Matthew 6:10 – “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven.” (The speaker here is Jesus, responding to his disciples’ request on teaching them how to pray.)
Isaiah 64:4 – “For since the beginning of the world [men] have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, [what] he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 – “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
Revelation 21:10 – “And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light [was] like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. (An angel. The narrator is John the apostle, also author of the Gospel of John.)
I began this article right after taking my usual predawn walk. It’s February in New England. The day is warmer than normal, but was still in the mid-thirties, the air crisp and refreshing. I was surrounded by the sounds of birds greeting the arrival of the new day, each with his or her own song.
A waning crescent moon hung to the south in a blue sky punctuated by high cirrus and lower alto-cumulus clouds, all of which promised a gorgeous sunrise. It did not disappoint when the still-hidden sun touched the clouds with an orange glow which changed to yellow and then white as it cleared the horizon.
My thought was, “How can it get better than this?”
The answer is, as we’ll see, it’s going to get a lot better! (But the road to that time will be rough, to be sure, as we’ve seen in my Olivet Series.)
The fact of the matter is that this small space and time of personal tranquility is becoming increasingly rare in a world that is, quite frankly, falling apart on every level you can imagine. You have only to watch the TV, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper to have that unceasing message driven home that the human race is one messed-up species.
Added to the mixture are the increase of stresses on Earth itself. Earthquakes, extremes of weather, and the global temperature rising as the planet’s atmospheric greenhouse gases increase. Yes, I realize many think the latter is a bogus claim, but for me the science is unmistakable. Carbon dioxide levels are now at 400 parts per million which are historically high.
Since this gas is transparent to visible light and opaque to infra-red (heat), the visible sunlight gets through to hit the ground and the re-radiated heat gets trapped in. Now a modest greenhouse effect is good. In fact, without it, Earth would be a frozen ice world like Hoth of Star Wars fame. But too much of a good thing is not necessarily better. Now we can reasonably debate over how much of this is due to human activity and how much is due to natural causes, but from all the evidence, global warming is a real deal.
That being said, we must be on particular guard for those who would use this issue as an excuse to consolidate political or economic power for themselves in the promotion of global authority verses national sovereignty. My biggest problem with the green movement is that there is virtually no mention nor serious effort on its part to push development of the one technology that would drastically curtail carbon emissions from fossil fuels which is nuclear fusion
This is seven times more efficient than our current fission technology and the fuel source is hydrogen, one of the two components of plain water. Hydrogen fusion is also safer, cannot cause a melt- down, and does not produce the tons of spent nuclear fuel which has to be stored away for millennia in a containment system which does not current even exist. What are they waiting for?
The Bible does tell us though a one-world government is ultimately coming under the Antichrist, there is no reason for us to not to resist the any impetus toward global government by any faction as best as we can for as long as we can. However, let’s concentrate on the purpose of this article which is to look ahead to a future so stunningly magnificent that we can only imagine it in a very partial manner. I’m sure John himself found himself quite limited in his description of the New Jerusalem and the new universe which will one day exist having only words available to describe it. Nevertheless, his account is still compelling and wondrous.
John’s first impression of the New Jerusalem was one of a “bride adorned for her husband, (Revelation 21:2) and follows it in Revelation 21:10 as filled with light, the source of which is God himself, shining throughout its crystalline structure. Throughout the Bible there are many references to God and Jesus and light. Interestingly, even in our present universe, light always travels 186,000 miles per second in a vacuum, no matter where you happen to be or how fast you’re moving.
If we expand the definition of light to include all forms of it above and below that which is perceptible to the human eye, it is omnipresent, even existing as a faint background radiation from the very fabric of space itself. In Einstein’s famous equation of E = mc2, the conversion of matter to energy and vice-versa is based on the speed of light. Life needs heat so the molecular activity necessary for life can exist, plants need it for photosynthesis, and animals need the plants. It’s that simple.
Now this is not to say God is a beam of sunlight or the hiss of that ancient background radiation, but for some reason he chose to apply the term light to a description of himself for us to ponder, appreciate, and wonder upon. Like the light he created, he is omnipresent and very necessary for all life anywhere it might be in all its many forms. We have here a tantalizing mystery the fullness of which may have to wait for the new life to come. How very appropriate that John describes the New Jerusalem is a brilliant city of divine light!
Next we learn of some more of its physical characteristics:
Revelation 21:23 – “And had a wall great and high, [and] had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are [the names] of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs.
