“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 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’” (Revelation 21:2-3).
Suppose there was no Book of Revelation, and we didn’t know how history was to end. In such a case there might have been an element of doubt about the final outcome. But no, the Bible is complete. To read the Book of Revelation is to equip ourselves to show the world how we outlive tyrannies—with Heaven as our home!
We learn from Revelation 21 that the descending City of God is also portrayed as a woman, the “Bride” of Christ—His redeemed church—coming down to earth with Him at His great return. Just 14 words are enough to stand most theories of Heaven on their heads: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.”
Many think of Heaven as a vague, transcendent existence—but not with God. He’s not in their frame at all! Yet Heaven is God’s home. Everything in Heaven revolves around Him and the throne that He occupies with Christ, His Son.
Humanity has often thought of Heaven as a place that people go away to in some distant, cloudy existence. The ancient Greeks looked for a peaceful paradise of the “Elysian fields.” Scandinavian warriors hoped to feast in the vast banqueting hall of Valhalla. Eastern belief systems hold to ideas of Nirvana after numerous reincarnations. The Bible contradicts that view with its phrase that “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Many simply think of a far “going away.” However, the New Testament emphasis is not so much upon our departure as upon Christ’s return.
Our clue lies in Christ’s resurrection. He did not emerge from the tomb with a different body, but rather with one that has been transformed into immortality. And His resurrection is to be applied to the whole creation. He is the prototype—the advance miraculous happening of something that will take place on a universal scale (Romans 8:18-25). Just as Jesus was raised with a resurrection body, so it will be for His followers.
The day we put our trust in Jesus Christ, we were joined to Him forever. We became like the thread that has been joined to the needle. We are threaded to Christ—and nothing can reverse it! Wherever He has gone, we—as the thread following the needle—will automatically follow!
It is an error to hope for an escape from this world. Having seen the world that He had created, God called it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). He has never abandoned earth; His desire is to fix it; it’s His world. True, we read in 2 Peter 3:10 that the creation will be “laid bare.” But the point is, it is not going to be consigned to the dustbin. Rather it is to be rejuvenated as part of the new Heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1).
The entire story culminates not in a going away of believers but in a return of Almighty God to this very earth! Indeed, the Biblical word that tells us of God’s dwelling among us is the same as that used in the Book of Exodus for tabernacle— the worship tent, where the holiest place there represented the Lord God’s residing presence. It was a perfect cube structure.
Come to Revelation 21:16. There, the city of God is likewise thrillingly depicted as a cube: “laid out like a square, as long as it was wide … and as wide and high as it is long.” The holy cube within the original tabernacle is thus to be finally duplicated on a massively universal scale—of God dwelling with His people, in a perfect holy place into which every believer may safely enter. Here is Moses reaching out from Exodus to shake hands with John in Revelation—the two ends of the Bible meeting one another!
Where or what will Heaven finally be? Billy Graham echoes John Calvin in his words, “Heaven is where Jesus Christ is, and I’m going to Him soon.”
Indeed, “with Christ” is where we want to be! When He returns to earth, He will be bringing Heaven with Him, together with those already with Him—“prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband.”
Where are the faithful departed now? They are safe with Christ. To the last enemy, Death, the Bible gives to Christ’s departed followers the most beautiful of descriptions: sleep.
How do we await Christ’s final return? The answer is, we practice Heaven now! Jesus declared, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23). Think of it—the Father and Son staying with you by the Spirit’s power, in your very home!
When Heaven’s morning breaks … will it all really happen? The Book of Revelation has locked us back into the Garden of Eden with the words, “It is done!” (Revelation 21:6). Already we see it coming! Eden restored! The tree back! The curse gone! Babel reversed! And we shall be back in the Garden City of God, which is where He wants us to be! ©2016 Richard Bewes
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.