In one of his Far Side cartoons, Gary Larson depicts a winged man seated in heaven on a cloud. No one near. Nothing to do. Marooned on his celestial post. The caption witnesses his despair: “Wish I’d brought a magazine.”
We can relate. Eternal life? Clouds in our midst, harps on our laps, and time on our hands, unending time. Forever and ever. Nonstop. An endless sing-along. A hymn, then a chorus, then still more verses. Hmm… that’s it? “Whatever the tortures of hell,” declared Isaac Asimov, “I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.”
You might have similar reservations. Quiet, yet troubling ones. Will eternity meet expectations? Can heaven deliver on its promises? Jesus gives an assuring response to such questions:
Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me. There is more than enough room in My Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. – John 14:1–3
The movies have told you wrong. Those images of knee-high fog banks, disembodied friends, and floating spirits? Forget them. Jesus has gone to “prepare a place.” Like hell, heaven is tangible and touchable: as real as the soil in your garden, as physical as the fruit in your orchard. In fact, your garden and fruit might look familiar in heaven. We assume God will destroy this universe and relocate His children… but why would He? When God created the heavens and earth, He applauded his work. God saw:
The light… it was good.
The sea… it was good.
The grass… it was good.
The sun… the moon… it was good. – Genesis 1:3-11
Straight-A report card. One perfect score followed another.
God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. – Genesis 1:31
Why obliterate a work of art? God never denounced His earth, just our mistreatment of it. Besides, He is the God of reclamation, not extermination. He restores, recovers, renews. Expect and look for Him to do it again — to renew and reclaim every square inch of what is rightfully His.
In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule. – Matthew 19:28
But what about the promises of the earth’s destruction? Peter and John use A-bomb terminology.
Disappear with a roar… destroyed by fire… laid bare… passed away. – 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 21:1
Won’t this planet be destroyed? Yes, but destruction need not mean elimination. Our bodies provide a prototype. They will pass away, return to dust. Yet the one who called Adam out of a dirt pile will do so with us. Christ will reverse decomposition with resurrection. Amino acids will regenerate. Lungs will awaken. Molecules will reconnect. The mortal body will put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53). The same is true about earth. Paul says that the “whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:22). Like a mother in labor, nature looks toward her delivery day. We see the birth pangs: floods, volcanoes, earthquakes. We contribute to them: polluting the sky, pillaging the soil. God’s creation struggles, but not forever.
He will purge, cleanse, and reconstruct His cosmos. In the renewal of all things, pristine purity will flow, as Eden promised. God grants glimpses of this future state. He designed an oculus in this pantheon. Through it we see gold-drenched sunsets. Diamond-studded night skies. Rainbows so arched in splendor we have to stop and sigh. Appetizers of heaven.
But nothing compares with God’s crowning jewel: the New Jerusalem. Christ will descend in a city unlike any the earth has ever seen.
I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming. – Revelation 21:2
Scripture reveals its jaw-dropping dimensions: an exact square of 1,400 miles (Revelation 21:16). Large enough to contain all the land mass from the Appalachians to the California coast — Canada to Mexico. Forty times the size of England, ten times the size of France, and larger than India. And that’s just the ground floor.
The city stands as tall as it does wide. Supposing God stacks floors in his metropolis as an architect would in a building, the city would have over 600,000 stories, ample space for billions of people to come and go. Come and go they will. The gates are never closed (Revelation 21:25).
Why shut them? The enemies of God will be banished! The wicked will be quarantined, leaving only a perfect place of perfected people. You will be you at your best forever. Even now you have your good moments. Occasional glimpses of your heavenly self. When you change your baby’s diaper, forgive your boss’s temper, tolerate your spouse’s moodiness, you display traces of saintliness. It’s the other moments that sour life. Tongue, sharp as a razor. Moods as unpredictable as Mount Saint Helens. This part wearies you.
But God impounds imperfections at his gate. His light silences the wolfman within.
Nothing that is impure will enter the city. – Revelation 21:27
Pause and let this promise drench you. Can you envision your sinless existence? Just think what Satan has taken from you, even in the last few hours. You worried about a decision and envied someone’s success, dreaded a conversation and resented an interruption. He’s been prowling your environs all day, pickpocketing peace, joy, belly laughs, and honest love. Rotten freebooter. But his days are numbered. Unlike he did in the Garden of Eden, Satan will not lurk in heaven’s gardens.
There shall be no more curse. – Revelation 22:3
He will not tempt; hence, you will not stumble.
The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. – 1 John 2:17
You will be you at your best forever! And you’ll enjoy everyone else at their prime! As it is, one of us is always a step behind. Bad moods infect the best of families. Complaints shadow the clearest days. Bad apples spoil bunches of us, but rotten fruit doesn’t qualify for the produce section of heaven. Christ will have completed his redemptive work. All gossip excised and jealousy extracted. He will suction the last drop of orneriness from the most remote corners of our souls.
You’ll love the result. No one will doubt your word, question your motives, or speak evil behind your back. God’s sin purging discontinues all strife.
Dare we imagine heaven’s dramatic reunions?
A soldier embracing the sharpshooter who killed him.
A daughter seeing her abusive but repentant father and holding him.
A son encountering the mother who aborted him? No doubt some will. And when they do, forgiveness will flow like water over Iguaça Falls.
The wolf will live with the lamb. – Isaiah 11:6
God will wipe away every tear… there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying… for the former things have passed away. – Revelation 21:4
No sin means no thieves, divorce, heartbreak, and no boredom. You won’t be bored in heaven, because you won’t be the same you in heaven. Boredom emerges from soils that heaven disallows. The soil of weariness: our eyes tire. Mental limitations: information overload dulls us. Self-centeredness: we grow disinterested when the spotlight shifts to others. Tedium: meaningless activity siphons vigor. But Satan will take these weedy soils to hell with him, leaving you with a keen mind, endless focus, and God-honoring assignments.
Yes, you will have assignments in heaven. God gave Adam and Eve garden responsibilities. “Let them have dominion” (Genesis 1:26). He mantled the couple with leadership over “the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Adam was placed in the garden “to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).
Adam and his descendants will do it again.
[God’s] servants shall serve Him. – Revelation 22:3
What is service if not responsible activity? Those who are faithful over a few things will rule over many. – Matthew 25:21
You might oversee the orbit of a distant planetary system… design a mural in the new city… monitor the expansion of a new species of plants or animals.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. – Isaiah 9:7
God’s new world will be marked by increase. Increased planets? Colors? Music? Seems likely. What does a creator do but create? What do his happy children do but serve Him? We might serve in the capacity we serve now. Couldn’t earthly assignments hint at heavenly ones? Architects of Moscow might draw blueprints in the new Liverpool. We will feast in heaven; you may be a cook on Saturn. God filled His first garden with plants and animals. He’ll surely do the same in heaven.
If so, He may entrust you with the care and feeding of an Africa or two.
One thing is for sure: you’ll love it. Never weary, selfish, or defeated. Clear mind, tireless muscles, unhindered joy. Heaven is a perfect place of perfected people with our perfect Lord.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! – Romans 11:33
Don’t assume we will exhaust our study of God. Endless attributes await us. His grace will increasingly stun, wisdom progressively astound, and perfection ever more sharpen into focus. We serve a God so rapt with wonders that their viewing requires an eternity. A God whose beauty enhances with proximity. And this is the invitation He gives:
When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am. – John 14:3
Excerpted with permission from 3:16 by Max Lucado, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2014.