"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things shall be passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful" (Rev. 21:1-5).
The passage of Scripture before us serves to introduce us to the time period in God's prophetic plan that may be referred to as the eternal ages. Contrary to the opinions of many, the eternal home of the redeemed of all ages will be a restored heaven and earth that will be purged from everything that defiles, and characterized by absolute righteousness. The new heaven and new earth will be united together as one glorious realm of life and service for the elect of God. In this eternal state, the new Jerusalem prepared by Christ for His church (John 14:3), will descend from God to the new earth to be the dwelling place of the Lamb's wife as well as the center of all worship through the ages. In the eternal age of righteous bliss all things will be made new and the former things will have passed away.
Precious little has been revealed to us concerning the eternal ages. With the exception of two brief references in Isaiah (65:17; 66:22), Revelation 21:1 through 22:6 are the only windows through which we may look into the eternal ages. Perhaps one of the reasons why God has been pleased to veil much of the glory of the eternal ages from our eyes is because so much of what characterizes the eternal state of the redeemed cannot be comprehended in our present state. Though we have tasted of the powers of the age to come (Heb. 6:5), we cannot yet fully appreciate all the glory that is yet to be realized in the eternal ages. What little God has revealed about the eternal ages ought to cause every saint of God to long with holy anticipation its glorious commencement.
According to the chronology of Revelation chapters 19 through 22 the eternal ages will not commence until the entire universe has been purged from sin and wickedness. At the end of the Millennial reign of Christ, Satan will be loosed from his prison to deceive the unsaved inhabitants of the kingdom only to meet his doom in his final revolt against God. Fire from Heaven will devour Satan and his rebellious forces. Satan will then be cast into the Lake of Fire to be tormented for eternity. Then all the unsaved of all ages will be summoned to some uninhabited part of the universe to stand before Christ at the Great White Throne Judgment to determine their eternal portion in the Lake of Fire, which is the final abode of the damned. After the Great White Throne Judgment Christ will then deliver up His Mediatorial throne to the Father (I Cor. 15:24-28) which will have the effect of merging the Millennial reign of Christ into the everlasting reign of the eternal ages.
It is important to note that John did not see the new heaven and new earth until after the Great White Judgment. The Great White Throne Judgment will coincide with the purgation of the universe when heaven and earth will be cleansed and made new by fire. II Peter 3:7; 10-12 describe this period by stating: "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men...But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." The heavens have been polluted by the foul deeds and wicked devices of Satan and his demons who have always waged war against the righteous as Ephesians 6:12 implies: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high (or heavenly; see marginal note) places." Likewise, our present earth has been defiled by human corruption, polluted by sin, stained with the blood of violence, and rebellion against the government of God. It is for these reasons the heavens and earth must be purged by fire. This purging by fire will have such a cleansing and renovating effect that the writer of Scripture calls the eternal habitation of the redeemed a new heaven and new earth.
It must be understood that the heaven and earth will not be obliterated or annihilated, but rather purged. The Scriptures make it clear that the earth is the Lord's possession (Psa. 24:1), and as such it will have an eternal existence (Psa. 78:69; 104:5; 119:90; and Ecc. 1:4; 3:14). God never forsakes the works of His own hands. The Greek word for "passed away" is the verb parechomai which means the transition from one place, form or condition to another. Hence the heavens and earth will be purged by fire so that there will be no remnants of sin to defile the eternal ages. I agree with what W.E. Best wrote:
"The eternal residence of the elect will not be altogether spiritual without materiality. Hence, the verb "passed away" of Revelation 21:1 ‘...for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away...' does not indicate annihilation any more than the resurrection body means the obliteration of the old body. The verb 'passed away' is an aorist active indicative of aperchomai, a compound verb made up of the preposition apo (from) and erchomai (to come, to go, or to pass). This compound verb is found 119 times and is used several ways: to go away, to depart, or to pass away or disappear. Hence, John saw what once had been under the curse delivered therefrom by being renewed. The Greek word for 'new' is kainos. It does not denote something entirely new, but it often describes a renewal or restoration of something already in existence. Thus, it can mean something new in form or quality." (1)
What a glorious privilege it will be for the saints of God to dwell upon the new earth which has been completely purged and cleansed from all sin and unrighteousness. We are going to live through the eternal ages without even the thought of sin. Our eyes will no longer be subject to seeing the wicked deeds of the unrighteous. Our ears will never again hear the blasphemies and taunts of the unsaved. Even the memories of sin will be banished from our minds because all of the former things associated with the old heavens and earth will have passed away. Isaiah 65:17 declares: "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind."
