iBelieve: Forever in Jesus’ Healing Presence
Why does God allow evil in our world? In almost every person’s heart — Christian and agnostic alike — this is the most challenging question the human race must grapple with. Why the terrorist bombs, the car crashes, the infant deaths, the cancer, the tornadoes? Does God care? Does He see our tears and hear our cries?
Converted atheist Lee Strobel, determined to write a book entitled The Case For Faith, interviewed theologian Peter Kreeft, who offered this as an explanation: God is good.
In the end, to simply be with God will resolve this cosmic cry. At the conclusion of Job’s troubles, he saw God. He rested in the care of His Lord. The question doesn’t have an answer — Jesus is the Answer. If we live in the presence of Christ for all eternity, basking in His benevolent care, it will make all the accumulated anguish of this fallen world fade away.
A New World
Genesis begins with a beautiful, new, virgin earth. Revelation ends with that world cleansed, restored, perfected, made more wondrous than ever. “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem,” John writes, “coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling with God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”
Have you ever considered what it costs us to live among wickedness? Every plane ticket we buy has a surcharge to pay for the X-ray screening; every paycheck has deductions to pay for nuclear warheads and armies; we surrender a monthly fee for a home security system. But consider that when we begin life in the new earth, there will be no cemeteries, no doctors or Medicare, no legal bills, no Homeland Security, no Social Security. God’s buffet tables may include alphabet soup, but we can forever say goodbye to ADT, TSA, LAPD, FBI, CIA, NSA, NATO, and the NRA. This now holy planet will be the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13); trouble [and sin] will not come a second time (Nahum 1:9). How wonderfully ironic that, although current Jerusalem has often been torn by strife, the “new” Jerusalem actually means “city of peace.”
The New Earth Is Both Here . . . and Real
John provides tangible details about the capital city’s impressive dimensions (Revelation 21:15): a perfect square 1,400 miles on a side. The twelve foundations are of rare jewels, the gates are massive single pearls, and the streets and city itself are of pure gold. These details, as precise as on an architect’s blueprint, give us assurance that the New Earth is a vividly real place where we can enjoy physical life. It will be an open, welcoming, elegant, friendly city; on no day will its gates be shut (v. 25). We will enjoy comfortable homes; Jesus Himself promised: “In My Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2).
It is comforting to realize that, following the thousand years in heaven, our eternal life will actually be right here in this healed new world. In His Beatitudes, Jesus promised: “The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). King David, a man who savored royal living, affirms this: The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever (Psalm 37:29). There will be memorable feasts; we will enjoy music and art and a bustling social life. It will be an awesome worship experience to savor weekly Sabbaths together (Isaiah 66:23). Just as the disciples immediately recognized the resurrected Jesus (John 20), we will still know our relatives and beloved friends as the radius of our spiritual community quickly expands across erased generations and boundaries.
Satisfying Country Life
In addition to the satisfying elegance of the great City itself, we are promised the joys of endless happy years surrounded by nature. Those who get pleasure from picking up a hammer can continue their hobby, unfettered by blisters or the threat of rain! Saints with green thumbs can still enjoy their weed-free gardens. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit (Isaiah 65:21). Friendly beasts will roam the hills in perfect safety (v. 25).
Metaphors of Promise
We can’t know for sure if some figures of speech are literal, or encouraging word pictures. John suggests there will be no night in heaven, that Jerusalem is a City of light. Whether or not there are beautiful sunsets and elegant starry nights, we can certainly know that God’s glory will light the world in the new earth. There will be no dangerous dark alleys, the planet’s thermostat will come under Jesus’ control, and we will never feel tired or in need of a nap. There was no longer any sea is not a statement to worry young people who enjoy surfing. Instead, John is promising that an invading navy can never slip into God’s harbor with U-boats or torpedoes.
Super-Marriage and Premium Facebook
In our current vision so limited by sin and humanity, it’s hard to fathom how God will eagerly expand our joys and experiences. Jesus once said that in heaven, instead of being married (Matthew 22:30), we would be as the angels — who are a higher and more exalted life form! We will experience emotional closeness unstained by jealousy; our friendships and whatever intimacies God has planned will make even earth’s most explosive experiences just a foretaste of something much better. The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold (Psalm 84:11). Just like Jesus, we will take delight in serving God and one another, knowing that our calendars offer an unlimited number of tomorrows (Revelation 22:3).
Vacationers even on a fourteen-day cruise look over the day’s planned activities and sometimes see repetition. Students in school know all too well about “busy work.” But our infinitely creative God will open up every imaginable and unimaginable delight and opportunity for us to enjoy: travel, learning, hobbies, new skills, fresh understandings. Anyone reading these feeble, human web-site Bible studies has undoubtedly spotted mistakes and suspected its limitations; in the New Earth, Jesus Himself will be our instructor as we ponder and delight in the unfathomable grace poured out at Calvary. And this in a world where we will feel absolutely well and eager for the day’s fresh adventure; no one living in Zion will say, “I am ill” (Isaiah 33:24).
Eternity Is Real
Here on earth, every good thing we know is marked by the temporary-ness of life. Jobs are lost; marriages end; vacations and joys are oh-so-brief; life itself fades into the twilight shadows of impending death. We often sigh, “All good things must end.” But not in the New Earth! Along with Isaiah and George Frederick Handel, we can sing — and mean it: And He shall reign for ever and ever.