In the past few months I have become much more curious about heaven and what it will be like. This is most likely the effect of Derek's obsession with heaven that comes out through most of his Sunday school lessons and also his obsession with the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn, which he also uses a lot in his lessons. Matthew chose to focus mostly on the new earth that will be created. I didn't really understand the whole "new earth" thing until we did a study on it in Bible study my senior year, so for those of you who also don't know, the present heaven is the heaven that people are in now and the new earth is what will be after the second coming. Revelation 21:3 says "now the dwelling of God is with men." Many people have compared the new earth to the Garden of Eden, but in the Garden God walked with Adam and Eve, but it never says He dwelled with them. I mean it's cool enough that they walked with God, but one day we will get to have Him live with us, all around us. How cool is that?!
There are many references to similarities of the Garden of Eden and the new earth (which I did not write down so I can't really cite them, sorry), but there is never any mention of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Evil won't even be a possibility on the new earth. There will be no temptation, spiritual warfare, sickness, disorder, sadness, or pain. No affliction whatsoever. Satan is not allowed to enter! I can hardly wrap my mind around a single day without any kind of adversity from Satan, much less eternity. (well, I can't really comprehend eternity either, but you get the point.) That right there is enough to say "send me now!" How wonderful that will be!
In Revelation 21:14-21 there is a list of all the substances that the 12 foundations of the new Jerusalem will be build on. Jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. At first glance, it honestly just feels like a long list of words that I can hardly say, but these are some of the strongest substances, next to the diamond. This new Jerusalem is permanent. These substances that it is built on show that it is not going anywhere. They stand firm. They are solid. The security that we all long for is found.
Revelation 21:22-27 mentions that there will be no temple in heaven. To us, that's no big deal. We don't go to a temple to worship. It has no place in our everyday life. But one of the most important things to do with a passage of scripture is to look at it's historical context. For the Jewish people, the only person who could enter the temple was the priest and he could only enter once a year. He had to go through extensive cleansing processes and if he did one things wrong he would die upon entering. They had to tie a string to his foot so that they could pull him out if he was struck dead. Take a moment to put yourself in his shoes. I feel like no matter how precise I was about the cleansing rituals I would be terrified to walk in there. What if I missed a small detail? What if I accidentally skipped one? I mean one mistake and you're dead. Ok, that's not the point of this, but just a thought. Anyway, the point is that we won't need a temple. There will be no central location of God, He will be everywhere!
And now, the grand finale (of this post at least), comes in Revelation 22:4. "They will see His face." Until this point, it has been impossible to see God's face without dying. (Death seems to be a common theme here. God's a pretty powerful guy. Don't mess with Him. He means business.) But there we will get to see His face! Me and Jesus, face to face, just like I'm sitting down with an old friend. Our wildest imaginations can't even comprehend how beautiful He is. What has always been impossible becomes possible. There are no limitations.
This whole talk just really sparked my interest in heaven even more. I'm going to start reading Randy Alcorn's book. I've heard it's not an easy read at all, and will probably take me forever to get through, but what I have read is awesome and I really recommend it. I am in no way saying that I want to die or anything, but I mean this place sure does sound pretty awesome, and that's only he beginning. It's incredible to think about the incredible plans that God has for us even after death and for all of eternity. I can't wait to see what they are; it's so exciting. And if that doesn't get you just a little excited, well, you might need to check your pulse.
You Hold Me Now- Hillsong
On the day when I see
All that You have for me
When I see You face to face
There surrounded by Your grace
All my fears swept away
In the light of Your embrace
When Your love is all I need
And forever I am free
Where the streets are made of gold
In Your presence healed and whole
Let these songs of heaven rise to You alone
No weeping, no hurt or pain
No suffering, You hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness, no sickening
No hiding, You hold me now
You hold me now
In this life I will stand
Through my joy and my pain
Knowing there's a greater day
There's a hope that never fails
When Your name is lifted high
And forever praises rise
For the glory of Your name
I'm believing for the day
When the wars and violence cease
All creation lives in peace
Let the songs of heaven rise to You alone
All my heart will give
All the glory to Your name
Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. -Martin Luther