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Beyond the Millennium

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We have seen that Jesus Christ, assisted by His faithful servants, will transform the world after His return to earth. But, even after this 1,000-year reign of peace and prosperity, much important work lies ahead.

Jesus spoke of a time when the people of all nations would gather before Him. Why? So He can “separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32 Matthew 25:32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats:
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).

Notice the nature and result of this separation: “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ ” (Matthew 25:33-34 Matthew 25:33-34 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
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). “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’…These will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41-46 Matthew 25:41-46 41 Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
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).

How will this happen? Who will be involved in this judgment? Notice how Jesus Christ will perform the process of separating the wicked from the righteous. At the beginning of His reign He begins to judge between the nations, teaching them to turn from evil to righteousness (Isaiah 2:4 Isaiah 2:4And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
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).

Satan released for a short time

Also, the apostle John in Revelation describes his vision of the transition to Christ’s reign in which he saw that an angel “seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil, or Satan, and chained him up … till the thousand years were ended.” However, this is not the end of Satan’s role in human affairs, because “after that he must be let loose for a little while” (Revelation 20:2-3 Revelation 20:2-3 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
American King James Version×
, REB).

Notice what happens at the end of the Millennium: “When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be let loose from his prison, and he will come out to seduce the nations in the four quarters of the earth. He will muster them for war, the hosts of Gog and Magog, countless as the sands of the sea. They marched up over the breadth of the land and laid siege to the camp of God’s people and the city He loves. But fire came down on them from heaven and consumed them. Their seducer, the Devil, was flung into the lake of fire and sulfur …” (Revelation 20:7-10 Revelation 20:7-10 7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. 10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
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, REB).

Why would God release Satan to again seduce people after the wonderful 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ? Though no specific explanation is given, a logical reason for this turn of events seems evident.

During the Millennium people will have the choice of only one way of life—the way Christ teaches them. Many generations will grow up without ever being exposed to any other way of life.

From the beginning, however, God has always allowed people to choose between good and evil (Deuteronomy 30:19 Deuteronomy 30:19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
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). It would be a mistake to believe that no one born during the Millennium would ever choose the ways of Satan if the opportunity were available.

We can see from the events described in Revelation 20 that God will make that choice available to many people who will live during that 1,000-year era. It is also reasonable to believe that some of them will respond to Satan’s intrigue and choose his selfish, rebellious ways over the cooperative and loving ways of God.

Sufficient numbers of people will make this choice to form a sizable army. “They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (Revelation 20:9 Revelation 20:9And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
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, NIV).

God has always tested His people to see what is in their hearts (Deuteronomy 8:2 Deuteronomy 8:2And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or no.
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; 1 Thessalonians 2:4 1 Thessalonians 2:4But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which tries our hearts.
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; Hebrews 11:17 Hebrews 11:17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
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). We should not assume that those living during the Millennium will be treated differently. This will be a test that at least some of them will have to face. No doubt all who live during that 1,000 years will have the opportunity to see whether they will be faithful to God and His ways. The only example revealed to us, however, is that God will release Satan for a time.

Once this test is over, Satan will never again be allowed to deceive anyone.

The general resurrection of the dead

Now the greatest judgment of all must begin. As we read earlier, at Jesus Christ’s return only His faithful saints will be resurrected. Prophecy reveals that “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:5 Revelation 20:5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
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). Another resurrection will take place after the Millennium!

The enormity of this event is difficult to convey, and its significance is hard to imagine. What is to happen to the unsaved billions of people who have ever lived? What is this time of judgment all about?

Now is the time for all other people— all those who lived from Adam’s time up to the generation living into the Millennium at Christ’s return—to learn the truth of God and enjoy the same opportunity for salvation given to those whom God called during the Millennium. They will all be raised from the dead with a marvelous opportunity to know God for the first time!

First, notice the description and setting of this resurrection: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it …” (Revelation 20:11 Revelation 20:11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
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).

John, in vision, then witnessed an astounding sight: “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” (Revelation 20:12 Revelation 20:12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
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).

This is the resurrection of the “rest of the dead” mentioned earlier. In his vision John saw them stand before God’s throne.

What does this mean? We must let the Bible explain itself. But first we need to understand the implication of certain critical words and expressions.

The word judgment does not have to imply a condemnation to death. It can just as well refer to an acquittal, the determination that a person should not be punished. Judgment is simply a process to decide who deserves a punishment or reward and who does not. The judgment described in Revelation 20 is just that—a separation of the wicked and the righteous. Some will be punished, but many more will have their names entered into the Book of Life.

What are the criteria for this judgment? Two factors are involved. These people are judged “by the things which were written in the books” and “according to their works” (Revelation 20:12 Revelation 20:12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
American King James Version×
). The Greek word translated “books,” biblion, apparently refers here to the books in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Those in this resurrection are judged by the biblical criteria for righteousness.

Now, what “works” of theirs must be judged? This is important to understand.

