The New Heavens and New Earth
Right Now Counts Forever. The title of Dr. Sproul’s column in every issue of Tabletalk concisely captures the relationship between the gospel and the new heavens and new earth. The good news of Christ’s sacrificial death and glorious resurrection has eternal ramifications for the destiny of every human being. Your response to that message—whether in humble trust or in defiant unbelief—will be your tipping point between boundless bliss beyond your wildest dreams and unrelenting torment beyond your worst nightmares.
The living God, sovereign over every atom in His universe and every nanosecond of its history, is directing the cosmos toward a consummation that will display the majesty of His wisdom, power, justice, and mercy for every creature everywhere to behold. The present heavens and earth, stained by human sin and the curse it incurs, will “wear out” and “be changed” (Heb. 1:11-12), shaken and removed (12:26-27). For the first heaven and earth, no “place” will be found, but in their stead a new heaven and a new earth will appear (Rev. 20:11; 21:1).
The promise is as old as Isaiah’s prophecy: “I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Isa. 65:17-18; see 66:22-23). The Apostle Peter asserts that righteousness will inhabit the new heavens and new earth for which we hope (2 Peter 3:13). Paul adds that all creation, now subjected to futility and decay, joins God’s children in longing for liberation from “its bondage to corruption” at our resurrection (Rom. 8:19-22).
How to describe the new heavens and new earth? To describe the coming cosmos negatively, we can say that miseries that now cause such damage and distress will be gone: no mourning, pain, death—no remnant of curse will remain (Rev. 21:4; 22:3). It is more challenging to portray positively what a world purged of wickedness and woe will be. Prophets and Apostles strain language to its limits to offer glimpses of glorious realities beyond our experience. We can say that Jesus’ resurrection is the first-fruits of the consummated new creation, so His glorious risen body foreshadows the resurrection awaiting His people (1 Cor. 15:20- 22; Phil. 3:21). After He arose, He could eat and be touched (Luke 24:39-43), so the materiality of His body leads us to expect that the landscape painted in the book of Revelation—the tree of life’s curative leaves and ceaseless fruitfulness, for instance (Rev. 22:1-5)—is not wholly symbolic. At least we can say that our ultimate home is not ethereal and immaterial, but a robust reaffirmation of the Creator’s original design, for He pronounced the first heaven and earth “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
God’s Word reveals enough about the new heavens and earth to impress on us the urgency of the question, “How can I access that promised homeland of pure pleasure in God’s presence?” This question brings us to the gospel. The new heavens and earth will be populated by God’s “servants” (Rev. 22:3-5), who have clung to the Word of God and confessed Jesus (1:2, 9; 20:4). They have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and their names are written in His Book of Life (12:11; 20:12, 15; 21:27).
Yet Revelation’s visions underscore the crucial importance of the gospel from another—very sobering—perspective. Those whose names are not in the Lamb’s book will be judged by their own actions throughout life. Without the cover of the Lamb’s atoning blood, they will stand exposed to God’s righteous wrath, condemned, and “thrown into the lake of fire,” the second death (20:13-15). Their souls will be reunited with the bodies in which they acted out their rebellion, and in that fiery lake they will experience not only ceaseless physical anguish but also utter deprivation of mental and spiritual relief. Jesus Himself spoke of this dire, eternal doom awaiting rebels, a place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48; Isa. 66:24).
Does the prospect of unremitting woe—secured by God’s unflinching justice—strike fear to your heart? It should. Now is the time to trust in the Lamb and His redeeming blood.
Do the delights to come in the new heavens and new earth whet the longings of your heart? They should. Now is the time to trust in the Lamb and His redeeming blood. Right now really does count forever.