-Murray. Revelation. In the “New Bible Commentary” (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994). 1454.

[10] Lahaye, 356-357. Walvoord, 311. John MacArthur. The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2005). 2036.

[11] Kulikovsky, 275. Beale, 1042.

[12] Kulikovsky, 275. Also, see Mounce, 381. Beasley-Murray, 1453. Grant R. Osbourne. Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002).730-731.

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