“Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”—Acts 3:21
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
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised 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.—1 Corinthians 15:42-44
Last night Carey and I went on a date to Westwood. We had pizza at Buffalo Chips, then took the kayak out on Mountain Meadows Reservoir. We had the whole lake to ourselves. We paddled around on the blue water, surrounded by the green of grasses and reeds and pine-covered mountains, and got up-close views of osprey, Canadian geese, great blue herons, and white pelicans. We sat motionless in a cloud of bugs so we could watch a family of sandhill cranes and listen to their otherworldly calls echo across the water. Then we paddled back toward the car as the sun set behind Mount Lassen. It was quite a night.
While we were out on the water, we talked about the kayaking we used to do on the Oregon Coast. We used to be able to take a 15-minute drive from our house and paddle out on the open ocean in the company of gray whales and sea lions. Those were good days too.
Of course, though, all of those experiences were imperfect. There were only a few weeks out of the year when the ocean was calm enough for those magical experiences. The rest of the year it was cold, rough and deadly. Last night we had more than one incident where we paddled toward a particular piece of shoreline to get up close to what we thought was wildlife, only to discover as we got closer that it was just a stick or a stump, because neither of us had worn our glasses. Our bodies, along with the world we live in, are flawed and failing. God is gracious to give us little tastes of heaven now and then, but life is also full of reminders that we’re not there yet.
I love to think about heaven. I have always objected to the phrase “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.” It’s not in the Bible, and in fact I think it’s the opposite of what the bible teaches. Take the apostle Paul as an example: his hope was clearly set on eternity, yet he lived a tremendously fruitful life. The real danger, in my opinion, is being so worldly-minded that we don’t spend our time and energy on things of eternal value. I even think it’s appropriate for Christians to daydream about what life in the presence of God will be like. At least, I hope it is, because I do it all the time.
For one thing, I love to think about how physical, how real, eternal life will be. The Bible says that God declared His original, physical creation “very good” in Genesis chapter 1. It says God will “restore everything” when Jesus returns. He won’t start from scratch, because mountains and trees and lakes and oceans and people were a great idea, good and beautiful creations that don’t need to be scrapped, just cleansed of the effects of sin. Romans 8 says that all of creation longs for that day. 1 Corinthians and Philippians say that we will have bodies, real physical bodies like the one Jesus had when He rose from the dead, that are to our current bodies what an oak tree is to an acorn. And Revelation 21 shows us that while we often talk about “heaven,” it would be more accurate to speak of the “new heaven and new earth.” We will live in a real, beautiful place, in real bodies, free of sin and forever in the presence of Jesus. I have a hard time believe that God doesn’t want us dwelling on and looking forward to the amazing reality that is the certain future of those who have trusted His Son.
Last week I was at a party for someone’s 50th birthday. I sat next to someone I have known since we were teenagers and used to pile in someone’s truck to drive up to Antelope Lake for the day and jump off the rocks. The conversation turned to the topic of failing vision, and everyone had a story to tell of how they are helpless in certain situations without their glasses, or of finally caving in and getting glasses and realizing how much they had been missing. After about 15 minutes of this, this friend turned to me and said, “we are at an old person party!” We laughed about how the changing seasons of life have snuck up on us. This world is beautiful, and this life can be sweet, but the beauty and sweetness are fading. It’s good to enjoy them, but not to set our hopes on them. Eternity is real. Eternity is better.
And eternity is coming. Personally, I hope to have the vision of a hawk and the strength to paddle for hours in places more beautiful than I can imagine. I look forward to worship services where no one has to be stressed about technology or other details, or about saying just the right thing when it’s their turn on the microphone. No more sermons. No more budgets. No more drama. Just praising God and enjoying His amazing creation, and then praising Him some more. Come, Lord Jesus. Come soon, and set Your people free.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 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.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” —Revelation 21:1-5