Heaven, that place where we will see God face-to-face and enjoy Him forever, has been the focus of our discussion on the afterlife. We have also seen how knowing that the Lord will judge all people gives us hope in the midst of our suffering. Much of our study has assumed the existence of heaven as part of what theologians call “the intermediate state.” We certainly go to be with the Lord in heaven if we die in faith before Christ returns (2 Cor. 5:6–8), but our presence in heaven before Jesus’ second advent is an intermediate state of our existence after death, not the final or ultimate state we will enjoy. In other words, the spiritual disembodied existence we will enjoy in heaven before Christ returns will come to an end and another state will take its place. As Scripture teaches us in many places, the resurrection of the dead will happen. Heaven will come down to earth, and we will have physical bodies and live in a perfected creation.
One of the most important passages on the new heaven and earth is Revelation 21, which describes this new creation. We should greatly look forward to the bliss we will experience there. We will have a foretaste of it in the intermediate state, but its fullness will only be ours when Christ comes to consummate His kingdom. At that point, we will enjoy the unmediated presence of God, for the whole universe will be His temple (vv. 3–4). This will be possible because there will be a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (v. 1; 2 Peter 3:13).
This perfect new creation will be free from all sadness. There will be no more tears, for God will have wiped them all away. Death, disease, emotional pain, sin—all the things that bring us so much suffering will pass away. We will bear the image of God with utter clarity, and there will be no strife. Though there will be continuity between this present creation and the one to come—God will not wipe everything out but will resurrect and renew all things—there will also be significant discontinuity, for God’s dwelling among us means that we will have perfect communion with Him (Rev. 21:2–4).
Our final home will be both beautiful and grand (vv. 9–21), and we will dwell in perfect light because the Lord’s glory will illumine His creation. God will be our lamp and we will need no sun, no moon, no candles, no other source of light. We will be content to see His beauty and rejoice that we dwell in such incredible glory (vv. 22–27).