The Greatest Family Gathering of All
A look at life in the eternal state. For the saved, what a day of rejoicing it will be!
I grew up the eldest of three sons. One month before I was born, my parents buried my older brother. He was two years old, and the experience changed our lives forever. The tragedy brought my parents to Christ and altered our family’s eternal destiny.
Being separated from loved ones through death ranks among the most difficult aspects of life on Earth. I don’t know any parent who wants to bury a child or any husband who wants to bury the wife he has loved deeply for years. The pain of separation can be so heart-wrenching for some people it leads to depression.
The Christmas season in particular tends to make us think about home and family. As in the Hallmark movies, everyone wants the ideal family gathering. But for some, the disappointments and hurts of the past leave painful and distressing scars.
God understands, and He has remedied the problem for everyone who belongs to Him. There’s a perfect home and family waiting for His children. He has a marvelous future planned for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9), and He Himself will dwell among His people forever. His blueprint for eternal living includes flawless fellowship, luxurious light, and bountiful blessings.
Heaven is about togetherness—without any of the problems we experience with togetherness today. Eternal living involves union: Physically, our bodies will be united with our spirits; spiritually, our spirits will be united with God, as granted in the new birth (Jn. 3:3–7; 1 Pet. 1:22–23).
All true Christians have been “born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:5–8) and are fully sanctified when we die physically. After death, we’re escorted (Lk. 16:22) into the Lord’s presence to enjoy all the blessings He has provided for us. There will be no insecurities, no inhibitions, no stressful relationships. Our self-centered old natures will be gone. We’ll see God in all His glory, with nothing to inhibit our fellowship with Him.
The apostle John spoke of the new heaven, new earth, and New Jerusalem that await God’s resurrected saints (Rev. 21—22). All things will be made new in this eternal state, and we’ll be forever reunited with all of God’s people. God will infuse us with His life that swallows up our mortality (2 Cor. 5:4–5), and we’ll enjoy flawless fellowship with His people. We’ll have huge social calendars and all eternity to enjoy relationships.
Joyful music also will characterize eternal living. We’ll sing around God’s throne (Rev. 5:9). Tribulation martyrs will sing (7:9–17). We’ll literally “sing of the mercies of the LORD forever” (Ps. 89:1).
Our experience will be the opposite of those who reject Christ. They will suffer eternal solitary confinement in the Lake of Fire, devoid of all fellowship. Death involves separation, and eternal death means eternal separation from God and others. People who die without Christ will not interact with one another but, rather, will suffer alone in utter darkness where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 8:12), locked in a type of Star Trekkian force field forever.
Luxurious light and glorious color will envelop the redeemed. An angel told John, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9). Then he showed John “the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (vv. 10–11).
The New Jerusalem is the church’s dwelling place. Twice in chapter 21 the city is associated with “the bride, [specifically] the Lamb’s wife” (v. 9, cf. v. 2). It is the home of all Church Age believers for eternity and the place to which Jesus referred when He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:1–3).
If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, a home is being prepared for you in the New Jerusalem, the “city of the great King,” where Jesus will live (Mt. 5:35). It will be His capital, and all church saints (His bride) will live there with Him.
The city is laid out as a square, measuring 1,500 miles in all directions, with a 216-foot-high wall around it made of jasper and gemstones. The wall’s foundation is composed of these gemstones, which are named for the apostles. The Father and the Lamb (Rev. 21:22; 22:3–5) will dwell in an enormous atrium in the center of the city. An emerald rainbow surrounds the throne (4:3), and its glorious color and God’s light permeate the city (21:23; 22:5).
It’s difficult for us to grasp the enormity of the New Jerusalem. The largest U.S. city is Sitka, Alaska, at 2,874 square miles. The largest city in the continental United States is Jacksonville, Florida, at 840 square miles. The New Jerusalem is a whopping 2.25 million square miles, meaning it would occupy roughly two thirds of the U.S. landmass. It’s immense. And for good reason. An enormous number of Christians—all the believers since the day of Pentecost until the day the Lord raptures His church—will live there.
The city also will be 1,500 miles high. Imagine the number of floors such a space could contain. Even the fastest elevator today would take more than 30 hours to reach the top of the city. However, we won’t need elevators. We’ll just say, “Top floor”; and there we’ll be. Our resurrected bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrection body: able to appear and disappear at will, unfettered by matter, time, or space (Mk. 16:12, 14; Jn. 20:19; 21:1).
Of the New Jerusalem, John testified, “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (Rev. 21:22–23). The city is made of pure gold and, therefore, is either transparent or translucent, reflecting the light of God’s glory. No light switches. No light bills. No utilities to worry about. No sun. No moon. No night. Only the eternal light of God’s presence (1 Jn. 1:5–7).
In addition, we will know as we are known. Our minds will be illuminated. In God’s presence, we’ll experience His light and joy. We’ll see His glory as He dwells in the center of the city.
This glory and light are the opposite of the eternal darkness unbelievers will experience. Referring to them, Jesus said, “But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 8:12).
Throughout the Old Testament, God repeatedly promises the land of Israel to the Jewish people, with bountiful blessings. Today Israel’s landmass is much smaller than it will be when the Lord fulfills His promise.
Ezekiel 47:13–21 delineates Israel’s borders and states the land is to be divided “among the twelve tribes of Israel.” Messiah Jesus’ future Kingdom will encompass the entire earth, fulfilling the prophecy, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).
Following humanity’s final rebellion against God (Rev. 20:7–10) and the Great White Throne Judgment of unbelievers (vv. 11–15), Israel will possess the land forever, as God promised.
Reinforcing this concept is John’s observation that the wall around the New Jerusalem has 12 gates, three on each wall, named for the 12 tribes of Israel (21:12–13). The gates will never close; and Israel will live outside the New Jerusalem, its capital city, much as it camped around the Tabernacle in the wilderness.
Messiah’s bride (the church) will live in the city with Him. Everyone else seems to occupy an inheritance outside the city. “And the nations of those who are saved . . . and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it” (v. 24). These saints will have access to the city and can enter it to see their God and worship their Messiah as often as they want.
From God’s presence, “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb” will flow down the main street (22:1).
In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him (vv. 2–3).
It appears there is some type of 12-month cycle in heaven, and leaves from the Tree of Life will heal the nations. All of the difficulties, hardships, hurt, and suffering we experience today will be gone, as will the curse God pronounced on the earth in Genesis 3.
God is faithful to the church and to Israel. As He told the prophet Jeremiah, “I will bring on them [the Jewish people] all the good that I have promised them” (Jer. 32:42). “Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul” (v. 41).
This is the future God has provided for His servants. It is the opposite of eternal, suffocating darkness. Those who reject God and the gracious salvation He has offered through Jesus Christ will be tormented forever in the blackness of the Lake of Fire.
Someone once said the anthem of hell is “I did it my way.” The concept goes back to Lucifer, the angel who decided to do things his way and rebel against God. He became Satan, God’s enemy. Whenever we say, “I’ll live my way,” we deviate from God’s way and bring sin into our lives.
Adam and Eve did things their way, and humanity has been reaping the consequences of sin and rebellion against God ever since. Those who fail to come to God His way will never experience the wonderful things He has prepared for those who love Him.
My brother’s death eventually brought me to faith in Jesus. My parents have since become part of the Lord’s glorious eternal family, and I look forward to seeing them again someday. But I also look forward to the greatest family gathering of all—the eternal stage of life. I want to meet Jesus face to face, as well as our awesome heavenly Father and my big brother. And I’m praying God will help me bring as many people with me as possible.