The Bible begins with the story of the earth’s creation (Genesis 1; 2). It describes a beautiful and harmonious world entrusted to our first parents, Adam and Eve. It was perfect. The Bible’s last two chapters mirror the perfection of the Genesis Creation account and speak of God creating a perfect and harmonious world for redeemed humanity (Revelation 21; 22). This time, however, it is more accurate to say re-creation—the restoration of the earth from the ravages of sin.
In many places, the Bible announces that the eternal home of the redeemed will be a real place, not an imaginary land. The redeemed will be able to see, hear, smell, touch, and feel a new experience, a new life.
Isaiah 11:1–10 beautifully foretells the coming of the Messiah, who will create this new era. He will eradicate all violence and usher in a new peace. At the present time, the Christian church is splintered into denominations, sects, and movements, but in the end, God will remove the walls that divide us. The reign of God on this new earth will reestablish universal harmony.
One of the greatest joys the redeemed will experience on the new earth is the presence of God. He will dwell on the earth with the saints and, by virtue of the plan of salvation, enjoy the much-anticipated reunion with humanity. At last, there will be no more sin—no more barriers between God and His friends. The relationship suspended in the Garden of Eden after the entrance of sin (Genesis 3:8, 22–24) will be fully restored on the new earth. This is the first step in the final restoration—harmony and unity reestablished in the entire universe.
resurrection and restored relationships
From the church’s earliest days, the promise of Christ’s return has, perhaps more than anything else, sustained the hearts of God’s faithful people during times of trials. Whatever their struggles, whatever their inconsolable sorrows and pain, they had hope in Christ’s return and all the wonderful promises associated with the Second Advent.
Christ’s second coming will affect all humanity in profound ways. An important aspect of the establishment of God’s kingdom is the gathering of His people—the elect. “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31).1 At the moment of this gathering, the righteous dead will be resurrected and receive immortality (1 Corinthians 15:52, 53). The dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16). This is the moment so many have been waiting for. The resurrected righteous will reunite with those who have been longing for their presence and love. The diseased, aged, and disfigured bodies that went down to the grave will be raised as new, immortal, and perfect bodies, no longer marked by sin and decay. They will experience the completion of Christ’s work of restoration, perfectly reflecting the image of God intended at Creation (Genesis 1:26; 1 Corinthians 15:46–49).
At the moment of Jesus’ second advent, when the redeemed dead are resurrected, the righteous who are alive on earth will be changed and given new, perfect bodies too. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). These two groups of the resurrected and transformed righteous “shall be caught up together . . . in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
a new earth for the redeemed
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; / And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17). Both Isaiah and John (Revelation 21:1) saw in vision the promised new earth. Among the many new things shown to them in these visions, one of particular interest is the restoration of unity at the tree of life, which Adam lost because of his transgression (Genesis 3:22–24). Christ will restore this tree in the New Jerusalem, and access to it is one of the promises to those who overcome (Revelation 2:7). It could be that “twelve fruits,” a new kind each month (Revelation 22:2), suggests a reason why Isaiah describes the new earth like this: “ ‘From one New Moon to another, / And from one Sabbath to another, / All flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 66:23). The reference to the “healing of the nations” in Revelation 22:2 also underscores God’s intent to remove all barriers between people and restore humanity to its original purpose: one undivided family, living in harmony and peace, united in giving glory to God.
Theologian Ranko Stefanovic fittingly unpacks the meaning of this promise: “ ‘The healing of the nations’ refers figuratively to the removal of all national and linguistic barriers and separation. . . . The leaves of the tree of life heal the breaches between nations. The nations are no longer ‘gentiles’ but are united into one family as the true people of God (cf. [Revelation] 21:24–26). What Micah anticipated centuries earlier is now being fulfilled: ‘Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid’ ([Micah] 4:3–4; cf. [Isaiah] 2:4). There on the banks of the river of life the redeemed wil ‘invite his neighbor to sit’ ([Zechariah] 3:10) with him under the tree of life. The curing quality of the leaves of the tree will heal all wounds—racial, ethnic, tribal, or linguistic—that have torn and divided humanity for ages.”2
life on the new earth
Two other prophecies of Isaiah tell of the great expectations the redeemed can anticipate on the new earth. In Isaiah 35:4–10, the renewed kingdom of God brings a total transformation of nature and healing of diseases and sickness. Salvation results in joy and peace. Harmony is the new reality of God’s kingdom. Several passages in Isaiah describe something new: “new things” (Isaiah 42:9; 48:6), “a new song” (Isaiah 42:10), “a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19), and “a new name” (Isaiah 62:2). God will make all things new. Isaiah 65:21–25 also describes a new order. There is peace and harmony among all God’s creatures. The covenant curses on the land for disobedience and rebellion (Leviticus 26:20–22; Deuteronomy 28:18, 42, 51) will be canceled forever because sin is no more. Instead, there will be houses, food, and an abundance of blessings.
What will life be like in such a beautiful place? Some wonder if, after our bodies receive immortality and are fully restored into God’s image, we will be able to recognize our friends and family. After Christ’s resurrection, His disciples were able to recognize Him. Mary recognized His voice when He said her name ( John 20:11–16). Thomas recognized Jesus’ physical appearance (verses 27, 28). The two disciples from Emmaus recognized His mannerisms (Luke 24:30, 31, 35). So, if our bodies will be similar to Jesus’ resurrected body, we will certainly be able to recognize each other, and we can look forward to an eternity of restored relationships with one another. We can safely assume we will continue relationships with those we know and love.
“There the redeemed shall know, even as also they are known. The loves and sympathies which God Himself has planted in the soul shall there find truest and sweetest exercise. The pure communion with holy beings, the harmonious social life with the blessed angels and with the faithful ones of all ages who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, the sacred ties that bind together ‘the whole family in heaven and earth’ (Ephesians 3:15)—these help to constitute the happiness of the redeemed.”3
Paul’s words to the Corinthians are a fitting conclusion: “Therefore, we do not lose heart. . . . For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).
The Bible speaks confidently of the moment when this earth will be re-created and the ravages of sin erased. At long last, humanity will be restored to its original purpose, and all people will live in harmony. Our current spiritual oneness will then be a living and eternal reality. This is our hope in Christ.
Denis Fortin is a professor of theology at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
1. Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version.
2. Ranko Stefanovic, Revelation of Jesus Christ, 2nd ed. (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2009), 604, 605.
3. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press®, 1911), 677.