God is everywhere. His Holy Spirit is here with people, especially those who are “...contrite and lowly in spirit” (Isa. 57:15b); and the Father and the Son (who is at the right side of the Father—Heb. 8:1) dwell in heaven (1 Kng. 8:30b), a “...high and holy place...” (Isa. 57:15b). Heaven is where God accepts prayers, worship, and praise (2 Chr. 7:14; Rev. 4:8-11, 5:11-14).
God’s Throne is in heaven (Psalm 2:4a, 103:19a; Rev. 4:9,10a). Even King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon acknowledged God as “King of heaven” (Dan. 4:37a). It is from his Throne in heaven that the Father grants Authority to Jesus (see “Authority”: C-6, P-II) and issues Power to the Holy Spirit (see “Power”: C-6, P-IV), as well as declares His edicts, commands, and sovereign decrees concerning all of Creation.
After his conversion, Paul lived for Jesus while on earth. But he knew that, immediately upon his death, he would gain access to the very presence of Jesus (who is in heaven):
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. ... I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you [the Philippians] that I remain in the body (Phil. 1:21,23,24).
Paul gave the same assurance to all of those who have put their faith in the Lord—that is, that as soon as they depart their bodies (at death) they will be with Him:
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-8).
The fact that saved believers will be with Jesus after death is due to a request that Jesus made in prayer to the Father the night before His crucifixion:
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am [in heaven], and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world (John 17:24).
The ones the Father has given to Jesus, and who will have access to Jesus following death and throughout eternity, are the ones who believe in and accept Jesus as the only Lord, Savior, and Son of God:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only [or his only begotten] Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
inhabitants of heaven
Heaven, a multi-dimensional realm, has (and will have) both physical and spiritual inhabitants. As stated before, Jesus presently dwells in heaven (Phil. 3:20b) in a physical body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Enoch and Elijah were translated alive to heaven in their natural bodies (Gen. 5:24; 2 Kng. 2:11b). And transformed believers, having glorified, perfected bodies like that of Jesus (1 John 3:2b), will dwell in great rooms or mansions (John 14:2,3) within the heavenly capital, the New Jerusalem, for eternity. Furthermore, this City is a physical, tangible place (see “the New Jerusalem” later in this part).
On the other hand, the spiritual Father (John 4:23,24) and Holy Spirit also exist in heaven (Rev. 4:2b,5c, 5:1a,6b). Along with them are spiritual angels (5:2, 7:11a, 21:12a), seraphim (Isa. 6:2a), cherubim (37:16a), and other living creatures (Ezek. 1:5-14). Also, in heaven are the spirits and souls of the saved dead (Rev. 6:9), awaiting the resurrections of their bodies.
Some may perceive heaven as being all around us, just in other dimensions we cannot see or experience. It is possible, though, that heaven actually is located in a specific place and, at the same time, transcends our 3-dimensional realm. In a Bible study booklet, Our Eternal Home, available through Radio Bible Class Ministries, Richard W. De Haan points out,
The eternal home of the saints now is in heaven as the capital city, which is implied in the name “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22). But this raises a question that has often been asked, “Where is heaven?”
Some think it is located somewhere in the northern skies. To support this, they point out that astronomers have discovered only one area in space that appears to be empty—the region around the North Star. No other stars have ever been discovered there. Rather, only a faint luminous glow has been detected. Therefore, they speculate that this must be the location of heaven.
Elihu may have known that heaven is located in the north sky when he pointed out to Job, “Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty” (Job 37:22). In a psalm, Asaph noted, “No one from the east or the west or from the desert [south] can exalt a man. But it is God who judges; He brings one down, he exalts another” (Psalm 75:6,7). If exaltation from God does not come from the east, west, or south, it must come from the north; and, since God is in heaven, then it may be that heaven is in the northern skies. Another psalmist stated,
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King (Psalm 48:1,2—Revised Standard).
Again, somewhere “in the far north” seems to be the location of the heavenly City of God, the New Jerusalem (see the following section).
Satan always has wanted to usurp God’s Authority and Power and install his own throne where God’s Throne is (see “pride and downfall” and “heavenly citizenship revoked”: C-7, P-I). Referring to Satan, God said,
You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13,14—Revised Standard).
