The People of Heaven (Heaven Pt. 4)

“I feel like I’m drinking from the Source of the Stream. Does this mean I’ll feel no more longing?” The King – the Source—replies, “You will have the sweet longing of desire that can be fulfilled and shall be again and again and again. Heaven is not the absence of longing but its fulfillment.”

-excerpt from Safely Home

If we take time to step back from our busy lives in the confused and cluttered Silicon Valley, we might realize that there is something more than this that we are longing for. There is that longing because God created us with that longing. He created us with a longing for Him. There was a time, before man decided to rebel against Him, when we were with Him, speaking to Him face to face, and living in unhindered community with Him. We were separated from Him when we chose our own selfish desires over Him, and Heaven was separated from Earth. The feeling of lack and unfulfilled longing we have for being in His presence – in Heaven – is a blessing given to us by Him to draw us back to Him. Praise God for sending His Son Jesus to pay our ransom, freeing us from the confines of our selfish desires. When we accept His sacrifice and leadership in our lives, we are restored to community with Him and have the hope of Heaven to look forward to. We look forward to Heaven because “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). We hope for something beyond this temporary earthly life where our longings will one day being restored.

My last post dealt with the question of what the New Earth itself will be like. The next big question about Heaven (particularly the New Earth) to address is what will we be like there? Often people sadden themselves thinking about how inhuman we might be or how we won’t have anything to do. The fact of the matter is that these things are simply not true. We will be exceptionally human and everything will be perceived and will actually be exceptionally real. C.S. Lewis illustrates this principle in his book The Great Divorce, as he describes things like blades of grass that are too sharp to walk on for someone without a Heavenly body, and the wind would whisk such a person away, because he’s not real enough for the thickness of that world.

Therefore, the first thing we must address are our bodies themselves. We will have resurrected bodies on the New Earth and they will be strong enough that we will be able to gaze upon God Himself and live (Philippians 3:21). But our bodies here on this earth are frail, fragile and temporary. God told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Additionally, we’re chained to the principles of the earth’s frailty, as our bodies slowly decay here, thanks to the effects of sin extending into the physical world. Thanks be to God who will give us new heavenly bodies that won’t grow old and won’t get sick. Now this is not a direct pull from scripture, but I can imagine being able to run faster and jump higher like I just put on a pair of eternal PF Fliers. Our bodies here also experience the debilitating effects of sin, so when certain weaknesses are removed, I can imagine they will be able to do more.

When God made Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden, he put him to work, naming all the animals. He also commanded him to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). This was pre-Fall, before sin ever entered the world. Therefore, work is good. Work was not a product of the Fall. The curse God gave man after the Fall was that his work would now be toilsome. That’s why work today seems like such a drag. But it wasn’t intended to be that way, and God will restore it to its right place in which we enjoy it again: “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence” (Revelation 7:15). Again, what was once corrupted will one day be restored.

Something that many people might be concerned about with Heaven is the perceived lack of learning. They think things like, “It’s going to be boring when we get to Heaven and we all of a sudden know everything we need to know,” when this isn’t the case. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:12 “…then I shall know fully…”. The Greek word for “know fully” is Epiginosko, which means “to know extensively” or “to learn.” Randy Alcorn makes the point that when this term is used it never means absolute knowledge. So there will surely be a huge jump in our knowing, as we see God face to face and see the home He has made for us. Still, there will always be more for us to learn, as God is a deep ocean and knowing Him better will be an eternal process that never ends. Jonathan Edwards, arguably America’s historically most important theologian, once said “The saints will be progressive in knowledge to all eternity” and “The number of ideas of the saints shall increase to eternity.” Just as we will keep learning about God, why wouldn’t we continue learning other things too? A new earth means new things to discover and explore and maybe even new technologies to develop. God is not going to tell us to put our brains on the shelf when we get there!

What will our relationships look like in Heaven? The first thing that comes to my mind is the limitless time we will be able to spend with each other. My primary love language is quality time so you can see why this would excite me! I look forward to spending time with friends that have passed away. I look forward to spending time with friends that have moved away. I look forward to spending time with friends who I simply have not had the kind of time I’ve wanted to spend with them. First and foremost, it will be Jesus. The time I spend with him here seems so fleeting and incomplete compared to what it will be like to see him face to face. God Himself should be a given, but who else are you looking forward to spending time with in Heaven?

For some people, thinking about this begs the question: will we be ourselves in Heaven? Revelation mentions martyrs in Heaven looking down on earth and calling for God’s judgment to come down on their persecutors (Revelation 6:9-10). This suggests that we will remember who we were and what we experienced on the earth, and our identity will remain intact. Who’s to say that we won’t tell stories of what we did on earth as we continue to live out our story on the New Earth? And then we will continue growing and have new stories to tell. When we step foot on the New Earth, the adventure will only be beginning.

What about food? I think this is a great way to wrap up this post. I love food. Don’t you? God made food and He made it not only for us to be nourished but for us to take pleasure in. Food was in the world before the fall, and will surely be on the New Earth. Some people argue, “Our new bodies will be perfect, so we won’t need to eat food to sustain them.” Go back to the quote at the beginning of this post. It says “Heaven is not the absence of longing but its fulfillment.” So stop thinking in terms of there being no more need and no more desire, but rather in terms of having every need and every desire satisfied. Doesn’t that give God more glory? Recognizing that we are still weak, He provides for us again and again and again. This time there will be no lack for every single person. Of course there’s also scriptural backing for the truth of us enjoying food in Heaven: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11) and “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).

Don’t we have an amazing God? Isn’t it incredible that He cares about us so much that He is designing a place where we can live with Him and enjoy Him forever? We will be together in community with Him at the center and a new history will be written as we live out our eternal lives. There will be no lack of interesting things to do, see and talk about. Our bodies will be new, having left behind whatever disease or disability that plagued us on this earth. I leave you with my favorite passage in the Bible, an amazing glimpse of the hope that lies ahead of us, to the glory of our Heavenly Father:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 21:3-5

Author: Jeff Oleson

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