What Happiness Can We Anticipate on the New Earth?

At the end of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of Tolkien’s The Return of the King, Bilbo Baggins—extremely old and decrepit—is invited to board an Elven ship to sail from Middle-earth to Valinor (a sort of Heaven). He smiles, and a youthful energy returns to his eyes as he says, “I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.”

For the Christian, death is not the end of our adventure. Rather, it’s our exit from a world where dreams and adventures shrink, and our entrance into a far better world where dreams and adventures forever expand.

The best part of our resurrected lives on the New Earth will be seeing God. “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face” (Revelation 22:3-4, NIV). Based on this and other passages, ancient theologians often spoke of the “beatific vision,” from three Latin words that together mean “a happy-making sight.” Because God is the fountainhead of all happiness, and because He’s forever happy in His triune oneness, to gaze on Him will be to enter into happiness.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children and grandchildren is teaching them the doctrines of the Resurrection and the New Earth. Don’t try to get children excited about becoming ghosts. God has made us to be physical beings living in a physical world—eating, drinking, playing, working, loving, worshiping, and laughing to God’s glory. That’s the promise of the Resurrection—eternal delight and joy in the presence of the God who redeemed us.

We normally think of going up to Heaven to live with God in His place. That’s indeed what happens when we die. But the ultimate promise is that God will come down to live with us in our place, on the New Earth. The final state will not be “us with God” but “God with us” (see Revelation 21:3).

Imagine the delight of Jesus’ disciples when He said to them, “At the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28, NIV).

Christ did not speak of the destruction or abandonment of all things, but their renewal. The word affirms a continuity between the past, present, and future earths. The old world and the renewed one are the same world but renewed and refurbished to an even greater version of its original self. God designed humans to live on Earth to his glory. Christ’s incarnation, life, death, and resurrection secured a New Earth, where life will be the way God always intended.

Similarly, Peter preached that Christ must remain in Heaven “until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21, NIV). This cosmic restoration is not God bringing disembodied people to fellowship with Him in a spirit realm. Rather, it’s God returning humankind to what we once were—what He designed us to be. It means the entire physical universe will not just go back to its pre-Fall glory but forward to something even more magnificent.

God’s original plan included human beings living happy and fulfilled lives. Imagine sitting around campfires on the New Earth, wide eyed at the adventures recounted. Yes, I mean telling real stories around real campfires. After all, friendship, camaraderie, laughter, stories, and campfires are all good gifts from God for physical people living in a physical world . . . and the Bible tells us that’s what we’ll be and where we’ll be!

Perhaps an alarm is going off in your head: “But that’s unspiritual. We should only want to be with Jesus.” Well, seeing Jesus should certainly be at the top of the list. But that doesn’t mean the other things God promises shouldn’t be on the list—things that fully honor Him and flow out of His grace and kindness to us.

On that New Earth, we may experience adventures that make our current rock climbs, surfing, skydiving, and upside-down roller coaster rides seem tame. Why do I say this? It’s an argument from design. We take pleasure in exhilarating experiences not because of sin but because God wired us this way. We weren’t made to sit all day in dark rooms watching actors pretend to live.

The truth is, we’ll be far happier in this life if we understand it isn’t our only chance for happiness and adventure and fun . . . and neither is it our best chance. I’ve read books on happiness stressing that we must be happy right here and now, living in the moment, because this is all we have. But God’s people will have an eternity of present-tense happiness. This assurance of never-ending happiness is capable of front-loading joy into our lives today. If we come to understand the biblical doctrine of the Resurrection and the New Earth, we’ll find it’s exactly what, deep in our hearts, we all wish for.

Jesus will be the center of everything. Happiness will be the lifeblood of our resurrected lives. And just when we think, It doesn’t get any better than this—it will!

Excerpted from 60 Days of Happiness: Discover God's Promise of Relentless Joy.

Photo: Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries