Thursday, May 19, 2022

Apocalyptic? #41: New Heaven and New Earth

What will our existence in the world to come be like?  Kenneth Burke analyzes human activity in terms of a Dramatistic Pentad.  The word pentad means “five (as in a pentagon—a five-angled or five-sided shape) perspectives or motives” that are found in all human action.  The word dramatistic indicates that we see all five of these motives whenever we watch a “drama” performed at the theater.  The five terms are scene, act, agent, agency, and purpose.  They correspond to the one-word questions Who (agent), What (act), When/Where (scene), Why (purpose), and How (agency)?  All acts (things the performers [or agents] do) occur within some scene, the backdrop for the drama. The various props (or agencies) the performers use to complete their acts are also found within each scene.  No performer/agent performs an act in the drama without some purpose in mind.  Otherwise, the drama seems to be pointless.  Why (purpose) did Colonel Mustard (agent) kill (act) Mr. Boddy in the kitchen (scene) with a knife (agency)?  Do you even have a Clue®?  😊  We need all five terms to understand what is happening in the drama.  Let’s now consider these five perspectives as we view Revelation’s description of life in the New Heaven and New Earth.



When God promises a new creation, there are elements of His older creation scene that He preserves.  By using the terms “new heaven and new earth (21:1),” there remains the sense of a cosmos or universe similar to our own.  Revelation promises a “scene” for future existence that, at the very least, “resembles” the scene in which we currently exist.  Perhaps, it is even the same scene we currently have, but purged of every curse.  Revelation 22:3 (NKJV) says: “And there shall be no more curse.” There was nothing at all wrong with this scene as God originally designed it in Genesis until Adam and Eve sinned and the world was cursed on their account.  God declares on each of the six days of creation that his work is either “good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25) or very good” (Genesis 1:31).  Ever wanted to see the world or even to travel through space?  Your new, immortal body will be like Christ’s (Philippians 3:20-21); surely, you will be capable of encountering such scenes.  Jesus’ body was capable of appearing in an instant in various locations where the door was locked and of ascending up into the heavens.

Just as there are elements of His older creation scene that God preserves, there are also elements of His older creation that He eliminates: 

1.                  No Sea.  (21:1).  Perhaps, this implies the elimination of any safe haven for the Dragon (Leviathan, at the shore of the sea) and/or the Beast who came up out of the sea (13:1).  This detail may, therefore, be symbolic.  It is possible that the seas will continue to exist in the new Earth.  To where else would the river/fountain of the water of life (21:6) flow?  But then, the River of Life may, itself, be symbolic.  See below.

2.                  No tears, death, sorrow, crying, or pain.  (21:4).  These are all curses and “corporal stresses” that are eliminated, as discussed in Apocalyptic? #8.

3.                  No curse (22:3).  Death, pain in childbearing, and a curse on the ground were the major curses from Eden, thus, “corporal stresses.”

4.                  No cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, dogs, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars; they are cast into the Lake of Fire (21:8, 27; 22:15).  With this list of characters absent from the New Heavens and New Earth, God eliminates this possibility of “community stress” from having to interact with these types.  Citizens of the New Jerusalem will not have to encounter these individuals any more:

·         Cowards stand in contrast to the “conquerors” who were willing to die for Christ.  Unlike the conquerors, the cowards continually shrank back and hid or denied their Christianity in order to save their own physical lives (and/or their incomes). 

·         Unbelievers refers to those who heard the message about Jesus, but continually refused to believe it.  (Would atheists be included, here?)

·         The Abominable refers to those who continue to commit certain very detestable sins that are called, in the Law of Moses, “abominations.”  Not every sin was called an “abomination,” but the following sins were explicitly called abominations:   [a.]  offering your children to Molech (Deuteronomy 12:31 and 18:10-12—compare to modern-day abortion),  [b.]  having sex with a man as you would with a woman (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, 23:18),  [c.]  witchcraft/divination (Deuteronomy 18:10-12),  [d.]  women wearing men’s clothing and men wearing women’s clothing (Deuteronomy 22:5),  [e.]  prostitution whether by males or females (Deuteronomy 23:18—“dogs” were actually male prostitutes),  [f.]  remarrying a wife you have divorced after she has married someone else (Deuteronomy 24:4; perhaps, God was attempting here to protect the sanctity of the new marriage from the incursion of the former spouse),  [g.]  (merchants) using differing measuring scales in order to cheat customers (Deuteronomy 25:16),  [h.]  and worshiping idols (Deuteronomy 27:15 and elsewhere).  These types of activities were practiced in the religious activities of the nations of Canaan that God was expelling before Israel.  Leviticus 18:25-30 says, “You shall not commit any abominations . . .The men of the land that lies before you have committed all of these abominations, and the land is defiled.”

·         Murderers.  Those who kill their own children are not the only murderers, of course.

·         The Sexually Immoral (those practicing porneia) refers to the prostitutes mentioned above and below as “abominations,” as well as other sexual sins.

·         Dogs.  Deuteronomy 23:18 also calls “dogs” [male prostitutes] an “abomination” similar to female prostitutes (see above).  Perhaps, the name “dogs” came from some often-embarrassing activity of male dogs, interacting with humans.

·         Sorcerers.  The Greek word for the practice is “pharmakeia” from which we get the English term “pharmacy.”  Drugs (pharmaceuticals) were used to induce strange experiences for non-medical purposes, as they are today, whether or not sorcery is involved.  The divination/sorcery (mentioned above) was also called an abomination.

·         Idolaters are also very frequently listed as an abomination (see above).

·         Liars.  Those who feel they are not guilty of the activities of other types of individuals found in the Lake of Fire might still have some conscientious stress (feel guilty) concerning this one.  For example, did I lie when I told my children there was an Easter Bunny?  Besides the three passages mentioning that liars will be in the Lake of Fire, John in Revelation only uses the “lying” terminology two other times.  Once, in Revelation 14:5, John says that no “lie” is to be found in the mouths of the 144,000, for they are without fault before the throne of God.  Perhaps, all of their untruths—including the Easter Bunny thing—have been forgiven and, thus, they stand without fault.  The only other time John (and Jesus) calls someone a “liar” in Revelation is in 2:2, where Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for “test[ing] those who say they are apostles and are not, and [finding] them liars.”  I rather suspect that John had this weightier accusation of “liars” in mind as he compiled the Lake of Fire list.  That is to say, lying in matters of consequence would be the important factor.  When the serpent told Eve, “You shall not surely die,” it was a matter of grave consequence.  When the Ten Commandments say “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” they imply a type of court scene where witnesses perjure themselves, causing grave consequences.  When false apostles (and false prophets) lie about themselves and their messages, it is a matter of grave consequence.  What is clear in the false apostles’ example is that there will be “so-called” Christian leaders who find themselves cast into the Lake of Fire.


Besides God and Jesus, the agents in the New Heavens and New Earth will be Christians (which term I will use from here on out for all whose names are in the Lamb’s book of life (21:27), the New Jerusalem, the bride of the Lamb (21:2).  As I explained in Apocalyptic? #8, their new nature will be different from the “cursed” nature that followed the Fall.  After the Fall, humans experienced every kind of stress (corporal, competence, community, confusion, conscientious, chrono, and cash stresses).  Now, John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no stress at all.  Described as a “city” that comes down out of heaven from God, this list of Christians’ attributes seems more symbolic than literal, however.  What many confuse as a description of the scene of our existence is actually a description of the perfection of God’s people:

a.                   Shaped like a huge Holy of Holies (21:16).  It is a perfect cube; the measurement would be in cubic miles rather than square miles, as a city on earth now might be measured.  Its width, length, and height are each 1380 miles (=12,000 stadia), whereas, the width, length, and height of the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple were each 20 cubits (II Chronicles 3:8).  This symbolism suggests that the Christians will now be the dwelling place of God, just as his presence was seen to dwell in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and temple.  New Jerusalem, unlike the old Jerusalem, has no temple, for God and the Lamb are its temple (21:22).  There will be no community stress between Christians and God.  There is no separating wall.

b.                  Containing the Tree of Life (22:2).  This symbolism suggests that the Christians will have access to the Tree of Life (from Eden), and hence, will live forever.  There will be no chrono stress.

c.                   Containing the River (Fountain) of the Water of Life (21:6, 22:1).  This symbolism suggests that, as Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”  This is another reference to the eternal life of the Christians.  Again, there will be no chrono stress

d.                  Having as her light, the Shekinah/Glory of God and the Lamb (21:11, 23; 22:5).  What light is brighter than the Sun and every star in the universe?  The Shekinah.  It totally illuminates even the darkness.  No confusion stress; we will know all things.

e.                   Having great high walls (1380 miles high) with twelve gates on which were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12-13).  City walls are for the protection of those who dwell inside the city.  This symbolism suggests that, since the height, like the width and length, is 1380 miles (=12,000 stadia), there is perfect “protection and safety” for the Christians (including those Jews represented by the “twelve tribes of Israel”).  There will be no corporal or community stress.

f.                    Having twelve foundations for the wall on which were written the names of the twelve apostles (21:14).   The apostles’ doctrine (New Testament) is the foundation or basis for the Christians’ existence.  There is no confusion stress; we know the truth.

g.                  Having precious stones adorning the twelve foundations for the wall-- jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst—no doubt, corresponding to the twelve stones on the high priest’s breastplate, worn whenever approaching the Shekinah. (21:19-20).  This symbolism suggests that Christians collectively are the high priests who can enter into the presence of God.  Revelation 20:6 (NKJV) says that Christians “shall be priests of God and of Christ.”  There will be no competence stress.

h.                  Having “pearly gates” (21:21)—each gate was a pearl—along with having “streets of gold” (21:21).  These are not descriptions of the scene in which we will act; they are descriptions of the beauty and worth of Christ’s bride.  To say the least, however, Christians will have no “cash stress.”  To corroborate, John even says that the New Jerusalem will hold the glory of the nations in it (21:24-26). 



