Heaven is Not My Home - I'm Just Passing Through!
Revelation 21:1, "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea."
Many years ago I was taught a presentation of the gospel devised by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy that began with probing questions asked of the potential convert to Christ. The first question was: "If you were to die today do you have the assurance that you would go to Heaven?"
Today, if you asked me this question, I would answer, "YES - but I don't expect to stay there!"
There is an old Negro spiritual that we used to sing when I first became a Christian that declared:
This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
Now before you label me an apostate heretic because I don't believe Heaven is the final home of the redeemed, let me explain what I mean.
Chris Wright sums up my position on Heaven in a succinct manner when he writes, "Heaven when you die is only a transit lounge for the new creation. Heaven for those who have died in Christ is a place of rest, of waiting, until the great events of the return of Christ, the resurrection of the body, and the final judgment. Heaven when you die is not where you will be forever. It is where we will be safe until God brings about the transformation of the earth as part of the new creation promised in both the Old and New Testament.
"Christians who keep talking about "going to Heaven - as if it were their last great hope - seem to have missed the wonderful picture in Revelation 21-22. It says nothing about us going off to heaven or to anywhere else at all. Rather, it shows us God coming down to earth, transforming the whole creation into the New Heaven and New Earth that He had promised in Isaiah 65:17, and then living here with us - on earth."
In spite of what is probably over optimism, and a lot of joking about the life to come, I find it very encouraging that even in this rational, postmodern, skeptical age there is something deep inside the human heart that cries out, “There must be something more to my existence than being born without being asked if I wanted to be born; something more that living for 70 or 80 years of a little fun, and a lot of toil, sweat and tears, then dying and being buried in the ground.” I believe there is not only a God-shaped vacuum in the human heart, but also a “heaven-shaped vacuum”; a sense that we were made to live forever in a new heaven and on a new earth, where we experience uninterrupted enjoyment of God, and unrestricted employment with God in the Family Firm of Almighty and Sons.
Unfortunately far too many professing Christians have an outlook toward heaven like they do toward the place, Timbuktu – everyone has heard of it, but very few have a clear idea of where it is, how you get there or what it would be like to live there.
Suppose an unbelieving friend came to you and said, “Describe your understanding of what the Bible teaches about life after death”, or “describe heaven to me so I’ll want to go.” How would you respond? Would you describe people with haloes around their heads, wings on their backs, harps in their hands, strumming hallelujah choruses while standing knee deep in clouds? Although not a whole lot is told us about the new heavens and the new earth, all that is revealed could be summarized as the beginning of Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
For the Believer, Chapter One of the Great Story Begins with a Transformation that is Completed and Needs not to be Repeated!
Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
For the Believer, Chapter One of the Great Story begins with a Satisfaction that Fulfills our Deepest Needs and Desires!
In the new heaven and the new earth, there will be no sin, suffering, sorrow, or pain. We will never do anything to displease God. There will be no persecution, division, disunity, or hate. In heaven there will be no quarrels or disagreements. There will be no disappointments. There will be no weeping because there will be nothing to make us sad. We will then know perfect pleasure, but forever room for increase in pleasure. Psalm 16:11 says, “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.” Everything that now makes us groan will finally be done away with, and we will find ourselves in the very presence of God, where the purest and truest kind of pleasure is possible.
For the Believer, Chapter One of the Great Story Unfolds in Successive Chapters of an Unending Love Relationship in a Unrestricted Working Partnership in a New Heaven and a New Earth!
Michael Wilcock sums up this hope well when he says, “All that is truly good and beautiful in this world will reappear there [in the age to come], purified and enhanced in the perfect setting its Maker intended for it; nothing of real value is lost.” Hallelujah!
We will worship, but without self-consciousness or interruption.
Our worship will not be forced. All pretense will be lost in true and pure praise to God (Revelation 5:11-14). The singing there will ring forth in love for God (Revelation 7:9-12). We will all be a part of this unhampered worship.
We will work, but without frustration and exhaustion.
We will be co-partners with God in the new heaven and on the new earth. We will never be unemployed. God created man in a way so that we would want to be creative, so that we would be satisfied by being productive. Serving God, working with God in glorified bodies and sin-free environments in the new heaven and earth will thrill the soul beyond measure. Time will not limit us in this service and our bodies will never grow tired or old.
David Lawrence, in his insightful book entitled, “Heaven: It’s not the End of the World”, writes, “It may well be that, like Adam and Eve, we are commissioned to steward and develop the new earth. A new world of resources to discover and harness. New vistas of beauty to capture in paintings, poetry and song. Every new discovery the occasion of a great outburst of praise and worship to the one who revealed it and created it. This kind of new earth is exciting and far from traditional views of ‘heaven’ that have led many Christians to wonder whether they will enjoy eternity once the first flush of relief at getting there has passed!”
To be sure, there will have to be redeployment on a massive scale. Policemen, doctors and nurses, evangelists, undertakers, locksmiths, burglar-alarm salesmen, bank managers and debt-collectors (along with many others) will all need retraining for gainful employment on the new earth! But everyone will have a role in stewarding the re-creation and everyone will be perfectly suited to that role, finding complete and utter fulfillment in their labors. No longer will work be under a curse so that we have to work hard and sweat to produce anything of worth. The results of the Fall will be remembered no more! Work itself will have been redeemed!
We will be in co-partnership, but without fear of job loss or failure.
The redeemed of God are destined to reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:11,12; Revelation 2:5). We will not fail because those who overcome will be able to sit with Christ and reign on His throne (Revelation 3:21; Matthew 5:21). We will rule with no degree of failure.
We will have fellowship, but without conflict or cessation. The population of the new heaven and earth will be wonderful. The saved will be able to speak with the patriarchs of old (Matthew 8:11). We will be welcomed by the angelic host of God. We will be with the redeemed of the Christian age – the apostles and the faithful Christians who lived during the time of the early church.
My heart sings in tune with Randy Alcorn as he writes: "I've never been to Heaven; yet I miss it. Eden's in my blood. The best things of life are souvenirs from Eden, appetizers of the New Earth. There are just enough of them to keep us going but never enough to make us satisfied with the world as it is or ourselves as we are. We live between Eden and the New Earth, pulled toward what we once were and what we yet will be."
The best is always ahead for the child of God!
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