NEW THINGS WE SHALL BEHOLD
IN THE ETERNAL AGES
1. The first new thing that our eyes will behold in the eternal age is the "new heaven." It is significant to note that prior to the eternal ages the Scriptures always speak of three heavens, namely the first heaven which is the atmosphere, the second or sidereal heaven which constitutes the stars, planets, and galaxies, and the third heaven which is the eternal abode of God. Since the atmospheric and sidereal heavens shall be purged from all sin and from the defilement of the prince of the power of the air, God will merge all the heavens into one. Not only will the three heavens merge into one, there will no longer be a seperation between the new earth and the new heaven. In the eternal ages the eternal abode of God and His saints will be the new heaven and new earth. The saints in the eternal ages will never again lift their eyes to a heaven that is darkened by storms, tempests, tornadoes, or hurricanes. The new heaven will be a place of tranquillity and peace.
2. The second new thing that the saints shall behold in the eternal ages will be a "new earth." The old earth and its curse will be forever and completely purged. The saints will never again see or feel the harmful effects of sin on the new earth. Everything that presently causes irritation and discomfort will be removed from the new earth. There will be no more savage beasts, no more destructive insects, or venomous snakes. The greatest thing about the new earth is that it will be a place of complete and absolute righteousness. God and man shall dwell together in perfect harmony with nothing to separate their sweet fellowship. The saints of God will dwell together without doctrinal division and strife. The speech that will flow from our mouths will always be spiritual, edifying, and glorifying to God. For the first time since the fall of Adam, the saints will dwell in complete conformity to the will of God and in sweet harmony with one another. I like the way J.A. Seiss describes the new earth:
"...An earth which no longer smarts and smokes under the curse of sin, an earth which needs no more to be torn with hooks and irons to make it yield its fruits, an earth where thorns and thistles no longer infest the ground, nor serpents hiss among the flowers, nor savage beasts lay in ambush to devour, an earth whose sod is never cut with graves, whose soil is never moistened with tears or saturated with human blood, whose fields are never blasted with unpropitious seasons, whose atmosphere never gives wings to the seeds of plague and death, whose ways are never lined with funeral processions, or blocked up with armed men on their way to war, an earth whose hills ever flow with salvation, and whose valleys know only the sweetness of Jehovah's smiles, an earth from end to end, and from center to utmost verge, clothed with the eternal blessedness of Paradise Restored!" (2)
3. The third new thing the saints shall observe about the eternal ages will be the "...holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God, out of heaven..." The glory of the New Jerusalem is described in Revelation 21:9-23 in great detail. It will be the eternal habitation of Christ and His bride (21:9). It will descend from Heaven, the glorious abode of the eternal God (21:10). Its glory will be resplendent and majestic and its light likened unto a jasper stone that is clear as crystal (21:11). Its twelve gates will be manned by twelve angels and will bear the inscriptions of the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12). The wall of the city will have twelve foundations which bear the inscriptions of the twelve apostles of the Lamb ( 21:14). The city will be immense as it will measure 1500 square miles which would reach from Maine to Florida, and from the Atlantic Seaboard 600 miles to the west of the Mississippi River. Thus, the New Jerusalem will occupy more than half of the United States. What is amazing is that the height of the new Jerusalem will also be 1500 miles, probably in the shape of a pyramid (21:15-17). The materials that comprise the construction of the New Jerusalem are also significant. Its wall will be of jasper, its streets will be of pure gold that is clear as crystal, its foundations will be set with all manner of precious stones, and its twelve gates will be made of one pearl each (21:18-21). There will be no temple in the New Jerusalem because Almighty God and the Lamb will be the center of attraction, worship, and adoration (21:22). Its system of illumination will be different from any other city because it will have no need of the sun or luminaries. Instead the glory of God will resplendently shine as its light (21:23). It will serve as the center of all the world's worship as those who are saved and dwell upon the new earth will be permitted entrance into the home of the Lamb and His wife to bring glory and honor into it (21:24). The gates of the city will never be shut because there will never be any fear within its confines. It will be a place of unbroken fellowship where night will never fall because of the glory of Christ. It will also be a place that is always bustling with worship and spiritual activities because only the saints of God will be permitted to tread its streets (21:25-26). Above all else the eternal habitation of Christ and His wife will be a place of superlative holiness and purity that will never be stained or defiled by sin (21:27).
I cannot even begin to comment on the glory and greatness of the New Jerusalem which will be the center of all worship in the eternal ages. In my present state of looking through a glass darkly I can only give a feeble description of the new city characterized by unsurpassed glory and holiness. How I long for the day when I shall be eternally free from every thing that now blinds me from the resplendent glory of God. One day I shall drop this robe of corrupt flesh and ascend to new heights of spiritual glory where the holiness of God will be my only delight. Then I shall come to a full understanding and illumination concerning the resplendent majesty of the New Jerusalem and of the glorious Christ who is its chief occupant.
4. The fourth new thing that the saints shall behold will be the new nations that occupy the new earth: "And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it" (Rev. 21:24; see also verses 25-27). We know that the New Jerusalem will be the home and dwelling place of Christ and His kind of church. All those who are saved and not part of the Lamb's bride will dwell upon the new earth and will from time to time bring their glory and worship into the New Jerusalem. We know that Israel will be among the new nations that occupy the new earth because Isaiah 66:22 declares: "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain." God promised the land of Palestine to be Israel's everlasting inheritance as Genesis 17:8 declares: "And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
What is most amazing about the new nations that will occupy the new earth will be the fact that all of the people will be saved. Every one who is part of the nations in the eternal age will have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, washed and justified in the blood of the Lamb, and made holy by the power of Almighty God. Because all will have been delivered from the penalty, power, and presence of sin, the inhabitants of the new earth will dwell in perfect harmony and happiness. Imagine a world where everyone is completely compatible with one another, where there are no harmful divisions, no peer pressure, no pride, and no striving for power or prestige!
5. The fifth new thing the saints shall behold in the eternal ages will be a new river that will proceed from the throne of God as Revelation 22:1 declares: "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb." The waters in our present world are not crystal clear. They are defiled by sewage and sludge. Yet in the eternal ages the saints shall behold and have access to river that is crystal clear whose source is from the throne of God. Even on the original earth that was untainted by sin, God placed a river of water to beautify Eden and for the enjoyment of Adam and Eve. In the eternal ages, God likewise will beautify the New Jerusalem with streams of water that will cascade down the streets of the city. I agree with the comment of J.A. Seiss who wrote:
"The river is a heavenly river, and belongs to a heavenly city, and is for the use and joy of a heavenly people. Its waters are literal waters, of a nature and quality answering to that of the golden city to which they belong. Man on earth never knew such waters, as men on earth never knew such a city; but the city is a sublime reality, the home and residence of the Lamb and his glorious Bride, and these waters are a corresponding reality. Of old, the Psalmist sung, 'There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High' (Psa. 46:4), 'the river of God's pleasures,' where they that put their trust under the shadow of his wings shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of his dwelling place, even at the headspring of life, amid visions of light in the pavilion of his glory (Psa. 36:7-9). Heaven is not a place of dust and drought. It has its glad water spring and ever flowing river, issuing direct from the eternal throne, whose crystal clearness cannot be defiled. There flows the immortal water, for the joy of glorified natures, bright with the light of God, and filling all with life-cheer as immortal as themselves." (3)
6. The sixth new thing the saints shall behold will be a new tree of life as Revelation 22:2 describes: "In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." The street of the New Jerusalem will be lined with the tree of life that will bear twelve kinds of fruits for the enjoyment of the saints of God and for the healing of the nations. God placed a tree of life in the first earth before it was defiled by sin, therefore it is not difficult to conceive that God would place a tree of life in the eternal ages for the enjoyment of His people. Since the remnants of sin and its harmful effects will have been purged from the new heaven and new earth we cannot conceive that any form of sickness will be possible during the eternal ages. Rather the leaves of the tree will be used for the enjoyment and comfort of the saints. Just as Adam would have been preserved in health if he had eaten of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, the leaves of the tree of life will obviously have some sort of preserving quality during the eternal ages.
