We read about various methods of torture which the confessors went through in complete joy, in order to reach to the heaven, besides the terrible methods that led to martyrdom of a huge number of martyrs throughout different eras. We are also familiar with the ascetic life of the hermits and saintly worshippers for the same objective. No doubt, they offered these sacrifices in full confidence to reach the marvelous joyous heavenly life. It is sufficient enough that heaven will be the dwelling eternal place of God with His saintly believers among the righteous angels. The Lord Christ said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jhn14:2, 3)… So, we will be with Him eternally in heaven, the city of God, or “Heavenly Jerusalem.” We’ll hear His divine voice saying, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt25:34).
Our information about heaven is very limited if we compare it with the unheard of information. How far is our imagination about the heaven and the heavenly joy and happiness especially when we implement our earthly concept and use the worldly measures! This is the meaning of the Lord’s word to Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (Jhn3:12). In His speech about the kingdom of heaven, He used many parables to illustrate the facts to be easy to understand, and He used to say, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” (Matt13:24, 31, 33…). St. Paul, was caught up to the third heaven, i.e. the paradise, was not able to describe what He has seen there, but it was enough for him to emphasize what was mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah by saying, “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man. The things which God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1Cor2:9). He also mentioned that he heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2Cor12:4). It is obvious that what are in heaven are just great things, and that the heavenly glory is unutterable because the earthly languages fall short to express it or to describe it, while our minds are unable to comprehend. On the other hand, the little information we have is sufficient to strengthen our faith and to increase our longing for that heavenly homeland.
Heaven and Earth will Pass Away
Our materialistic world is called “heaven and earth” (Gen1:1; 2:1-4). In spite of the fact that man is related to earth, he does not comprehend all its mysteries; accordingly the mysteries of heaven are unrevealed to him. Although this universe is great, it will pass away some day according to the saying of the Lord Christ, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Matt24:35). St. John’s revelation also proves this fact, as St. John says, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them… Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (Rev20:11; 6:14). St. Paul also mentioned it by saying, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail” (Heb1:10-12). He also emphasizes that the form this universe with be changed, saying, “For the form of this world is passing away” (1Cor7:31). The second coming of Christ is known as “the last day” because it will be the last day of the days of this present time on earth. When He comes, which the heavens will be dissolved with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, and both the earth and its contents will be burned up, according to St. Peter’s saying, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up… looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” (2Pet3:10, 12). The system of this present world will be ended for the coming age to start with a new heaven and earth. There will be no sun nor moon nor days, but rather the light of that age will be eternal since it’s source is the divine glory, and night will not be there. St. Peter says, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2Pet3:13). St. John also emphasized that in his revelation, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea… The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light… There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev21:1, 23, 24; 22:5).
A New Heaven and Earth
What is the meaning of the new heaven and the new earth? And what does St. John mean by saying there was no more sea?
The first heaven was the place of angels. Sometimes Satan would enter it to be in God’s presence to complain against some believers (Job1:6-11; 2:1-5). This is what St. Paul refers to by saying, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?” (Rom8:33). This is clarified in St. John’s revelation, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down” (Rev12:10). Instead of this first heaven, there came a new one, full of saints, and Satan will not step into it, for he will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev20:10).
Regarding the sea, it will not exist anymore because it symbolizes separation because the seas in our world separate and divide the world’s continents. The heavenly city is one perfect unit, without division or separation among its members. The sea also symbolizes disturbance, uproar, worry and mysteriousness (Isa57:20) while eternity in heaven is free from all of that. The salty water of the sea refers to bitterness of sin, and for sure it has no place in heaven.
Life in Heavenly Jerusalem
We are completely unable to fully grasp the essence of heaven and the heavenly life waiting for us. This could be because the magnificent heavenly glory is indescribable by our language, and there is nothing like it in our material world. But the information we have about it is sufficient to encourage and excite us to enjoy such eternal happiness. From the little information which the divine words provide us, we could conclude the following:
v We shall reign with God in His eternal kingdom: according to the Lord Christ saying, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt25:34), “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jhn14:2, 3), “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev3:21).
v We shall praise with the angels: As the Psalmist says, “Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they will still be praising You” (Ps84:4).
v We shall see and identify those who preceded us to the glory: as the rich man identified both Abraham, the patriarch, and Lazarus (Lk16:19-31).
v There is neither hunger nor thirst; nor heat or cold: as the Book of Revelation says, “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat” (Rev7:16).
v There is neither crying or sighing; nor suffering or sickness: as the Book of Revelation says, “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes… And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev7:17; 21:4). Rather, the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy according to St. Paul’s saying, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom14:17).
