And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 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. Revelation 22:1-5

In our previous study we began looking at Revelation 22:5 – “And they shall reign forever and ever.” We looked at the words “they” and “shall reign” to understand what the terms mean within the context. If you haven’t read the first part of our study, please click here.

We move next to the words “forever and ever.”

Forever and Ever

How long will this future of ours last? According to Revelation 22 – forever and ever! That is a long, long time, though I don’t know if time as we know it now will even exist in the new heaven and new earth. We know time from the movement of the sun around the earth as day and night, hours and minutes; but what does Revelation tell us about that?

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.

That leads me to Revelation 23. I use that term in the sense of how we will be reigning with Christ “forever and ever.” I am not adding to or subtracting from the vision that is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” That is not allowed (Revelation 22:18-19). I am only using the term for the purpose of helping us think deep into the future that Revelation refers to as “forever and ever.”

What will we do forever and ever?

His servants shall serve Him.

We will serve God. How will we serve Him?

And they shall reign forever and ever.

Reigning is one of the primary ways we will serve God. We will reign with Christ forever and ever. We will always be with Christ. That is our glorious future.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Millions of Christians who died before the Lord’s return will rise from the dead first, then those Christians who are alive at the time of the Lord’s return will be “caught up” (seized, snatched up, raptured) with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. All true Christians will be with Christ “aways.”

I believe that means we will “reign” with Christ wherever He wants us to reign. Earth is one of the locations mentioned specifically.

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth. Revelation 5:8-10

What we will be doing forever and ever is serving God according to His eternal purpose and plan. We learn in Revelation that we will serve as “kings and priests to our God” and “shall reign on the earth.” The “earth” is a key to understanding some of what we will do forever and ever. 

Every Christian is a servant of God now, whether they fully understand that or not. God has gifted us with talents and spiritual gift for the purpose of serving Him and bringing Him glory and honor while we are alive on the earth. Even the angels who stand before God in Heaven understand that they are fellow servants with us.

Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:10

The angels in Heaven are “ministering spirits” who God sends forth “to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). We see angels in the Bible going from Heaven to earth and back to Heaven continually to minister to the needs of God’s people. The angels minister to our needs even as we serve God during our lifetime here on earth. Whatever your ministry is now, it will be expanded in the future as you serve God by reigning with Christ on the earth.

The following verses in Revelation 19 (11-21) demonstrate the great power of Christ in defeating the kings of the earth and destroying their armies. The “beast” and “false prophet” who deceived those who received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image will be captured and cast alive into the lake of fire. The rest, the kings and armies of the earth, will be killed with the sword that proceeds from the mouth of Christ. They will remain dead until the time of their judgment.

We know that Jesus will rule on earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-10). We will be “kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth,” so we might wonder what we’ll do during that time. It might depend on the talents and spiritual gifts God has given us. It might also include some of our interests and experiences from this current lifetime. What we do know is that we will serve Jesus Christ in whatever way He wants us to serve. He is Lord!

At the end of His thousand-year reign on earth, Jesus will allow Satan to be released from his prison in the “bottomless pit” and go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth – “Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea” (Revelation 20:7-8). This army of people who had lived under Christ’s thousand-year reign will surround “the camp of the saints” and Jerusalem (the beloved city) and God will destroy them with fire that comes down from Heaven. Satan will then be cast into the lake of fire where the beast and false are and be “tormented day and night forever and ever.”

After that comes the Judgment – what we know as the Great White Throne Judgment.

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. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 21:11-15

We know that Christ will reign from the Great White Throne as He judges the dead, “small and great.” We know that He will reign over the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1). We know that He will reign over the holy city, New Jerusalem, “coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2-27). Anything else?

The Bible tells us a lot about God’s plans, but it doesn’t tell us everything. There are some things that God is keeping secret.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29

New Heaven, New Earth, New Jerusalem

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. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:1-2

We know the first heaven and earth that God created will pass away, and that He will create a new heaven and new earth. God will also create a “New Jerusalem” that will come down out of Heaven and either sit on the earth or hover over the earth.

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. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. Revelation 21:24-26

We know that Jesus Christ will reign over the new heaven, new earth, and New Jerusalem. We also know that we will reign with Him. We know that the new earth will not have any more “sea,” so that may mean the configuration of the new earth will be different than what we know now. It may be a giant land mass with water flowing through it like springs or rivers. Revelation does speak of the earth having kings, so it would make sense that large numbers of people would live on earth. They might receive water and food from the earth (similar to the Garden of Eden) or from Heaven.

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:1-2

Isaiah 65 and 66 mention a new heaven and new earth, but that prophecy has Israel in view. That raises the question about any differences in how Israel and the Church will work together in the new heaven and new earth. We know that the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel when Jesus sits on the throne of His glory (Matthew 19:28). We also know that the New Jerusalem has a strong connection to Israel. The names written on the twelve gates of the City will each have the name of one of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. The wall of the City will have twelve foundations and each foundation will have the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21). 