7. The seventh new thing that the saints shall behold in the eternal ages will be a new throne as Revelation 22:3 declares: "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." The Lamb of God, who tabernacled Himself with human flesh, in order to pay the penalty of His elect's sins, will be the One who occupies the blessed and exalted throne of the eternal ages. It is the throne of God as the Lamb, the sovereign and all powerful ruler, who once was slain for sinners, but lives again, and is exalted throughout the eternal ages to reign over and with His people. This will be the final throne of God in the ages to come. From this throne the righteous government of our Holy Lord will issue forth. It will be a reign unspotted by sin or rebellion, as all the subjects will count it their privilege and delight to serve the Lamb upon His throne. This throne will no doubt be continually surrounded by the saints of God who will never grow weary of offering songs of praise and worship to the One who loved them and gave Himself for them. How I long for the eternal day when I shall take my place around the final throne of God to adore the One who is Altogether Lovely!
THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE ETERNAL STATE
1. The greatest blessing in the eternal state will be the privilege of seeing the Lord Jesus Christ, glorified, exalted, and reigning upon the eternal throne of the New Jerusalem. There may be a thousand glorious sights that will no doubt be seen throughout the eternal ages, but all will pale in comparison to seeing our blessed Lord in resplendent majesty receiving the glory and honor due to His holy name. Revelation 22:4 declares: "And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads." The saints of God now view Christ through a glass darkly, with an eye of faith. In the eternal ages there will be nothing to dim the view that we shall have of our lovely Lord.
2. Our fellowship with Christ and His redeemed people will never be broken. The shades of night will never fall in the eternal ages. Never again will we grow weary of worshipping and serving our Lord. We will forever be done with sin and its maladies and be free to worship the King of the ages in perfection. All the blood- washed saints of God worshipping around the throne of the Lamb will serve as monuments of mercy and trophies of grace as the eternal ages roll on. Ephesians 2:6-7 declares: "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." The streets of New Jerusalem will resound with praise and worship as the saints revel in the kindness and grace of their sovereign Lord as the eternal ages roll on.
3. The saints will have the privilege of serving the Lord throughout the eternal ages as they reign with Him. Though I do not know the precise order of service the saints will engage in, I do know that it will be our chief delight to please our Lord in all that we do. Never again will a thought of rebellion enter into our minds, never again will complaints fill our hearts. No one in the eternal state will ever offer a feeble excuse why they can't serve the Lord. Our greatest joy through the eternal ages will be to serve our King with zeal and fervency. Imagine what glory will be experienced as all the saints serve the Lord with heart's that are filled to the brim with thanksgiving, joy, and love.
4. Another great blessing of the eternal ages is recorded in Revelation 21:4: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Every heart that has been broken by grief, disappointment, or death shall be healed in the eternal ages. The hand that formed the spirit of man will wipe away all tears from the eyes of His people. Oh, the great care that our wonderful Lord has for us! He will personally relieve His people from everything that causes their hearts to break and their tears to flow.
Death will have no place among the redeemed in the eternal ages. All other ages have been marked by the seperation of death and the pain that is associated with it. However, in the eternal ages death will be forever banished! Never again will the saints of God hear a eulogy, never again will our eyes behold a funeral procession, never again will we stand by another gravesite. There is coming a grand and glorious age when death itself shall die and be remembered no more by the saints in glory!
Sorrow, crying, and pain will be forever banished from the company of God's elect in the eternal ages. The bitter dregs of the cup of sorrow, sin, and human experience will never touch our lips again. The crying of a bereaved widow, the tears of an orphaned child, and the weeping of a parent whose child has caused them heartache will never again be seen or heard in the eternal age. The saints will never again be afflicted with mental or physical pain. Oh glorious age when all of these exemptions shall come to full realization! There is coming a day when the Halleluias of the renewed world will drown out the voice of woe forever!
5. Another blessing of the eternal state of the redeemed will be that we will be forever separated from the ungodly. All the wicked will be confined to a place of eternal torment in the Lake of Fire as a just punishment for their sins. The redeemed in the eternal ages will never again hear the wicked blaspheme the name of God. We will never again see wicked men committing crimes against the God of Heaven and defying His rule. Rather, we will be with the company of saints who have been "accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:6).
I realize I have but scratched the surface of the eternal ages. I must confess that this subject is too vast and deep for my finite mind. My comprehension of this future age of unsullied glory and unmatched brilliance is but feeble. But, oh how I long for the day when I shall enter in to the realms of bliss and happiness that yet await me in the eternal ages.