The Meaning of
ethereal spirit world or a tangible new earth?
by Dr. David
For many years I had little desire to go
to Heaven. My only interest in Heaven was prompted by a desire
to avoid Hell. I just couldn't get excited about being a disembodied
spirit residing in an ethereal world, floating around on a cloud
playing a harp.
My interest in Heaven developed slowly over
a long period of time. It became a passion, not as a result of
my study of prophecy, but because of my growing relationship with
the Lord. The more I came to know Him, the more I desired to be
The New Earth
The reason my study of prophecy did not
play the key role in developing my interest in Heaven is because
the Bible is strangely silent about the subject. The Bible tells
us in great detail what the Millennium will be like, but it gives
us almost no detailed information about the eternal state.
What it does tell us often comes as a great
surprise to most Christians because the scriptures about Heaven
have been so terribly spiritualized. For example, the Bible plainly
says the Redeemed will spend eternity on a new earth.
Isaiah was the first to speak of this truth
when he spoke of "the new heavens and the new earth"
which will endure forever before the Lord (Isaiah 66:22). This
truth is repeated in the book of Revelation where the apostle
John says he was shown a new earth, "for the first heaven
and the first earth passed away" (Revelation 21:1).
John goes on to describe the New Jerusalem
descending to the new earth, "coming down out of heaven from
God" (Revelation 21:2). And then he states that God Himself
will come to live on the new earth:
"Behold, the tabernacle of God is
among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His
people, and God Himself shall be among them."
This truth had already been revealed to
the Old Testament prophets. While being taken on a prophetic tour
of the millennial Temple, Ezekiel was told by his guide (the Lord
Jesus in a pre-incarnate appearance): "Son of man, this is
the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet,
where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever" (Ezekiel
The Redeemed are going to dwell forever
in new bodies on a new earth in a New Jerusalem in the presence
of Almighty God and His Son, Jesus. Heaven will come to earth!
The New Jerusalem
The most detailed information which the
Scriptures give about Heaven pertains to our eternal abode
the New Jerusalem. Twenty verses in Chapter 21 of Revelation are
devoted to a description of it.
The information contained in Revelation
21 is not the first reference in the Bible to the New Jerusalem.
It is mentioned in Hebrews 11:10 as a city "whose architect
and builder is God." Jesus made a reference to it that is
recorded in John 14:1-4. He called it His "Father's house,"
and He said He would prepare a place in it for His Church.
Jesus is currently expanding, embellishing,
and beautifying this house which God the Father designed and built.
Jesus is preparing it for His bride, just as in Old Testament
times a bridegroom would add a room onto his father's house to
accommodate himself and his bride.
The city is described in Revelation as beautifully
decorated, like "a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation
21:2). Later, John actually refers to the city as the bride of
the Lamb (Revelation 21:9), because the city contains the bride
of Christ, His Church.
I believe this implies that at the end of
the Millennium all the Redeemed will be taken off the earth and
placed in the new Jerusalem which will most likely be suspended
in the heavens. From that vantage point we will watch as God burns
up this earth and reshapes it like a hot ball of wax into a new
earth, a perfected earth like the one which God created in the
beginning. Then, we will be lowered down to that new earth inside
the new Jerusalem.
The city will be spectacular in both size
and appearance. It will be in the form of a cube that is 1,500
miles in every direction! And it will reflect "the glory
of God" (Revelation 21:11,16).
The Size of the City
The incredible size means the city would
stretch from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Atlantic
coast of America to Colorado. It would also extend 1,500 miles
into the atmosphere.
This tremendous extension of the city vertically
into the air is a clue that the new earth may be considerably
larger than the current earth. Otherwise, the city would not be
proportional to its surroundings.
Would such a city be able to adequately
accommodate all the Redeemed? That's a good question. The best
answer I have ever run across is the one provided by Dr. Henry
Morris in his book The Revelation Record.
Dr. Morris postulates the total number of
Redeemed might be as many as 20 billion. He further guesses that
approximately 75 percent of the new Jerusalem might be devoted
to streets, parks and public buildings. Can 20 billion people
be squeezed into only 25 percent of the space of this city?
The answer is yes! In fact, it can be done
easily. Each person would have a cubical block with about 75 acres
of surface on each face. We are talking about an immense city!
This assumes, of course, that our new glorified
bodies will be immune to the current law of gravity, as are the
bodies of angels. This is a safe assumption, for Philippians 3:2
says that our glorified bodies will be like the body of Jesus
after His resurrection, and His body was not subject to gravity,
as evidenced by His ascension into Heaven.
This is the reason the city will be so tall.
We will be able to utilize and enjoy all levels of it. There will
be vertical streets as well as horizontal ones.
The Beauty of the
And what streets they will be! The Bible
says they will be "pure gold, like transparent glass"
(Revelation 21:21). In fact, the whole city will be made of pure
gold with the appearance of clear glass (Revelation 21:18).
The city will sit on a foundation made of
12 layers of precious stones (Revelation 21:19-20). Each layer
will feature the name of one of the 12 apostles (Revelation 21:14).