v There are neither lusts nor sexual desires: rather there is absolute concord in the spiritual and glorified body, as St. Paul says, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1Cor15:42-44). Therefore, we shall be like angels in heaven (Matt22:23-30). Accordingly, there is no sin, death, burial or birth.
v There is no place for the tempter in heaven: as the Book of Revelation says, “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev20:10).
v There is no jealousy, envy or disagreement, but complete love among the saints: The book of Revelation testifies that the inhabitants of heavenly Jerusalem are the undefiled men, as it says, “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Rev21:27). The Psalmist prophesied about this fact saying, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!... For there the Lord commanded the blessing— life forevermore” (Ps133:1-3).
v There are no curses in heaven: because the curse was the product of sin (Gen3:17; 4:11). Therefore, the Book of Revelation says, “There shall be no more curse” (Rev22:3).
v There is no darkness in heaven: and light will not be physical because the Lord Himself is the Light. Therefore, “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev22:5). Now, we understand the prophet’s words, “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light” (Ps36:9).
v There is no ignorance but perfect knowledge: We have been living in this world by faith which leads us to knowledge. But in heaven, we shall see everything face to face. St. Paul says, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away… For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (1Cor13:9-12). Our method to know God, while we are on earth, is through the visible creation as St. Paul says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom1:20). But this situation will be reversed in heaven, for God will become the means by which we shall know everything.
v The greatest reason for our spiritual joy and happiness in heaven is witnessing God. So, St. John says, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1Jhn3:2). This blessed witnessing of God is not fulfilled by means of the eyes, but rather by knowing Him in mentally superb way that surpasses nature, and is direct without a mediator, as the Lord Christ says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jhn17:3).
Description of Heavenly Jerusalem
St. John describes the city of God, heavenly Jerusalem, to which we are seeking (Heb13:14). No one will be able to enter into it but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev21:27). This description is glorious than any human language. He says, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. 14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. 17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. 18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. 22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Rev21:10-27).
By contemplating in this description, we conclude the following:
1. The entire city and its streets are made of pure gold upon which is trodden by the saints’ feet (v.18). It refers to the riches of the owner of this city and of its inhabitants too. The gold lacks the clarity of the glass, while the glass lacks the solidity and stability of the gold. This pure gold is similar to glass or pure crystal, referring to the purity of the life of its inhabitants, as the Lord Christ says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt5:8) and their joy for witnessing of God in His glory.
2. The outside view of the city reflects the glory of God which covers it. Because it is the dwelling place of God Himself (v.3), its brilliance is like the most precious stone, which is Jasper, clear like crystal (v.11). This reminds us with what happened to Prophet Moses whose face shone so brilliantly after receiving the commandments from God (Exud34:29-33; cf. 2Cor3:7).
3. The city is of equal measurement (v.16) referring to perfection. Thus, those who dwell in it must be perfect (Matt5:48). The city with its 4 equal angels represent the four gospels which elevate the believers to the heaven, and prepare them to be worthy for the heavenly wedding through the powerful effect of the word of God.
4. The city is surrounded by great and high wall (v.12) referring to prevention of anything that defiles to enter it (Rev21:27). This wall also represents gathering of the universal church to be united against the enemy, the Devil, lest he could divide her or separate her members; as well as any righteous dweller will not be able to get out from it. Moreover, the wall was made of Jasper, a fine solid stone (v.18); referring to God’s might that protect and surround it. The huge measurements of the city dimensions (the length of the side is equal to 12,000 cubits = 1500 miles) refer to the immensity of the heavenly city to contain all the children of the kingdom.
5. The city has 12 gates, guarded by 12 angels, and the names of the 12 tribes of Israel are written on it. And the wall of the city has 12 foundations has the 12 names of the apostles of the Lamb (v.12, 14), those who preached about Christ the Son of God; and this faith was called by the Lord Christ the rock or the foundation upon which the church was established (Matt16:18). And the length of the wall is 144,000 cubits (v.17). The number 12 points to the kingdom of God (3x4= the belief of the Holy Trinity spread allover the world); and its multiples refers to the children of the heavenly kingdom, while those who refuse to believe in Him no longer have a place in it, according to the Lord’s saying, “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt8:11, 12). The number 1000 refers to heaven and heavenly issues.
6. The city combined the names of the tribes (v.12), i.e. the people of the Old Testament, side by side with Christ’s apostles (v.14), i.e. the people of the New Testament, because it is one church that gathers the believers in Christ of both Testaments, i.e. New Israel or the Israel of God (Gal6:16).
