New Heavens and a New Earth – Allen Webster

New Heavens and a New Earth – Allen Webster

At the invitation of the City of Jacksonville, Alabama, I led the invocation at a city council meeting. It was both enlightening and encouraging to see the wisdom and plans of the mayor and council members. They discussed such future decisions as where to build city fire and police departments and their training/correctional facilities, how to enforce community ordinances regarding noise and rental properties, city finance and senior citizen activities, and the promotion of city employees. They listened to citizen concerns, explained past decisions in light of ongoing benefits, enlisted the expert opinion of fire and police chiefs, and disagreed with each other without being disagreeable. Their city planning made progress toward a better tomorrow.

Heaven had a city planner long before the citizens of earth saw the value in it. Scripture says that Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). Matthew Henry says the latter phrase means that God “contrived the model” of heaven. That is, He was its city planner. Adam Clark expounded further on “builder and maker”:

The word τεχνιτης signifies an architect, one who plans, calculates, and constructs a building. The word δημιουργος signifies the governor of a people; one who forms them by institutions and laws; the framer of a political constitution. God is here represented the Maker or Father of all the heavenly inhabitants, and the planner of their citizenship in that heavenly country.

While we do not know a great deal about heaven from the Scriptures, it is inspiring to contemplate the things that are revealed about the new heavens and new earth. What kind of city did God plan for His children?

God’s city is a gated community with an open-door policy. Gated communities are popular because they provide an extra layer of protection and privacy. None are allowed passed the front entrance who do not have property within or permission to visit. This is not an altogether modern idea. Ancient cities had walls to protect citizens from invaders. These were often closed at night to allow citizens to rest easy knowing that no enemy could get to them without warning.

Taken literally, John’s description of heaven’s “wall great and high” was seventy-two yards high. This seems short compared to a fifteen-hundred-mile-high city (Rev. 21:16-17), but that wall served its purpose of limiting access and protecting its citizens. When we finally enter God’s city, we will forever be rid of the nemesis that has hounded humanity since Eden’s fruit was fresh and man’s work was fun (1 Pet. 5:8). By the time we pass through the gates of pearl, Satan will be finally and forever cast down (Rev. 12:10). Angels are posted at each entrance to the city (21:12), perhaps as sentries to restrict entrance only to those who belong to God (21:27).

Heaven’s wall has twelve foundation stones. Each has the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Rev. 21:14). Each apostle’s stone is garnished with various kinds of precious stones, similar to the twelve stones of the high priest’s breastplate (Ex. 28:17-20). Each precious jewel is a different color:

  • Jasper—clear crystal
  • Sapphire—blue
  • Chalcedony—greenish blue
  • Emerald—deep green
  • Sardonyx—white with brown streaks
  • Sardius—blood red
  • Chrysolite—yellow quartz
  • Beryl—green
  • Topaz—yellowish green
  • Chrysoprasus—apple green
  • Jacinth—blue
  • Amethyst—purple

How beautiful and colorful heaven must be!

Heaven’s walls have twelve gates, each made of a single pearl (Rev. 21:12, 21). Each wall thus has three gates, and each gate bears the name of an Israeli tribe. It seems logical that they will be in the same order as when they were encamped around the tabernacle (Num. 2:1-34; 3:21-38), which enables us to know the names on each wall:

  • North—Naptali, Asher, Dan;
  • South—Reuben, Simeon, Gad;
  • East—Zebulun, Issachar, Judah;
  • West—Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin.

The three gates on each wall face all four directions (21:13) perhaps illustrates that the gospel is for all and that a person can go to heaven from any place on earth (Mark 16:15-16).

Heaven’s gates are ever open (Rev. 21:25; cf. 4:1) showing that until Jesus comes opportunities for earth’s citizens to become citizens of heaven are unlimited. When Jesus told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:1-3), He was not suggesting that He needed two thousand years to build all those houses. He made an entire universe in six days so He would not need six minutes to add some rooms to heaven’s facilities. The time lapse can better be attributed to the need to fill heaven’s census roles (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). That filling of the “Lamb’s Book of Life” roll book continues today, but it will not last forever. Enrollment will one day close, and once it is, not another person can enter. Jesus’ invitation stands open until the final trumpet (Matt. 11:28-30; 1 Thess. 4:13-18) but then closes forever (Matt. 25:10).

God’s city has plenty of room and will never run down. The dimensions are given as a cube: 1500 miles square (21:16). If we take that 1500-mile figure literally, heaven would be composed of 396,000 stories (at 20 feet per story) each having an area as big as half the United States! Divide that up into separate living quarters, and each redeemed person will have plenty of room. Jesus communicated this idea when He explained His Father’s house has many mansions (dwelling places) (John 14:2).

