Basic Christianity Series #10: Heaven
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- Format: Folded Tract
- Paper: Gloss Text
- Size: 3.5 inches x 5.5 inches
- Pages: 8
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The very thought of heaven conjures a variety of words and word pictures in the minds of most people. Movies and books have created the false view of good people, and even a few bad people, in dazzling white robes, with wings to fly through the heavens where they spend their time sitting on fluffy clouds and playing monotonous music on a harp. Instead of heaven as a joyful and meaningful experience with eternal purpose and aspiration, one is left with thoughts of an infinite mire of a dull and boring existence.
But the view of heaven in the Bible is one that, once better understood, places a deep yearning in the hearts of those who have come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. It is the place where believers trust they will spend eternity, so one would think it to be a common topic of discussion among God’s people. Yet, heaven is seldom a topic of conversation. Few people in our churches are aware that much of our eternal home will be spent in an awesome, towering city that God brings down from the heavens and places it right here on a re-created planet earth. The city in the Scriptures is referred to as the New Jerusalem, the Holy City. This is the one place you can feel free to let your God-given imagination rise to its fullest as you contemplate the new home God is preparing for you.
In the book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, we are told that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, we are told that God creates everything new. Mentions are made of this new eternal home in several Biblical passages. For the first time we are introduced to a new plane, a new dimension, a new reality of experience: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10). Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:1-5).
The New Jerusalem is what many of the Old Testament saints also saw as the centerpiece of their future. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God: …they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:10,16).
The city that you will call home will be beyond magnificent. The Apostle Paul was faithful to remind us that nothing on earth can satisfy—wealth, fame, pleasure, possessions, and more and more stuff. He further addressed that what he was shown is beyond all the creative imagination we could possibly have. That is what the Scripture means when it says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Paul also reminded us that …the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
The Apostle John expanded on what he was shown and we must consider the dilemma he was likely having as he tried to paint a verbal picture for us of things he had never seen before: …he took me in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal. The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. There were three gates on each side— east, north, south, and west. The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:10-14).
In addition to giving us a general visual of the city’s makeup, John also gave us its measurements. The angel who spoke to me had a gold measuring rod with which to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. Now the city was laid out as a square. Its length was the same as its width. He measured the city with the rod, and it was fifteen hundred miles. Its length and width and height were equal. He also measured the thickness of its wall. It was two hundred sixteen feet thick, as a person—or rather, an angel—measures things (Revelation 21:15-17).
As you think of the dimensions of the Holy City, imagine a transparent cube that marked Dallas as one wall and New York City the opposite wall, and from Minneapolis to Jacksonville as the other two sides. Now add to that the fact the city is also 1,500 miles high. A perfect 1,500 mile cube. At its foundation level the city is roughly two million square miles and could easily accommodate billions of people with room to spare.
Now, picture this: …the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones…. The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass (Revelation 21:18-21). Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there…. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:25,27).
The fact that the New Jerusalem has gates would indicate that you will be coming and going to and from the city. There is a strong indication that God will also transform the universe as we know it. Your vivid imagination should allow your free mind to consider what plans your loving Father has for you in the recreated universe that he has planned for his eternal kingdom and purpose.
John also gave us insight to what he was shown in his tour of the marvelous city that God has prepared for his children. Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever (Revelation 21:1-5).
The eternal prospects of a “river with the water of life” flowing through this magnificent city is a comforting hope for all who have their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Think for a moment that “on each side of the river grew a tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit.” This, of course, is reference to the tree that was forbidden to Adam in the Garden of Eden. It is the same tree that will become our source of life for all eternity.
How will you get to know your way around this magnificent new home? It is not far fetched to think that the angels who have been assigned to you throughout your life on this earth will also be available to escort you through your new homeland.
As you read of your future home, you may have fleeting doubts about portions of what you have read here. You might think, “How can I be sure that many of these words that the Apostle John wrote, for instance, can be taken literally? Maybe they are just symbolic pictures of what he was shown.” It’s a good rule in studying God’s Word that you take everything as literally spoken or written unless there are other portions of the Scriptures that would support making the verse or passage one that is meant to be symbolic. Remember: the Holy Spirit moved upon the men who wrote the words of the Bible. Certainly He is capable of assuring that God’s thoughts are well delivered in the resulting text, for …now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known (1 Corinthians 13:12).