The reason these people did not appear in the first resurrection is that they were not among the firstfruits who were first called, taught the truth of God and then judged to be worthy of eternal life in that earlier resurrection. God did not choose to call them to salvation in the previous age of man, when Peter spoke of conversion in terms of “as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39 Acts 2:39For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
American King James Version×
). Contrary to popular belief, today is not the only day of salvation: “Now is … a day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2 2 Corinthians 6:2(For he said, I have heard you in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored you: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
American King James Version×
, Young’s Literal Translation).

In many cases these people’s past works would count against them. But other passages in the Bible explain that they will not be judged on past performance alone. They will be resurrected and given opportunity and time to repent and demonstrate their willingness to obey God. After all, most of these billions of resurrected men, women and children will have never known the true God or even heard of Jesus Christ and the Bible.

People from all human eras resurrected

Notice that Jesus says the people of His generation will rise in this resurrection along with people from other ages and other nations: “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42 Matthew 12:42The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
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).

Jesus stated that “the queen of the South”—better known as the queen of Sheba, who lived in Solomon’s time almost 1,000 years earlier—will be resurrected to life again with those who heard Christ preach in His day!

“And you, Capernaum, … if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day … It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:23-24 Matthew 11:23-24 23 And you, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.
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). Here Jesus said that those who had lived in Sodom—who were destroyed for their notorious depravity almost 2,000 years earlier—will be more willing to accept and obey Christ “in the day of judgment” than Jesus’ own contemporaries.

This will be a truly remarkable time when people of all eras and nations are brought back to life to learn God’s truth for the first time. Contrary to the common religious belief that people who have never heard of Christ are condemned to hell or purgatory at death, the Bible reveals that all will have the opportunity to choose whether they will learn God’s way, repent and receive God’s gift of eternal life.

Details of this great resurrection

What will happen when these people come back to life for this time of judgment? The prophet Ezekiel gives us the answer. In a vision he sees a huge valley full of dried bones, all that remained of many long-dead people (Ezekiel 37:1-2 Ezekiel 37:1-2 1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the middle of the valley which was full of bones, 2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, see, they were very dry.
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). He is told, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel . They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’” (Ezekiel 37:11 Ezekiel 37:11Then he said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
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).

Like most people, they probably believed that when a sinner dies all hope is lost for him. Through Ezekiel’s dramatic vision, God corrects that false idea.

Here is what God reveals concerning this great mass of people who died without repentance: “ ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and … you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,’ says the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:12-14 Ezekiel 37:12-14 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, Thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, said the LORD.
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).

The purpose of this resurrection is to make God’s Spirit available to these people so they can live, not to condemn or destroy them. Remember that “God our Savior … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 1 Timothy 2:3-4 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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).

This resurrection will make God’s fervent desire possible. It will open the door so all people who have ever lived can be taught the truth and receive the opportunity to repent so they, too, can be saved.

This means that the judgment of that day will take time, enough time for people to change their lives, sufficient time for them to show clear evidence of repentance and prove themselves faithful to God.

Of course, patience is God’s nature. He is also merciful. That is why Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
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). In His master plan of salvation, God has scheduled a time and opportunity for repentance for everyone.

God’s judgment is complete

Any time of judgment involves decisions. At the end of this judgment period God will separate the last of the wicked from the righteous and destroy the wicked forever: “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 20:13-15 Revelation 20:13-15 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
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).

Unlike those raised to immortality in the first resurrection (Revelation 20:6 Revelation 20:6Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
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; 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 50 Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
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), the people in this resurrection are restored initially to physical, fleshly existence (Ezekiel 37:4-10 Ezekiel 37:4-10 4 Again he said to me, Prophesy on these bones, and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live: 6 And I will lay sinews on you, and will bring up flesh on you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD. 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. 8 And when I beheld, see, the sinews and the flesh came up on them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. 9 Then said he to me, Prophesy to the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus said the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live. 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceeding great army.
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). They are mortal, given temporary life with an opportunity to repent and choose God’s way of life. Those in this resurrection who choose that way and ultimately remain faithful to Him will be given immortal spirit life in God’s family, joining those in the first resurrection.

Some, however, will still refuse to repent and submit to God. They are subject to “the second death.” Notice who will suffer this fate in the lake of fire: “The cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8 Revelation 21:8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
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).

This second death will be complete destruction from which no resurrection is possible. As Jesus Himself explained, all who do not repent will perish (Luke 13:2-5 Luke 13:2-5 2 And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
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). The prophet Malachi explained the finality of this destruction: “ ‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘that will leave them neither root nor branch’ ” (Malachi 4:1 Malachi 4:1For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, said the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
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).

