I have a confession; it’s going to get me in trouble.
I don’t like the song “Amazing Grace.” To be more candid, I hate the last stanza:
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
I cringe every time we sing it. The thought that we stand around through all eternity singing songs is almost suffocating; surely this cannot be the paradise Jesus promised (Luke 23:43). Yet most Christians I’ve spoken to have some vague idea that “heaven,” our eternal life, is the unending church service in the sky. Seriously now—how is that better than a lifetime in Tahiti?
Most Christians agree with me, actually, proven by the simple fact that most Christians are not day-dreaming about their coming life in heaven. I have never, once, ever, come across two Christians at Starbucks passionately whispering about heaven. We talk about favorite movies, we swap photos about our vacations, but most people hardly ever think about heaven at all. Which means it hasn’t captured our imaginations; our hopes are still set on life coming together right here.
That’s why people have “bucket lists,” their hopes and dreams to see it all before they die and then…who really knows what? If you thought your coming life in heaven was the ultimate destination—far more thrilling than a trek around the world’s great wonders—you’d be making lists about what you plan to do there. No one is. Our bucket lists reveal where we think the joy is found. For as C.S. Lewis warned, “You can only hope for what you desire.”
I’ve always had a kind of sadness that we have to say goodbye to the earth, when God burns it up. All your special places, all the beauty of this dear home of ours—wouldn’t you be sad to never, ever see it again?
I have some surprising, breathtaking news for you: God doesn’t destroy the earth, and heaven isn’t your eternal home. We actually spend our unending life right here, on a restored earth. And we don’t spend it singing songs; we spend it doing the very things we were born to do. Stay with me now…
For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:19-22 NLT).
Paul teaches us that creation—meaning the earth and the animal kingdom—longs for the day of its redemption when “it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (v.21). Clearly that does not imply destruction; far from it. Paul anticipated a joyful day when creation shares in the eternity of the children of God:
The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. (Romans 8:19-21 The Message).
The glorious times ahead, right here, on the earth, when all things are made new.
In fact, when John sees the New Jerusalem descending out of heaven, it comes to the earth (Revelation 21:1-3). He sees the earth restored (vs. 1) and he hears God proclaim, “I am making all things new!” (vs. 5). God restores our lives, and he restores this beautiful earth, and we live out our deepest dreams and desires right here.
I know, I know—this is a radical change of view for many people. Stay with me…
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne…everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:28)
The renewal of all things! God’s intention for us is the renewal of all things! The re-creation of the world. The ultimate destination. When the world is made new. A promise so breathtaking, so shocking and heartbreakingly beautiful I’m stunned that so many have missed it.
Friends, the “Good News” of the Gospel, the hope Hebrews call “the anchor of the soul” (6:19) is simply this: Nothing is lost. There is nothing that can be taken from you, no loss you can suffer, that God will not intimately and specifically restore to you. What we are aching for—what all creation is aching for—is the day of the Great Restoration, when God renews all things. Oh you get your bucket lists all right; you get that and everything else you could possibly hope for.
John Eldredge is the author of the new book All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything You Love, and many other popular works, including Wild at Heart, Captivating (with his wife, Stasi), Beautiful Outlaw, and a dozen other titles. He is the founder and director of Ransomed Heart—a discipleship ministry based in Colorado.