The city will be surrounded by a jasper wall over 200 feet high
(Revelation 21:17). There will be 12 gates, three on each side,
and each one will be named for one of the tribes of Israel (Revelation
And yes, the gates will be "pearly
gates," each one consisting of one huge pearl (Revelation
Best of all, God the Father and Jesus will
both reside in the city with us (Revelation 21:22). The Shekinah
glory of God will illuminate the city constantly, and thus there
will be no night nor will there ever be any need for any type
of artificial light or the light of the sun (Revelation 22:5).
The throne of God and His Son will be in
the city, and "a river of the water of life, clear as crystal"
will flow down the middle of the city's main street with the tree
of life growing on both sides of the river, yielding 12 kinds
of fruit a different fruit each month (Revelation 22:1-2).
That's it. God's Word only gives us a glimpse
of Heaven. But what a tantalizing glimpse it is! It's a glimpse
of perfect peace and joy and beauty.
The Activities of
What will we do for eternity? Again, the
Word is strangely silent. All it says is that we "shall serve
Him" ( Revelation 22:3).
I have fantasized a lot about our Heavenly
activities. I can imagine us spending a great deal of our time
in worship, singing the psalms of King David, with him directing
us. I think it is likely that our talents will be magnified, and
we will be able to sing or paint or write with a majesty and scope
we never imagined possible and all to the glory of God!
Surely we will spend considerable time in
the study of God's Word. Think of studying the gospel of John
with the apostle John as the teacher! I thrill to the thought
of Jesus teaching the Old Testament, even as He did to His disciples
following His resurrection (Luke 24:44-45). The Word of God is
infinite in its depth, and I believe we will continue learning
from it forever.
As we study the Word, I believe we will
grow in spiritual maturity in the likeness of Jesus. And since
God is infinite, no matter how much we grow in His likeness, there
will just be that much more growing ahead of us. In this regard,
I suspect that our spiritual growth will pick up where it left
off in this life.
Sometimes, I really get far out in my thinking
about Heaven. For example, I can imagine the Lord giving us the
opportunity to see "instant video replays" of great
events in Bible history. I hope so. I would like to see the dividing
of the Red Sea, the destruction of Jericho, and the resurrection
And what about tours of the universe? Surely
we will be able to travel through space in our glorified bodies
and see the miracles of God's creation up close. Imagine visiting
all the planets in our galaxy as well as touring thousands of
But what does it mean in Revelation 22:3
where it says we will serve God as His "bond-servants"?
I'm not sure. I suppose it means we will be given productive work
to do. What that work will be I can't say for sure. But there
is a hint in Revelation 22:5 where it says we will reign with
the Lord "forever and ever."
To reign implies, of necessity, that we
must reign over someone. Who will that be? Again, there is a intriguing
clue. Revelation 21:24-27 refers to "nations" that will
live on the new earth outside the New Jerusalem. Revelation 22:2
indicates that the people composing these nations will be in fleshly
bodies, for it says that the leaves of the tree of life will be
used for "the healing of the nations."
Who are these "nations"? This
is one of the greatest mysteries of Bible prophecy. There are
as many different guesses as there are commentaries on the book
Could they be the Redeemed who accept Jesus
during the Millennium? Nothing is said about the ultimate destiny
of those who are saved during the Millennium. No promises are
made to them of glorified bodies.
I don't know the answer. It is one of those
areas where we look into a dimly lit mirror and will not understand
fully until we stand "face to face" with the Lord (1
This brings me to the greatest blessing
of Heaven. Revelation 22:4 says we shall see the face of God!
The Word says in Exodus 33:20 that no man
has ever seen the face of God. But we will be given that privilege
when we fellowship with Him in Heaven.
And that is really what Heaven is all about.
We will experience an intimacy with the Lord that transcends anything
possible in this life. We were created for fellowship with God
(John 4:23), and that purpose will reach its zenith in the eternal
state as we live in God's presence.
That is why Paul wrote, "to live is
Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). He went on
to explain that to continue living in the flesh meant the opportunity
for fruitful labor in the Lord's kingdom. But he still had a desire
to depart this life, for that departure would open the door for
sweet, intimate, personal fellowship with the Lord (Philippians
What about you? Are you clinging to this
world, or do you yearn for Heaven?
The more you come to know the Lord, the
more you will love Him. And the more you love Him, the more You
will desire to be with Him.
That's only natural. We always desire to
be with those whom we love.
Longing for Heaven
I love my wife dearly. We have been married
for more than thirty years. I have to travel a lot. I call her
every night I'm on the road to tell her that I love her. I send
her mushy love cards. And when I have to be gone for an extended
period, I send her gifts like bouquets of flowers.
I love to talk with my wife by phone. I
love to send her love notes. I love to surprise her with gifts.
But none of these are substitutes for being with her! When you
love someone you want to be with them.
In like manner, I love to fellowship with
the Lord in worship, in Bible study, and in prayer. But these
spiritual activities are no substitute for actually being with
Because I love Him, I want to be with Him.
Personal, intimate fellowship with the Lord that is the
essence of Heaven. May it become a reality very soon!