The Apostle Paul was not one of the “twelve” apostles because he was saved at a later time and given the responsibility of being the Apostle to the Gentiles. That raises the question about what Paul and the Church (mostly made up of Gentiles) will be doing and where they will live “forever and ever.” We know that members of Christ’s Church will be with Jesus wherever He is, so that certainly includes the New Jerusalem. Anywhere else?

While the Bible details the current earth, new earth, and New Jerusalem, it doesn’t say much about the “new heaven.” What might God have planned for that new space?

The New Jerusalem comes down “out of heaven from God,” so that gives us three distinct possible locations for Christians to live. One would be the new heaven. Another would be the New Jerusalem. One more would be the new earth. 

I believe that Christians will abide with Christ wherever He rules. We will reign “with Him.” That would include all locations since Jesus will reign over all three. The New Jerusalem certainly has a Jewish flavor, so that may be where Jews will live along with their prophets and apostles. The new earth mentions “kings of the earth,” so that might be where non-Jews born during the Millennium may live and expand their families (“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth”). It may be that the “one new man from the two” that the Apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians 2 (the Church made up of Jews and Gentiles) will reign with Christ in all three places. 

Christians are said to be heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8). We will also reign with Christ in the new Creation. We will also “serve God” in the New Creation. I think that combination of being joint heirs with Christ and servants of God may send us in many directions. Some Christians may serve on the new earth. Some may serve in the New Jerusalem. Some may serve in the new heaven.

Will the new heaven be like the current heaven (space above the earth)? We know from Revelation 21 that the New Jerusalem will have no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it. That’s because Jesus, the Lamb of God, will be the light of the city. 

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. Revelation 21:24

Verse 25 says the gates of the city won’t be shut at all by day and there won’t be any night there. That tells us something about the New Jerusalem where Jesus Christ will reign, but what about the new heaven? Will the new heaven not have stars since our current sun is a star? Will the new heaven not have planets or moons? What kind of space will it be? Since we’re told little about this new heaven, I look to the nature of God for answers.

God plans, then creates what is necessary to fulfill the plans. God planned the new heaven and earth before He created the first heaven and earth. I sometimes wonder if what Paul saw in the vision he mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12 might have been about the new heaven. The apostle wrote that he had been “caught up to the third heaven” fourteen years before writing the letter. He also called the place “Paradise.” Paul said he heard inexpressible words that were “not lawful for a man to utter.” He said that God gave him an “abundance of the revelations.” I think God gave Paul multiple visions and revelations from the Lord to prepare him for the difficulties he would face as the apostle to the Gentiles. Fourteen years before writing 2 Corinthians would have been several years before his first missionary journey, so we know Paul already knew many extraordinary things before he preached in Antioch of Syria and wrote his letters. 

The visions and revelations Paul received may not have been the same ones the Apostle John received. Most of Revelation concerns Israel, which makes sense for John to have received it. Paul, on the other hand, received visions and revelations that concerned the Church – the Body of Christ. That’s why Paul knew things the other apostles didn’t know until they talked it out at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15; Galatians 2). They agreed that Paul would go to the Gentiles and John, Peter, and the other apostles to the Jews. That’s a primary reason I think the visions and revelations may be different. We also find differences in the letters of the apostles. Look at who the apostles addressed in each of their letters and what they referenced. Some of the apostles wrote to the “pilgrims of the Dispersion” (1 Peter 1) and “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1). Paul wrote to churches made up of primarily of Gentiles in various parts of the Roman Empire.

While John’s vision of the Revelation connects strongly to Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel’s future glory (e.g. Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel), Paul’s visions and revelations connect to a “mystery” revealed through his teachings and letters. As he wrote in Ephesians 3:6, “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” God’s promise that the nations of the world would be blessed through Abraham was well known by Jews and anyone who read Genesis. However, God’s plan that Gentiles (non-Jews) would be “fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” was a mystery God withheld until the time He chose to reveal it.

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.” Ephesians 3:1-4

I think Paul received the mystery of God’s plans for Gentiles when he (Paul) was caught up into Paradise (third heaven). Paul did not share any details of what he saw there because it was not lawful for him to speak (utter) it. 

I wonder if what Paul saw is what I refer to as Revelation 23. Did Paul see the kinds of amazing things Christians would do in the new heaven? Did Paul see what new, creative things God might have in store for the joint heirs of Christ? Might God be planning to create new worlds beyond what we see in Revelation 21 and 22? I don’t know because God doesn’t tell us. However, He did tell and show Paul something that was unlawful for him to share at the time.

Another part of God’s nature is that He is Almighty. God can do anything He wants to do. If His plan is to create new worlds in or beyond the new heaven, that’s wonderful. If His plan is not to create anything beyond what is revealed in Revelation 21 and 22, that’s wonderful as well. The important thing is that we will be with Him and serve Him forever and ever. We shall see His face forever and ever. His name will be on our foreheads forever and ever. We will reign with Christ forever and ever. What matters is what matters to God. We are His servants – forever and ever.

May we serve God now with the talents and spiritual gifts He has given us – all to His glory.

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