In the past sermons- we’ve discussed: 1) the final Heaven will be here on a New Earth 2) we will have new, earthly bodies (not bodiless souls) 3) there will be time, day, night & seasons 4) the details of what the New Jerusalem City will look like.
So now, a natural next question is: Who will actually be living in the New Jerusalem? Revelation 21:23-27; Revelation 22:1-2: 1) there will be nations of people outside the New Jerusalem all over the earth 2) they must be saved and belonging to God (Rev. 21:27) 3) they will have free access to the City, will bring goods to the City in worship and will receive health and eternal life from the Tree of Life in the City. Conclusion: there will be many ‘blood bought’ Redeemed Children of God living with Him in eternity that are not living directly in the City at all times; they have unlimited access, but it is not their place of residence. Remember that all of earth is Heaven- New Jerusalem is simply the Capital of the world, where Christ abides forever; all the people and nations have permanent, constant, free access to Him at all times; So who Does live in the City? A couple of possibilities: 1) Scripture is clear that there are levels of reward and position within Heaven, based upon your faithfulness to Christ here on earth now (Matthew 8:10-11; Matthew 19:29-30; Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:12; Revelation 7)- in light of our service and faithfulness of heart here on earth- it is possible that a more prominent place of residence near the King could be part of that reward. 2) it is also clear that the City of New Jerusalem is the Capital City of Israel, coming down where Israel existed, with the names of the 12 Jewish Apostles on the Foundations; with the 12 Jewish Tribes inscribed on the Gates, to sit in the midst of a world made of many nations as they are today- therefore New Jerusalem could be the City for the Jewish people, as it is today; Jesus comes to live, using this location for His Throne, ruling all the nations where they are now, in their individual glory, each with access, to Him, the City and the Tree of Life, but with Israel as the Capital of these Nations. (Scripturally speaking, these two options are by far the most probably—likely a combination of the two.)
What are our new bodies supposed to be like? Will we eat; drink; recognize each other;, look like we do now; remember each other; remember our earthly lives; be with loved ones that we spent our lives with here?... Luke 24:39-40; Philippians 3:20-21; Job 19:25-27: Jesus had a physical, flesh and bone body; He kept His gender (as did all others mentioned after death in Scripture); His disciples recognized Him in these appearances (as did they recognize Moses and Elijah when they appeared at the Transfiguration of Jesus; King David said he would recognize and be with his son on the other side…). We have spent this life learning, growing and developing in love, righteousness and holiness; our relationships and experiences are what caused us to understand: the cost of pain of sin, who we are in our sins, what a price Christ paid, why we should be grateful and worship Him- so why think we will forget this life? How can we cast crowns at Jesus’ feet in gratitude if we don’t remember this life and what He has done for us? Why would the City of Jerusalem have the names of the Tribes and Disciples engraved on them if we’re not supposed to remember what’s happened? Why would we stand before Judgment Seat and be rewarded for all eternity for things we don’t remember (2 Corinthians 5:10)? Why would we give an account of every idle word spoken if we aren’t going to remember (Matthew 12:36)? Our memories will be better and sharper, not changed: that would be like living a lie! People take Isaiah 65:17 out of context: it is continuing from verse 16 with the thought started that ‘former’ things will be forgotten- as in bad times will simply be lost in all the security and goodness we will experience: Philippians 3:13-14- we will simply forget what is behind as we reach forward to what’s ahead.
When in doubt or question how things will be in Heaven- Scriptures strongly point out that whatever you are questioning- will ALWAYS be better than it is now- we will always be connected to who you are, and the life you have always lived- there are no Biblical passages to contradict.
Will there be marriage in Heaven? Matthew 22:29-30: we will be like angels in marriage comparison. There is no literal Biblical answer for why we will not still have the bondage of marriage. We have to assume that this relationship has been to teach us the selflessness and love of Christ and His Church; and that perfect love in Heaven is beyond marriage relationship, or is replaced by a new, more perfect boding (remember: better- not worse!) What about sex in Heaven? Though gender seems to be strongly implied- sex is unmentioned. Sex outside marriage is wrong here on earth- but we don’t know what kinds of relationships may form in Heaven- so that doesn’t clear things up. Sexuality is a natural drive and part of our identity, so either this will have a place we don’t yet understand in Heaven, or we will have a relationship so much better and higher than the beauty of sexual relations that we can’t understand. Therefore, sex will either be incorporated into our new lives, or replaced with an intimacy and pleasure beyond understanding. (Remember, no worries, only expectations—always better!)
