In this Q & A, I address the question, "Will we live in heaven or on the new earth?" This question pertains to the era of time after The End Times and Tribulation period is complete, when God washes away the old earth and heaven and makes a New Earth and New Heaven, uncorrupted from sin.
According to the Word, the answer is simple - both!
What Happens "While we wait?"
As Christians and believers who confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior, if we happen to die on earth before His Second Coming, we will be with Him in Heaven, and later after the Written events that must unfold on the Earth happen, we will then later live with Him on the New Earth, when Heaven and Earth become one, in new, perfect bodies as well, similar to His.
I know Scripture can be difficult to understand in this area, as there is no clear-cut, concise timeline, and we must read all of the Word to fully understand. Some will point to a Scripture in 1st Thessalonians which states the "...the dead in Christ shall rise first," seemingly indicating that we are simply sleeping in death and awaiting the Second Coming, which to an extent is true, but it's not the whole story - our soul still goes somewhere while we await the physical resurrection, and the Word indicates that we will be consciously aware in this state of existence as well.
This belief is based on clear Biblical teachings and testimony. The apostle Paul is one great example:
2 Corinthians 5:8 (KJV): We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
The Apostle Paul knew this and preached it - and even considering this logically, you obviously have to be somewhat consciously aware of your surroundings to enjoy death and leaving your body and being present with the Lord. This signifies that we do exist in some fashion after death with the Lord before the resurrection on the Last Day.
Many other passages can be cited in support of this view as well, and they all have the same message in common:
Paul goes into detail in 2nd Corinthians, and these verses right before the one quoted above go along with the same idea -
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (KJV): Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
In Philippians, Paul is addressing them and discusses how he is torn between his desire for both types of existence. He wants to be with the Lord and leave his body because that is infinitely better, but as he is currently in the flesh he thinks that he will miss it and miss ministering to people about Jesus because he understands the vast importance of doing that as well and getting others to see Jesus how he does:
Philippians 1:21-26 (ESV): For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
When Jesus was dying on the cross, He spoke to the criminal who believed in Him in a manner that clearly suggests some sort of alternative existence beyond the body that was going to happen rapidly as soon as he died (today):
Luke 23:43 (ESV): And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
This connects with how Paul expressed the same confidence and desire in the prior verse I shared as well (Philippians 1:23).
It is certainly clear from the Word that we will be with Jesus after we die, and Jesus is in Heaven:
Acts 3:20-21 (ESV): ...that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Heaven is where God resides:
Matthew 23:9 (ESV): And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
Heaven is also where the angels reside:
Matthew 22:30 (ESV): For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
The body and life we have now is essentially just a vessel:
2 Corinthians 5:1 (ESV): For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
When we die, we go home to be with the Lord:
2 Corinthians 5:8 (ESV): Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
So, what is Heaven, you may wonder?
Heaven is a wonderful place, where Jesus, God, and the angels reside and the Holy Spirit can move about. To call it a half-way station from our perspective and our Written journey sounds degrading, but that is sort of what it is for us personally who die before the Second Coming - but what a wonderful half-way point indeed!
Being human means having a fleshly body with limitations, that eventually gets sick and dies. But, once the New Earth is created, we will get glorified bodies that are similar to Jesus'.
For example, in 1 Corinthians, Paul compares the body that we have now to a seed and our new body that we will get in the resurrection to a plant.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44 (ESV): So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
What Will Our Resurrected Bodies Be Like?
Many have wondered this, including myself, and thankfully, the Word gives us some very literal examples of what our resurrected bodies will be like.
First, the Word teaches us that our new bodies will be like Jesus':
1 John 3:2 (ESV): Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
We can eat food, as seen how Jesus did in His resurrected body:
Luke 24:43 (ESV): and he took it and ate before them.
We will drink wine with Jesus:
Matthew 26:29 (ESV): I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”
We will be able to traverse areas spiritually, almost as if teleporting distances and through physical objects:
John 20:19-20 (NLT): Jesus Appears to His Disciples: That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!
What Happens "In the End"?
After the Last Judgment, there will be a new heaven and a new earth where we will live with our new bodies. The heavenly Jerusalem will come down from heaven and be on earth. God the Father and God the Son will be there:
Revelation 21 (ESV):
The New Heaven and the New Earth:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
The New Jerusalem
Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
As we can interpret from the first few lines, Heaven and earth will become one essentially. He sees the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven (in this sense the skies). Heaven has come to earth - hence the saying, "Heaven on Earth". This "New Earth" is where we will spend eternity with God - He will bring heaven to earth.