The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred [and] forty [and] four cubits, [according to] the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was [of] jasper: and the city [was] pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city [were] garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation [was] jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
And the twelve gates [were] twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city [was] pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb [is] the light thereof.”
From the description we see God’s City is “foursquare,” or cubical, each side measuring “twelve thousand furlongs.” A furlong is 660 feet so 12,000 of them equals 7,920,000 feet or 1500 miles exactly. Now stop and think about that a moment – the New Jerusalem is a cube 1500 miles per side! To put this into perspective, it would cover about half the United States. Each side is about 70% the size of the moon, or about the size of Pluto! So, we are talking about a city of planetary dimensions!
We see it has twelve foundations of precious and semi-precious stones inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles, twelve gates made of single pearl with twelve angels bearing the names of the tribes of Israel, three per side of the city, which are inserted into a 216 foot high jasper wall. The latter, when you think about it, is actually tiny compared to the overall size of the city, but the fact that it exists must have some significance The streets within are made of transparent gold.
In our modern age, cities artificially lit with bright lighting is commonplace, but in John’s day light was limited to dim flickering lamps, torches, or the like. Imagine how the apostle must have wondered at the steady brilliance of God’s heavenly city! Even to us I am sure it would be a stunning sight since the source of this light is not electrical in nature but, as we’ve already seen, a radiance emanating from God himself!
Before we see what comes next, let’s consider the implications of a city of this immense size being able to land on Earth. From what we know about the physical laws of our present-day universe, it’s not possible.
The Roche Limit
I’m sure just about everyone has seen pictures of Saturn. If you’re fortunate enough to have or know someone with a telescope, odds are you gotten direct a look at it yourself. The first time I saw it in the days of my youth, I couldn’t believe it was real. There it was, a small yellow disk encircled with marvelous rings just floating up in the sky. Saturn is not alone with a ring system, but the ones it has are the most impressive of the lot, easily seen in even a small telescope. In subsequent years we’ve gotten a much closer look, most recently by the wildly successful Cassini mission and its wonderful images sent back to our small world across anywhere from three-quarters to over a billion miles away, depending on its orbital location relative to Earth. The next likely question one would ask is, why do they exist at all?
There is something called the Roche limit which states that a moon or other sizeable celestial body can’t remain intact should it drift to close to a planet (or anything else with a large gravity field like a star or black hole). The limit is around 1.22 times the primary’s diameter and for Saturn with a diameter or 75,000 miles it works out to be about 92,000 from its center or 54,000 miles from its surface.
Get any closer than that and you would not want to be living in an outpost on that object because it would start coming apart under your feet. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration because in most cases it’d take quite a while for the disintegration. ( Probably wouldn’t be a good idea to invest in real estate there at any rate!)
Scientists believe this is already happening to Mars’ inner moon Phobos which displays strange grooves across its surface and is very near the Roche limit of 5000 miles from the planet. Given sufficient time it will one day break up into rings, or ring arcs.
The reason for this is actually not hard to comprehend if we observe how things behave in orbit. For example, the International Space Station, which is only about 250 miles up, goes around the Earth in 90 minutes. Weather satellites which are in geosynchronous orbits that keep them over the same spot relative to the Earth’s surface are 22,300 miles up, completing one revolution in 23 hours and 56 minutes, same as one rotation. The moon takes roughly a month and is about 238,000 miles away. The rule is, the higher the orbit, the slower an object will go.
For small things like artificial satellites, spacecraft, small asteroids, and meteors, the Roche effect is too small to be a problem. For something really big, it’s a whole new story. Bring the moon within 6000 miles of the Earth’s surface and the parts of it which are on the side farther away will try to go into orbit at a slower rate than those parts on the nearer Earth. Ultimately would successfully go their separate ways because the tidal stresses would be stronger than the molecular forces which holds the moon together. The result would be a huge and respectably sized-ring around Earth.
If you think this is bad news for the moon, it is also bad news for the Earth because the increasing effects of the moon’s gravity as it approaches would play havoc. We’re not just talking about super-high sea tides, but land tides as well. Our planet would be subject to earthquakes beyond anything we have ever known since humans have walked upon it. It would not surprise me if the frictional forces generated liquefied Earth’s surface into molten lava. Depending on the moon’s trajectory, impact is a possibility and the results of that are easily imagined.
Since we already know the New Jerusalem is a huge object, it is probably safe to assume that even if present-day Earth’s gravity didn’t pull it apart and if it has a gravity field of some type of its own, the consequences to our planet would be similarly catastrophic. This problem doesn’t even consider the problem of trying to land a 1500 mile tall object on a planet only 8000 miles in diameter. The top of the city would reach 1500 miles up, far past our atmosphere, except for its lower levels, and beyond the orbits of the space station and low-Earth orbiting satellites.