Isaiah also indicated that the Throne of God was somewhere in the north: “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth...” (Isa. 40:22a). If God’s Throne is “...above the circle of the earth...,” then the North Pole may point roughly towards it. It even could be that the circle in the northern sky drawn out by the North Pole as the earth wobbles once each 25,000+ years (see “astrology unscientific”: C-9, P-IV, S-2) outlines a section of heaven itself. Other Bible passages which also might indicate that heaven is located in the north are Lev. 1:11a; Job 26:7a; Isa. 14:31d, 41:25a; Ezek. 1:4a.
free City: Things here on earth—whether solid objects, water, or fire—have been made by God to be “shadows” or “representations” of things in heaven. This is similar to how Jesus is the image of the Father (Col. 1:15a; Heb. 1:3a).
Moreover, the natural city of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel (which also will be the world’s capital with Jesus as King during the Millennium), is the “blurred” earthly image of a supernatural City, the New Jerusalem, the capital of heaven with the Father as its King. It is the City of eternal freedom. Paul noted,
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother (Gal. 4:22-26).
City of promise and covenant: People such as Abel (Heb. 11:4), Enoch (11:5,6), Noah (11:7), and Abraham (11:8-11) had great faith in God, even when most of them died (11:13a). Abraham himself “...was looking forward to the city with foundations [the New Jerusalem], whose architect and builder is God” (11:10).
They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city [the New Jerusalem] for them (Heb. 11:13b-16).
“For here [on earth] we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the [enduring] city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).
During John’s end-time vision, Jesus specifically mentioned this promised City:
Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God [Rev. 21:2], the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name (Rev. 3:12).
The Bible indicates that believers, not only spiritually but later physically,
...have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:22-24).
An angel took John (in the future, after the Millennium), in his spirit, to a great, high mountain where he viewed “...the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev. 21:10). This City, referred to as “...the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (21:9b), literally will come down from heaven to sit upon the renewed earth to remain forever. And God the Father, who will continue to inhabit the Holy City, will be with the people of the new earth forever (21:3). This is “...the kingdom [God] promised those who love him” (James 2:5b), the “promised eternal inheritance” attainable only through the “new covenant,” of which Jesus Christ is the mediator (Heb. 9:15ab, 12:24a).
City, walls, gates, and foundations: What is the New Jerusalem like? When John saw it, he pictured it this way:
It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
... The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. ... The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass (Rev. 21:11-14,18,21).
The “glory of God,” with which the City will radiate, is God’s Shekinah Glory (see “additional names for and attributes of God”: C-2, P-I; and “Shekinah Glory”: C-12, P-III, S-2).
The New Jerusalem, glimmering brilliantly atop the earth, will far outshine the wondrous Emerald City adorning the fabled land of Oz. John depicted the twelve foundations of the City wall as being “...decorated with every kind of precious stone” (Rev. 21:19a). It is interesting to note that the stones composing the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem have a striking similarity to the stones mounted in the breastpiece worn by the high priest of Israel. In God’s instructions to Moses concerning the breastpiece to be worn by his brother Aaron, the first high priest, He said,
Then mount four rows of precious stones on [the breastpiece]. In the first row there shall be a ruby, a topaz and a beryl; in the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and an emerald; in the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; in the fourth row a chrysolite, an onyx and a jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes (Exo. 28:17-21).
The names of eight stones in the breastpiece and in the City’s foundation are identical; the other four pairs (ruby & carnelian, turquoise & chrysoprase, agate & chalcedony, onyx & sardonyx) are similar in texture, color, or both. Although the precise identification and colors of some of the precious stones is uncertain, the following is how the NIV names the stones within the twelve foundations (Rev. 21:19b-20). The hues were obtained from various sources.
With the diversity of hues contained in these gems, the foundations of this City must contain all the colors of the rainbow—a cardinal sign that Jesus, the Lamb, is the builder (see “rainbow symbolic of Jesus”: C-6, P-V).
