But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.—2 Peter 3:13
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.—Philippians 3:20,21
Summer is my favorite season.
I know it’s much more popular to say that Spring or Fall are your favorite season. People go on and on about the world turning green again, and the flowers blooming, or the air getting crisp and the leaves falling, etc., etc. I enjoy all of those things, and winter too. I’m a fan of all the seasons, because I’m a fan of this good life God has made.
But summer is my favorite, basically because I am still just a little boy at heart, and I like to play. I like having lots of daylight, with plenty of time to do fun things before and after the day’s work. I like the sun. I like to run and bike and swim and go out on the lake. I especially like summer evenings in Susanville, which are often nearly perfect. I like to barbecue cheeseburgers and play corn-hole with friends. When the temperature is just right and the light is fading and you’re barefooted in the grass and there’s lots of laughter and good food, life feels like a gift.
We used to live on the Oregon coast, and we had some pretty great summer evenings there too. We would make a campfire on the beach with a group of friends and cook hotdogs and s’mores, and watch the kids play in the surf or take them out in kayaks on the bay. Everyone would yell and point when we saw a seal in the water, and we’d watch the sun set over the ocean, then go home and try to get the sand out of everything and put the kids to bed, smelling like smoke and rejoicing in the goodness of life.
I think part of the reason summer is my favorite season is that it’s the one that makes it easiest for me to picture heaven. Not that I think heaven will be hot and dry, but that I think it will be full of the kinds of things we do in summer.
When we say “heaven,” what we usually mean would more accurately be called “the new heavens and the new earth,” based on Revelation 21. In that context, “heavens” doesn’t mean God’s dwelling place, but the stars and planets, the cosmos. The Bible teaches that this current creation will “wear out like a garment” (Psalm 102:26), and that we will spend eternity on a new earth, in a newly created universe, where there will be no sin, but which will still be physical and material like this one.
The physical nature of eternal life is taught all through the New Testament. We will have bodies, like the body Jesus had after He rose from the dead. In that body, Jesus recognized and touched His friends, and ate food, but also mysteriously appeared in locked rooms, ascended into heaven, and could no longer die. Because of this, it’s important that we don’t picture “heaven” as an eternal worship service, but as an eternal life of worship. We will glorify God forever, but we will also do stuff, just like Adam and Eve did in the physical life God gave them and called good before sin entered the world.
So for me, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that in heaven there will be experiences like I had this past week, throwing a frisbee with friends in Memorial Park when the air was perfect and filled with the laughter of children. I took my 8-year-old son backpacking a couple of weeks ago, and after spending the day climbing a mountain and swimming in a cold mountain lake we had all to ourselves, we watched a bear make his way across the opposite shore while we ate our freeze-dried lasagna, with M&M’s for dessert. I believe that’s the kind of thing we’ll do in heaven, minus the mosquitos. And we’ll be ageless, so we won’t get too tired or sore from being too young or too old.
Even as believers, we are often tempted to try to create Heaven on earth. We kid ourselves that with a little more money, some good health, a few more things going in our favor, the right people getting elected, the right laws passed, etc., things would be just right. They never will be. Our bodies will age, gas prices will skyrocket, society will fail us, because people (including us) are still sinners after all. Only heaven will be heaven; earth never will be. But I hope this summer you get a taste. I hope you have some moments when, minus the mosquitos, you can picture just how sweet it’s going to be. I hope it makes you grateful, and hopeful. Happy summer!
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling… so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.—2 Corinthians 5:1-5
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”—Revelation 21:1-4