In my opinion, John’s vision of the New Jerusalem coming to Earth require a whole new set of rules. This appears to be exactly what God has promised to do.
“And he [God] that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5a).
After the seven year Tribulation time, Earth is brought back to a near-Eden condition (Isaiah 35:1-10). The desert will bloom, people will experience miraculous healing (something that was prefigured prominently during Jesus’ first coming). In this passage we see an interesting account of there being some kind of “highway” called the “way of holiness” where only the “redeemed” and “ransomed of the Lord” will have access to Zion with “everlasting joy upon their heads.”
Is this yet another pre-figurement of what we see in below?
Revelation – 21:24-27 “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever] worketh abomination, or [maketh] a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Or is the ancient prophet actually giving us a look ahead to the new existence in the new realm? We know that there will be redeemed saints on Earth during the Millennium from Revelation 21 and they will reign as “kings and priests” with the Lord during that time (Revelation 1:4-6). No doubt they will also enter into the age of the new heaven and new Earth, thus making their joy truly everlasting.
One may rightly ask why will it be necessary for the complete transformation of Millennial Earth into Eternal Earth because the former certainly sounds grand enough. The answer is – sin. The beautiful and bountiful Earth of the 1000 year rule of Christ will still bear the taint of sin introduced by Adam and Eve’s initial rebellion which opened the door for the devil to walk in.
The evidence of this is found in Zechariah 14:16-19 and most notably in Revelation 20:7-15. In order for creation to be totally rid of this curse, a repair job isn’t enough and a complete rebuild must occur. Sin and its author must be eliminated because primary effect of sin is death (Romans 6:23). I think that death actually extends far beyond that of the individual right across the entire universe.
Think about it: Nothing we know of last forever in our present cosmos. Plants die. Animals die. We die. Even stars and galaxies eventually die. Hot things cool off, cold things warm up. Our present realm is losing the amount of its usable energy and there is nothing that can reverse the process. The scientists give this a fancy name calling it increasing entropy or growing disorder in the universe. Barring divine intervention, it will eventually turn into a cold, dark nothingness. No stars, no planets, no life. Even matter itself may cease to exist entirely.
Yet we know from the Bible that all that the originator of evil and all that has fallen under his sway will be dealt with forever and the final enemy to be defeated will be death itself when sin is purged once and for all from existence.
1 Corinthians 15:26 – “The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death.”
Only then can eternity come and only then will John’s marvelous account of what Jesus revealed to him with God coming to live with us forever in his glorious city come to pass, a place of indescribable beauty where the very river of life itself flows from the Lord himself. Best part of all? It’s where Jesus even now is building the mansions that believers will inhabit for all eternity and where we will see God face to face (Job 19:25-27;1 Corinthians 13:9-12).
In the new life in the new creation to come, the Bible tells us that the New Jerusalem will one day arrive on Earth, albeit a totally different Earth than the one that exists today. We know people will come to it from outside, which indicates that there must be a place from which they will come. That may sound fairly obvious, but it’s significant because it leads us to wonder what kind of “place” it might be. For that, we can only speculate.
Personally I envision something unlimited magnitudes above in magnitude and size of what we once had in Eden before our original parents opened the door to Satan and sin. Eden must have been absolutely stunning in its own right – no violent storms, no noxious plants or animals, and no death. It seems certain enough that all the best of Eden will be retained on New Earth and greatly improved upon. Whereas Eden had only two people to accommodate, New Earth will be host to billions of believers at least.
All of their time will be spent in God’s Presence and light, whether in the New Jerusalem or out in the countryside. I imagine there will be a great deal of time spent just celebrating and rejoicing with God in New Jerusalem. When not there, perhaps the now-immortal saints will explore their new world, walk through its forests, climb its mountains, swim in its waters, and enjoy an everlasting fellowship with every other saint.
Perhaps we’ll get to meet the greats of the Bible like Moses, Abraham, David, Ruth, Esther, and the apostles as well as those whose faith was known only to God and themselves while they lived their mortal lives. But I’m sure the dream we all share is to see our loved ones and fellow believers, young, immortal, and radiant and to know that we will never be separated from them again.
After our sojourn on this world which has never been kind to those who have put their trust in God, often making us strangers in a strange and often unfriendly land, we will at last be welcome and know without doubt that were are home at last!