10th December 2023
Spending Eternity on Earth?
Where will you spend eternity?
Heaven, of course! This is the expected answer for a believer in Jesus.
Yet, this answer is not completely accurate.
While our existence in the presence of God is eternal, our time in heaven is temporary.
We will spend eternity with God on earth.
When Jesus ascended, He returned to His Father in heaven.
He promised to prepare dwelling places for His own.
The moment we leave our sin-scarred bodies in death, we enter the presence of God in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8).
And we receive our inheritance that is laid up for us there.
Heaven is our current citizenship and our future hope.
The question is not, do believers go to heaven when they die?
The question is, how long do they stay there?
The study of Scripture reveals that going to heaven and eternal life are not totally synonymous.
Certainly, those who receive eternal life today will go to heaven when they die.
However, God's plan involves a future for us on earth, and our promised physical, resurrected bodies are a hint at a physical environment for us eternally.
When God made human beings, he placed them in a perfect earth where they walked with God Himself.
Their Creator gave them the responsibility of ruling His creation.
Then, human beings sinned, separating themselves from their holy God and failing repeatedly at His mandate to rule the earth.
But God did not give up on His plan.
First, God provided spiritual salvation.
From the initial promise of a Saviour in Genesis to the birth of Jesus, those who believed the promise of God looked forward to the coming Saviour.
Only Jesus, God in the flesh, could bring life to the spiritually dead.
But this was just the first step in God's plan.
Today, we remember Jesus' death but look forward to His second coming.
While Jesus' work for our spiritual salvation is finished,
His work on earth is not done.
Those who believe on Him are the firstfruits of a greater transformation coming to all creation and to the earth itself.
In Revelation 21-22, God reveals a new heaven and new earth.
God Himself lives in the new earth with His people forever.
The landscape, including the tree of life, echoes the perfection of Eden.
God's people reign with the King of Kings forever and ever, fulfilling the dominion mandate as God intended from the beginning.
On the new earth.
Many passages Christians have often used to describe heaven actually refer to the new earth.
In the new earth,
"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away".
God's throne sits in the New Jerusalem that has descended from heaven to earth.
The new earth is the eternal destiny for God's people.
In his last journal entry as he lay dying in rural Turkey in 1812, pioneer missionary Henry Martyn ached for his eternal home.
He wrote, "Oh! when shall time give place to eternity?
When shall appear that new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness?"
We don't belong to this sin-broken world.
Our destiny is on the new earth when the transformation that began with us extends to everything and all is subdued to Jesus.
God promises, "Behold, I make all things new".
Spiritually, all who trust Jesus for salvation are a new creation.
But God has not forgotten His physical creation.
We will receive new physical bodies, and a perfect, physical environment in which to live forever with Him.
If this seems strange to you, it may be a result of ancient Gnostic heresy that has intertwined itself into some areas of Christian thought over the centuries.
Gnosticism taught that the physical is evil, and the spiritual is good.
Over time, heaven became identified with a non-physical world - of floating on clouds and gazing into the glorious brightness of God.
However, God created both the physical and the spiritual.
His plan includes a restoration/ re-creation of the physical world.
This is an edited version.
The full article and Bible references are avaiable on request
Author M. R. Conrad
serves in urban Asia.
He, his wife, and their four children squeeze into a 700 square-foot apartment where he seizes rare moments of quiet to write amidst homeschooling, a cacophony of musical instruments, and the steady stream of visitors they so enjoy having in their home.
He enjoys birding, board games, and basketball.
He is the author of two books:
(1) Daring Devotion: A 31-Day Journey with those who Lived God's Promises; and
(2) Daring Dependence: A 31-Day Journey with those who Found Their Strength in God.