Friday, March 07, 2014

How the Bible describes the New Heaven

(Part of a series on death and the hereafter)

How does the Bible describe the New Heaven and New Earth? Despite the fact that no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, He has revealed it to us by his Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9). We can get a glimpse of what heaven is like. Here are a few images that Scripture supplies:

1.      TABERNACLE – Heaven is a place where we will dwell with God (Exod. 29:44-45; John 1:14; Heb. 9:11; Rev. 21:3). Tabernacles can be dismantled and moved, but one day the sojourn will be over! Heaven will not be moved! This image teaches us that heaven is the reality behind all the earthly shadows and symbols. C.S. Lewis called earth the Shadowlands. It also teaches us that heaven is the place where we will experience the presence of God. John Wesley was once with a group of people praying in the New Year. God’s presence was as a weight in the room, and Wesley had to ask the Spirit to back off because the people could no longer breathe. That is only a hint of heaven. The most attractive thing about heaven is not the place but the Person who resides there (John 14:3; Col 3:4; 1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 John 3:2)

2.      THE CITY – We often think of cities as traffic and pollution, but in the New Testament, the city was attractive. The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city, the New Jerusalem (with a garden in the center!) This image helps us to see heaven as a place of
a.      PERMANENCE (Heb 11:9-10; 13:14) since it has foundations (of Christ, 1 Cor 3:11; Heb 13:8), a blessing indeed for wandering nomads (Heb 11:13-16);
b.      PLENTY where all the goods came to be sold (Rev. 21:24, 26);
c.       GLORY AND SPLENDOR (streets of gold, precious stones);
d.      SAFETY (Rev. 21:17) within the walls where no fear, no worry, no anxiety, but only perfect peace and security;
e.      SERVICE (Rev. 22:3), using our talents and minds and gifts in a holy community serving one another
3.      HOMELAND (Rev. 11:13-16; Phil 3:20-21). We long for something more than what this earth provides, for it is passing away (Psalm 73:24-25; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; 2 Cor 4:17-18; 1 John 2:15-17).
4.      FEAST (Rev. 19:9; 21:2, 9-14; Eph. 5:27), celebration, joy, and sacrificial love. Heaven will not be sad. Like the Gospel song says, “Ain’t no party like a Holy Ghost party, ‘cause a Holy Ghost party don’t stop.”
5.      KINGDOM – The power and glory of a King upon his throne (Rev. 21:24, 26).
6.      GARDEN – (Rev. 22:1-3). The tree of life is in the paradise of God (Rev. 2:7), and the tree of life is in the middle of the city (Rev. 22:2). That tree was originally in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:9). Then we will be able to eat of the tree of life
7.      FAMILY REUNION – (John 14:1-2) Our Elder Brother has prepared a place for us at our Father’s house, and everyone will be brothers and sisters in perfected relationships.
8.      NO TEARS, PAIN, DEATH – (Rev. 7:16-17; 21:1, 4, 27). At last John gives up trying to describe heaven and instead starts naming what is not there.
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