Opening Discussion: What do you most look forward to in the new heavens and earth?
Reunion with loved ones? I know I have a soft spot for the last scene in Field of Dreams where a dad and son get to have one last game of catch. Many people look forward to things like this in the new creation.
A new body? Others look forward to a freedom from physical ailments and weaknesses. Like the rest of creation we long and “groan” for our freedom.
The absences of sin and temptation. For the believer there is a true longing for the end to all temptations. As those who have the new creation inaugurated in our hearts we long for final victory and rest.
Transition: What is God’s goal in created the New Heaven and Earth? The Bible shows us that God’s goal in creation was always to unite heaven and earth. In other words, it was to dwell with man.
Genesis 1:26-28, “
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…”
Notice two things in this passage that are intentionally paired. The image of God and the command to fill the earth. Mankind is told to “fill the earth” as image-bearers. The command is not simply to have children. It is to spread the image and glory of God to the ends of the earth. It is to have heaven fill earth.
Naturally, sin, sabotages this great goal and yet God pursues this goal throughout the biblical storyline.
The Story of God’s Goal to Dwell With Man: Starting with the Tabernacle/Temple
The Tabernacle and Temple are meant to be “Echoes of Eden”
Consider the descriptions of Solomon’s Temple in 1 Kings 6
- Solomon’s Temple meant to be a “dwelling” for God among his people: 1 Kings 6:13
- The same gold and jewels of Eden are used: 1 Kings 6:20-22
- There is Garden-like material used to construct and decoration (e.g., trees, flowers, plants, etc.): 1 Kings 6:15, 18, 20, 29, 32
- There are even images of guardian angels like the ones that blocked the entrance to the garden: 1 Kings 6:23-28
- The High Priest’s ephod is also rich with the precious stones of Eden: Exodus 28:6-14; 35:9
Christ as the New Temple – Dwelling with Man
- God pursues his goal of dwelling with us through Christ our Immanuel: Matthew 1:23
- When John says that the Son of God “dwelt” among us the literal word there is “tabernacle”. He “tabernacled” among us: John 1:14
- Jesus even described himself as the new Temple of God: John 2:18-22
God dwelling with man in the New Creation
- The emphasis on God dwelling with us continues in the most famous passage on the New Heaven and Earth: Revelation 21:3-7
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
In summary: the most basic and profound thing to look forward to is being with God.
- The New Creation Will Be Physical
- Romans 8:19-21
- Hebrews 1:11-12
- Isaiah 65:17, 25
2. The Best Thing About It Will Be the Presence of God
The significant emphasis in “new heaven, new earth passages” is on being with God.
Answer this Question: What is “The New Jerusalem” in Revelation 21:1-2, 9-14?
Notice how John hears about how he will be shown “the bride of Christ” (v. 9) but when he turns to look at this bride what he sees is this “new Jerusalem” coming down out of heaven (v. 10). John also describes the New Jerusalem in v. 2 as a the “bride” of Christ (see also: Ephesians 5:22-33).
This continues a pattern in Revelation of John hearing about one thing and then turning to see something that looks different than what he heard about. The prime example is when he told that he’s going to see the Lion of Judah and when he looks what he actually sees is a lamb that lives though it was slain (5:5, 6; compare also: 1:11 & 12, 7:4 & 9).
So, the New Jerusalem is “the wife of the Lamb” i.e., the church, his people as the new and permanent dwelling place of God (Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Corinthians 3:17).
Ezekiel 48:35, echoes Revelation 21. The glory of the final state is that “The LORD is there.”
To Quote D.A. Carson, “The glory of the place is not your mother.” In other words, the glory of the New Heaven and Earth is not in family reunions or in another game of catch with your dad. The glory of the place is that the Lord is there.
Consider these questions from John Piper:
- What do you think you could you have in heaven to make you happy forever even if God wasn’t there?
- What do you think would make you unhappy in heaven forever if you couldn’t have it with you even if God was there?
The Hymn Writer reinforces the glory of God in the New Creation well:
The Sands of Time, 4th stanza
The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.
3. The New Creation Will Be A Never Ending Experience of Grace
- Ephesians 2:7 – The coming ages will not be long enough to fully measure God’s grace to us in Christ.
- The Last Battle, quote:
- “And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
4. The Promise of the Future Motivates Holiness Now
- 2 Peter 3:11-13
- 1 John 3:2