New Heavens And a New Earth
[This post originally appeared on TERPOGIJC]
While I have studied the Bible in quite a bit of detail for forty years now, I have not until the last couple of years given much consideration to seeing the biblical revelation specifically in light of God’s plans for the new heavens and the new earth He speaks of so emphatically in 2 Peter 3:13. I am aware that this passage is not new to anyone, but its implications have begun to impact my thinking on many levels.
Since God is going to destroy this present earth and the heavens that encompass it, several implications bear closer consideration.
First, what happens here is not an end in itself, and ought not to be presented as such by Christian leaders. For as long as I can remember Christian leaders I have known have definitely presented biblical truth as though this life, here on this earth, is what matters. They have done this in two primary ways.
- By suggesting that what comes after this life is all about a “destination.” ‘If you died today, where would you spend eternity?’ If we can just get folks to nail down the ‘right destination.’ Little is ever really said about why God has chosen to take us into that new realm of things. Sometimes it feels almost like we will all be some kind of starry-eyed tourists in heaven.
- By focusing the attention of church members primarily upon behavior. ‘Are you behaving in such a manner as to glorify God as much as possible in this life?’ If we can just get folks ‘living right.’
But, what if our lives here in this present world are really about much more than where we will spend eternity or behavior adjustment so as to glorify God here and now?
What if this life really is an opportunity to come into a true relationship with God, [through His redemptive work in Christ], and grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ so that we may be prepared for all that comes in the next phase of things in the new heavens and the new earth? What if everything He brings us through here is simply getting us ready for all that He has planned for us throughout an endless future of usefulness in those new heavens and that new earth?
Because this clearly is the case biblically, our perspective on what God is seeking to do through the churches needs to shift dramatically. We must move away from holding very narrow views of ‘church life,’ and ‘Christian service.’
Our leaders must resist the temptation to consign the saints into artificial groupings based upon performance or zeal, all of which merely sets up unbiblical divisions in the churches. All such artificial systems simply turn the focus away from what we are being prepared for, and place it upon how we think we are doing.
Instead of asking such questions as: ‘How is what God is doing in my life preparing me for His plans in the next redemptive phase of things in the new heavens and the new earth?’ we get bogged down with fruitless thinking such as: ‘How am I doing compared to the really serious Christians in my church?’ Besides being divisive, all such thinking simply short circuits what God is really doing among His people in preparing them for all that lies ahead.
God is to be known and glorified for Who He is far beyond this earth! This earth is going to be destroyed with a fervent heat. He is to be known and glorified eternally in new heavens and a new earth. And redeemed sons and daughters of Adam’s race are going to be instrumental in the work!