The New Heavens and New Earth

What will the new heavens and new earth be like?

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People try to imagine what the new heavens and the new earth will be like. The Scripture gives us pictures, of course, images. By saying that, I don't mean to imply that they're not true. They are true. Maybe the best way to think about that is that it will be like the present creation, but unlike. I think it's important to say both things: this world is God's, he made it, he owns it; it's deeply corrupted by sin and death. But God has apparently no intention of handing over this creation to sin and death ultimately. And yet, it does have to be purged. I think this is why the Bible often uses the image of fire when talking about the judgment day. So, we should think of that fire as a cleansing fire; it will be a very terrible and awful day, awesome in that sense. But the new creation that will emerge out of that act of power and mercy on God's part will be recognizable, I think, as a renewed creation, because God loves all that he has made. And so, the images and pictures we have are of banquets and of gardens and of rivers — Revelation 21 and 22, of course, the parables of Jesus. It will be creation and our bodies as part of it will be holy. I think sometimes we think maybe too often of physical health with our resurrection bodies and so forth, and that's true, it's right to think that way, but sickness and decay and death are the result of sin, that's the primary cause. And so, raised from the dead and the creation renewed, it will be holy and whole in that Old Testament sense of shalom and, although I don't have a Bible verse for this, I think we can imagine God looking at his renewed creation and saying again, "It's very good."

Answer by Dr. Jeffrey A. Gibbs

Dr. Jeffrey A. Gibbs is Professor Emeritus at Concordia Seminary.