Read Revelation 21:1-8 - With the conclusion of Rev. 20, the events of time are all in the past. Beginning with Ch. 21, God unveils eternity before our eyes. The key phrase is found in Revelation 21:5, “Behold I make all things new.” In this chapter and Rev. 22:1-5, we are introduced to all things new: A new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem, a new relationship between God and man, new conditions for redeemed man, a new eternal home for the bride, a new glory, and a new temple.
First Heaven Destroyed - Rev. 21:1 refers to a “new heaven” and a “new earth.” This statement has always intrigued me. I understand how there must be a new earth in the eternal state. Every vestige of sin and evil must be eternally destroyed. But why should there be a new heaven? Isn’t heaven, God’s house, perfect in every respect? Then, why should it be destroyed? Note the words in verse one, “The first heaven was passed away.”
We read Gen 1:1 in our KJV, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” In the original language the word for heaven is plural – heavens. There are actually three heavens mentioned in the Scriptures. The first heaven (the atmospheric heaven) is the firmament of Genesis 1. It is the expanse that is just above the earth - the cloudy heavens. The second heaven is the heaven of the stars – the stellar heaven. The third heaven is spoken of as Paradise in 2 Cor. 12:2-4. This is undoubtedly God’s dwelling place (Absolute Holiness).
When John says, “I saw a new heaven…for the first heaven was passed away,” he is referring to the “atmospheric heaven” around us. The stormy heavens probably come under this judgment, but certainly not the third heaven – Paradise – or God’s dwelling place. One of the reasons why the atmospheric heaven must be destroyed is because this has been the abode of Satan. [Note: Satan’s fall – 1/3 of the angels - Tartaras - the others are in the air around us - “He is the prince of the powers of the air.”] Peter describes the destroying of the first heaven in 2 Peter 3:10. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will vanish with a thunderous crash and the natural elements of the universe will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the work that are upon it will be burned up.”
Heaven and Hell - At this point I want to make a comparison between heaven and hell. See Rev. 20:14-15, “And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. And whoever’s name was not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” This is the second death. Now look at Rev. 21:8, “[…] shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” The first death is physical. The second death is spiritual.
To those who die in their sins, there is the fearful looking forward to of judgment. “It is appointed unto men once to die; after death the judgment.” We must all die and be prepared to meet God. Luke 16 is a vivid example of this. This is thought to be a true story. In it, Jesus gives exact details about the state of an unbelieving soul immediately after leaving this world. In it, we see:
- The lost soul suffers (Luke 16:27 - These people pray for their relatives and friends.)
- The lost soul is fully conscious (Luke 16:23-24)
- The lost soul is in full possession of its memory (Luke 16:25)
- The lost soul has no hope of ever leaving the place of torment (Luke 16:26 - Note the eternal character of this condition; it is a “great gulf fixed.”)
On the other hand, look at what happens to the believer when he dies: The rich man died and was buried. Lazarus died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. His body was probably picked up on the street and burned.
John gives us some idea of conditions in heaven in Rev. 21:3-4. God is dwelling with men. He will wipe all tears from their eyes. There shall be no more death, crying, or pain [Describe the thought of “Abraham’s bosom.”] Paul was caught up into this place. He was caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2). He was caught up into paradise (2 Cor. 12:4). He heard sacred secrets, which no human lips could repeat. He wrote 1 Cor. 2:9 with this experience in view: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, neither can the heart of man understand the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.” Because of this experience, he could write to the Philippians’ Church in Philippians 1:23-24, “[I am in a dilemma, I would like to stay with you, but my strong desire is to depart and be with Christ, which is far better].”
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