When Heaven Comes to Earth
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“The LORD reigns! Let the earth be happy! Let the many coastlands rejoice!” (Psalm 97:1)
The declaration that the LORD reigns is common in the Psalms. I know in my head and believe in my heart that God is ruling His creation. It is hard to see in real life, though, in a practical sense. He tolerates more rebellion and disobedience than any earthly king or dictator I’ve read about in history or current events. If left to evidence alone, we could easily think that God’s rule is “hands off” and passive and that Satan is really the ruler.
I have to remind myself that God hasn’t gone to sleep (Isaiah 40:28; Psalm 121:4). He is King over Planet Earth. I read in the New Testament that Jesus is Lord and King now over everything and will one day be the King on Planet Earth. In person. In Jerusalem. In charge. What an amazing thing to consider what Jesus’ earthly Kingdom will be like one day and the humans who will experience it!
I’ve caught myself thinking about this a lot this past year or so with all the unrest, the pandemic, and the uptick in anarchy. There is a future planned by God that is much better than today for those who trust in Him. Hallelujah! But, what will it be like?
We have some revelation about the future.
Ephesians 1:9-10 tells us that God has made known to us some things about His plan to bring all things together in heaven and on earth under the unity of Christ. Yet, trying to understand all the prophecies about the end times is like having 1000 puzzle pieces that look similar but without the picture on the box top to tell you how to arrange them. All we know for sure are the border pieces. We can put the 4 sides of the puzzle together. Those are events we know will definitely happen, but we don’t know when they’ll happen or how the rest of the pieces fit inside that border.
Those 4 sides are Jesus’ appearing for the Rapture of believers, the Great Tribulation that follows, the revealing of the Antichrist during the Tribulation, and Christ coming to exact justice against unbelievers and setting up His kingdom on earth. On earth, the Rapture of the believers is a signal that the time of the Gentiles has ended. The Great Tribulation begins. Most of the book of Revelation describes what happens then. Many Jews will believe during the Tribulation as well as some Gentiles. Revelation 19 describes what will happen at the end of the 7 years of Tribulation. Jesus will return to earth. The Rapture will only be visible to believers. But, His Second Coming will be visible to everyone somehow. He’ll fight the enemies on earth, defeat them, and set up His kingdom prophesied so much in both the Old and New Testaments.
The Kingdom begins on earth.
Based upon my understanding of Scripture (from what I’ve read and been taught by wise teachers), when Jesus returns to set up His Kingdom (Revelation 20), He will be bringing His people with Him. I’m thinking that would include me. We will be coming with Him for the battle where He defeats the Antichrist and all who are fighting with him against God. Victory is assured. Jesus will win!
King Jesus will be king over all. Jerusalem will be His capital. Nations will still form, including Israel. It’s a big planet. God is a God of order. Righteousness and justice will prevail globally in all government, for everyone. Revelation 20 says this kingdom will last 1000 years. A thousand years is called a millennium. So, His kingdom is called the Millennial Kingdom. Isaiah is filled with descriptions of the Millennial Kingdom, especially Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65. Every Christian who had died on earth or been raptured will be returning with Jesus and will be staying on to serve Him in His Kingdom.
Frankly, it strains my brain to picture what it would be like to live on the earth with Jesus as King way over there in Jerusalem. Only God knows where I will be. Perhaps I will be sent back to live in a newly organized Texas. One thing I do know is this: We who come back with Him do so in resurrection bodies—immortal bodies without sin. So, when Jesus the King declares something for us to do, we will immediately obey it. No arguing, fighting back, or ignoring. No doing our own thing. That will be different, huh?!
Will we get a daily email or text from Jesus or direct Word through the Spirit (who is with us forever) with our instructions for the day? The Bible teaches that the resurrected saints will be ruling in various ways. That’s in Matthew 19:28 and lots of other places. We will also be given the authority to judge. That’s in Revelation 20:4 and several other places. We will also be overseeing others. So, the governors and local rulers will likely be resurrected saints always doing the right thing in submission to King Jesus. But, who are the “others” we are overseeing?
Those earthly humans who trusted in Christ during the Tribulation will live on past the battle of Armageddon described in Revelation 19. I call them “Future Millennials.” They will be mortal humans dealing with the whole change of rulers. But, all the new rulers will always do the right thing. Can you imagine that? Perfect servant-leaders starting at the top with Jesus.
King Jesus will reign over a partially restored earth.
Jesus will reign over an Earth that is restored in some ways to its original created state. Here are some of those good things we can think about:
- Isaiah tells us that animals will revert back to being vegetarian. Animals and people will not fear one another so there will be no fierce, violent and dangerous creatures.
- Future Millennials will marry and have babies. They will live to be well over 100 years again. Never will a baby or child die. Only the wicked will die early.
- People will build houses, plant crops, and eat well. They will work and enjoy the benefits. Work will be a pleasure.
- Needs will be addressed immediately because God says in Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”
- There is no reason to think there won’t be cars, planes, computers, roads, buildings, gardens, and places to decorate and make beautiful.
