Apr 01, 2019 | Corey Porter
Haven’t read part 1 yet? Start here.
Continuity between this earth and the new one? Now that gets me excited
In the first article in this series I identified my misconceptions and fears about my afterlife. Perhaps you had some of the same ones I did. But this is where I find myself getting excited. Through listening to biblical scholars I am rediscovering a more full understanding of what will happen in the afterlife.
Here is the crux of the new thoughts that I am embracing about the afterlife:
Jesus will not only resurrect my body and reunite it with my soul, but will absolutely renew everything about this messed up universe, both material and immaterial.
What is changing my persuasion? I recently watched a video talk by Randy Alcorn, one of the leading Christian theologians on Heaven. He speaks on C.S. Lewis’ perspective on Heaven and the new earth.
In the video, he says the renewal of all things hinges on the physical resurrection of Jesus. The Bible tells us that the physical resurrection of Jesus is only the firstfruits, the first hints and glimpses, giving us only a taste of our future bodily resurrection and, beyond that, a resurrection of all of creation as well (the new Heaven and new Earth).
I find my imagination stirred by Randy’s reference to this verse:
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV).
My bodily resurrection
The already-accomplished, historically documented, physical resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee of my future physical, bodily resurrection. God does not only promise a spiritual resurrection, but a physical one. Jesus rose with a physical body. He ate with his disciples. They touched him.
I am delighted to discover and meditate on this. I can see that there is continuity between the Jesus who walked with his disciples during his ministry on the earth and Jesus in his glorified and resurrected state. The relationship continued. Jesus was the same person.
Understandably, they first thought he was a ghost; but of course this was because no human had ever experienced the phenomenon of such a resurrection prior to that instant. Eventually, they recognized the very Jesus that they had followed and lived with for so many years. They were assured through many meetings that he was not a ghost.
What was the resurrected body of Jesus like? He ate bread, drank wine, he had a real form. He even prepared meals for his disciples. When God raised Jesus from the dead, his old body didn’t remain in the grave. Instead, the same body of Jesus was resurrected. God raised the old body to become the new body. The old body wasn’t rotting in the tomb while he walked around in the new one. It was the same body. The new body was the same—body, scars, flesh, and bones.
My heart can hardly contain the joy that I feel while meditating on this. This news is exciting enough. But wouldn’t the reality of my future physical resurrection mean that I also need a physical place for my resurrected body to exist and have its being? I am excited to consider that, not only will Jesus resurrect my body, but he will resurrect the places that house it as well: the heavens and the earth. Randy Alcorn points out that this is why I can cherish the implications of all the “re” words in the Bible:
God is going to bring it all back to good. God will take all and renew it.
I am relieved to understand that there will be continuity between my current earthly body and my new resurrected body, between this current earth and the new resurrected earth, between the heavens as they are now and the resurrected heavens, but, of course, they will be absolutely perfect and free of sin, suffering, death, and the curse.
The Bible’s view of my resurrection is far superior
The ironic thing is that the Bible gives a much more appealing view of my future resurrected state than I could have thought up myself, or what I have heard most other Christians teach or believe.
Until more recently, I only understood part of my future afterlife in Christ: the initial ascent of my disembodied soul to heaven. To be certain, Paul says that before the resurrection of our new bodies, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But it is only an intermediate heaven, not my eternal dwelling place. For a time, my soul is taken to be with God in his heavenly throne room.
Although God is omnipresent, this is the epicentre from which he governs. A few authors of books in the Bible got glimpses into this awesome place; Isaiah, Daniel, and John all wrote about their visions, and it made each of them tremble and become weak.
Why have I had such a dumbed-down view of my afterlife?
This begs the question: why have I had such a lame view of heaven for so much of my Christian life? Who has a lot to gain from sewing seeds of lies about our resurrected state?
Satan wants to spread lies about what heaven is like. Why? He wants me to believe that I will be disembodied and floating around like a ghost. Inhuman. Unappealing. Boring. Who wants to be a ghost? Satan does this so that I don’t desire my resurrected state and don’t desire others to experience it either.
If I don’t have a true and robust view of my afterlife, I will tend to resent God and panic when I face suffering. When I do have an able body, I will tend towards living like life is all about taking in as much as I can in this brief life on earth. My mistaken thought has been, “I only go around once. I have to do what I can to be happy, and not miss out on anything.”
