Most of us know that Heaven is something that the Bible mentions a lot, and that it is something we should feel excited about. Yet for many of us that hope remains a bit fuzzy around the edges. Heaven can become a loose concept where all the good things the Bible promises about the future are gathered together. It doesn’t have to be that way. The scriptures provide a lot of details about eternal life and the glorious things to come, and everything changes for us when the defining hope of our salvation shifts from being vague to concrete.
As we ponder the lyrics of this song, let’s glance briefly at four distinct facets of the hope of eternal life that will give substance for our souls to stand upon and face the pain and disappointment of life under the sun.
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Revelation 21:10-11
We are going to live forever in a real city that is vast and glorious beyond anything we can imagine. The description of the New Jerusalem at the close of Revelation is not a metaphor or allegory. It was not even a uniquely Christian innovation and existed in Hebrew tradition. Rather than correcting the Jewish belief, the apostles put an exclamation point on it (Gal. 4:26; Heb 11:10, 13:14). In Revelation 21:17, John even makes clear that the measurements of the angel are the same as human measurements. It is a real city! We live in a time of unsurpassed transience and have been stripped of nearly all meaningful connection to land and place. Rows of homes in Atlanta and Denver look almost identical. Strip malls in Dallas are indistinguishable from stores in Kansas City. Yet we have a deep craving for a lasting place to call home and the Holy City is God’s answer for His people.
…and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Acts 3:20-21
In Matthew 19:28, Jesus spoke of a time that He simply called “the regeneration.” This is a wonderful, fantastically hopeful thought. There is coming a season of refreshing for the earth when He is going to make all things new (Revelation 21:5). He is going to restore all things!
The New Jerusalem will rest forever upon this earth – renovated to a pristine condition matching and exceeding its original goodness and perfection in the beginning. Creation has always been groaning in futility since the sin of man, but the hope of its liberation is more poignant now than ever before (Romans 8:21-22). We have not done a very good job at stewarding the resources of the earth and the fallout of our modern, industrialized world is horrific. Multitudes have no access to clean water, there are cities so polluted that the act of breathing is dangerous, and species of wildlife - the very handiwork of God - are going extinct at an unparalleled rate. This is in addition to the nearly constant stream of news detailing droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires ravaging the nations.
But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist. Isaiah 11:4-5
Jesus is going to actually, physically return to this earth and establish a kingdom that will rule over all of the nations with perfect righteousness and justice (Matt. 24:30, 25:31; 2 Pet. 3:13) The kingdoms of the world are going to become the kingdom of the Lord and His Christ! (Revelation 11:15, Psalm 2) War is displacing millions of souls and causing an unprecedented refugee crisis in the earth today. The innocent are exploited and trafficked. Crime and violence are so commonplace we scroll right past it on our news feed. Racism tears at the very fabric of our society. Corruption, greed, and self-interest define the governments of the nations. All of this should produce in us a deep cry for the sinless, holy King to come and make all things right. How we long for His kingdom to come! (Matthew 6:10)
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53
We will live forever in the Holy City on the restored earth where righteousness dwells in an incorruptible body. Our future is not the escape from death through immateriality but the defeat of death through immortality! We have been born again into living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pet. 1:3). Jesus will return and our bodies will be conformed to the glory of His resurrected body (2 Cor. 4:14; Phil. 3:21). All we have ever known is a body that is slowly breaking down. The ultimate answer is not found in the mirage of perpetual youth in our body-obsessed culture where our latest fitness exploits are showcased on Instagram. Regardless of the health of our bodies at this moment, we know all too well that it is only a matter of time before suffering will strike our frame or those whom we care deeply about. We are destined to return to the dust (Psalm 90:3). Yet for those in Christ there is a better word than the decree of death! Our bodies will burst forth from the grave and we will shine forever in His kingdom (Matt. 13:43). Cancer, sickness, surgeries, pandemics, diseases, exhaustion, accidents, injuries, and pain will be no more and He will wipe away every tear!
This is but the briefest sampling of what the Bible reveals concerning the future of the redeemed. And yet it is enough to add much weight and conviction to our hearts as we sing of the day when we will all be joined together in our eternal dwelling place with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We indeed have a strong consolation – an anchor for our souls! (Heb. 6:19)