Incidentally, the human eye is most sensitive to the wavelength, 555 nanometers (or 555 billionths of a meter); this is a brilliant green, tending toward yellow. If placed aside all other hues of equal intrinsic luminosity, this hue would appear the brightest to the human eye. It may very well be that we will see this as the “average” color of the heavenly City foundations. Also, jasper can be green, yellow, or red-brown. Due to the above fact, I tend to believe that the jasper composing the walls of the City will be more of a yellowish-green color.
size and shape of the City: The New Jerusalem is immense. Its base is a square measuring 12,000 furlongs (about 1,500 miles or 2,414 kilometers) on a side, the height is the same as the length and width, and the walls are 144 cubits (about 216 feet or 66 meters) thick (Rev. 21:16,17). Though there is a vast amount of space inside, it still would seem to be finite. However, keep in mind that God has access to an unlimited number of dimensions; so, actually, the space inside could be literally infinite.
With the base being a square and the length, width, and height being equal, there are only two possibilities for the shape of the City: a cube or a pyramid. Personally, I tend toward the pyramidal shape. The reason has to do, first of all, with the idea that Jesus is the chief cornerstone in the foundation of the Church (Isa. 28:16a; 1 Pet. 2:6a). This, I feel, is an illustration of Jesus’ humility in being willing to start at the “bottom,” serving as a fundamental example of the “stones” (believers) which the Father wants as the building-blocks or “priests” (Rev. 1:6a) of His spiritual “holy temple” in which God will dwell by His Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:21,22).
Once the Church is completed, much to the dismay of unbelievers, Jesus will become the capstone (Psalm 118:22; Matt. 21:42a; 1 Pet. 2:7), the uppermost or crowning stone at the apex of the “holy temple,” securing the walls of believers/priests together as a unit. So, symbolically, I see this spiritual “holy temple” as having the shape of a pyramid. Since all glorified believers will reside within the New Jerusalem (John 14:2,3; Heb. 11:10,16; Rev. 3:12, 14:1), which is the collective Bride of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7bc, 21:2,9b,10), then I also perceive the City as a pyramid. (If so, I see the great Egyptian pyramids—which are filled with gold, silver, gems, and earthly treasures beyond measure—as religious “counterfeits” of the New Jerusalem in heaven.)
no more Temple: After His earthly death, Jesus entered the Most Holy Place in the heavenly Temple (Tabernacle) to atone for our sins with His blood, once for all (Heb. 9:11,12b,24). John also saw this Temple many times in his remarkable vision (Rev. 7:15a, 11:19ab, 14:15a,17a, 15:5,6a,8, 16:1,17b). However, after the descent of the New Jerusalem to earth, he “...did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (21:22).
The purpose of a temple always has been to worship the unseen Father God. During the Millennium, there will be a Temple, even though Jesus will be present on earth, because the Father will not be present. However, with the heavenly capital on earth, both the Father and the Son will be present with people at all times; and a building no longer will be necessary as a place to bring praise and worship to God.
eternal light: Within the City, there will be no need for light from the sun or the moon, which will still illuminate the earth (see “bright sun and moon”: C-13, P-II), because “...the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev. 21:23). It never will be night inside, due to the light of God (21:25b); and there never will be “night” outside, due to the moon that will shine as brightly as the sun does now (Isa. 30:26a).
no evil within: After everything evil has been exiled permanently into the lake of fire at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:10,14a,15, 21:8a), there will be no more access by anything or anyone evil or impure into the New Jerusalem (21:27ab, 22:15). Apparently, the dimension(s) of hell will be separate from the three-dimensional realm of earth and from the multi-dimensional domain within the Capital City.
Evil entities no longer will have access to the earth, and the people in the nations will live free of the fear of satanic deception and oppression. However, I do feel that, somehow, hell and its torment will be “viewable” throughout eternity to natural and supernatural people. God spoke of this through Isaiah:
And they will go out and look upon the [spiritually] dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind (Isa. 66:24).
Maybe hell and its contents will be able to be seen via people’s spiritual perception or, perhaps, somehow through certain “intra-dimensional viewports” provided by God. The Bible does not say specifically how this will occur.
I also find no place where the Bible indicates that the knowledge of evil, initially received by Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:17, 3:6), will be removed from the minds of natural people (though I believe it will be erased from the minds of glorified saints, all who voluntarily will give it back to God forever). It would seem that to remove the knowledge of evil forcibly would be to remove people’s freedom of choice, one of God’s greatest gifts. However, as stated before, the end results of unforgiven sin and its consequences in hell will be available for all to see (Isa. 66:24), and there will be nothing more unpleasant, repugnant, and repulsive in all the universe. Apparently, the abhorrence of this loathsome, hopeless existence of the spiritually dead in hell, along with the knowledge learned during the Millennium, will be enough to deter the practice of evil and to cause people to choose to be righteous and to do good.
The City gates of pearl never will be shut (Rev. 21:25a). The natural people of the nations will move freely in and out of the City (21:24,26), because they will love God and accept His perfect ways and laws. “They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will have] passed away” (21:3cd,4).
street of gold; River and Tree of Life: There are varying opinions concerning the street, river, and trees found in the New Jerusalem. I personally believe that the River of Living Water and the numerous fruit trees alongside it, extending from the millennial Temple east to the Dead Sea and west to the Mediterranean Sea (see “Fountain and River of Living Water”: C-13, P-II), will be “examples” or “foreshadowings” of what will be seen, only on a gigantic scale, in the New Jerusalem.
I believe that there will be a 1,500-mile-long main street of gold (Rev. 21:21b, 22:2a) within the heavenly City and that it will have an east-west orientation when the City sits on the new earth. People constantly will be entering and exiting the center east and west gates (21:13), journeying on the street to and from the middle of the City where God’s Throne is located. (I suspect the modes of transportation will be so advanced and move so quickly that no one could fathom them now.) All other, smaller streets in the City, I assume, also are made of pure gold.
Down the middle of the great main street runs the River of the Water of Life, originating from the Throne of God at the center of the City (Rev. 22:1,2a) and actually flowing in two directions (eastward and westward). On both sides of the river, in rows of 750 miles in length on the east and west sides of the Throne, grow a unique species of tree—the Tree of Life (22:2b)—whose fruit is capable, along with the crystal-clear water from the river, of providing eternal Life to natural humans. The fruit and water, consumed daily, will preserve their natural physical bodies and help prevent infirmities, lack of energy, and normal deterioration. The fruit and the water from the rivers and springs within the City also will be available to immortal saints whenever they choose to eat and drink (2:7b, 7:17b), though they will not need to do so to stay alive. No doubt the taste and texture of the fruit and the crystal water will be exquisite beyond present imagination.
Every Tree of Life will be able to produce twelve different types of fruit, and each tree will produce one kind of fruit each month (Rev. 22:2b)—twelve varieties a year. Assuming all the trees will not produce the same fruit at the same time, if one tree does not have the fruit someone wants, there will be another tree nearby which does. The Tree of Life species was in the Garden of Eden and its fruit forbidden by God for Adam and Eve to eat after they learned of evil (Gen. 3:22,23); otherwise, they (and subsequently mankind) would have ingested it and lived in an eternal state of rebellion and separation from God, never knowing His Love nor having redemption from sin and its penalties. God’s prohibition of sinful mankind’s access to the Tree of Life was a blessing, not a punishment.
leaves for healing: The leaves of each Tree of Life will be “...for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2c), as will be the leaves of the fruit trees during the Millennium (see “Fountain and River of Living Water”: C-13, P-II). Now, there would not be a need for healing if there were not something of which people needed to be healed. We know that, in the eternal state, there will be no demonically induced disease or sickness, as Satan and all demons will be confined to the realm of hell (lake of fire), having no access to people. Probably, also, the effects of bacteria and germs adverse to human health will be neutralized. Additionally, I tend to believe that, with the deterrent of observing hell’s inhabitants, people will refrain from willful sinning; thus, ailments and disorders stemming from rebellion and conscious disobedience will not occur.
So why will healing be necessary? First of all, a sin can be one of presumption (intentionally doing what is against God’s Will) or one of ignorance (being unaware that one is violating His Will). (God is more understanding of unintentional sins than of intentional sins—Num. 15:22-31.) Although, presumably, purposeful sins will not be committed by natural people, it is conceivable that unintentional sins will be committed, due to the fact that the spirits, souls, and bodies of these natural people will not have experienced supernatural transformations. Also, they will dwell outside of the City, out of God’s direct presence. As a result, possibly maladies of various types (none leading to death, of course, because death will have no power) may result from accidental sin. Maybe this is even how people will know they have transgressed: by developing some type of ailment.
