JESUS DID NOT SAY THAT WE WILL LIVE WITH HIM IN HEAVEN FOREVER
As much as we like this idea, the assumption that we are going to be in heaven for eternity is just not true. God created the earth to be a perfect home for man. It was His intention from the beginning that the human race, perfected in holiness and righteousness as His sons and daughters, will live in union with God and rule over the earth in partnership with Him.
Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over all livestock and wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ (Gen. 1: 26)
Adam’s rebellion did not change God’s plan. It was a part of His plan since God was not taken by surprise. How else would He reveal His mercy and grace to the entire universe including the fallen angels, if He did not have a plan to redeem and rescue mankind from the consequences of sin?
The erroneous idea that Jesus will take His church to heaven and then destroy the earth and all its ungodly inhabitants, flies in the face of the entire drift of Scripture. Both the Old and the New Testaments bear witness to a God who does not destroy but renews and restores everything that was broken by the Fall. He did not destroy the entire human race and begin again when Adam fell. His plan of redemption through Jesus was already in place before the beginning of time.
All the inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. (Rev. 13: 8)
God has always preserved a remnant for Himself – people who are faithful to Him in the midst of apostasy and ungodliness. It was through the remnant of faithful Jews that Messiah came; Zechariah and Elizabeth bore John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah; Mary and Joseph – Mary chosen to be the mother of Jesus and Joseph, a godly man, together with Mary, chosen to raise Him in a godly home; His disciples who believed in Him were groomed to continue His mission on earth after He left.
Throughout the Scriptures God’s intention is clear. Using the picture of a geographical kingdom, God taught His people that they were to rule over their territory in righteousness under His protection and guidance as a witness to the surrounding nations that He alone is God and that His nature is love expressed in mercy and compassion to all. That they did not get it and fell into idolatry over and over again did not cancel out His plan.
Both Paul and John clearly understood that Jesus’ death accomplished much more than forgiveness of sins. Just as the disobedience of Adam had cosmic repercussions, so the death of Jesus, the last Adam, brought about the reversal of the devastating effects of Adam’s sin.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Rom. 8: 18-22)
John was privileged to have glimpses into the future when Satan will be vanquished forever and Jesus will be established as God’s rightful king over all creation. John witnessed the end result of redemption – a renewed heaven and earth which came together under the rule of God. In picture language he described heaven coming down to earth, symbolising the final union of heaven and earth with God taken His place among His redeemed and perfected people.
Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell 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.’ (Rev. 21: 1-4)
What did John mean by the words ‘a new heaven and a new earth’? Did he mean that God will utterly destroy the earth and start all over again? This interpretation is not consistent with Scripture. Peter gives us a glimpse into the meaning of a ‘new heaven and a new earth.’
But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and the destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter: 3: 5-7)
To be consistent, we must interpret the destruction of the earth by fire in the same way as the “destruction” of the earth by water. Destruction did not mean annihilation by water in Noah’s day, and therefore it cannot mean annihilation by fire when Jesus comes. “Destruction” in Scripture is often used in the sense of purging, i.e, the removal of everything corrupt and evil. Take John’s testimony about the Messiah, for example.
I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matt. 3: 11-12)
What is God’s intention, then? Just as He created (i.e., reshaped and filled a formless and empty earth) the heavens and the earth by His word through the Word – Jesus – so He will purge His creation from evil by His word through the Word so that it will be His dwelling place with His people forever.
We shall continue this study tomorrow.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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