Are you desperately longing for Heaven? It’s a fair question. Abraham “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Abraham’s descendants “were longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16). As Christ’s followers, “we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Peter says, “we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth” (2 Peter 3:13).
But, in fact, are we? Are we actually looking forward to and longing for the world to come? This question is critical to our present lives.
For over twenty years, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating Heaven. In my novels and most of my nonfiction, Heaven plays a major role. Researching my book Heaven, I read over 150 books on the subject, many of them long out-of-print. I’ve spoken on this subject often, taught two seminary courses on eternity, and received literally thousands of letters and emails about Heaven. There’s a great deal I don’t know, but one thing I do know is what Christians think about Heaven. And how seldom we think about it.
What a contrast to the early Christians. Their pictures on the catacomb walls portrayed Heaven with beautiful landscapes, children playing, people feasting at banquets. God’s children throughout the ages had a source of strength and perspective largely alien to us: Heaven. It was their central reference point. It was the North Star by which they navigated their lives. But today, Heaven has fallen off our radar screens.
Who is responsible for our impoverished theology of Heaven? Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44). Some of his favorite deceptions are about Heaven (Revelation 13:6, NIV). He has systematically robbed us of a robust and accurate view of Heaven. And we’ve let him get away with it.
Our children’s imaginations are primed for Heaven, but they’re seldom presented with a compelling picture. So eventually they transfer their excitement and passion toward what they can see, hear, taste, smell and touch, here and now. Because we haven’t shown them the biblical picture of a resurrected humanity on a renovated earth, enjoying the pleasures of God’s presence, creation and culture as we serve King Jesus…they settle for the second-rate idols of a fallen world that’s a mere shadow of what it once was and one day will be. Their hearts are left empty. What they long for is one person, Jesus, and one place, Heaven. Nothing less can satisfy.
What God made us to desire, and therefore what we do desire, is exactly what He promises: a resurrected community life in resurrected bodies, with the resurrected Christ on a resurrected Earth. This is the eternal Heaven that awaits us. How can we think of it so rarely?
We’re slumbering. We need to wake up and smell the New Earth. Taste the coming resurrection. The doctrines of resurrection and New Earth mean that this present world, though suffering under sin and curse, is bursting with clues and foretastes of the world to come.
The Carpenter from Nazareth is preparing a place for us. He knows how to build. He’s constructed entire worlds, billions of them. He’s going to strip the damaged paint off the old Earth, refinish it, and present it magnificent and pristine. He says it will one day be our home . . . and His, for He will dwell there with His people, bringing Heaven to Earth (Revelation 21:3).
So wake up. Imagine this world in its original condition. The happy dog with the wagging tail, not the snarling beast, beaten and limping and starved. The flowers unwilted, the grass undying, the blue sky without pollution. People smiling and joyful, not angry, depressed, and empty. The Curse will be reversed: this is the promise of God (Revelation 22:3). Take it to the bank.
With the Lord we love and with the friends we cherish, believers will embark together on the ultimate adventure, in a spectacular new universe awaiting our exploration and dominion. Jesus will be the cosmic center. Joy will be the air we breathe.
And right when we think “it doesn’t get any better than this”—it will.
So rise up from slumber. Set your mind and heart on a Heaven as exciting as its God. Then feel your heart flutter and watch your perspective change.
You’ll never regret that world you’ll wake up to…not in a billion years.
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