When I was growing up in a traditional protestant church everything seemed so urgent. We were taught to share our faith in 2 minutes or less and practiced that at people’s doors and in shopping malls. A common phrase heard was “If you were to die tonight, where would you go?” as if there was no time to spare because God would strike you with lightning (or a city bus) if you waited to make up your mind about trusting him or not.
I wondered as a kid if heaven was even worth it. If I got hit by a bus today and had to spend eternity playing a harp on a cloud would I be okay with that? I mean that sounds interesting for a little bit, but forever? I learned soon enough that you can’t get your theology from cartoons. The Bible talks about heaven as a real place and says nothing about sitting on clouds. The Bible describes heaven as a city in Revelation 21:10-14. and Hebrews 11:13-16. But one day, God promises to make a new heaven and a new earth:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.[a] 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” -Revelation 21:1-5
We know what earth is like. There is a world to explore, things to create, and work to be done. I believe that our new heaven and new earth will involve all of these things as well. My dad did an excellent job describing heaven to me as a kid and making me long for it more than life itself at times. The Bible talks about animals in heaven that we’ve never seen here on earth. My dad suggested that perhaps God would create many things we’ve never seen before in our heavenly dwelling place. For example, we have three primary paint colors that the cones and rods in our eyes can see: red, blue, and yellow. Every color Crayola can come up with stems from mixtures of those three colors. What if God is creating the ability to see more colors in our next chapter?
I’ve read authors talk about how we’ve experienced beautiful and amazing things on this planet: love, sunrises, beauty, and adventure- but we’ve never experienced these things without the mar that sin has placed on them. We’ve never experienced love completely unconditionally. We’ve never experienced sunrises without the damage humans have placed on this earth. We’ve never experienced beauty the way God created it, or adventure without fear. What can you imagine with those thoughts in mind now as you think of eternity?! It’s limitless! Certainly not dull!
But this is all still a ways off. For now, we trudge through the life we have created with our flawed human capacities. But this is where I think my Sunday School teachers got parts of it right. The urgency is that life in heaven starts here on earth. I bet you’ve experienced times in your life when you felt like heaven was so close you could touch it.God gives us glimpses of heaven even now. You can experience unconditional love from a Father who thinks the world of you, flaws and all! Death and sin were defeated on the cross and the same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in you. God offers us supernatural comfort and guidance any day of the week here; now.
The urgency isn’t that you may die in a few minutes. I think God absolutely honors our journey and asks us to seek him and find him. The urgency is that life on earth is so much better and more full when we choose to live it with Jesus.
For those of you still searching, well done! Keep it up. You will find him and life will be better for it!
For those of you who understand and have accepted the unconditional love of the Father, it’s your job to start bringing heaven to earth. Notice beauty here, now and pass it on. Take care of the earth that God gave us because it’s good practice for our eternity in the New Heaven and Earth. Participate in adventures here and now! Love others with the love you have been given and live this life to the fullest!