There are three things we need to understand when approaching this issue. Present material matter vs future matter, in-time vs eternity, and The Heaven vs ‘heaven’. Grasping the differences in these will help us understand the issue of the appearance of heaven. First we will look at matter and discuss our earthly and heavenly bodies. Then we will get into language symbolism and limitations to better understand what we can hope for; and finally answer the question of what will have Pearly Gates with Gold Streets.
In our current space and time, material matter is corrupted and limited. Decay and energy loss is part of our current natural world. It is far more complicated and detailed than that but simply put, eventually, everything falls apart. We understand that matter is limited because we, in our bodies, can not simply pass through a wall, our atoms must travel through available routes. We see radiation break down matter and negatively effect our bodies. But this was not in God’s original design for his creation. In God’s supreme wisdom he allowed for it with the plan and hope for its restoration. We can look at how scripture describes Jesus’ resurrected body and our future bodies in the restored uncorruptible state.
The Holy Spirit, through Paul, describes our bodies as going from the perishable to the imperishable; from mortal to immortal (1 Corinthians 15:53). From here we know our future bodies, also called our glorified bodies (doctrine of Glorification), will not decay, age, or die. Our bodies were sown into weakness (limitations) but our glorified bodies will be raised in power (limitless) (1 Corinthians 15:43). Paul goes on to describe how our bodies are of the dust from the earth but our glorified bodies are of heaven, thus, not of the natural earth but of something supernatural, different, and greater. He states we bare the earthly image of man, which includes being dirty, scared, broken, deformed, and diseased but will bare the image of a heavenly man which would not include any of that (1 Corinthians 15:48-49). It is this corrupted matter that will not be present in the new heaven and earth because it will be transformed at our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51).
Also read What Happens When We Die
Jesus’ Glorified Body
In Jesus’ resurrected body, he was not just some spirit orb or ghost floating around. He was in a form that was touchable and could interact with the natural world (Luke 24:37-43). But it was not limited like the earthly body is (John 20:19). His earthly body was not the same. It was transformed into something greater and different. A form that is perfectly suitable for the new heaven and new earth. A from that will be given to everyone (Philippians 3:21). But notice Jesus had characteristics from his earthly form as well. If we will be given the same form, we may carry some of our own unique characteristics into our glorified bodies just without the sinful corruptions that result from overeating, self inflicted starvation, deformities, diseases and so on.
Also read The Transfiguration of Jesus
The Moment of Bodily Change
Our earthly bodies will instantly be transformed into our glorified bodies at our resurrection. When God ceases time and judges the world. The moment we are raised we will also be transformed
(1 Corinthians 15:52). At that moment, perfect victory over all natural corruption will be finalized
(1 Corinthians 15:54-56).
Also read The New You Forever
Time and Eternity
In eternity there is not time. The natural world is limited by time and space. Particles and atoms exist in space and time; and are limited by it. They bounce off of each other and travel in space. Jesus’ ability to walk through doors in his glorified body shows that the matter that makes up his glorified form is not limited by space and time. Not only did he walk through physical doors but also appeared to followers in different regions at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:6). God is spirit, and he is not limited by his own creation of space and time. Thus we can see that the spiritual glorified bodies can interact with the physical world in space and time but are not limited by it. In the new heaven and new earth, time and space will be irrelevant.
Heaven is an actual spiritual place and those with glorified bodies are permitted to exist in like angels for example. Their form is described in the same way Jesus’ transfigured state is described (Matthew 28:3; Mark 16:5). They do not have physical earthly bodies but can interact with the physical world (Hebrews 1:14). Just as glorified bodily forms are different from the earthly ones, Heaven and earth are different as well. This is where people start to get tripped up in their understanding of heaven.
The first question we need to ask is: “How do you describe something you have no knowledge of?”. We know a greek unicorn pegasus does not exist. Yet, all the characteristics do. Horse form, large eagle wings, with a narwhal horn. We use characteristics of something natural to describe another thing that does not exist. If I ask: “Think of something that you don’t know?”. You can not. You can say you don’t know algebra, but you do know it has something to do with numbers and letters. Therefore you do know something about it. You can not describe something you have no knowledge of. If I ask for you to describe a greek unicorn pegasus you will only describe things that you have knowledge of like a horse body, eagle wings, with a narwhal horn. Now, describe something that is not like ANYTHING you have ever seen and that you have no knowledge of. You can’t. It is a logical and rational impossibility. So, how do the apostles describe The Heaven? Or how does God condescend information about heaven for people to understand? Examples of things known are used to help illustrate what is unknown.
Also, people confuse Heaven with heaven. The ancient world also used the word ‘heaven’ or ‘heavens’ for describing the sky and outer space as well. The Heaven is spiritual, immaterial, and eternal, the heavens are material and created.
Also read How Holy is God?
Vision of Heaven
We see God giving people visions of Heaven. How do they then describe what they have seen in limited language and with earthly examples for people to understand what they witnessed? Keep in mind, these visions are of spiritual places outside of time and space. Lets look at Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6:1-13.
He describes seeing God “seated on a throne” wearing a garment with a “train of his robe filled the temple“. Then he describes “the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke“. He continues and describes “a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar“.
Now lets think about this. Does God need to sit? Does God need to wear clothing? If he is outside of space and time, does his robe and smoke need to ‘fill’ a temple? The logical answer is no. God is a spirit. Is there a fallacy in the text? of course not. So how do we explain Isaiah’s vision?
These things shown to him, and the descriptions he chose to use, are to help the reader understand grander immaterial spiritual things that there are no words for. He uses imagery, examples, symbolisms, and illustrations to help describe the indescribable. God is in a place of absolute authority and power (seated on a throne). He is The King and the sole majesty of Heaven (robe filled the temple). The worship of God is power (doorposts and thresholds shook). Isaiah is unholy and unworthy of this indescribable place and his unholiness need to be atoned for (the symbolic atoning of his sin with the coal from the altar). Isaiah saw these things and put it in words and used illustrations to help his readers understand. Does God need to sit in Heaven? no. Do people need to understand that God is in absolute authority and power in Heaven and on earth? Yes. This is how he conveys describing what God has shown him using limited human language of spiritual things. Did He get the message across despite the limitations of human knowledge and language? of course. God is Almighty, Holy, and Majestic; who atones for sin and enables his created people to participate in his will and plan. Sadly, people get hung up on the descriptions and confuse them for literal things instead of imagery, examples, symbolisms, and illustrations to convey a deeper message.
Heaven’s Pearly Gates and Gold Streets?
In pop culture and popular evangelical Christianity, it is common to think of the Pearly Gates as the entrance to Heaven and that Heaven has gold streets (Revelation 21:21). This is false. First it is critical to see that it is the city described as having the pearly gates and gold streets that comes down from Heaven (Revelation 21:2). It is not IN Heaven and IS not The Heaven. It is part of the new earth, not Heaven (Revelation 21:1). Secondly, The Heaven is eternal, the materiel ‘heavens’ are not. Keep in mind that the word ‘heaven’ either describes the spiritual OR the sky and outer space. Since it is described that there will be a new heaven and new earth, the ‘new heaven’ John is speaking of, in its context, is the sky and outer space.
The New Heaven & Earth
In this new city and reboot of all creation, a city will come down from The Heaven that will be absolutely beautiful and amazingly valuable for ever. Pearls and Gold denotes value. These absolutely beautiful and amazing gates will never close because it is for all those whom are children of God in their glorified bodies (Revelations 21:25). In this new earth and new heaven, there is no need for the sun or moon. There will be no night (Revelations 21:23-24). In this new city, nothing and no one sinful, unholy, unrighteous, or not justified by Christ will ever enter it (Revelations 21:26-27). The size of the city is unclear and less important. The New Jerusalem is going to come down from Heaven and be part of the new earth and new heaven. A new glorified supernatural world; under Heaven.
Keep in mind, these are examples, descriptions, and illustrations John is using with limited human language to describe something absolutely supernatural and in pure majesty and glory. Will this city be made of pearls and gold? Maybe, but that’s not the primary focus of why he is attempting to describe this. It is to help us understand the absolute majesty and glory of what God is going to do for all those who believe in his Son in the coming future in space and time. God’s Glory, his Son, and the Hope for us, is the focus and not material elements. They are just used to help us understand the vastness of his glory and majesty in what he is going to do for creation.
We will see the city and think of God, not what it’s made of. We will enter the city and forever desire to worship God, not desire to make pearl and gold things for ourselves. It will be so majestically awe inspiring that we will worship God in it forever. The Gold will not tarnish, our bodies will not age, and there will be no pain or suffering.
Also read The Glorious and Blessed Hope | God’s Glory Alone
Confused and Misguided
Some teachers will say that The Heaven is made up of gold streets and pearl gates. This is incorrect. Most of the time, teachers that use this false example attempt to knowingly or unknowingly justify coveting material desires and gains in this present earth. The focus is on the here and now wealth, justified with the description of future wealth. This is very common with the Prosperity preachers.
The Heaven is the spiritual, immaterial, and timeless literal place where God exits from eternity. The new earth and new heaven is where we will exist in our glorified bodies forever. The new city, in the new earth will have a majestic and glorious look and feel, just like our bodies; which is all meant for God’s eternal glory; even after sin is done away with God is still deserving of all Glory. Understanding what God is going to do, and how amazing it will be, sparks our desire to worship God in here and now.
Also read Jesus Is Coming Back!
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