By definition, an act is something one does, purposefully, of his/her own free will and accord.  Gone will be the times of the evil inclination in the human heart, so whatever one does will be within the will of God. The specific act of humans mentioned in Revelation is “reigning” (22:5).  This seems like the same activity given to man in the first creation, before the Fall.  Genesis 1:27-30 (NKJV) states: God created man in His own image . . . male and female He created them . . . and God said to them . . . have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”  Such “activity” as reigning and having dominion implies complete freedom.  Without the physical restrictions, even of time and location, Christians may well be able to explore all parts of the universe, to engage with the plant and animal worlds as Adam and Eve did, and to interact with all other Christians from every generation (as God saw that Adam needed Eve with whom to interact) as well as with God and Jesus. 


Incidentally, Jesus says that there will be no more marriage when we rise from the dead (Mark 12:25), but that doesn’t mean that we won’t interact with our loved ones from our earthly experience.  We need each other socially (although “socially” is still too weak a term to express our intense interaction needs), as God saw when He created Eve, and as God Himself probably felt when He created man, in the first place.  Adam and Eve certainly interacted before they sinned and ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Only after they ate did they notice that they were naked and were only then told to be fruitful and multiply.  Sex (and reproduction) was a consolation prize for having lost eternal life.  Since we will have regained eternal life, there will be no further need for the consolation prize of reproduction and sex.  Some portions of Islam differ from Christianity partly in the sense that some Muslims look forward to sexual gratification in paradise (72 virgins), and Christians are not thus obsessed with sexual gratification.

                   The picture often painted by preachers of the entirety of human activity being spent eternally singing “Holy, Holy, Holy!” and “Worthy are God Almighty and the Lamb” (while there will automatically be that kind of activity as part of our interaction with God and Jesus) was largely drawn from Revelation 5 and 6.  Those chapters were designed to depict God’s and the Lamb’s united rulership over the cosmos during this world, not a picture of the New Heaven and New Earth.



New existence will, almost certainly, call for new agencies, the methods by which acts are performed.  These agencies will exist primarily within the capabilities of the glorified bodies inherited by Christians.  Since communication and creativity are parts of the image of God humans were given at Creation, there will certainly be communication and may well continue to be creative agencies employed by Christians.


            On pages 41-42 of my book The Logic of Christianity, I wrote:

What PURPOSE would motivate [God] an AGENT capable of ACTING to create and sustain life forms through the AGENCY of LOGOS to do so?

Abraham Maslow might term such a PURPOSIVE motive as “self-actualization.” . . . [God] created logically-reproducing life forms “because [He] could.”  And, given the existence of human AGENTS who are capable of ACTION, themselves, we must assume that this self-actualization PURPOSE extended to the desire/PURPOSE of creating and sustaining other AGENTS who (like [Himself]) were also capable of ACTION, COMMUNICATION, and forms of CREATION.  From Maslow’s motivational theory, we see that motives include not only the ultimate motive of self-actualization, but also the social motive.  If the LOGOS could create a being, similar to [Himself], capable of ACTION and COMMUNICATION, that LOGOS must also have a SOCIAL PURPOSE/motive.  . . .  SOCIAL  PURPOSE  motivated  the  AGENT [God]  to  create  a  CREATIVE, COMMUNICATIVE, ACTION-BASED life form [mankind] with which [God] LOGOS THE AGENT could communicate.

If God has a social purpose and His created humans have a social purpose, it only makes sense that the primary purpose for our activity in the New Heaven and New Earth will be to interact and communicate with God, Jesus, and our fellow citizens of the New Jerusalem.



            My goal in writing Apocalyptic Apologetic:  Nails in the Coffin of Atheism was not to condemn atheists to the Lake of Fire or to gloat that those whose continual “acts”—however cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderous, sexually immoral, dog-like, drug-related, idolatrous, or false—might secure their part in the fiery Lake.  It was (as I believe John’s was in writing Revelation) to demonstrate in history the trustworthiness of biblical apocalyptic prophecy and to warn, and thus, divert those prone to practicing such acts from the Lake of Fire.  Atheists who take solace in the possibility presented in the previous post that annihilation (rather than eternal torment) might await them should instead take note in this final post (of the much more positive motivation):  all the things they will be missing in the New Heavens and New Earth . . . and repent.  I don’t want you to be annihilated.  I really want to see you and interact with you there!