Furthermore, I think it may be safe to assume that accidents will happen such as cuts and bruises, blows from flying objects, and burns by fire. It also would seem likely that, due to the effects of the extremely bright sun and moon, the natural flesh will experience burning and the crystalline lens within the eye will develop cataracts. (Of course, it is possible that God will provide some type of permanent atmospheric shield to prevent this, similar to that in Jerusalem during the Millennium—Isa. 4:5,6.) In whatever ways the natural human body may be damaged, the leaves from the Tree of Life will provide curative treatments and repair.
Presently, leaves from various plants afford beneficial health aids for people. Components within certain leaves are used in internal medicines and in topical agents to bring healing and restoration. Similarly, the leaves from each Tree of Life will provide remedies for the people of the nations of the world in the eternal state. Whether or not the Tree of Life species will grow outside of the New Jerusalem is not known. Possibly it will if the Water of Life flows out of the City. If not, natural people will need to come to the City to get the extraordinary water, fruit, and leaves—which will be free for all to take. The way I see it, consumption of the life-giving water and fruit will be for the maintenance of strength and vigor, while the leaves will be used to repair bodily injury and degeneration.
curses removed; eternal reign: God allowed the curse of death to befall people and the curse of nonproductivity to come upon the ground after acts of disobedience (Gen. 2:17, 3:17-19, 4:11,12a). Following the Millennium and the elimination of death, all curses will be removed (Rev. 22:3a). No one, including natural people, will ever die again. The soil in the inhabited places of the earth will be fertile, and all crops will produce abundantly.
Possibly the River of the Water of Life will flow beyond the bounds of the City to the “seas” of humanity outside, just as during the Millennium the great River of Living Water from the millennial Temple will flow outside the limits of Jerusalem and to the Dead and Mediterranean Seas (Ezek. 47:1-8; Zech. 14:8—see “Fountain and River of Living Water”: C-13, P-II). It is conceivable that, without oceans in existence as physical barriers (Rev. 21:1c), aqueducts from the two ends of the great River will take the crystal Water of Life throughout the world. (It might be noted that the New Jerusalem, due to its enormous size, will encompass the area of what is now the Dead Sea and much of what is the Mediterranean Sea, although these and other seas evidently will not exist as such. One reason for the removal of the seas may be to provide greater land area for population expansion).
God’s servants, the saints, will see the Father and the Lamb face-to-face, as Their Throne in the middle of the City always will be accessible; and these saints, with God’s Name written on their foreheads, will serve Him forever (Rev. 22:3c,4,5c). Serving Him may involve acting as ambassadors or hosts to those visiting the City; collecting and making the supernatural water, fruit, and leaves readily available to people coming to the north and south sides of the City (which are further from the River of the Water of Life than the gates on the east and west); sharing the unending Knowledge and Wisdom of God with natural people (as all people, natural and supernatural, never will cease learning about God’s infinite facets and perfect ways); and discovering new and varied ways of glorifying God before all His Creation.
It would seem, with the population of natural people constantly increasing, that at some point it will be necessary for the human race to expand out into the universe (which might be the reason why humankind has a great interest in exploring it now—because we innately sense that, someday, our kind will live among the stars). Supernatural saints, then, may go to other planets, in this and in other galaxies, to make them suitable for habitation by natural humans. (This is not to say that saints would become “gods” over their own planets, star systems, or universes; only God is God, and only He will rule all of Creation for eternity. Saints always will be His servants—nothing more.)
The possibilities for serving and glorifying God, in this and in countless other dimensions of space-time, will be endless. With the number of natural people eventually surpassing the finite number of supernatural saints (and continuing forevermore), it would seem that God concurrently will enhance technology as required for the saints to serve and tend to the needs of natural people. But, above all, the saints will supply God with the absolute, voluntary Love and praise which He wants and deserves, which I believe is His primary desire (see “God’s Plan”: C-15, P-I) and the main reason He created the universe with all of us in it.
Until the time God the Father (King of heaven) and the New Jerusalem (the Capital City of heaven) come down to the renewed earth, the spirits and souls of redeemed people will continue to enter directly into the realm of heaven when they die. Awaiting the resurrection of their bodies, they may dwell in their own mansions, specifically prepared for them by Jesus (John 14:2,3), though possibly this will not occur until after the Rapture.
