Heaven & Earth: Our Future Hope
We heard a sermon this Sunday on Heaven. One book on my reading list is NT Wright’s book Surprised by Hope. I have watched the DVD that goes with the book. Wright points out on the DVD how our understanding of our future hope has shifted over the past few centuries. Here’s a short clip:
There are a couple things I’ve noticed since listening to Wright. The first is how little we talk about heaven in any detail. It plays such a small role in how we think about the world, and is seldom a subject of the songs we sing as a church. We started singing On Jordan’s Stormy Banks as a church a couple years ago. As of now, I think this is the only song explicitly about heaven that we sing (and for that reason, we sing it regularly). The evangelical church in America has done a poor job of thinking about and envisioning heaven in the last century, instead turning over our responsibility to pop culture’s pie in the sky by and by theology (harps and clouds sold separately). We must reclaim this role, and inspire the imaginations of Christians. People need to see hope consistently before their eyes.
The second is how consistently we have divorced heaven and earth. When Isaiah and Revelation speak about heaven, it is regularly tied to earth. The picture given in both books is of heaven and earth being reunited – the earth being restored, the stain of sin and the fall being removed, and God’s presence once more filling the whole earth as His Temple, like a worldwide Garden of Eden. Repeatedly, the Old Testament proclaims that “the glory of Yahweh will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14; cf. Num 14:21; Ps 72:19; Is 11:9; also Ex 40:34-35; Is 6:3). So the heaven we should envision is not an ethereal eternal home in the sky, but the place of God’s presence coming to earth.
We are taught by the Lord Jesus to pray for the Father’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. When is the last time we really focused on the joining together of the two realms of God’s kingdom? Heaven on earth, resurrection, new creation… these concepts come together in Scripture to present a future hope that inspired the Apostles to preach the gospel throughout the Roman Empire, through persecution and great suffering. It inspired the movement to abolish slavery. It inspired the modern missionary movement. Only when we understand the next life, can we lay this one down. Let’s start a movement in this generation to recapture the vision of the new heavens and the new earth, where God dwells with His people forever!