- Worship will be awesome and focus on Jesus in Jerusalem. Technology could make that possible across the planet. That worship will include resurrected humans and mortal humans.
- All will call on Jesus’ name together meaning there’s probably one language again. Hooray!
- King Jesus will reign over us in our new bodies, also. Our bodies were designed by God for life on planet Earth. Not to live in heaven, but to live on this Earth. Isn’t that interesting?
From Revelation 20:6, we know this,
“…they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6)
Resurrected saints will serve as priests in the Kingdom. Will the resurrected saints be the ones teaching the mortal humans all about who Jesus is and how to live dependently on Him? Will there be Bible studies? Scripture says everyone will have knowledge of the Lord in the Kingdom. Perhaps God will use us as messengers. We will also be reigning with Jesus. That means administering justice and order and whatever else He needs us to do.
The mortal humans will still have freedom of choice.
The Future Millennials who are mortal humans will still have the freedom of choice that God originally gave Adam and Eve. What does human freedom look like in an environment without the devil or demons or the world system influencing them? What does freedom look like where the Healer will be healing and extending life way beyond our experience now? The Creator will be overruling some of sin’s effects on His creation. How will that affect human thinking? The Judge will be exercising perfect justice. And, the King will not tolerate oppression.
But, as mortal humans, the Future Millennials will still have the sin nature, what the Bible calls the flesh. According to Revelation 20, Satan and his demons are bound up for the 1000 years so they cannot deceive anyone. If anyone chooses to rebel against the King, it’s because of his/her own lusts. No one can blame the world or the devil. And, justice will be swift.
At the end of the 1000 years, Satan will be released. He’ll instigate a rebellion among non-believing mortals and finally be defeated. Yes, some of those babies born during the Millennium will grow up into adults who will not submit to Jesus’ rule. Doesn’t it baffle you that anyone living under Jesus’ perfect rule in an almost perfect world would rebel against Him? That’s how strong the sin nature is. They will lose the presence of the Lord just as Paul described in 2 Thessalonians 2:10, “They refused to love the truth and so be saved.” Very sad to know people will reject Jesus with Him in their very sight, doing everything that any human has ever wanted God to do. Of course, if you’ve read Exodus through Deuteronomy, you see that happening with God’s constant visible presence before the Israelites, too.
Life forever on a new earth—a fully restored creation
After that time, God’s Heaven comes to a newly restored Earth. The Bible calls God’s new dwelling place the “New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21-22). Just to visualize the size of this New Jerusalem, picture a gleaming city that extends from Dallas, Texas to the west coast of California and all the way up to the border with Canada. Absolutely beautiful. I consider this moving up. It’s going to be so gorgeous and so perfect. It’s okay to imagine what it would be like to live there or come and go from there as we enjoy the rest of the new earth. It gives my heart joy to think about that.
When it comes to heaven, we probably have a lot more questions than answers at this time. I remember reading Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven a few years ago, reading it twice because I enjoyed his approach so much. He didn’t cover the Millennial Kingdom at all. Rather, he covered questions anyone might ask about living on the new earth. So, to find out more about the Kingdom, you can pick up John Walvoord’s The Millenial Kingdom book or access his articles here on Bible.org (the one on the “Social and Economic Aspects” really intrigues me) and do some studying on your own. It’s okay to think more about what it will be like if Jesus is ruling this whole planet from Jerusalem.
Our “Heaven on Earth” living begins now.
One thing I know for sure. If we are living life today as though Jesus were our King ruling on earth, living dependently on Him each day, considering His presence and His will throughout the day (not just in the morning or evening), we will be a whole lot closer to understanding what real Kingdom living is all about.
For us, the hope of heaven should transform our perspective on death. Does it for you? The Scriptures nowhere teach that we are immune from the sorrow that death can bring, or that we should deny its reality. But in Christ, we share in His victory over death! We grieve, but not as those who have no hope. Rather, we are free to be certain of our reunion with loved ones who have gone before, of receiving a glorious body that will never weaken or decay, of entering a wonderful new life beyond our fondest dreams, and of forever being with this Lord we love and who loves us perfectly!
But, there’s a lot of living to come between now and then as we move around here, then move out to our new bodies, and move back to planet Earth with our King Jesus. When Heaven comes to Earth.
The process of dying isn’t easy. Both my parents struggled with cancer before they died. But, we can trust our God to provide grace for us when the time comes, when we need it. And, He will.
We shouldn’t long to escape this life. Yes, there’s something great to anticipate in our future. But, the point is not to escape from Earth and find oneself at last in Heaven, Instead, we are to let God’s ‘heavenly’ life change our earthly reality. We do that through His power in us—the power that also raised Jesus from the dead. Our freedom begins now, and we have a lot of living ahead of us.
John Walvoord’s The Millenial Kingdom articles here on Bible.org
Perspective Bible Study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians:
- Read the older version online.
- Get the revised version here.
Death Swallowed Up in Victory articles
Two lessons on the Kingdom and New Earth: