Here at Trinity we are going through 5 weeks on “what’s next? – what happens when we die” and so I wanted to condense the sermon into a blog in the hopes that it might not only clarify some things but also spark some conversation – all centered around a biblical understanding of “life” after death.
I want to begin with the FINAL place – our home. True home. Really poor theology has infiltrated the Christian hope of being with Christ for eternity. Not that it says we AREN’T but what mainstream media (music, movies, TV) has done is told us that we will dwell forever at our homes in the sky. Maybe we’ll become “cloud hoppers” where we frolic around from cloud to cloud. Maybe we get up there and God says, “Well done Kelly! Here’s your harp…now go play me some stairway to heaven!” For whatever reason we (and I’m including myself in this) have fallen away from a scripture-based understanding of our “home” and have gone completely off the deep-end.
So what does scripture say?
Isaiah 65:17-25 speaks of a “new heaven and new earth” while John writes in Revelation 21:1 that there will be a “new Jerusalem” that comes down. 2 Peter 3:6 mentions that when Christ comes again that he will “destroy” the earth and “create” something new and then we see, yet again, in Revelation 22:1-3 that there is this Garden of Eden scene that emerges. Finally (and “finally as in I’m moving on in this blog and NOT that Scripture doesn’t say any more to this topic) we see, and pray, in Matthew 6:9-13 that we desire the earth to BECOME like it is in heaven.
So what does all this mean?
It means that our home is NOT some place in the sky above the clouds. Our home, is in fact, here. This earth. This planet. This place God created that WE then corrupted by our sin.
Let me explain.
What does God say after each thing he creates? After creating light? Good. After creating water and separating it with land? Good. After vegetation? Good. After creating creatures? Good. And then God blesses them! Not once do we read that God created all these good things and then says, “Good….for now”. Or “good enough.” Everything was good! Everything was right! Everything was…PERFECT. God is restoring PERFECTION! God is not destroying, he is making all things “new”. Again, not new as in something altogether different and new … but new as in restored. It was us that made it not good – not God! And just as God works to reverse what we have done to ourselves – he does so too to the cosmos as well.
Anthony Hoekema writes, “If God would have to annihilate the present cosmos, Satan would have won a great victory…. Satan would have succeeded in so devastatingly corrupting the present cosmos and the present earth that God could do nothing with it but to blot it totally out of existence. But Satan did not win such victory. On the contrary, Satan has been decisively defeated. God will reveal the full dimensions of that defeat when he shall renew this very earth on which Satan deceived humans and finally banish from it all the results of Satan’s evil schemes.”
John Piper writes, “When Revelation 21:1 and 2 Peter 3:10 say that the present earth and heavens will ‘pass away,’ it does not have to mean that they go out of existence, but they meant that there will be such a change in them that their present condition passes away. We might say, ‘The caterpillar passes away, and the butterfly emerges.’ There is a real passing away, and there is a real continuity, a real connection.”
We focus so much on Christ’s second coming and his placing all things under his feet, and we focus on sin and death and destruction finally being removed and we assume that in that process God simply says, “Enough with this world…I’m starting over!” but none of that is biblical by any means. What we need to do is go back to the Garden understanding of how things were. When we go back to that “perfect” time we then are given a glimpse of what will be once more.
“Partial theology”… asserts that Christ’s death and resurrection and final return is for me…restoring ME and other humans. FULL theology proclaims that Christ’s death and resurrection and final return is so that ALL THINGS, humans, animals, trees, plants, ground, rocks, water…ALL things will be restored and made to be what they were created to be. Yes, Christ died for you and me…but his renewal, his return, is to return all things to what THEY were…originally.
Think about that for a second. What did God love to do? Walk in the cool of the day in his creation WITH his creation. With his flock! God is restoring what became to what once was! And when we grasp this, when we understand this, when we put our hope in what the Bible states is actually going to happen…we then begin to SEE and ACT differently…today.
And here, is my challenge for you and I. Knowing that God created us to be stewards of his Creation (Genesis 2:15), knowing that THIS EARTH has not been given up on by God (just like he hasn’t given up on you and me) and will in fact restore all…how are we to act? What are we to do?
Here’s the implication for ALL of this: You, me…we have been given the task, by God, to love and nurture not only each other…but all we see. Not only because we’re here now…not only because when Christ comes again he will restore all things – and trust me when I say that he is fully capable of undoing all the harm we have done…but we do so because God commands it of us. Because in his original creation he said it was “good” and he tells us to work these “good” things. And less we forget that we were created in the image of God, in the likeness of God to “rule” over all these things. And we are to take that role seriously and look to our ultimate King and Ruler in rule as he does. Not with harm…but with love. Not with anger…but with patience. Not with abuse…but with tender care. Just as he does, and will – so we do too. We all, in all our interactions with creation (humans and plants and animals) are to be snippets of heaven to come. Looking forward, acting in the hope to come.
Christ died for this and was raised to life…let us never forget what that fully means.
“Part 2” – the “Intermediate State” can be found here
As usual – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…and there are TONS of implications concerning our “final home” when we understand that THIS is our home. So what do you think?
Pt 2: The Intermediate State
Pt 3: The Multitude
Pt 4: An Eternity of Worship
Pt 5: Do We Become Angels?