Questions on Heaven

Last week was a tiring, but exciting, time talking about heaven.  One rule I had was that there were to be no questions.  I wanted to get through what I thought was foundational in forming a biblical concept of heaven before I took on questions that might lead to rabbit trails.  Also, I wanted time to respond to questions and not give terrible answers that might make me look like a heretic.  So here are some of the questions that I received, with answers:

Will the new earth (the new heavens and new earth) be made of this earth?  Does that mean that God will not completely destroy this earth?

Correct, God is not destroying this earth and starting over.  People often point to Matthew 19:28, which in the ESV says, “..in the new world,” (which is talking about when Jesus returns).  This is when looking at the greek, other translations, and some commentaries comes in handy.  Why? Because in NIV, the verse is translated, “at the renewal of all things.”  The word actually is “at the regeneration.”  Does this mean the ESV is wrong?  No.  It is how a group interpreted this certain word.  And when we pair this with the rest of Scripture (which is translated by the same group), we come to the conclusion that they are talking about a new earth that is redeemed and restored.  The two examples I used were from Rev 21:5, which says,”I am making all things new.”  The new earth will be a place that is new, but is still earth.  Jesus says he is making all things new, and not “I am making all new things.”  We need to also consider Isa 65:17 and Rev 21:4, which talk about the “former things” passing away (all that hindered goodness, truth and beauty), but those that are not a hindrance will remain.  And those things will be strikingly familiar to us.  

This is also why we talked about the idea that Heaven is Already/Not Yet.  We are able to experience glimpses of glory (like my wife walking down the aisle) now.  What does this mean for us? We need to have a larger view of the eternal.  Our understanding of heaven must be bigger than what our minds limit it to be.  This leads us to wonder what heaven will actually be like, which is addressed a couple of questions below.

Jesus’s resurrected body had the holes in his hands and side. Does that mean that people who have lost limbs in this life won’t get them back?

Great question.  To see the implications of this question, one only needs to think of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who have suffered amputations to survive roadside bombs, or the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Sam Storms has a great answer for this question in a booklet published by Crossway, called “The Restoration Of All Things. (which is available for a free download)”

We need to remember that we are redeemed and restored when we inherit our resurrected body.  Storms writes:

But what assurance do we have from God that he will in fact sup- ply us with a glorified and eternal body that is no longer subject to the deterioration and disease we now experience? The simple answer is: the Holy Spirit! Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:5 is a reminder “that ‘the earnest of the Spirit’ is not a mere static deposit, but the active vivifying operation of the Holy Spirit within the believer, assuring him that the same principle of power which effected the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead is also present and at work within him, preparing his mortal body for the consummation of his redemption in the glorification of his body.”

For the Christian, then, death is not to be feared. We know that whatever illness or debilitation we experience now, whatever degree of suffering or hardship we must face, there is promised to us by the Spirit a glorified, Christlike, transformed, and utterly eternal abode, a body in which there is no disease, no pain, no deprivation, and no decay. 

We should also remember why these terrible things have happened to us in the first place: sin.  Heaven is not raising us up from where we left off, it is a reversal of the curse of the fall that was imposed on all of creation (which is another reason why we can answer the previous question by saying, God is not vaporizing this earth and building a completely new one).  Romans 8:18-23 speaks to this pretty clearly: 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:18–23) 

You said that you hope we won’t just sit on clouds playing the harp in heaven. You called it something along the lines of an “empty existence”. But what can be more fulfilling than eternity praising God? Isn’t that the chief end of man? “To glorified God and enjoy him forever?”

I do hope we won’t just sit on clouds playing the harp in heaven.  Perhaps, instead of describing it along the lines of an “empty existence,” I should have just called it an immature view of glorifying God.  Before you get your pitchforks out and tar and feather me, hear me out.  We were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever.  And we will be spending our eternity in haven praising God.  But I want you to think for a minute about how we praise God in the here and now.  Do you only praise God when you are singing in church?  No.  You are to praise him in all the things you do.  You are to praise God in how you communicate, rest, worship, and work.  In fact, work was around before the fall, which implies that we will be working in heaven.  So this question might indicate how we view worshipping God in our lives.  We tend to divide life into work, play, and worship, and each category is not related to the other (this is a broad generalization, but we all fall prey to it from time to time).  So what does this mean for us right now?  First, we need to think about all of our life as worshiping God and enjoying him forever.  Second, we need to realize how we fail in doing this.  And finally, we need to look forward to the day when our worship will be the way it was supposed to be. 

There’s no death in heaven, right? Will we eat meat in heaven?

There is no death in heaven.  But man, I hope there is meat.  Two thoughts: 1. Joe and talked about this, and we hope it is like the tail of an iguana, or some other reptile, where we can break it off to grill, and it just grows back.  Probably not going to happen.  2. Whatever we eat is going to be awesome.  It is heaven, after all.

•If there is no pain or tiredness in heaven, does that mean we will be as strong as God?

There will be no more tears, pain, brokenness in heaven.  Does this mean we will be like God (or as strong as God)?  Absolutely not.  Do not confuse heaven with becoming like a God.  That turns into polytheism.  This also sounds like a similar question which atheists might use to “prove” God is not really God: Could God make a stone so big that even he could not move it?  This is asking God to do something that is inconsistent with his attributes.  We should also remember that there still is a principle at work called the Immanuel Principle, which is stated throughout Scripture: I will be their God, and they will be my people.  That does not stop happening when Christ returns.  We will always be God’s people.

Some people did not like my comparison of heaven to a NYC subway. 

I thought it was a good illustration of the diversity of what heaven will be like.  You have people from all different cultures, social and economic classes, and lots of them.  Its just an example/illustration to help bring to life Rev 5:9, “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”  When I think of this verse (and consider the subway full of diversity), I cannot wait for heaven and to see the unique cultural contributions of each image-bearer that is present throughout the ages.

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