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What Are the New Heavens and New Earth?

How do you keep going when “it” happens?

Your “it” might be an unthinkable loss. Perhaps a devastating disappointment. Being attacked or abandoned by those you trusted. Or maybe it’s a direct spiritual attack on you, your family, or your church.

If we aren’t gutted by some crisis or dropped by a traumatic blow, sometimes we find ourselves slowly bleeding out from a thousand paper cuts. This world’s brokenness can bludgeon our souls, gradually rendering us out of commission or, at best, simply limping along with half a heart.

For church leaders, frightening stats testify to the effects of pastoral pressures. The steady flow of sad stories confirm the immanence of pastoral burnout and moral failure. But even for those who stay faithful, the strenuous nature of the commitment can lead to a dulling of passion and stagnation.

How do we keep moving forward with confidence and strength? And how do we not only persevere, but also motivate others to deny themselves to follow Jesus too—why would anyone want to do that? Try to think about it like it’s the first time you’ve ever heard Jesus’ call to come and die . . . it sounds preposterous.

What Keeps Us Going

We need a clear, compelling, and proven answer to these questions, something born out of Scripture and powerful in our own personal experience. We need something we can remember in a way that we can pass on to others and that will inspire them.

Here’s what we need: we need a robust theology of what is to come!

Thankfully, we don’t have to fabricate it. The Bible is saturated with a hope so concrete and tangible that it flows backwards to bring healing and strength in the present.

And King Jesus, our model and inspiration, demonstrates what this looks like:

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1b-3, ESV)

So, what was the joy set before Jesus?

We aren’t told explicitly, but I would argue it was the age to come, the fullness of His kingdom, the restoration of all things, and the new heavens and the new earth. These are all somewhat interchangeable terms and ideas.


“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”


Allow me the honor of stirring your imagination and anticipation of the new heavens and the new earth.

What are “the New Heavens and the New Earth”?

“The new heaven(s) and new earth” is an expression used in Scripture to describe the ultimate, glorious eternal state of redeemed humanity where heaven comes to earth and life is restored to what God intended it to be under His perfect reign and rule.

In systematic theology categories, this subject falls under the subject of “eschatology” (study of the end times). The last of ten statements in the Renew.org faith statement references “the new heaven and new earth.” It is tagged “The end,” but as we will see, a more apt label might be “The end and the beginning”:

“We believe that Jesus is coming back to earth in order to bring this age to an end. Jesus will reward the saved and punish the wicked, and finally destroy God’s last enemy, death. He will put all things under the Father, so that God may be all in all forever. That is why we have urgency for the Great Commission—to make disciples of all nations. We like to look at the Great Commission as an inherent part of God’s original command to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ We want to be disciples of Jesus who love people and help them to be disciples of Jesus. We are a movement of disciples who make disciples who help renew existing churches and who start new churches that make more disciples. We want to reach as many as possible—until Jesus returns and God restores all creation to himself in the new heaven and new earth.”


“‘The new heaven(s) and new earth’ is an expression used in Scripture to describe the ultimate, glorious eternal state of redeemed humanity where heaven comes to earth and life is restored to what God intended it to be under His perfect reign and rule.”


Hebrews 6:1-2 includes in a list of elementary doctrines “the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment,” key aspects of the coming restoration. This subject has been a central doctrine of the Christian faith through the ages and is referred to in the Nicene Creed as “the world to come.”

When we consider RENEW.org’s threefold theological paradigm, we might be inclined to put the new heavens and the new earth into the category of “Important.” Perhaps some would say this and other eschatological ideas are more “Personal.”

However, if “Essential” doctrines pertain to the good news of God’s Kingdom, and the new heavens and the new earth are the anticipated culmination of the good news of God’s Kingdom in its fullness, then it’s not a tertiary theological subject. While some of the details about it, like “will we be able to fly?” are, still the idea of the new heavens and new earth is integral to the gospel, which includes creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.


“This subject has been a central doctrine of the Christian faith through the ages and is referred to in the Nicene Creed as ‘the world to come.'”


How are the New Heavens and New Earth Different from Heaven?

The new heaven(s) and new earth, also referred to as “the coming age” and “the restoration of all things,” is distinguished in Scripture from heaven proper, commonly understood to be a place in the presence of God where the souls of those who die in Christ await the resurrection.

What comes to your mind when you think of “heaven”? One common stereotype involves disembodied spirits floating in misty clouds amongst the presence of angels (occasionally fat baby ones) strumming their harps. Thank you, Baroque ceiling artists!

Now don’t get me wrong, I am intrigued by the idea of crashing a misty bounce house for a while, but that future by itself just doesn’t have enough oomph to help me make it through this hell on earth. Anyone else?


“One common stereotype involves disembodied spirits floating in misty clouds amongst the presence of angels.”


Others might emphasize the endless worship taking place in the presence of God, but too often that conjures up recollections of a church service that kept going just a little too long. Multiply that by 24/7/365 for all eternity, and, well . . . who would rather just get a snack?

Some suggest that “heaven” is perhaps more of an experience than a place, like a happy pill high where we dissolve into bliss. This isn’t too different from Eastern conceptions of enlightenment where we escape suffering by being absorbed into a generic “oneness” of the universe. Again, that might sound better than this grind, but the absence of an individual identity and materiality to our being misses the mark of a far better future described in the Bible.

The two ideas—where we go when we die in Christ (aka heaven) and what happens after Jesus’ return (the new heavens and the new earth)—are often superimposed and treated as synonymous. To be clear, both places are incredible and desirable. As Paul says, “We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 ESV). But they are different for good reason.


“The two ideas—where we go when we die in Christ and what happens after Jesus’ return—are often superimposed and treated as synonymous.”


What we typically call “heaven” is not actually God’s ultimate destiny for us and our world. Let’s explore why.

Where in the Bible Are “the New Heavens and the New Earth” Mentioned?

When considering the “new heavens and the new earth,” many will immediately think of Revelation 21:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new…’” (Revelation 21:1-5a, ESV)

But John is just hearkening back to the Hebrew prophet Isaiah:

“He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” (Isaiah 25:8, ESV)

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17, ESV)

“For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain.” (Isaiah 66:22, ESV)


“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”


Peter also referenced it, drawing from the Hebrew prophets:

“Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ . . . But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:3b-4, 10-13, ESV)

Where and How Does Jesus Reference the New Heavens and the New Earth?

Here’s the thing: Jesus never uses those exact words (“new heavens and new earth”), but once you start to look for the idea, you see it all over the place:

In the promises of Jesus’ coming

Mary is told the baby conceived by God in her womb will be a great king whose kingdom never ends (Luke 1:31-33). Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna marvel in joyful wonder and relief at the day of salvation and deliverance coming (Luke 1:68-75; 2:29-32; 2:38). This hope was born out of prophetic promises for the new heavens and new earth.


“This hope was born out of prophetic promises for the new heavens and new earth.”


In Jesus’ stated purpose

When Jesus unrolled the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in his hometown synagogue, he zoomed in on the promises of Isaiah 61:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, ESV)

Go back to read this in context—you’ll be blown away by the utopian depictions of life in the new heavens and the new earth (more on that to come, so keep reading).

In Jesus’ call to die to ourselves to follow Jesus

When Jesus issued his famous challenge, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” he included this motivation:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:35-37, ESV)

Too often we stop there without continuing to read:

“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38, ESV)


“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


The motivation to die to self is directly connected to Jesus’ return in glory, not just the experience of abundant life here and now.

In Jesus’ teaching about His return

Jesus was eagerly anticipating ascending into His glory in God’s presence after his death and resurrection (Luke 24:26, John 17:5, 24), and He emphasized His glorious return to reign (Matthew 16:27; 24:30, 42; 25:31; Mark 8:38; 13:26; Luke 9:26; 19:12-27; 21:27). He hit hard on keeping watch and being ready for it even though it could seem a long way off (Luke 12:35-40; Matthew 24:45-51; Matthew 25:1-13). Coming back to bring God’s glory to this earth was a really big deal to Jesus.

In Jesus’ teaching about blessings and rewards

There are a number of places where we see this, but let’s first consider the famous Beatitudes. Note the verb tense where future (not present) blessings are the primary motivator:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you…Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-11, 17-19, ESV)


“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”


In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-36), Jesus described the blessings of the coming kingdom which include rewarding faithful servants when He returns.

In Matthew 19, when Jesus contrasted the difficulty for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven with children, Peter asks what they get for giving up everything. Notice how Jesus doesn’t say “C’mon, Peter, stop being so selfish.” Rather, He says:

“Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:28-29, ESV)

Once again, Jesus is fixating on “the new world.” If we truly want to persevere and thrive amid loss and disappointment, we will do the same.

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