THE UNSEEN WORLD... THE ETERNAL HEAVENS AND THE ETERNAL EARTH
Biblical Research Monthly, September 1943
By Dr. David L. Cooper
AS HAS OFTEN BEEN STATED in the columns of this magazine, the new heavens and the new earth mentioned by Isaiah in chapters 65 and 66 and by Peter in II Peter 3 are the millennial heavens and the millennial earth. An examination of the facts of each of the contexts in which reference is made in these passages shows that the writers were speaking of the Millennial Age, when the glory of God shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. On the other hand, the new heavens and the new earth that are referred to in Revelation 21 and 22 are the eternal heavens and the eternal earth. These must not be confused with the millennial heavens and the millennial earth. That this position is correct is immediately evident to the one who will read Revelation 20:11: "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them." Jesus foretold the passing away of heaven and earth (Matt. 24:35). This prediction means exactly what it says, but Jesus did not inform us as to when His prophecy would be fulfilled. John, however, gave us that information, stating that the heavens and the earth pass away at the time the judgment of the great white throne is set. In Revelation 21:1 we see that there are "a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away." According to the statement in verse 5 of this chapter, God makes all things new, that is, after the millennial heavens and earth have passed away. We shall in this article study about this eternal order.<<<< previous next >>>>
IN REVELATION 21:1-8 we see the new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. Let us remember that the heavens out of which this new Jerusalem comes are the eternal heavens and that the earth to which it descends is none other than the eternal earth.
Following the description of the descent of the new Jerusalem out of the eternal heavens to the eternal earth, there is a statement that the "... tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." From the connection one gathers that the new Jerusalem is here called the "tabernacle of God." Or it may be that the tabernacle of God is in the midst of this new Jerusalem. Of course we cannot be dogmatic, but I am inclined to believe that the latter interpretation is the correct one.
In speaking to men and women who have had sorrows, disappointments, and troubles, the Lord promises that He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and that there shall be death no more, neither mourning, nor crying, nor pain. The reason that none of these ailments will exist any more is that the first things--the things that pertain to the present order--will have passed away and all things will have become new.
The Lord reminds us that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the very beginning and the end. Being what He is, He promises that He will give unto His servants who are thirsty to drink of the water of life freely. The one who overcomes shall inherit all of the things mentioned--the things shown in the vision. In connection with this promise, let us remember that men are saved by the grace of God, but that they are rewarded according to their works. In keeping with this thought, the Lord foretold that there will be no people who are fearful or unbelieving, abominable, murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, or any liars in that eternal home of the soul, for "their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death."
One of the angels asked the Apostle John if he wished to see the bride of the Lamb. Of course John wanted to see her. Then he was taken to a high eminence and shown the new Jerusalem. This language has confused certain ones. The difficulty disappears, it seems to me, when we recognize that the Lamb's wife, the church, will be in this holy city which is shown to John when he states that he desires to see the bride, the wife of the Lamb.
This marvelous, wonderful city, the new Jerusalem, will be, as we learn, a city foursquare. It will be fifteen hundred miles long, wide, and high--a perfect cube. Around it will be a wall, built upon stones of different kinds. In the wall will be twelve gates, three on each side. Above these gates will be the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, one over each gate. On the foundation of this wall will be the names of the apostles of the Lamb.
Since this new Jerusalem will be such an enormous affair, it is only reasonable to suppose that the proper proportion will exist between it and the eternal earth upon which it will rest. When we take these facts into consideration, we are justified in believing that the eternal earth will be indeed and in truth an enormous globe, in comparison with which this earth of ours at the present time will be but a speck.
In verses 19-21 is a list of the various precious stones that will enter into the construction of the eternal city. The gates entering into the city will be of pearl and there shall be a street of pure gold. The city will not have need of the sun nor the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God will lighten it and the lamp of it will be the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. "And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it" (21:24). Who are these nations that walk amidst the light of this city? The King James Version adds a clause, "who are saved", which is not in the Revised Version; for it is not in the best manuscripts of the Scriptures. The translators of the American Standard Version therefore did well to omit this clause which crept into some late manuscripts. The people who will be in that new Jerusalem will be the saved from this earth. All of them will be there and they will live in that marvelous city. This being true, who will be the nations that shall live out upon this earth and whose kings will bring their glory into the city? It seems quite likely, in view of all the facts, that these nations will be a new race which God will create when He brings the eternal order into existence. They will increase and multiply and fill that enormous earth with inhabitants. But the glorious thing is that they will not sin nor do wrong. Neither will the devil have access to any of them, for he will have been cast into the lake of fire where he and all of the lost, together with his angels, shall be confined for ever and ever. Thus sin will never strike this new earth. There will be no sickness nor any disease.
It seems from the last verses of chapter 21 that this new Jerusalem will be the center of attraction upon this great enormous earth. There will be no night there. Day will reign supreme. The people of the earth will constantly bring their glory and their honor into it. In the closing statement of chapter 21, John informs us that the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem will be those only whose names have been written in the Lamb's book of life.
According to the first verses of Revelation 22, there will flow out from that city the river of the water of life which will be bright as crystal. The source of this river will be the throne of God which will be in this eternal city. As to how far the water will flow out upon the eternal earth the Scriptures are silent. It is quite likely, however, that they shall probably continually flow in various directions so as to make their waters accessible to all of the people who will be living upon the earth at that time. Upon either side of this river will be seen the tree of life. The term, tree of life, is a proper name which describes this special type or species of tree. It is a tree whose leaves are for the health of the nations. Because of this fact it is called the tree of life. Our translation says that its leaves are for the healing of the nations. The word rendered healing also means health. Since there will be no disease of any description upon that eternal earth, we are to conclude that this word here should be rendered "health," that is, for the continued health and well being of the people upon that earth.
Those who are saved from this world will reign with the Lord for ever and ever. I presume that they will administer the government over the new race of people which will populate the new earth. There will be no idleness in heaven nor in the eternal Jerusalem. Service, work, and worship will be delightful and never laborious.
In Revelation 22:6 the Lord reminded John that "These words are faithful and true ... which must shortly come to pass." And He added that He would come quickly. One who keeps the words of Revelation is promised a special blessing. John was so very grateful to God because of the Revelation which He sent by the angel that he attempted to worship him. This angel refused to accept the worship and directed John's attention to the worship of God.
The righteous will continue to grow and develop throughout all eternity. The wicked, being lost, will remain in the place of punishment, for those who are unrighteous will continue to be unrighteous and go from bad to worse. This growth in wickedness and in sin throughout the ages of eternity is set forth in 22:11.
The Lord promises to return and also promises a blessing to those who have washed their robes that they may have a right to the tree of life and enter into the city, the eternal Jerusalem. The Book of Revelation concludes with a warning against adding to or subtracting from "the words of the prophecy of this book." The apostolic benediction and salutation closes this marvelous book. Let us, spurred on by the vision of this wonderful future home of ours, throw ourselves into the service of God as never before.
Soon will the Master come:
Soon pass away Our times of conflict, grief, and suff'ring here;
Our night of weeping end in cloudless day,
And sorrow's moment like a dream appear:
Eternity--with Jesus--in the skies--How soon that Sun of Righteousness may rise!
We shall behold Him, whom not seen we love,
We shall be with Him, whom we long to see;
We shall be like Him, fit for realms above,
With Him and like Him for eternity!
Is now to sit at Jesus' feet our choice?
How will fruition then our souls rejoice!