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Monday, March 17, 2014

Heaven Pt 5: Forever!


{The audio file}

Heaven Pt 5: “Forever!” Revelation 21:1-8

Come, Lord Jesus! Lift our sights to that “forever day”, to that “evermore time” when we will know you like never before, when faith and hope will be swallowed up in sight and love will flower into full bloom! And now, help us so that as we listen and imagine and dream, our yearning may be handsomely increased, and our hearts be more fully won over. Amen.

I realize that last Sunday’s sermon may have left you in something of a darker humor as we talked about the Day of Judgment. But you have to take that sermon in the context of the three before it, and this one. What will happen after the resurrection and the great “Tribunal of Christ” – In other words – what will heaven feel like, sound like, taste like, smell like etc?

The New Heavens and New Earth. 21.1 We are often left in the dark about heaven after the resurrection, and have pictures flitting about our heads of clouds, harps, floating bodies or angelic beings filling the imaginative void. It all seems so dreamy and far away. But the Scriptures give us a different, more solid picture: A New Heavens and a New Earth.

a.     Romans 8:18‑23 and 2 Peter 3:10‑13 (Anna’s wedding ring).

b. “Just as God is renewing the human race and just as he will glorify the human body, so he is going to restore & glorify this present world. Satan will not have the final say regarding the destiny of our planet” (Ed Donnelly, Heaven & Hell, 114). “( . . . ) through the mediatorial ministry of Jesus Christ the Lord ( . . . ) a new humanity is being created and a full reconstruction of our sin spoiled cosmos is guaranteed” (J.I. Packer, Foreword, “Antinomianism,” ix).Then we will see the Beatitudes completely fulfilled: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Then we will see our prayer totally answered, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As the early church fathers used to say: “Grace doesn’t destroy nature, but restores it.” Heaven will come to earth and both together will form one radiant existence (Rev. 21:1ff)… “Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one” (TH 111). The restored earth will be an abundant testimony to the Father’s beauty, Christ’s triumph over sin and Satan, and the Spirit’s power!

        If God totally wipes out all creation and comes up with a new creation completely out of nothing, it would be a sign of defeat (like me playing chess…). As Anthony Hoekema stated: “The defeat of Satan. If God would have to annihilate the present cosmos, Satan would have won a great victory, for then Satan would have succeeded in so devastatingly corrupting the present universe and the present earth that God could do nothing with it but blot it out of existence. But Satan was decisively defeated. God will reveal the full dimensions of that defeat when he renews this very earth on which Satan deceived mankind, and finally banishes from it all the results of Satan's evil work. God will maintain his creation. There will be continuity as well as discontinuity between the present earth and the new earth” ("Heaven: Not Just an Eternal Day Off"). To use the words of Paul in another context, mortality will be swallowed up in life! And to paraphrase St. Augustine, as the ecstasy of the saved soul will “flow over” into the glorified body, so the joy of re-creation, reconstruction, renewal, the regeneration will flood the created order. Therefore, we should long for Christ’s return: 1st –to see him vindicated before the eyes of all – before demonic, angelic, inanimate and human. 2nd –To see his work of liberation and rescue fulfilled before our eyes. And thus the created order restored by his tender-love. Oh what a sight that will be - our minds can’t even imagine what an unscarred creation will sound like, taste like, smell…!

The New Humanity Displayed in all of its Colorful Beauty. 21.2-8 No longer tribal wars, racial tensions, territorial-turf feuds, etc. Micah 4.1-4, Isaiah 2.1-4, 11.1-10 will be utterly and completely brought to fullness. Swords beaten into plowshares, spear into pruning hooks, lions and lambs will dwell in peaceful harmony, predator and prey will thrive happily together. There will be a radiant, shimmering display of the diverse aspects of our humanity, all united into one eternal race - In Christ, because of Christ and around the Father. In eternity we will blossom, developing perfection and growing in greater aspects of his likeness. As Richard Baxter wrote: “O then, what a blessed society will the family of heaven be, and those peaceful inhabitants of the new Jerusalem, where there is no division, no strangeness, no deceitful friendship, no, not one unkind expression, nor an angry look or thought; but all are one in Christ, who is one with the Father, and all live in the love of him, who is love itself.” Therefore, knowing what we shall be should already affect how we treat one another here and now: How can one look forward to eternity with people you can’t stand now? Give grace to one another now with a view to then!

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and bless-ed we shall meet at last” (TH 689).

New Joy. 21.3-4. Throughout eternity we will discover new aspects of God’s infinite majesty, holiness, power, grace and loveliness. True, unending, enduring ecstasy will fill our souls as we learn more and more of his being and his ways. We will study his ways...we will delve into the depths of his purposes...we will rummage the profundities of his movements throughout history etc. and see he really is Good; and – though we may never fully comprehend it all - we come to see that it was all very right;
O Christ, he is the fountain,
the deep sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted
more deep I’ll drink above:
there to an ocean fullness
his mercy doth expand,
and glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land” (TH 546).

And that joy will be unstoppable. No longer, as it often is now, will that joy be stunted by sin; no longer will that joy be hobbled by disease; no longer will it be hampered by exhaustion. “When we've been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we've first begun” (TH 460). Sinclair Ferguson inspiringly describes things this way, “The energies of God the Spirit are fully released in the resurrection body; those who possess it consequently experience the end of the inertia and lethargy of the flesh, and an ease in serving God to the full capacity of their being” (“The Holy Spirit,” 252).


As I end this series, I ask you: are you ready? “And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” (21.6). “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”” (Romans 10.13).

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