One of every person’s deepest longings, peace (John 14:27ab), will be found in heaven. Although at the present time heaven’s peace is being disrupted constantly by Satan and the evil angels, and a great war has yet to occur there (Rev. 12:7) in the middle of the 70th Week, there will come a time when peace in heaven will be unbounded and unthreatened forever. This is because the curse, brought on ages ago by mankind’s giving into Satan’s temptation (Gen. 3:4-6,17-19), will be lifted (Rev. 22:3a).
Along with eternal peace on earth in the eternal state will come rest (Heb. 4:9-11a), the image of which is found in David’s description of “green pastures” and “quiet waters” (Psalm 23:2). Restoration of a believer’s soul (23:3a) may refer either to the soul’s perfection (occurring at death) or else to the harmonious reunification with the body (occurring at the body’s resurrection). Either way, the soul will rest from its turmoil and its emotional “mood swings” forever. Jesus personally promised soul-rest with this invitation:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt. 11:28,29).
The internal (ciliary) and external (rectus and oblique) muscles of the eyes can become overly tired and even imbalanced after periods of constant, prolonged focusing and convergence upon near objects. Looking up often from a near distance to refocus on a distant object relaxes and rests the eyes, enabling them to continue more effectively with the near tasks at hand. Similarly, our spirits and souls become very weary when we concentrate too much upon and are too preoccupied with the problems of the world and in our lives. We often need to follow the example of the psalmist who said, “I lift up my [spiritual] eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?” (Psalm 121:1); these are the hills of “...the city [New Jerusalem] that is to come” (Heb. 13:14b), seen by Abraham (11:10). A glimpse of the true, eternal peace and rest in store one day in that glorious place then may be perceived spiritually, thus providing the needed respite, inspiration, and motivation to get on with our lives.
Even though peace and rest usually are short-lived for us here on earth, they will be permanent and unending for everyone in the New Jerusalem. Just as God rested from creating (Gen. 2:2,3), so all who enter heaven will rest from their earthly toil and work (Heb. 4:9,10; Rev. 14:13b). Serving God will be restful and fun, like the perfect job with liberal fringe benefits.
For the resident of heaven, God will provide security through protection and shelter (Psalm 91:1,2,14) from all evil forces. The eviction from heaven of Satan and his angels will occur midway through the 70th Week (Rev. 12:7-9); and, for eternity, no evil will be able to infiltrate the City of God (21:27ab). Also, those in the eternal heavenly realm (and on the renewed earth when the heavenly influence pervades throughout it following the Millennium) will be protected and sheltered from hunger, thirst, and heat (7:16); from death, mourning, crying, and pain (21:4b); and from all who have rejected God and His Truth (21:8a, 22:15).
God surely will reward “...each person according to what he has done” (Psalm 62:12b; Prov. 24:12c; Matt. 16:27b; Rom. 2:6). Some of the rewards for people’s good deeds (to glorify God and/or for the benefit of other people) are received in this life on earth, mainly in the form of awards or praise from others. However, what about the kind and faithful things done that no one else (other than God) knows about? And what about the times a person demonstrates love for God or surrenders to God’s Will and obeys His laws when temptation and pressure against doing so abound?
I believe God has supernatural rewards and treasures in store as compensation for such things, and I believe they will be distributed after Jesus physically returns to the earth (Rev. 11:18d—see “physical return of Jesus”: C-12, P-IV, S-1), possibly even at the wedding supper of the Lamb (though I can find no scriptural basis to support the latter). These prizes will be extraordinarily and incomprehensibly amazing and wonderful, far beyond the scope and imagination of the mortal human mind to conceive:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9).
Jesus taught that, for those who are persecuted and slandered because of Him, it eventually will be worth all the pain and suffering. He said, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:12). Moses, the great deliverer of the children of Israel (see “the Exodus”: C-4, P-III), served as a good example of this:
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ [the Messiah] as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward (Heb. 11:24-26).
Paul, a greatly persecuted apostle of Christ who was not ashamed of his faith, also was well aware of his future rewards and treasures in heaven when he stated, “...I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he [Jesus] is able to guard what I have entrusted to him [eternal rewards and treasures] for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12b). Jesus encouraged us to love our enemies, doing good to them and lending to them without expecting to get anything in return (Luke 6:35a). As a result, He continued, “...your reward will be great...” (6:35b).