7. The city has 12 gates, 3 from each side, and these gates are not shut at any time (v.12, 13, 25). This refers that this city is always opened to receive its inhabitants from all nations allover the world without partiality; and there is no fear that the enemy will not be able to enter into it since he was thrown into the lake of fire. Number 3 represents the belief of the Holy Trinity through which is the only way leading to human salvation because there is no other way to enter this city through faith, baptism, and carrying the cross. This number also represents the resurrection, indicating that entering the city is allowed to those who experienced death and resurrection through Christ.
8. Every entire door is one single pearl (v.21) signifying the magnificence and brilliance of heaven, as well as the riches and glory of Christ the King. The pearl refers to the Lord Jesus, who is the invaluable and priceless pearl (Matt13:45, 46). No doubt, everyone who enters through the doors of this city should have sold the world with all its desires and pleasures to purchase this precious pearl. On the other hand, the Lord Jesus speaks of Himself as the door saying, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (Jhn10:9). In this case, no one will be able to sneak in to the heavenly Jerusalem in any other way, to enter through the door, i.e. to believe in Christ the Redeemer and Savior.
9. The presence of an angel on each door (v.12) represents that no way for any one of those who are not allowed to enter the city to sneak in.
10. The names of the apostles written on the foundation of the city which are represented by precious stones. This is in accordance with what St. Paul said, “…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph2:20). Therefore, every deviation from the apostolic teaching leads to be out this city. These precious stones with which the city foundations have been built refer to the different virtues for our adornment which we receive through our spiritual struggling throughout this life (Isa54:1-17). The different colors of these stones are the ones composing the light or rainbow. Christ is the true Light of the world, while the rainbow reminds us with the covenant of peace between God and man that He would not destroy the world again.
The Righteous’ Rewards
In that day, the righteous will reach to the perfect adoption (Rom8:14-23) and receive the eternal inheritance (Heb9:15; 1Pet1:3, 4), the heavenly kingdom (Lk12:32; Heb12:28; 1Thes2:12), eternal life (Jhn3:36; 5:24; 6:47; Rom6:33; Tit1:2; 3:7; 2Tim1:1; 1Jhn2:25) and the indescribable eternal glory (1Cor2:9-13; 1Thes2:12). These rewards will be in addition to the personal crown given to each one by the Lord in that day. The crown could be consisting of many crowns, or could be one crown with different names to represent the different rewards for the righteous for what he had achieved. For example, there is general crowns like the crown of life (Jam1:12; Rev2:10), the crown of beauty (Isa28:5; Prov4:9), the crown of righteousness (2Tim4:7, 8), the crown of glory (IPet5:4)… In addition, there are special crowns like crown of apostleship, crown of martyrdom, and crown of virginity. These heavenly crowns are different from the earthly because they are imperishable (1Cor9:25).
No doubt, the greatest reward that gives the utmost incomparable joy is to see God as He is (1Jhn3:2) and to be always with Him (1Thes4:17) and our continuous growth to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom8:29) through the work of His Holy Spirit in us, Who searches all things, even the deep things of God (1Cor2:10) and transfers us from glory to glory (2Cor3:18). St. Cyprian says, “Beloved brethren, Christ Himself is the Kingdom of God which we are longing for, from one day to another, to come. His coming is our desire and we wish that He revealed to us quickly. Since He is our resurrection, in Him we rise. We have to understand that the Kingdom of God is He Himself since we rein in Him.” Furthermore, the Bible mentioned many rewards for us besides the enjoyable presence inside the heavenly Jerusalem. The Book of Revelation alone mentioned:
v “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Rev2:7).
v “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev2:10).
v “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Rev2:11).
v “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Rev2:17).
v “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations… and I will give him the morning star” (Rev2:26-28).
v “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Rev3:5).
v “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Rev3:12).
v “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev3:21).
v “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Rev21:6).
v “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Rev21:7).
v “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads… And they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev22:4, 5).
(Cf. Matt5:3, 13, 19; 13:13; 25:21, 34, 46; Jhn14:3; 17:23, 24; 2Tim4:8; 1Pet5:4; Phil3:21, 14; 2Cor3:18; 4:16; 3:18; Eph3:16-19; Jam1:12; Rev7:9-17; 11:18; 21:9-27)
“I am Coming Quickly”
This is the word of the Lord Christ who emphasized many time the fact of His second coming, which is at hand, so that we may prepare ourselves without laziness or negligence:
v “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev3:11).
v “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Rev22:7).
v “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Rev22:12).
v “Surely I am coming quickly” (Rev22:20).
v “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Rev1:3).
v “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand” (Rev22:10).
“Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev22:20).