The Biblical View
The new heavens and new earth is the final destination and goal of all the redeemed.
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. (Isaiah 65:17)
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. (Isaiah 66:22)
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13)
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Revelation 21:1)
Articles about this topic:
The New Heavens and New Earth will be just like the present world with a few differences. Key features...
The power of death is merely the power to influence the workings of the universe to bring harm. In the new heavens and new earth there will be no more death because Satan will no longer be able to influence the workings of the universe.
There will be space and time in the new heavens and new earth. I mention this because the contrary is often claimed by Christians.
In that passageJesus is not discussing conditions in the new heavens and earth but, rather, refutes the Sadducees' wrong view of no life after death. They raise the question of what they refer to as "resurrection" and give an absurd example to prove their point. They use the term "resurrection" to refer to life after death, of the existence of the soul after death, and Jesus responds using the same terminology.
Notice the word "resurrection" in this passage refers to the soul living after death, not to the bodily resurrection at the end of the world. The New Testament even uses the term sometimes to refer to the soul rather than the body (as I mention a few paragraphs down.
Jesus does not use the word resurrection to refer to the new heavens and new earth. Marriage requires a physical body — disembodied souls cannot be married, nor can they get married.
In this short passage Jesus is not giving a full teaching about the conditions of life after the resurrection in the new heavens and new earth; rather, he is merely refuting the false views of the Sadducees using their own terminology.
Based on the passage from Revelation 20:4-6it is clear the term resurrection refers to both the first resurrection (at the death of a believer) as well as to the second resurrection (the bodily resurrection after the second coming of Christ). It is clear from the context in Jesus' debate with the Sadducees that he uses the term resurrection to refer to the first resurrection. Since they reject the notion of life after death Jesus doesn't need to move on to the topic of the bodily resurrection at his second coming — he wins the debate without even mentioning that aspect of the term resurrection.
(Matthew 22:23) The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, . . .
(Matthew 22:28) Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
The Sadducees believe the human soul dies at the time of physical death. In verse 32 Jesus demonstrates from the Torah that this is not correct, that humans live on after death.
The Sadducees are trying to trip up Jesus by demonstrating the logical absurdity of the resurrection. But their view of the resurrection is not the same as Jesus' view — their concept of the resurrection is flawed...
(Matthew 22:30) For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
Jesus used the term resurrection just as the Sadducees used it — to refer to the after-death state.
After death the soul lives in a disembodied state in a spiritual realm. In this state people do not get married. They are spirit beings just as the angels are and there is no marriage. Marriage only exists in the physical world; in the current fallen world and again in the new heavens and new earth. Jesus is not addressing this topic in his discussion with the Sadducees. Rather, he is refuting their false views.
(Matthew 22:31) But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
(Matthew 22:32) I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
In Moses' day Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died and were in Abraham's bosom. Jesus states they were at that time living, but in verse 31 he refers to this as referring to the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, Jesus is not addressing the topic of whether or not there will be marriage in the New Heavens and the New Earth after the bodily resurrection of the dead at the second coming of Christ.
(Mark 12:23) In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
(Mark 12:25) For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.
(Mark 12:26) And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
The parallel passage in Mark provides another clue: the Sadducees clearly used the word resurrection to refer to what had already occurred to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Sadducees were contrasting two opposing views...
(Matthew 22:34) But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
Jesus targeted the essence of the Sadducees' objection in a way they could not refute.
The term resurrection refers to both the life of the soul of a believer after death (the first resurrection) and the bodily resurrection of these believers after the second coming of Christ (the second resurrection).
Major events for the redeemed . . .
It is commonly thought the final goal of redeemed humans is heaven but the New Testament nowhere states this. Only a few verses even mention humans in heaven . . .
The hope which is laid up for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:5)
Knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. (Hebrews 10:34)
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:4)
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. (Revelation 5:3)
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. (Revelation 12:1)
And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. (Revelation 13:6)
I heard a great voice of much people in heaven. (Revelation 19:1)
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:14)
It is common for Protestant Evangelicals to ask someone "if you die today will you go heaven?" Certainly the souls of the redeemed will remain in the spiritual realm when they die, either in purgatory or in heaven. What is often ignored is that our souls already reside in the spiritual realm, in a realm closely associated with the earth. This realm is also populated by the good spirits (angels) as well as the wicked spirits; these are engaged in mortal combat in a great spiritual war. Our souls are influenced by both kinds of spirits.
At death the fate of each human soul varies:
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. (Isaiah 11:6-8)
There will be animals, infants, childrearing, and children who grow up to become adults.
There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. (Isaiah 65:20)
Infants will not die soon after birth; people will not die prematurely. At the end of a normal lifespan (100 years) the unredeemed in hell will not be saved from their misery by death (as they are in this world) and the redeemed will still be receiving blessings (and will continue to do so forever).
And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. (Isaiah 65:21)
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. (Micah 4:4)
People will live in homes, will have farms and vineyard, and will enjoy preparing and eating food.
But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Micah 4:1-2)
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. . . . And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. . . . And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. (Revelation 21:2,10,24)
God will reside in a special way in Jerusalem and people will travel there on pilgrimages.
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2)
There will be a river of water of life and the tree of life which will provide healing food for people.
And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Micah 4:3)
There will be perpetual peace.
And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (Matthew 17:20)
People will have miraculous powers.
And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:49)
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. (Romans 6:5)
We will be as Jesus was during the 40 days after his resurrection. We will be able to materialize at will wherever we choose.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Revelation 7:16-17)
There will be no unfulfilled desires. There will not be hardships as there is in this current world.
There will be a literal temple in Jerusalem with animal sacrifices, priests, rituals and rites. However, animals will not be killed; Jesus' sacrifice on the cross will be the sacrifice they offer just as during the Eucharist.
And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. . . . And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. (Genesis 22:8,12-13)
In the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain. (Revelation 5:6)
There will be a nation of Israel in the new heavens and new earth and it will possess the promises given to Abraham. This nation will have a temple and a priesthood. The resurrected David will be their king.
There will be marriage, procreation, conjugal relations, childbirth, and childrearing.
In the new heavens and new earth we will still be a soul inhabiting a body (a resurrected body). The souls will still have appetites, however these appetites will not be sinful. Just as an infant has appetites (hunger, urge to breathe, need for touch and to be loved and cared for) but does not sin, in like manner we will continue to have appetites.
The Protestant Reformers believed that we are born totally depraved and that we all sin hundreds of times per minute in our thoughts and deeds. I reject this view. Infants do not sin (even though they may hurt someone; but they do not intend to do this). It takes the development of the sense of morality which only develops years later before we can sin.
Just as there is conflict, tension, and suspense in a good story; so also we will experience these in the new heavens and new earth. As an example, as the population of a certain planet increases, the inhabitants will have to decide to explore another part of the universe and to settle there. Some will stay and some will leave and both groups will miss each other.
Children will be born and will mature into adulthood. The parents will have the challenging task of educating the child and of providing proper spiritual direction. While sin will be absent, there will still be various distractions and challenges. Out of their love for their children, parents will discuss and consider how to best assist their children so that they can achieve their full potential.
People will adopt careers that suit them. Some will be farmers. Even though there is no need for people to eat, it will be enjoyable and many will continue to prepare food and eat. There is no need for farmers to provide food since people can materialize it at will, but humans were designed to enjoy simple activities such as farming, building things, designing things, improving things, etc. Receiving food from a farmer will be a blessing for both parties.
Relationships will be a joy. People will enjoy each others' company and will tell stories, laugh, sing, and spend time together.
Everybody will be very involved in worship and devotional activities. God's presence will be felt by everyone. People will take pilgrimages to various special sites. Jerusalem will be a popular pilgrimage site as will the New Jerusalem; the 1,500 mile square city that will be floating in the sky somewhere.
People will have hobbies such as mountain climbing (no ropes required); playing and composing songs and music; surfing; knitting; playing games; collecting things; dancing; travelling to places on earth (planes and cars are not needed), under the ocean, on other planets, even to the center of stars.
Many people have had utopian ideals which they attempted to implement with varying degrees of success. The new heavens and new earth will finally be the utopia that everyone craves.
I long for eternal life in the new heavens and new earth. The presence of the blessed Trinity will be felt continuously. There will be no more urgings to sin; no more weakness of character.
The fog preventing my soul from seeing deeply into the spiritual realm will be lifted. I will see angels. I will see into the most sacred holy of holies.
And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. (Revelation 4:2)
All my heart's desires will be fulfilled. I will play music and surf. I will explore the universe.
The difficulties of this world will no longer exist. People will not exploit one another but will seek each others' good.
The resurrected body only exists in this physical universe. When Jesus ascended into heaven he shed his resurrected body. When he returns at the second coming he will again take on his resurrected body.
Everyone also has a spiritual body. This is the body we experience in our dreams.
Do infants or fetuses have spiritual bodies? I think they do. The spiritual body directs the development of the physical body; it is a template for what the physical body should look like.
Our memories of the time spent on this earth will all be available to us in the New Heavens and New Earth, but they will be purified. We will no longer have the painful memories of the effects of sin — rather, we will remember the events in the way God views these events. We will remember what God saw. God is free from sin; he doesn't see sin; he doesn't know about sin, and neither will we.
I doubt if we will remember people who end up in hell. There is no reason to remember them. The eternal state for the redeemed is all about life.
There will be no sin in the New Heavens and the New Earth, nor will there be the effects of sin. Our rejection and repentance of sin while in this present world has, in a way, prepared us for spending eternity with God but the sin itself had nothing to do with it. Thus, sin itself is not redemptive — it is our response to sin which is redemptive.
There will be no pain and suffering in the New Heavens and New Earth. We will still have to work towards fulfilling our goals and desires, but the process will be joyous, not burdensome. The process will be similar to the enjoyable challenges we face in the present world and the fun of conquering them.
We will strive and persevere to accomplish things, but it will be truly enjoyable.
Even though we will have a physical body, it will be invincible and will not experience pain or be harmed in any way. Our bodies will be a delight and we will enjoy using them as they were designed by God to be used.
We will not need food and there will certainly not be eating disorders or obesity. We will eat food as a way to worship God and to celebrate our human fellowship. We will enjoy food just as we enjoy all aspects of our body.
I believe the Catholic doctrine that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was without sin from her conception. Based on this, her time here on this earth was much like it will be for us all in the new heavens and new earth. The main differences: