The Best is Yet to Come
During our more than 35 years together, my wife and I have never needed much of an excuse to enjoy nature. We’ve done everything from backpacking to tenting to trailer camping—relishing every minute of daylight in the great outdoors. Nightfall brings its own pleasures; and with a luminous star chart in hand, we’ve gazed into the night sky, sequestered away from city lights.
We generally celebrate our anniversary viewing the Perseids meteor shower in August, and we willingly brave the cold to catch the Leonids and Geminids.
I even skipped a day of college on February 26, 1979, when we skied to Pierre’s Knob at Bridger Bowl in Bozeman, Montana, and donned welding masks to observe the totality of the last solar eclipse of the century. The next one visible in North America is in 2017. If I ever grouch about getting up in the wee hours of the morning to observe these naturally occurring phenomena, my wife reminds me that skywatching is fascinating—and it’s free!
Granted, not everyone lives with his eyes on the sky, but the Bible speaks of a time when all of Earth’s inhabitants will focus on the heavens. There they will see “the sign of the Son of Man” heralding the singular event that will change history, not only for the remainder of time, but also for eternity: the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Mt. 24:30).
The sun and moon will grow dark at the end of seven years of terrible tribulation, adding to the drama of the event and accentuating the stunning revelation of the Messiah. After the Son of Man grabs the world’s attention, the heavens will break open to reveal a majestic procession, as Jesus Christ approaches the planet with His saints and the angelic host to establish His Kingdom on Earth (1 Th. 3:13; 2 Th. 1:7; Jude 14; Rev. 20:4).
As He descends through the atmosphere, the armies of the world will scramble to prevent His return (Ps. 2:2). In a fraction of a second and with the precision of a laser, the Word of Christ will reduce to nothing the military power arrayed against the King of kings (Col. 1:16–17; Rev. 19:21). Earth will then be ready to enjoy an unparalleled golden age, with King Messiah ruling the planet.
Everyone will benefit from the fulfilled promises of the literal, 1,000-year Messianic Kingdom embodying all of the unilateral covenants God made with Israel. The Messianic Kingdom will be the final dispensation of history; and Earth’s inhabitants will enjoy peace, prosperity, and righteous justice as the Messiah rules. Not only will there be an absence of war, but all species of animals will coexist harmoniously; and humans will no longer be threatened by predatory or venomous creatures (Isa. 11:6–9). The world will be restored to its pre-Fall condition before sin entered the picture, and mankind will experience longevity far beyond its wildest dreams (65:20).
A Glimpse of Eternity
Satan’s rebellion at the end of the thousand years is followed by the Great White Throne judgment in which death, Hades, and everyone not found written in the Book of Life are cast with Satan into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). This is the most somber moment in the annals of Earth’s history; but at this judgment, death—man’s final enemy—is destroyed forever.
After witnessing the purging of the old heavens and earth (2 Pet. 3:10–12), everyone who has loved the Lord will be on hand to hear God declare, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). They will watch in awe as He creates a new heaven and new earth (Isa. 65:17; 2 Pet. 3:13).
The new earth will have significant modifications: It will no longer be the “blue planet” hanging in space because, as the apostle John observed, “There was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1). Currently, 71 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by oceans that contain 97 percent of its water supply.
The most prominent feature of the new earth will be the New Jerusalem, with beauty comparable to a bride adorned for her husband—awesome, radiant, bejeweled, and pure. Descending from heaven to the new earth, the New Jerusalem will be an immense city with four sides, each measuring 1,300 to 1,500 miles in length; and its height will be equal to its width (vv. 2, 9–10, 16–17).
Using the dimensions of the New Jerusalem provided in the book of Revelation, the late Dr. Henry Morris roughly calculated the amount of space available for the redeemed. Predicated on the assumption that (1) the city will need to accommodate some 20 billion people and (2) only 25 percent of the total area will be actual dwelling places, with the remainder designated for streets, parks, and public buildings, Dr. Morris calculated the average size of each residence to be 75 acres.1 Even if the space allotted each occupant is only a third that size, there obviously will be ample room in the awesome New Jerusalem.
Equally impressive will be the city’s radiance. The same colors John used to describe God’s throne in Revelation 4:3 are associated with this magnificent metropolis descending from heaven and “having the glory of God. Her light was…like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (21:11).
There will be no need for the sun or moon because God’s glory illuminates the New Jerusalem: “The Lamb [Jesus] is its light” (v. 23). One can only imagine the effect, as every wall, roofline, pinnacle, and street reflects that radiant light. Today the earth depends on the sun, not only for light, but also for the energy to fuel its mechanical systems. In the new creation, the sun is unnecessary because Christ Himself will energize these systems.
The New Jerusalem will be without architectural precedent. Its 12 foundations are colossal gemstones engraved with the names of the apostles (vv. 14, 19–20). Not fabricated from commonplace materials, each gate is a single pearl, forming a massive, arched opening into the city and bearing the inscription of the name of one of the tribes of Israel (vv. 12, 21). The streets and all of the structures are made of unknown, transparent gold that further reflects the brilliance of God’s glory.
A prominent feature of the city is a pure river of the water of life proceeding from God’s throne (22:1). Gushing to water the entire earth, this life-giving river courses and cascades through every level of the city, making water abundantly available to all. God promises, “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (21:6).
Planted on either side of the river is the Tree of Life (22:2). It appears this colonnade of trees, as John described it, sits along the banks of the river of the water of life. Though unavailable to humanity since the Fall, the Tree of Life will be a conspicuous feature of the New Jerusalem, abundantly yielding its fruit each month.
Mysteriously, its leaves will somehow provide healing for the nations. It is possible that, just as God will wipe away anguished tears of regret, the tree’s leaves will heal the scars of prejudice and bigotry rampant in today’s world. Everything associated with the current world system not only will be completely removed with the old heavens and earth, but will never be remembered again (Isa. 65:17).
The New Jerusalem will be pure: “There shall by no means enter it anything that defiles” (Rev. 21:27). God’s curse on the present world system also will be lifted, with astounding results (22:3). Temptation to sin will not be a distraction, people will not age, energy will not abate, and creativity will always be at its peak.
Instantaneous vertical and horizontal movement could be possible for the inhabitants of the new earth because we will have glorified bodies similar to Christ’s after the resurrection and because the Messiah, whose power will have raptured the church to meet Him in the air, will energize the new earth (Phil. 3:21). Glorified bodies will enable pure, wholehearted, unhindered service to God for eternity.
Living in the New Jerusalem and enjoying unending fellowship with Messiah Jesus comprise the blessed hope of every born-again Christian (Ti. 2:13). In the meantime, enjoying God’s handiwork in the night sky is still an awe-inspiring pastime, although it is nothing compared to what He has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9).
- Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (San Diego, CA: Creation Life Publishers/Wheaton, IL: Tyndale: 1983), 451.