Question from a reader:
Jesus said in the Gospels to "lay up treasures in Heaven." I hear terrible news stories about people who lose all their possessions, property, and belongings in fires, natural disasters, theft, etc. and my heart goes out to them. I worry that might happen to me someday. Will Christians in Heaven and the New Earth have physical possessions? When I ultimately pass away, since I cannot take my physical possessions, memories and stuff with me, couldn't God simply give myself and other Christians an exact duplicate copy of all our earthly property, physical possessions, and memories?
Answer from Doreen Button, EPM staff:
Thanks for asking that intriguing question.
It’s rough being part of a world that turns inside out at times. Things happen that we don’t understand to people who seem not to deserve such losses.
Before we discuss what we’ll have on the New Earth, I’d like to address your worry about possibly losing your possessions before you die. That may happen in your lifetime and will certainly happen after. My question to you is, how much of a hold do your possessions have on you?
Randy uses the example of greater mass having a greater gravitational pull. The more we possess, the more we begin to orbit around our possessions. Each thing requires expenditures of money and time to purchase, secure, and maintain.
We were not made to serve possessions; we were made to serve God and let possessions serve us and be of service to others as we generously share what we have with those in need. The fastest way to break the gravitational pull possessions can put on us is to give them away (perhaps to those who experience catastrophic loss). Mark 10 tells the sad story of a rich young man who wanted to hang on to what he had more than he wanted a relationship with Jesus as His disciple. In other words, he stored up treasures in the wrong place. He wasn’t willing to leave his money-god in order to follow the true God.
Jesus doesn’t tell us it’s wrong to own things. He does warn us of the misery in store for us when those things own us (see Luke 6:24, 1 Timothy 6).
You are right that all of us leave behind every physical possession when we die. As Randy wrote in The Treasure Principle, “You’ll never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. Why? Because you can’t take it with you…but you can send it on ahead.”
What we send ahead isn’t our “stuff,” it’s the good works and our relationships with both Jesus and others; it’s friendships with those we’ve shared the Good News with and the rewards for sacrifices made while obeying and serving Jesus.
Again from The Treasure Principle: “What are these ‘treasures in heaven’? … they include godly power (Luke 19:15–19), possessions (Matthew 19:21), and pleasures (Psalm 16:11). Jesus promises that those who sacrifice on Earth will receive ‘a hundred times as much’ [and will inherit eternal life] (Matthew 19:29). That’s 10,000 percent—an impressive return! …Christ Himself is our ultimate treasure. All else pales in comparison to Him (Philippians 3:7–11). A person, Jesus, is our first treasure. A place, Heaven, is our second treasure. Possessions, eternal rewards, are our third treasure…”
Certainly, since God is all-powerful, and since He is likely to restore many good things that were taken as a result of the Curse, He’s certainly capable re-creating those things on the New Earth for our pleasure and His glory. However, He will not duplicate our idols.
Regarding ownership in Heaven, Randy writes, “Is this ownership wrong or selfish? Of course not. Ownership is never wrong when it’s God distributing to us possessions He wants us to own. Heaven is not a socialist utopia in which private ownership is evil. Materialism, greed, envy, and selfishness are sins—ownership is not.”
On the New Earth, a real, physical place, we will each receive exactly what we need in order to worship God well, rule and serve and explore and rest and relate to one another. We will be completely satisfied in Christ. If God “richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17) here on Earth, wouldn’t He even more abundantly do so on the New Earth?
And finally, regarding memories, Randy writes “While God will wipe away the tears and sorrow attached to this world…human history will not be erased from our minds. Heaven’s happiness will not be dependent on our ignorance…it will be greatly enhanced by our informed appreciation of God’s glorious grace.”
To explore further, I invite you to read Randy’s article “Investing in Eternity.”