New Heaven and New Earth: Who Gets There?
Growing up as a young adult in the Church, I was used to listening to our preachers and Sunday school teachers talk about heaven and who will get there. They made us think about heaven as a place we shall live eternally in God’s presence. We often sing, “heaven is our home”we are pilgrims on earth just passing through. We all desired to get there after our time here on earth.
Heaven was as far and as beautiful as our imaginations could carry us!
Apostle John, however gives us a picture of what afterlife looks like. We are given a glimpse of the place Jesus promised to take his followers on his return to the earth (John 14:2–3).
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Rev.21:1–2).
Apostle John’s revelation shows that the present heaven and the earth we are currently inhabiting are no more. They had passed away!
This goes to confirm Peter’s prediction in 2 Peter 3:7 as follows: “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire and destruction of the ungodly.”
The ungodly are not going to be in the Holy City new Jerusalem.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people,and he will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev.21:3–4).
Who are the ungodly? Is there a way out for them? How can they be saved before it is too late?
Romans 6:23 says:
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“Wages” (paycheck) is what you get for your labor — “Death” is what you get for your sin. But a gift is what you are given for nothing you have done. Eternal life is given free to you having been paid for by Christ Jesus.
Why Sinners Must Key into Christ’s Free Gift.
Salvation comes through the supreme sacrifice of the Son of God. Jesus came into the earth to redeem (buy back) sinners — the ungodly — from receiving the wages for their sins with their own death. Christ received it with his own death — reconciling them to God, and saving them from being eternally separated from their Creator.
The writer of Hebrews (Heb.2:3) asked? “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?”
The Psalmist also asked:
“Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place…” (Psalm 24:3)
The mountain of the LORD is the summit of God’s dwelling place. Ezekiel 28: 13–14 describes the Garden of Eden as located upon “the holy mountain of God.”
There, our first parents were placed by God to gaze upon the radiant beauty of His countenance. Adam and Eve tasted the bliss of living in the Presence of God upon the holy mountain. There, they experienced and fulfilled the purpose of man’s creation — fellowship with God in eternal life of worship.
From the heights in God’s presence, Adam’s sin plunged all humanity into the dark abyss of the earth — away from God’s presence. It is called “The Fall.”
Humanity was expelled from enjoying the paradise of God — they were sent down from the mountain of the LORD to the domain of the evil one.
The Psalmist in Psalms 15 and 24 anticipates humanity’s restoration to their original position in God’s presence. To the question, “Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? The Psalmist proffers an answer: “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in idol or swear by a false god.” (Psalm 24:3–4).
Psalm 15:2–3 breaks it down further, giving a more detailed characterization of those who will ascend the LORD’s mountain — those who will inhabit the new Jerusalem:
“The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others…”
Dear Christian, check out the list and see yourself in its “mirror,” Is your life reflected in that list? If not, do something about it. Ask for God to give you strength to manifest His grace in your life. “For by grace we are saved through faith, it is the gift of God…” It is a measure of Christlikeness and appreciation of Christ death on the cross for our sins.
By living a blameless life, we are proving that Christ’s death is not in vain — that we are set free from the dominion of darkness and sin into Christ’s marvelous light. Intentionally, we are showing heaven and the world that we are ready for the Lord’s coming.
Jesus summarised the Ten Commandments in one word: LOVE. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).
One must be a product of God’s grace and love to reflect the virtues listed in Psalms 15:2–3. They are what Christ paid for in his death. It is what qualifies a person for resurrection at Christ’s Second coming.
Christ rose from the dead as “the first of those who have fallen asleep.” (1Corin,15:20). Because he rose from the dead all those who are covered by his death will also be resurrected.
“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes through a man (1 Corin.15:20–22).
Only believers in Christ will be raised to ascend the mount of the LORD. They will occupy the place prepared for them from the foundation of the earth, fulfilling God’s purpose for creating humanity. It is why God sent His Son to take on human flesh, suffered and died to pay humanity’s debt with his death.
It is the meaning of our salvation — our eternal destiny.
Coming back to my story as a young Christian, I recall my yearning to get to heaven and my dread of sin — Sin is the albatross that robs humans of fellowship with God. We were taught that Jesus died on the cross because God turned His eyes away from him as he bore the load of all our sins! Any wonder, Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt.27:46).
What were those sins to which we were susceptible as young adults? Perhaps the very common sin was lying. We were told that it is a sin for a child of God to lie. The others were fornication (sexual sin), and friendship with the world. So it was constant battles with the flesh and our consciences, as we prayed and asked God for forgiveness each time we fell into one of the acts of sin.
I am always grateful for the emphasis on studying the Word — and of watching and praying as we look up to the Second coming of Christ. It was an investment made by our church leaders into our lives as youths, serving to shape our lives at that early stage of our spiritual development as born again Christians.
We grew up to cultivate the virtues of honesty, and hard work — serving others as onto the Lord, and putting our trust in God, not in man. These virtues helped us to excel in our endeavors in private and public lives.
The impact of the word of God on my generation was profound and far-reaching. It reflected on the larger society and the public service, impacting our educational and health systems; it manifests in the quality of our graduates at all levels of primary, secondary and university education. It produced committed leaders and faithful followership.
But things began to go down when preachers shifted their emphasis from eternal life to this world, and from Gospel messaging to prosperity messaging. The focus now is on success in worldly pursuits and ostentatious lifestyles. Everybody wants to be seen to be making it or have made it here on earth. The social media is a ready platform to that end.
It is now assumed that every one who died goes to heaven. Heaven has become a phantom. So called Christians are living as if it is all about this world and this world alone. The word of God is no longer our guide. Biblical characters and older Christians are no longer our models.
The role-models for our youths are now the Hollywood and Nollywood celebrities, corrupt leaders and political millionaires and billionaires flouting their wealth around.
Students in our secondary schools now aspire to be yahoo boys (scammers) rather than go on to College.
Is the Church failing or have failed?
There is no place in Scriptures that says every church congregant/member will enter the Kingdom of God — none. Only those who have experienced the new birth in the spirit, and live a life of obedience to the commands of Christ, will enter His kingdom.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corin.5:17). We are told: “there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1Corin.15:44).
Writing to the Corinthian brethren, apostle Paul said: “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corin.15:50). Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:6).
A life lived gratifying the flesh cannot give birth to life in the spirit afterlife.