The sweeping drama of the Bible is the story of God’s original creation and how, after it was despoiled by sin, God has gone about directing the events of history toward the end of restoring his creation. The action of the story has been and is being played out on many different levels – in heaven and on earth. Everything before the climax of the story – the focal point that serves as the reference point of history both before and since its occurrence – has been centered in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. He provides not only the remedy for sin, but the initiation of a new creation which is itself, the beginning of the ultimate end or resolution of the story.
To understand this story as one whole, unified narrative consisting of the movement of history from point A (original creation) to point B (new creation) helps us tie the whole Bible together. The story is cohesive. Anything that doesn’t fit this scenario is foreign to the Bible and destructive to not only our understanding of the story, but also prevents us from being able to participate fully in the story and reach the end intended for ourselves along with all of creation. God’s purpose will be accomplished whether we participate or not, but if we expect to share in the blessings God has in store for all he has made we must be participants in the story.
Over and over again we are told throughout the Bible what God has in store for creation. But the story has been so misunderstood or marginalized that hardly anyone recognizes it. It has been the victim of our modernistic fragmentation of the Bible into convenient bits and pieces teaching specific doctrines that we have forgotten where the true teaching of the Bible is leading us.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.” (Isaiah 65:17-19).
Spoken of here as a new creation, the purpose of God is really to take what already has been created, though marred by the consequences of man’s sin and renew that into what it originally was meant to be. When Paul wrote in Romans 8 about the inheritance of the children of God which we will receive if we suffer with Christ, he tells how this will occur and at the same time creation itself which has been “subjected to futility” is waiting eagerly for the time when the children of God receive their inheritance because the creation will also be set free from its bondage to corruption and will obtain the “freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:18-21).
That is the glorious future that awaits God’s children. We will be exalted, glorified and given eternal life. That life is to be realized in the new heavens and new earth that is to come when the Lord comes again (Rom. 2:6-11; Colossians 3:1–4; 2 Pet. 3:13).
When the original creation was finished it was said “…God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31). When we read the description of the new creation that is yet to come there is no way we can escape the same conclusion – that it will be “very good.” Look at some of the things said about that creation in which God will make all things new (Rev. 21:5).
The new heaven and new earth will be a place of great beauty and joy. The new Jerusalem John saw coming down out of heaven into the new earth will be a holy city (Rev. 21:2), pure and undefiled by the taint of sin. It will be like a bride, dressed in her elaborate, ornate wedding gown, awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom who is Christ. The walls of precious stones, the gates of pearl and the streets of gold emphasize the extravagant beauty and richness of this wonderful city.
This city will be of immense size – 12,000 stadia on each side. Translated into our measurements it is said to be approximately 1,400 miles (2,250 km) on each side! And that measurement includes the height of equal measurement! This would describe a perfect cube, exactly as was the holiest place – the place where the presence of the Lord was enshrined in the Jewish tabernacle/temple. The declaration that came from the throne confirms this city is to be the dwelling place of God with his people. Its size indicates the capacity of the city to accommodate all the Lord accepts to reside with him in his eternal abode.
“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‘” (Rev. 21:3).
Later a wonderful promise is made to all those who, with Christ, overcome or share in his victory.
“The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev. 21:7).
The heritage (inheritance) of the righteous is the earth (Matt. 5:5). The promise of sonship is the declaration of a king that the one of whom this is said would himself be king. We are promised that “… if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12). So in the new creation the saints are seen to be sharing the reign over creation with God.
What will we be like in that new place? There are many glimpses throughout the New Testament of what to expect in our new home. In speaking of the resurrection from the dead, Paul says that like grain, what comes up is not like what is sown…
“What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:42-44).
This resurrected body will be eternal…
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
We will be like Jesus …
“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49).
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2).
What does this mean – that we will have new bodies that will be like the resurrection body of Jesus? It means, as best as I can tell, that we will be able to enjoy the same kinds of things we now enjoy only to the fullest extent.
- We will enjoy the marriage supper of the Lamb – an unimaginably grand celebratory feast.
“And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9).
- There will be the water of life flowing from the throne of God. (Rev 22:1).
- And the tree of life yielding its fruit (Rev. 22:2).
- That it will yield its fruit each month seems to indicate that there will be a reckoning of time, but that this is eternal life means that there will never be an end to the time we experience there.
- There will be neither sun nor moon but the glory of God gives it light. The lamp of the Lamb gives light by which the nations will walk.
- The nations of the earth and their kings will still exist and will contribute their glory and strength to the reign of God.
“By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations” (Rev. 21:24-26).
These thoughts prompt me to wonder. Since there will be festivities of celebration and an ongoing interaction of nations and kings under the Sovereign Ruler, what else might characterize life in this new kind of existence? I have never heard anyone who believes heaven will be our eternal home offer any suggestions beyond perpetual worship as the activity there. If our true destination is not heaven “up there” but heaven that has come down to earth, does that not suggest that life here in that ideal environment will bear a striking resemblance to our present life – although perfected and without the restraints and restrictions imposed by evil and death?
For instance, twice in the Revelation, (14:2; 15:2), harps and singing are mentioned. If one goes back to the invention of musical instruments, and presumably the beginning of the other arts as well, this development took place among the descendants of Cain, and hence in society as it was developing without God (Genesis 4:17-24). Although Christian art and music has produced outstanding masterpieces, there is presently not that much being done in the arts. That legitimate area that could make life so much richer and impart understanding to us in a depth not achievable through scientific or rationalistic study.
Will humanity, unburdened from the heavy load of living in a sinful world be free to express their talents in the arts, writing and performing music, painting, sculpture, architecture, writing, acting or in whatever creative genre one may be inclined to – all with the purpose of capturing and manifesting the glory of the Creator and his creation? If that be so – and I for one see no reason why it will not be so – then why are not more Christians enthusiastically involved in just this kind of enterprise in the present. Can we not bring a bit of the future into the present by the use of our God-given talents for this very purpose?
What about industry and technology and science? If there is not the motive of greed and humanity is freed to use his creativity to bring new inventions into being with no other motive than to benefit humanity and by that to glorify God, will we see things that will amaze the jaded senses of a world sick of the technology of war and the industry motivated by greed?
You see, we don’t have to wait for the coming of the new heavens and new earth to enjoy a bit of it here in the present and in so doing show to the world something of what it will be like when it does come. This, too, is what it means to live in the story.