Saturday, July 13, 2013

Forever and Ever

"The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever."
(Psalm 37:29)

I had always been told that Heaven would be wonderful; better than the best thing I could even imagine. And I've always believed that. . . in a way. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I had this nagging, worried feeling about it all. I mean, yeah, of course Heaven would be amazing. But I couldn't get rid of the thought of everything I'd have to leave behind. The things I had always heard about Heaven made me think of a spirit world --- a perfect world, yes, but also a surreal sort of world. And I loved the earth. I love the real things that I could touch and smell and taste and hear. Picnic lunches when it's almost too hot outside, driving with the windows down, walking barefoot on the beach, piles of books, thunder, the smell of brownies in the oven, roller coasters, grass under my toes. . . There's a lot of bad in the world, but I just didn't want to lose the good parts.

And I was worried because I didn't know whether it was right to feel that way.

So I resigned myself to the fact that one day I would have to leave all the realness behind.

Then one day a man preached a sermon. And it changed all that. He talked about what the world would be like, and what our lives would be like, in the new heaven and new earth. And he said that all the work we're doing right here, right now, isn't going to just be left behind and forgotten. What we do here matters because --- good or bad --- it will carry on into eternity. That's why Martin Luther said that even if he knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, he would still plant his apple tree today.

We'll have real physical bodies. And real physical lives. But perfect lives.

Revelation talks about the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. That purified city will be our new home. The home we were created for. "Behold, I am making all things new." (Revelation 21:4). 

I don't believe God's going to destroy the world. He won't simply crumple up the current creation and throw it into the garbage. We are all a part of this current creation. And if we believe God's promises, then we know without a doubt that His chosen ones will not end up in the garbage. Instead of destruction, Christ will work redemption. To redeem is to transform what is, instead of coming up with something else, entirely. Redemption will involve cutting off bad branches. . . But God will preserve His own. Christ is not looking to find a different bride; He is bringing back the same one who has betrayed Him, because He is faithful. God is not letting go of the earth; He is reclaiming this one, because He keeps His word.

Just something about knowing this makes me feel at peace. The realization that the realness of living won't end, that it's actually not even fully begun yet, gives me hope. And vision. Who we are now matters immensely, not just because it's good to do right, but also because we will be who we are through all eternity. 

Now I know that the sadness I felt was not wrong. God loves all beautiful, true, and good things, even if they are partly marred. For us to love the earth makes Him happy. There is an important distinction between the "earth", which is part of God's city, and the "world", which is man's city.

It is good to love what God loves.

He showed the greatest love there has ever been when Jesus died, when God turned His back on the ugliness. And He showed that love to this earth.

I won't believe that after the torment of love He gave us, that He would turn away and give up on it all. His nature is to keep on loving and to never, never let go.

"Behold I am making all things new." This doesn't mean that as the story's end is quickly approaching, He's decided to start things over. It just means that we have a while longer until it all really does begin.

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." (C.S. Lewis).


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