I don’t believe that Heaven is the eternal dwelling place of the soul. Instead, I believe the Bible looks forward to a New Creation: A new heaven and a new earth.
I’m familiar with 1 Thessalonians 4:17:
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.“
I know the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16.
I remember Jesus’ promise to his disciples in John 14:3:
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.“
I believe that each of these familiar passages and images can be reconciled with a New Creation understanding of eternity. 2 Peter 3:12 describes a purifying fire that melts the elements, but v13 continues that “we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
One of the most poignant images of this new heaven and earth is found in Revelation 21. In verse 10 the faithful Christians are not taken up to heaven. Rather, John saw “the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out heaven from God.” God relocates his dwelling place from “Heaven” to the midst of his “New Creation”.
I’m really not super passionate about this topic as I understand that God reveals himself to us in terms and images that we can understand. It’s quite possible that His plans for our eternity are simply beyond our understanding and all these images are the most we can grasp.
However, I am convinced that our understanding of eternity influences the way we live in the present.
Here’s one application of that principle.
1 Corinthians 5:17 reads,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
When we are “in Christ” we exhibit God’s new creation. We provide a glimpse of eternity. We taste the blessings of eternity in our lives.
This amazes me.
My life doesn’t always (seldom?) actually feels like a glimpse of eternity. But neither does my life feel like it’s held in bondage by darkness.
Christians don’t always do a great job of demonstrating what New Creation looks like. But we can demonstrate grace. We can provide examples of forgiveness. We can work to bring peace. We can wipe away tears and ease pain. We can because God’s Spirit lives within us. We can because we represent the kingdom of God which is so much bigger than the kingdoms of this world.
Verses 18-6:1 describe how we, as representatives of New Creation, now have responsibilities as as Christ’s ambassadors carrying out a ministry of reconciliation. Reconciling the world to God. Communicating to the world that because of Jesus, God no longer counts people’s sins against them!
If we are “in Christ” we are a beachhead of New Creation in the midst of a Fallen Creation.
Let’s live like we mean it. Let’s live as though eternity will be a good thing. Let’s live as though we represent God’s best. Let’s live like we know where we’re going.
BONUS TRACK: Coincidentally, a friend of mine wrote a similar post today HERE. In this blog Rex describes how our understanding of New Creation impacts our attitude toward race relations in the present.