Even in this, God is merciful. Rather than allowing some to live on in a life of sin and rebellion that will bring only sorrow and anguish to themselves and those around them, God will simply remove any source of potential suffering. Those who willingly refuse to repent and choose eternal life will be utterly destroyed, reduced to nothing but ashes (Malachi 4:3 Malachi 4:3And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, said the LORD of hosts.
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). This is a far more merciful and loving fate than that represented by the common misconception of the unrepentant tortured forever in an ever-burning hell. (To better understand this biblical truth, be sure to download or request our free booklets What Happens After Death? and Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? )

A new heaven and a new earth

John’s vision does not end with the lake of fire. He writes of what follows: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1 Revelation 21:1And 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.
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).

The last two chapters of the book of Revelation present the vision the apostle John received of a marvelous renewal of heaven and earth. Who will inherit this “new heaven and new earth”? John quotes God giving the answer: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7 Revelation 21:7He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
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).

These “children of God,…heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17 Romans 8:17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
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), will become like Jesus Christ is today (1 John 3:1-2 1 John 3:1-2 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
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) as co-owners of the wonderfully renewed heaven and earth.

As the apostle Paul explained, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 Romans 8:18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
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) when we “inherit all things.”

This promised inheritance is made possible through Jesus Christ, “for whom are all things and by whom are all things,” who plays a central role “in bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10 Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
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).

Paul comments on the nature of the glory we are destined to inherit: “The sun has a splendour of its own, the moon another splendour, and the stars yet another; and one star differs from another in brightness. So it is with the resurrection of the dead: what is sown as a perishable thing is raised imperishable. Sown in humiliation, it is raised in glory; sown in weakness, it is raised in power; sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:41-44 1 Corinthians 15:41-44 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differs from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
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, REB).

The new heaven and new earth will be populated with the children of God who are miraculously changed into immortal spirit beings (1 Corinthians 15:51-54 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
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).

The eternal family of God

The next thing John sees in his vision is a city, New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven as a gift from God. The city is described as “a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2 Revelation 21:2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
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), a description that emphasizes the relationship of its inhabitants. It represents the eternal household or community of the children of God. The husband, or bridegroom, is Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:1 Matthew 25:1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
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), who is “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29 Romans 8:29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
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).

God the Father Himself dwells among them: “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3 Revelation 21:3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
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). This community is God’s family.

Residents of this city are the true “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16 Galatians 6:16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.
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). “Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” (Revelation 21:12 Revelation 21:12And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
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).

In other words, they are the spiritual descendants of Abraham,”the father of all those who believe” (Romans 4:11 Romans 4:11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed to them also:
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; compare Galatians 3:29 Galatians 3:29And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
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). For “by faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance … He dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10 Hebrews 11:8-10 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
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).

The huge dimensions of the city indicate the awesome success Jesus Christ will have in bringing the overwhelming majority of people who have ever lived to repentance and salvation. “The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs [1,500 miles, or 2,500 kilometers]. Its length, breadth, and height are equal” (Revelation 21:16 Revelation 21:16And the city lies foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
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).

God reveals here that the number of people who will come to repentance and receive eternal life will be like the stars in the heavens and the sand on the seashore—beyond the natural ability of any human being to count them. This is the blessing God promised to Abraham (Genesis 22:17 Genesis 22:17That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
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).

The vision the apostle John received of this magnificent city provides us with a visual illustration of the family God is creating. God dwells in the midst of this city of His immortal, spirit children.

Another paradise

The biblical account of man begins in the Garden of Eden at the head of four rivers. In the midst of that garden God placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:8-15 Genesis 2:8-15 8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it was parted, and became into four heads. 11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasses the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. 13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasses the whole land of Ethiopia. 14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goes toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. 15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
American King James Version×
). Satan, the great deceiver, first persuaded Eve to sin, then Adam joined her. As a result of their rebellion against God’s instruction, Adam and Eve chose to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—a deadly mixture that has brought suffering and anguish to mankind ever since (Genesis 3:1-6 Genesis 3:1-6 1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. 4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die: 5 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
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).

The final chapter in the account of human destiny closes with a description of another garden. It surrounds the throne of God from which a river flows with the “water of life.”

“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” (Revelation 22:1-2 Revelation 22:1-2 1 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. 2 In the middle of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
American King James Version×
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The fruit in this paradise is good. “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” (verse 3). All sorrow and suffering will be gone forever (Revelation 21:4 Revelation 21:4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
American King James Version×
).

You can know the future

At the outset we posed a question: Must we remain ignorant of our future? Now we can see that God provides us a clear picture of our destiny. But the decision is ours. We must choose whether we will turn from the ways of Satan and this present evil world (represented in the Garden of Eden by the tree of knowledge of good and evil) to the righteous ways of God (pictured by the tree of life).

How awesome it is to know the tremendous future God has planned for us! And with that comes the responsibility to choose Him and His ways and to remain committed, considering Jesus’ words in Revelation 22:6-7 Revelation 22:6-7 6 And he said to me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show to his servants the things which must shortly be done. 7 Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keeps the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
American King James Version×
as He closes the vision of the new heaven and the new earth: “These words are faithful and true…Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

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