Jesus encouraged people not to put their hope and focus on earthly things, particularly “money,” stressing the importance of being devoted only to God (Matt. 6:24). Earthly treasures (money, gold, jewelry, houses, estates, cars, artwork, and fine clothes) are temporary; heavenly treasures are eternal. He made this clear when He said,
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:19-21).
For those people who are saved because they have rested their faith on the Rock, Jesus, the only true Foundation (Matt. 7:24,25; 1 Cor. 3:11), their accomplishments during life will be judged by supernatural “fire” (though they themselves will avoid the eternal fire of hell by trusting in Jesus). They will be rewarded according to what does not “burn up”:
If any man builds on this foundation [Jesus, the Rock] using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames (1 Cor. 3:12-15).
On the Day of Jesus Christ (at the Rapture), the things each redeemed person has ever done will be exposed and the true motives behind them disclosed (Jer. 17:10). Those works which glorify God and help others are like gold, silver, and costly stones; they will withstand the “fire” and later will be rewarded greatly. On the other hand, those deeds which are done to bring attention to oneself or with other selfish purposes in mind are like wood, hay, and straw; they will be “burned up” and will not be rewarded.
All people redeemed by the blood of the Lamb will be rewarded with eternal salvation and the right to dwell within the New Jerusalem, escaping hell; but, for some, there will be few additional rewards beyond this. Just as those in hell will receive varying amounts of punishment (see “degrees of punishment in hell”: P-I), there will be measures of rewards in heaven. I liken it to amounts of food eaten by two people. One person may eat a small amount and be completely full and satisfied, while another may require a huge serving to have the same effect. Even though one receives a smaller amount, he is just as full and just as satisfied as the one who consumes more. Likewise, no one will be unhappy with their heavenly rewards (which, for some, simply will be the privilege of living freely in the heavenly City); some people merely will require less to be fulfilled than others.
Paul emphasized, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23,24). “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14). The hardships and trials of this life all seem worth it when one remembers the words of Jesus Christ:
Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done (Rev. 22:12).
This is the same Jesus who is “...the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13). I cannot think of anyone to Whom I would rather entrust my eternal rewards and heavenly treasures and from Whom I would rather receive them!
In my opinion, the best reward in heaven will be the incomprehensible privilege of being in the presence of Jesus and the Father (John 14:3; Rev. 21:3, 22:3b). The heavenly hosts, at this time, are worshiping and praising God, saying things such as,
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.
... Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!
... To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! (Rev. 4:11, 5:12,13).
Redeemed people will join the other creatures of heaven in glorifying God (including the Lamb of God) in never-ending, joyous praise and worship, shouting these and other things such as,
Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed (Rev. 15:3,4).
They also will serve the Father and the Lamb (Jesus) in whatever capacity They desire (Rev. 22:3bc). I believe that, just as the earth will be ruled from Jerusalem during the Millennium, so the universe will continue to be ruled from the New Jerusalem after it descends onto the earth. All restored, perfected saints “...will reign forever and ever” (22:5c) as servants of God Almighty.
Heaven, and specifically the New Jerusalem, will be anything but boring. The Mind of the Father is infinite and contains endless knowledge (Job 11:7). Perfected, immortal saints will have access to as much of this wonderful knowledge as they choose to have by discovering how to obtain it freely through the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2:9,10,11b,12,16). I fully agree with the belief of Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland that “...believers will be living in God’s newly created universe, which will be at our fingertips to explore and learn. And we will never come to the end of examining it....”
Presently, in natural forms, we access information slowly, imperfectly, and often incorrectly; only with a perfected mind-spirit will one wholly and completely be able to assimilate, process, and understand the perfect Knowledge and Wisdom of God, which will be a continuous and thrilling undertaking in heaven (Jer. 31:33b; 1 Cor. 2:10; 1 John 3:2b). This is not to say that one ever will absorb all of God’s Knowledge and Wisdom, as we are and forever will be finite beings—children of God, not “mini-gods.” However, no one in the New Jerusalem and in the sphere of heavenly influence will ever tire of learning and increasing spiritually in the information streaming forth from the Mind of God the Father forever, nor of basking and reveling in the incomprehensible, everlasting Love of God, Lord over all Creation. The heavenly realm will be incomprehensible mental, emotional, and physical pleasure to the extreme—and it will never end!
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Copyright © 1998– by Ted M. Montgomery, O.D. Most rights reserved.