God planned for sustainability. One can build a doghouse on dirt, a storage shed with a wooden floor, but if he is going build a house to last a hundred years, he must start with a good foundation. Heaven’s foundations speak of permanence. When we sing of “When we have been there ten thousand years” we are only speaking of a blink of the eye in heaven.  John R. Clements wrote,

In the land of fadeless day
Lies the city foursquare;
It shall never pass away,
And there is no night there.

God’s city is pollution-free and crime-free. City planning involves problem-solving and security of its citizens. The more thoughtful city fathers are, the less trouble their government’s descendants will have to face later.

We live in a wicked society. Every night the news tells us about those who were robbed, raped, beaten, and killed the night before. We rush to fasten our windows, bolt our doors, and secure our homes. There will be no bad news in heaven. The doors on those mansions have no dead bolts; the windows have no locks; and the houses have no burglar alarms.

  • Heaven has exclusions, restrictions, and policies: “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27). “For outside are dogs , and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev. 22:15). The wedding feast is by “invitation only” and nobody crashes the party. For this reason, there is no need for a jail in heaven.
  • Looked at another way, only one person is forbidden entrance to heaven: a sinner. An unknown preacher once observed, “You can die in a car accident and still go to heaven. You can die in a hospital and go to heaven. You can die in your bed and go to heaven. You can die in a plane crash and go to heaven. You can die in the ocean and go to heaven. You can die in rags and go to heaven. But you cannot die in sin and go to heaven.” Heaven is for registered guests only. John tells us, “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).

In heaven we will have only good neighbors. Angels are citizens of heaven (Luke 15:7, 10). The great men and women of faith spoken of in Scripture will be active there (Matt. 8:11; cf. Heb. 11:16). All faithful Christians will be there. The salt of the earth will be sprinkled around the throne of God. Those who lighted this world will graduate to the eternal city of light.

God’s city has a river running through it and a tree that changes fruit changes monthly.  A good city planner would not forget the landscaping, and God certainly did not. John wrote,

He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 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 (Rev. 22:1-2).

The beautiful River of Life flowing with pure water indicates the satisfaction and plenty of heaven. Streets made of pure, transparent gold suggest the unimagined wealth and extravagance of the place. They use the most precious substance on earth just to pave its streets!

The Tree of Life has been transplanted there from the Garden of Eden. The last we knew of it, an angel had been posted at the Eden’s gate with a revolving sword (Gen. 3:24), to keep man away from this tree lest they should eat its fruit and live forever in his fallen state. We might assume that the tree was destroyed in the great flood, but perhaps it was salvaged (or recreated). It is also possible that earth’s variety was only a seedling of the original in Heaven’s eternal garden. Either way, on this tree grows twelve different fruits each month. The leaves are for the healing of the nations. It will take care of any lingering hunger or hurts we have.

God’s city has a great white throne with a glorious King (Rev. 4:3-5; 20:11). The psalmist observed, “The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven” (Ps. 11:4). John saw this “saw a great white throne” in heaven, and the One who sat on the throne (Rev. 4:1-6; 20:11).

The most wonderful aspect of heaven will be the presence of the divine Godhead (Rev. 1:4-5). God is what makes heaven glorious. God’s glory filled the tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex. 40:34), the temple erected by Solomon (1 Kings 8:11), and the church (Eph. 2:22; 3:21), but only in heaven will man see its fullness.

During the time of British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone, people were said to have traveled across the Atlantic Ocean just to look on his face. Imagine how much more thrilling it will be to look upon the face of the One who redeemed us from sins (Rev. 22:3-4).

William M. Dyke became blind at ten. Despite his handicap, he was an intelligent, witty, and handsome young man. While attending graduate school in England, he met the daughter of an English admiral. The two became engaged. Though he had never seen her, they were deeply in love. Shortly before the wedding, at the insistence of the admiral, William underwent a surgery in hope of regaining his sight. He asked that the gauze covering his eyes be removed during the wedding so, if it worked, the first thing he saw would be his wife’s face. As she came down the aisle, William’s father unwound the bandages—no one knew if the operation had been a success. When the final layer was removed, William opened his eyes and looked into the face of his new bride. He said: “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined.” When we at last see Jesus, He will be more beautiful than we ever imagined. It will be worth the years of waiting to one day “see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1-2).

God’s city is at the end of a single road, and that road’s sign reads “Christ.” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). A man may go to heaven

  • without health, without wealth,
  • without fame, without name,
  • without learning, without earnings,
  • without culture, without beauty,
  • without friends, and without a thousand other things,
  • but he cannot go to Heaven without Christ!

One little girl was walking with her daddy under a starlit sky. After several moments of silence, she remarked, “Father, I’ve been thinking. If the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, just imagine what the right side will be!”

Heaven is spoken of as a country, a city, and a house. The great Old Testament patriarchs were looking for a country or homeland (Heb. 11:13-16). Abraham was looking for a city with foundations whose builder and maker is God (Rev. 21:1; Heb. 11:10). But most of all heaven is described as a home. It is God’s home, and He wants us to move in with Him.

Will you take Him up on His offer?