I am astonished and delighted to discover I am not going to be here on the earth just once.
Walking on the new earth with Jesus?
How cool is that? As a Christian I have been known to say, “Wow, it would have been so cool to walk with Jesus and his disciples. But I only go round once, and I was born a few thousand years too late.” I thought I had lost all opportunity. Not true!!! Because of the resurrection of Jesus, I marvel at the thought that I will one day walk with Jesus on the new earth in my resurrected state.
Randy Alcorn questions, “When Jesus rose from the dead, why did he spend 40 days on the earth in his resurrected state? Perhaps he was giving us a hint of what it would be like someday, to be a resurrected soul and body living on a resurrected earth with him. For the redeemed, we come around twice on the earth.”
I have no need to panic about getting my bucket list done. My second time around on the new earth will last forever. I am so relieved that there is connection and continuity between this earth and the new earth.
Jesus will reverse the curse
Genesis 3 helps me understand why I have the innate sense that something has gone terribly wrong with the world. All of creation fell under our parents’ rebellion, yet we still have this nostalgia for Eden. We want the world to be better than it is. Yet, despite all our efforts, we cannot bring it back.
Was God’s plan thwarted by Satan’s scheming and humankind’s fall? No. In the future, righteous men and women will again rule over the world. It is going to happen. God’s redemptive plan is still in motion. We can be assured that Jesus will renew all of creation.
The current world is groaning, not only because of entropy and global warming, but because it is awaiting its renewal. It is not the pains of death, but the pains of new birth. The Bible says that the earth is waiting for the children of God to be revealed. It seems that, with our renewal, the earth and heavens themselves will be renewed.
Wow! Do you see why I have a new and reinvigorated hope for my afterlife? Even these glimpses into God’s cosmic redemptive plan give me so much hope. Just thinking about my physical, bodily resurrection is amazing enough, but to understand that Jesus will also resurrect the current heavens and earth themselves? That’s beyond what I can imagine.
This is amazing! I was primarily made for a relationship, but also a place. My ultimate relationship with God will flourish in the new place—the new heavens and earth. The Bible teaches me that a renewed earth will become the dwelling place of God and my new eternal home. One that is physical. I will become all that God intended me to be, but the heavens and the earth will also become all he intended them to be.
God’s plans were never thwarted
God didn’t change his purpose and plan because of the fall. In the garden, God made and intended righteous men and women to take care of the earth, to rule as vice-regents, for his glory.
These visions of my afterlife get me so much more excited. God does not just snatch my soul out of this world to live an eternal disembodied experience in the angelic realm. It goes far beyond my initial impressions. God did not abandon his plan, but will fulfill it, and make it even better for there having been sin and a fall.
Just how far will God’s redemption reach?
Isaac Watts, in his hymn “Joy to the World”, sums it up amazingly. How far will redemption reach?
“As far as the curse is found.”
Every great story has a powerful beginning and a redemptive ending. When I compare the first two chapters of Genesis to the last chapters of Revelation, I see an even greater ending. The tree of life in the garden of Eden turns into a forest of life in the New Jerusalem. Instead of just one man and woman in Eden, there will be many Kings of the earth bringing splendor into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24). The earth is full of redeemed and glorified people, cities, cultures, and nations. A host of righteous men and women ruling the earth as God intended.
You and I live in the middle of the story. The here and not yet. We still live under the consequences of the curse, the mess. Things go wrong here. This is why I cannot put my hopes for a perfect life in the here and now.
That is why I so desperately need to gain an accurate perspective about our epic beginning and even greater end. I need to know where I come from and where I am going if I am to live with hope in the middle of the story. Jesus is the person that will bring good out of bad. Heaven will be the place where we can see more fully that God was always working all things together for good.
And so I long for a better country. To be with God and his people in a renewed earth. All the suffering in this life will be made up for and remedied. I am finding my hope and faith restored in the life to come.
What happens after I die? Part 1 of 3
What happens after I die? Part 3 of 3
“C.S. Lewis on Heaven and the New Earth: God’s Eternal Remedy to the Problem of Evil and Suffering” by Randy Alcorn. Hosted on Desiring God Youtube Channel.