Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope [fixed] on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1Jo 3:2-3 NASB)
I have been thinking a lot about the nature of our eternal life. What will the new heaven and the new earth be like, really? Suppose we could imagine an ultimate utopian society. Everything about it would be politically, relationally, perfect. Everyone would have the ideal life, abundant provision, perfect health, a perfect environment in every way. There’s only one problem. I would be there, with my twisted critical sinful self. Send God Himself in the flesh to me, and I would question Him and judge Him and kill Him. I would find something to criticize and hate. It is not the environment that ruins it, it is I who ruin it. I cannot have utopia because I would be there ruining it for myself.
But we have an entire world of people ruining things for ourselves and for each other. We are the problem. So we cannot have utopia because we ourselves would contaminate it just being there. The promise of the gospel is that part of our eternal hope is that God will change us, God will scour the sin from us as part of our redemption.
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1Co 15:51-53 NASB)
12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is [to be] revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1Co 3:12-15 NASB)
So let’s suppose this happens, and we enter heaven. What kind of world will it be, where we live together as changed people, scoured and changed and genuinely free from sin? What will the world be like?
We will be able to easily trust everyone without another thought. This doesn’t just mean we won’t need locks on our doors. We will be able to know for certain that from the instant we meet someone, we can trust them completely. We won’t need money, money is built on the lack of trust. We won’t need passwords or security. We will be able to give things and get things as we need them. Maybe we won’t even need things at all, I don’t know. We will be able to trust that whatever each of us is up to, it is all in perfect service and love for Christ. If someone spends 50 years laying under a tree chewing on toothpicks, we will know that they are doing it in order to contemplate some awesome aspect of the glory and greatness of God. Or maybe God wanted them to have a 50 year nap, and that’s the only purpose for that time. There will be no need for mistrust.
No More Justice
Even more, there will be no need for the idea of justice. Justice implies that there is evil in the picture, and a judgment needs to be made as to what is right and what is wrong. But if we are all sinless, there will be no need for that concept. Imagine a world so utopian that we don’t even need to think about justice any more! We can’t imagine it. All utopian worlds are pure pipedreams, but our eternal life will be real. Right now our relationships revolve around untangling our own rights, and how the other person did or didn’t meet our expectations. Our lives are filled to the brim with tiny injustices and how we react to them. But that will all be wiped away.
There will be no more idea of merit and deserving. All will be of grace. Every aspect of our lives will be based on free gifts. Do you need a house? You won’t get the house you earned. You will get more than that. Nothing will based on what you’ve earned. I don’t think we can even conceive of that world.
The New Reality
How real will it be? Here is an amazing thing. There will be a new heaven and a new earth!
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer [any] sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be [any] death; there will no longer be [any] mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” 5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. (Rev 21:1-6 NASB)
Here’s what’s wild about this. God’s heaven, HEAVEN, is impermanent. The EARTH is impermanent! They will be wiped away. These are cataclysmic events. There is going to be a heaven 2.0 and and earth 2.0. But little sinful useless weak me, and little sinful useless weak you, God has created us as ETERNAL CREATURES. You may receeive a new heavenly body, but YOU will still be YOU. You will not be wiped away. God has seen something in you that He has decided that the new heaven and the new earth will be lacking if YOU are not there. Even more, heaven will pass away, but we will persist together. We will see the new heaven and the new earth and have ecstatic conversation about it! Our relationship will transcend these amazing events. Nothing else created is eternal, but amazingly, we are eternal. And we will see this sinless utopian world where God’s grace and love and kindness are the only rules. Since we will be sinless, we will know how to be grateful for the beauty of these places and we will know how to best live there together. I know I can’t wait to see these things come to pass!
Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I’m putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall out-live her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol; but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendor which she fitfully reflects. And in there, and beyond Nature, we shall eat of the tree of life.