The new heaven and new earth


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CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS WAS NOT just an intrepid explorer, he was also an avid prophecy student. To him, the discovery of the North American continent set the stage for the end of all things. In the last years of his life he wrote,

God made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth of which he spoke in the Apocalypse of John after having spoken of it through the mouth of Isaiah; and he showed me the spot where to find it.

Columbus was not the only one to believe that the prophecies of the new heaven and new earth were to be fulfilled on that incredible piece of turf. In 1653, Edward Johnson, an early chronicler of New England history, addressed his fellow colonists: "For your full assurance, know this is the place where the Lord will create a new Heaven and a new earth. new churches and a new Commonwealth together."

Was Christopher Columbus right? The Bible gives us so little information to work on that we are left with no option but to speculate; it's no wonder, then, that so much confusion seems to attend the subject.

Abraham was promised personal eternal inheritance of the entire land of Canaan (Gen. 13:15), yet he never received so much as a whisper of it (Heb. 11:13), living in the land of promise for the rest of his life as a sojourner, looking forward to a future inheritance. The Genesis promises to Abraham contain a lot more than meets the eye!

Two passages elaborate on the nature of Abraham's inheritance of the Promised Land. The first passage is Romans 4:13:

For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

How ever one takes the term "world" here, the promise clearly has an ultimate fulfillment that extends his inheritance far beyond the borders spoken of in Genesis 13:15. The second vital passage is Hebrews 11:10:

. for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Few would dispute this refers to the new Jerusalem to descend out of heaven at the end of history, which is to be preceded by and foreshadowed by the perfect earthly Jerusalem of the millennial silver age prophesied in such passages as Ezekiel 40-48.

What we can know about the new heavens and earth, even though the picture is blurred by passing through the prism of symbolic language en route to us, is as fascinating as what we can only speculate on . Read the whole of chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation for yourself, and drink in the energetic imagery pulsating throughout.

The physical creation throbs with seemingly infinite hosts of wonders which, upon examination, will lift the spirits and stimulate the intellect. How much more marvelous will God's future handiworks prove to be when once there is opportunity to examine them. For now, one has to be satisfied with the keyhole glimpse Scripture provides.

How can one describe miraculous beauty in pedestrian words? Right here would be the perfect spot to play a brilliant symphony specially composed for the purpose of conveying a sense of stunning beauty, as music would accomplish so much more than words. Even God, in speaking in the tongues of men, has to choose familiar imagery to express the inexpressible. The details may be presented in a symbolic way, but the truth is unmistakable:

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (21:2).

Nothing more is intended here than the painting of a vivid mental picture—obviously, new Jerusalem won't come wrapped in white silk with a long-stemmed rose perched in one of its portals. What could be more beautiful than a dazzling young bride radiating the joy unique to a wedding day dressed in the most exquisitely made wedding gown and toting a gorgeous, deliciously fragrant bouquet? As it draws closer to the waiting throng of excited saints the emotional effect it will have on them can best be described in terms of the feelings of an honorable young bridegroom as he watches his beautiful sweetheart glide towards him down the aisle.

The New Jerusalem as envisaged by a 13th century artist.
From Liber Floridus.

The imagery changes in verses 10-11:

And he. showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

Here the symbol changes from bride to precious stone. As it draws closer to the waiting throng of excited saints it will radiate with a brilliance similar to a huge, sparkling gemstone. Unlike the Israelites of old, who were terrified by the thought of hearing God's voice, the servants of God will thrill indescribably as they await the arrival of their new eternal abode and their God. The emphasis in this image is not upon quantity of light, as too much light hurts, but upon its crisp, sparkling quality. We've never seen light like this before. As the city draws closer, its large-scale details gradually sharpen:

The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass (verses 18-21).

The new heavenly city is built of the most costly materials. Try to picture if you can (remembering, though, much if not all of the description is powerfully symbolic) thick foundational layers stretching as far as the eye can see encrusted with sparkling precious stones. If the city is to soar 1500 miles upwards, each layer would need to be miles thick vertically. One can guess that we are meant to read in between the lines, and imagine that these layers of gemstone-covered material are not flat and featureless, but are exquisitely cut—carved, so to speak, like the walls of Israel's tabernacle—their entire length.

New Jerusalem is a palatial city fit for residence by God Himself and His entire saintly family. Every earthly city is shamed by its rat-infested slums, its gloomy, ill-lit alleys, its seedy shebeens and odorous public latrines. Not the new Jerusalem. You could scour its streets for all eternity and never find an empty drink can or candy wrapper. Its every nook and cranny—all 3,375,000,000 cubic miles of them—is holy, spotless, made of the costliest materials.

Those who love God delight themselves in the prospect of living forever in the New Jerusalem, having access to the entire new heavens, and, above all, having personal and intimate access to their heavenly Father.

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