Will we enjoy eating and drinking in Heaven as we do now? Revelation 7:15-17: states that suffering and abuse of starving, dehydration, etc. will no longer be a hardship- NOT that we won’t eat- but that God will be the One to be sure we are fed. Luke 22:17-18; Luke 14:15; Luke 24:40-43; Luke 22:29-30; add that Revelation speaks of the Tree of Life bearing fruit monthly for the nations… we will eat in Heaven! But what? Meat was approved to eat on the old earth and possibly the Millennium where sacrifices and death are prevalent; but in the original creation, death wasn’t known and animals had no natural tendency to eat one another. Since we are going to be restored to a world of no curse and no death- then we lead to believe we won’t be eating meat- BUT God’s menu will be beyond what we can imagine or hope for!
Are there animals in Heaven? We have no direct answers- but many clues: animals are mentioned in Heaven before the New Earth is made- we ride from Heaven on white horses; animals were created as a major part of God’s original creation (& He saw that it ‘was good’); animals are a major part of love, affection, discipline, responsibility and authority for man on this earth- Scriptures say the entire creation (includes animals) groans in anticipation of being made new again- that includes planets, stars, trees, grass- why wouldn’t it include animals? Animals are irremovable from the eco-system that is of God’s design; they’re mentioned several times in the Millennium after Christ returns- having been restored to their original perfection (Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 65:25)- therefore we can assume animals will be a major part of a restored Paradise on the New Earth. Will our pets be in Heaven? There are no Scriptures that begin to say such a thing- however- there are many well known, very Biblically oriented teachers that emphatically say we will have our pets in Heaven: C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, Randy Alcorn… so we can assume that either God will allow pets for the enjoyment of His children, whom He loves dearly, or our new understanding and discoveries will replace any hint of sorrow with something so much greater that we can’t imagine.
Recap: we will live on a perfect, beautiful earth, with perfect bodies, friendly animals, awesome food, with all the goodness of today (seasons, nature, exploring, learning), with all the loved ones of our life today and countless new friends, we will have Jesus Christ living, loving, laughing right with us on His awesome Throne in a City stretching 1400 miles with Crystal Jasper walls to the sky, reflecting His Glory and an eternity to explore, learn, expand and love one another under the loving protection of our King. So if it’s so wonderful- why did He wait? Why not just start over at the beginning, instead of all the pain? If God didn’t give us a chance to turn from Him, it would not have been real freedom or real love; if God had just started over by destroying everything immediately, all we would learn was that if you cross the Big Guy, you die; if God had died for Adam and Eve immediately, all of creation old and new, would never have seen the result of a world run by selfishness and lust- all of creation would still be in the dark to the horrors of sin over God’s plan of love and sacrifice, and we could forever make the same mistake of buying Satan’s lie that God is just ‘holding out’ on us, and it could be better… We chose this sinful world, not God. He had to allow us that freedom- so He did the only thing He could do if He couldn’t stop us: He joined us in our mess of pain and sorrow and He took the blame so we could come home! If you have ever done anything as simple as lie, steal, be unforgiving, hateful, etc.—it might not seem so bad; but you’ve just shown God and yourself that you have that seed of selfishness and sin; that seed that has no limits to hurting others and self-destruct if it were left unchecked; that seed which would ruin Heaven and keep you from ever loving in a real, sacrificial way. Therefore, God can’t bring you into this Home He has made, unless you simply say you know you are full of selfishness and you need Him, His gift and His forgiveness; because you want to love Him and others as perfectly as He loves; and you want Him to change you from what sin has made you to be. 1 John 4:19.
As a believer- do you have problems, troubles, worries, heartaches, etc. in your life right now? Romans 8:18-19: how awesome will Heaven be? Even your worst times here are not worthy to compare to the goodness of our lives to come. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18: if you don’t know Him- can’t you see what you are missing? If you do know Him- can’t you feel the anticipation and motivation of what’s to come?