Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
By Randy Alcorn
A character in the movie Pirate Radio says, "You know, a few months ago, I made a terrible mistake. I realized something, and instead of crushing the thought the moment it came . . . I'm afraid it's stuck in my head forever. These are the best days of our lives. It's a terrible thing to know, but I know it."
This fictional character is absolutely right: for people with no faith in God, who deny the Resurrection, these are the best days, and certainly they're winding down to a fixed end. But for genuine Christ-followers, these are decidedly not the best days of our lives. In fact, the best by far is yet to come!
J. I. Packer puts it well: "Hearts on earth say in the course of a joyful experience, 'I don't want this ever to end.' But it invariably does. The hearts of those in heaven say, 'I want this to go on forever.' And it will. There can be no better news than this." Hence, the doctrine of the New Heaven and New Earth is not simply about our future happiness; it is central to our present happiness. The forever that awaits us should color our lives now. We should daily backload eternity's joys into our present experience.
This world under sin is in God's hands, and one day he'll restore the world to what it should be (see Acts 3:21). Meanwhile, "we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13, net). We rejoice today because he promises us an unending tomorrow, overflowing with gladness and delight.
Jesus told his disciples of a coming new world, "the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne" (Matthew 19:28). Revelation 21:1-4 beautifully portrays what awaits God's children:
I saw a new heaven and a new earth. . . . I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
We normally think of going up to Heaven to live with God in his place. That's what happens when believers die. But the ultimate promise is that God will come down to live with us in our place, on the New Earth.
We'll be physical beings living in a physical world—eating, drinking, playing, working, and laughing to God's glory. That's the promise of the resurrection—eternal delight and joy in the presence of our Redeemer.
God comforts his people in great suffering, saying to them, "Look, I am ready to create new heavens and a new earth!" (Isaiah 65:17, NET). What should be our response to this promise? God uses joy-drenched words to describe this New Earth, promising a place where his people will bring happiness not only to each other but also to him:
Be happy and rejoice forevermore over what I am about to create! For look, I am ready to create Jerusalem to be a source of joy, and her people to be a source of happiness. Jerusalem will bring me joy, and my people will bring me happiness. The sound of weeping or cries of sorrow will never be heard in her again. Isaiah 65:18-19, NET
Other passages reiterate the promise of coming happiness:
- Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and sound of a melody. (Isaiah 51:3, nasb)
- The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)
Contemplate what God has in store for you. Read and reread those verses. Memorize them. And don't ever cease to be amazed at the fantastic, everlasting happiness God promises his people in the new creation.