But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
It’s clear that our minds are unable to even imagine what God has in store for us for Eternity! That said, God gives us a small glimpse of what is to come.
After the Millennial Kingdom is complete, the general resurrection of the dead and the Great White Throne judgment will proceed. When God sits in His court of judgment, earth and sky flee away. This is the first heaven and the first earth “passing away” (Revelation 21:1), and is further described by Peter after he briefly touches the Day of the Lord:
…on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for the day of God and hasten its coming. Because of that day, the heavens will be dissolved with fire and the elements will melt with heat. But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10-13)
The new heavens and earth will be created after the Great White Throne Judgment is complete. Here is a small peek into the eternal destiny of those who have been saved by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ:
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.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:1-26)
From this chapter on Eternity, we can tell:
- At the end of the Millennial Kingdom, after the Last Battle and the Great White Throne Judgment, God will make a new heaven and a new earth. Whether he completely refashions the current versions or starts from scratch isn’t told. It’s likely the universe remains intact, but the Earth for sure, and possibly our solar system, is remade. This is a plug for a literal 6-day creation week – I’m confident that this “new heaven and new earth” won’t take billions (or even hundreds) of years to make!
- The new earth won’t have any seas. The earth will no longer be divided by waters.
- God will dwell among the people.
- There will be no more sadness.
- There will be no more death (in Chapter 20 we saw Death and Hades thrown in the Lake of Fire – all humans have been judged and are now in their eternal states). Note that if death is no more, this would also apply to animals if there are any in eternity. This is how we know Chapter 21 is about the Eternal State, as in the Millennial Kingdom lives will be lengthened but there will still be death.
- There will be no more mourning (no death / separation).
- There will be no more crying (no sadness).
- There will be no more pain.
- All things will be made new – this is an entirely new order of life.
- All the overcomers, those who have conquered (for the entire span of humanity), qualify to enter this eternal kingdom.
- There is a literal heavenly city called Jerusalem, where the “wife of the Lamb” will live.
- Heavenly (“New”) Jerusalem is where believers in Christ will live – for sure all believers during the church age (the foundations of the city are named after the apostles) and during the age of the Law (the gates of the city are named after the tribes of Israel). This seems to suggest that the resurrection and rapture even includes believers from both these ages, and we are taken to live in Heavenly Jerusalem at that time.
- Heavenly Jerusalem appears to be either cube or pyramid-shaped, and heavily jeweled. Its’ radiance is incomprehensible.
- Its’ size is measured in human measurements (literal), and is 1400-1500 miles long, wide, and high. For reference, the moon’s diameter is 2100 miles. If it were a cube its’ relative size is approximately:
- Heavenly Jerusalem will be the light for the earth. It may orbit around the new earth? There is no longer a need for sun or moon in Heavenly Jerusalem, as the glory of God is the light. It is not clear if the current sun and moon will be done away with. It does not tell us how far above the earth Heavenly Jerusalem will be.
- There will no longer be night in the Heavenly Jerusalem; it is lit by the eternal light of God in its midst.
- There may be night on earth if Heavenly Jerusalem orbits around it like the moon (?)
- There will be people dwelling on earth, living in “nations”, and ruled by “kings”. These are all in their eternal resurrected state as well (after the Great White Throne Judgment). These may be the believers from the “tribulation” and millennial kingdom?
- These earthly kings, and possibly other earth dwellers, will be able to come and go into Heavenly Jerusalem to bring wonderful things from the earth into it.
- The gates of Heavenly Jerusalem will never be shut.
- All the dwellers in Heavenly Jerusalem and on earth are those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
We also know from previous study that our resurrection bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrection body – “we will be as He is”. Our new bodies:
- Will be unconstrained by our current dimensions. Jesus was able to appear and disappear at will.
- Will be able to pass through physical materials. Jesus was able to walk through locked doors.
- Will be able to eat, but probably won’t have to. Jesus ate after His resurrection, and angels ate several times in the OT. It is unclear what happens to the food after we eat it 😉
- Will not reproduce. That is not to say they couldn’t, but we will be as the angels in heaven and not marry nor be given in marriage. Eternal creatures have no need for reproduction. (Matthew 22:30)
- Won’t need sleep. It won’t ever be night in the Heavenly Jerusalem.
We are given a glimpse of the New Earth in Isaiah:
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” (Isaiah 65:17-19)
As far as I am able to tell, this passage in Isaiah 65 describes the new heaven and new earth (which comes after the Great White Throne Judgment). However, it goes on to discuss life in the Millennial Kingdom. Thus, it seems that some elements of the Millennial Kingdom may also be present in Eternity. From Revelation 21 it does appear that God “makes all things new”, which to me suggests it will be an entirely new format.
What will we do in eternity? I believe once we are given our glorious new bodies, it will be clear that life is not about “us”. Life never was about us, but on earth it’s so easy to get caught up in ourselves. Eternity will be about glorifying our Father and doing His work. We likely will have lots of time for worship, but I believe we will also have time to explore God’s creation!
On a much sadder note, God also gives us a glimpse of the eternal state for those who reject His offer of salvation. This is the destiny of those who choose to rely on their own works to try to “earn” salvation, and for those who either completely ignore or outright reject God. There is only ONE way to eternal life, and that is through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
“Death” in the Bible is used to refer to separation. Physical death is the separation of the eternal spirit from the physical body. Eternal death (the “second death”), then, is the separation of the eternal spirit from God permanently. The eternal destiny of those who aren’t written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (followers of Jesus Christ) will be cast into the lake of fire. God does not desire for any human to go there, He created it for the fallen angels. Unfortunately, much of mankind rejects God’s offer of reconciliation and therefore chooses an eternity of separation from Him. Hell is often joked about as one big party, but the reality is that it is a place of torment and anguish. The lake of fire will also be a place of separation and torment. It does appear that there are different levels of punishment in the lake of fire: And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. (Revelation 20:12; see also Matthew 10:14-15, 11:21-24; Mark 12:38-40).
Hell, and the Lake of Fire, will be incomprehensibly awful to the same extent that Heaven will be incomprehensibly wonderful. No one would choose hell/lake of fire if they truly understood what it would be like. It is frequently described in terms of fire. It is also described as a place of total darkness and isolation (Matthew 22:13, 2 Peter 2:17), a place of banishment from God’s kingdom (Matthew 8:12, 22:13), and a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, symbolizing regret and suffering (Matthew 13:42, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30; Luke 13:28).
It is popular to believe that the lake of fire couldn’t possibly be eternal. I examined the verses pertaining to this:
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting [o-w-lam #5769] life, others to shame and everlasting [o-w-lam #5769] contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal [aionion #166] fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Then they will go away to eternal [aionion #166] punishment, but the righteous to eternal [aionion #166] life. (Matt. 25:41,46)
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever [aionas #165], and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” (Revelation 14:9-11)
The same word is used for eternal life (which we know is truly eternal) and eternal punishment.
Then death [thanatos] and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death [thanatos]. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:14-15)
The human side of me truly hopes that the “second death” is an annihilation-type event instead of eternal suffering. Whatever it is, I have faith in a good God, who sees and knows more than I can comprehend. I trust that His ways are perfectly righteous and just.
For further reading:
The Case For Eternal Punishment (Grace Thru Faith)
The Bible is infallible. I am not. Be a Berean – examine the scriptures for yourself to see if these things are so!