Tag Archives: eternity

Heaven On Earth

Tropical ocean scene heaven on earth
A Pleasant Respite

Nine years ago, I spent much of spring and summer on the island of Saipan with my fiancé, meeting her friends and church-mates, and preparing for our August Wedding. We had a routine, of sorts. Liberty picked me up at seven in the morning and drove us to the beach where we read the Bible. Then we exercised at the gym before she had to get ready for her work as a newspaper reporter. We usually met for lunch. After she got off work, we spent most evenings at church or at a Bible study in a home.

While on this self-funded sabbatical, I had plenty of free time to rest, read and relax while Liberty was at work. I enjoyed reading in the lobby of my hotel, located across a road from the beach. As a cool ocean breeze swept through the open lobby, I periodically paused from reading to gaze at a flame tree and the ocean beyond.

Whenever we temporarily leave behind our busy, stress-filled lives to visit beautiful tropical settings, they seem by comparison a sort of heaven on earth. We even refer to such places as a tropical Paradise. Of course, Christians know that no place on this sin-marred world can compare to the original creation or to the life to come. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” 1

Even so, this island setting, with my usual responsibilities temporarily removed, primed my heart to better appreciate what the Bible proclaims about our eternal home. It was providential, not coincidental, that one of the books I read in that Saipan hotel lobby was Anthony Hoekema’s The Bible and the Future.

Heaven On Earth

For me, the phrase “Heaven On Earth” brings to mind feeble attempts to create for ourselves a heaven of our own making that we control and manage. Such a focus easily transforms any hard tasks or sacrifices associated with following Jesus into obstacles to avoid. How different this is from Jesus’ invitation:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29

We can find rest for our souls now as we live in a fallen world even though we spend most our time away from the pleasant inns. But, what I found so comforting and restful, what stirred my heart as I read in that hotel lobby was contemplating what the Bible said God was going to do in the future.

I have to confess that, prior to this, I never spent much time studying the subject of heaven. Knowing that God would be there, that there would be no more crying or pain, that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” 2 was good enough for me.

I also hadn’t given much thought to the significance the Bible places on our bodily resurrection. Nor did I concern myself over what it would be like in the intermediate state before the resurrection. I was content that I would be made clean, rid of sin forever.

I hadn’t considered how relevant the new earth is to my future. My first dispensational Bible instructors taught me that Israel would inhabit the new earth. Everyone else would inhabit heaven.

But, what if our eternal home is on a perfected earth, one restored to its original goodness without any sin? What if our “heaven” really is on earth?

Our Eternal Home

It is commonly taught, based on 2 Peter 3:10, that our earth and the cosmos will be completely annihilated and replaced by a new heaven and a new earth spoken of in Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21. But is this interpretation correct?

After the Fall, God subjected all of creation to futility, not just humanity. Both the cosmos and humanity groan under the curse that resulted because of sin (Romans 8:22-23). But God didn’t subject creation to a futility without remedy; he subjected it in hope. Just as we eagerly await our bodies’ redemption so all of creation eagerly awaits liberation from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:21). To destroy creation to secure its liberation makes no more sense than to annihilate Christians to deliver them from their body of death! Neither our physical bodies nor the physical universe is discarded; both are redeemed.

The biblical evidence suggests that Christians are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) destined to live in eternity on a new earth (Revelation 21:1). The word “new” in both cases is the Greek word kainos that denotes new in the sense of being qualitatively better than what has existed until now. 3 The writers could have chosen the word neos had they wanted to denote new in the sense of something not previously existent.4,5

2 Peter 3:10 tells us that, at the end of time, all wickedness will be exposed and judged just as it was in the flood (2 Peter 3:6). Unlike the flood, this judgment liberates both the earth and redeemed humanity from the curse.

The Importance of the Resurrection of the Body

Mankind is not fully human without a body. Hoekema notes that if we are not raised into physical bodies, then the Greeks were right – that matter is evil, contrary to God’s declaration that his creation was good.6

”For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Death, the last enemy to be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:26), was the first enemy humanity faced because of the Fall (Genesis 2:17). When our bodies are resurrected, changed from corruptible to incorruptible, from mortal to immortal, then death will have neither victory nor sting (1Corinthians 15:54,55). Created to live on earth, redeemed humanity will do so forever.

A Beautiful Portrait

Look how our future is woven through the pages of Scripture:

  • Abraham (not just his descendants) was given all of Canaan for an everlasting possession (Genesis 17:8), yet he did not own a foot of ground in it (Acts 7:5) Instead he looked forward to a city prepared by God (Hebrews 11:10,16). His future possession and ours is on the new earth. We are strangers and exiles on this present corrupted earth (Hebrews 11:13).
  • Isaiah foretold of a new earth devoid of all sorrow (Isaiah 65:17-19).
  • Genesis 17:8 and Psalm 37:11 promised the meek they would inherit the land of Canaan, but Jesus extended that promise to include the entire earth (Matthew 5:5).
  • Christ’s suffering wiped away our sins and He will return from heaven to dwell with us after God restores all things (Acts 3:18-21).
  • Christ’s blood purchased men from every tribe, tongue, people and nation to become a kingdom of priests who serve God and reign upon the earth (Revelation 5:9-10).
  • God dwells with his washed and perfected redeemed on a perfected and cleansed earth (Revelation 7:14-17; 21:3-4).

There will be a time when our stay at a pleasant inn will not simply be a respite from a fallen world. Creation will have been liberated from the curse. All of it.  Every. Last. Inch.

Best of all, Almighty God and the Lamb who was slain for our redemption will dwell forever with us.

He is coming soon.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus.





Hoekema, Anthony A., The Bible and the Future (1979). Grand Rapids, MI:Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.


  1. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (1962). New York, N.Y.: Macmillan Publishing Company, p 115
  2. 1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV
  3. Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1986), s.v. “New” by H. Haarbeck, H.-G. Link, Colin Brown
  4. Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1986), s.v. “New” by H. Haarbeck
  5. When translating Isaiah 65:17 from Hebrew to Greek, Jewish scholars used kainos as well. (Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1986), s.v. “New” by H. Haarbeck, H.-G. Link, Colin Brown)
  6. Hoekema, Anthony A., The Bible and the Future (1979). Grand Rapids, MI:Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., p 250

A Watch In the Night

watch in the night, Garapan

A thousand years in your sight
 are like a day that has just gone by,
 or like a watch in the night. Ps. 90:4

I remember my concept of time when I was a child. It went by slowly. On my seventh birthday my present was a fishing rod and tackle box ordered from the Sears catalog. (Remember those?) Every day I watched for the mailman hoping he would bring my package. It took six weeks to arrive. To me, it seemed like an eternity.

As a young child, I liked to think that it would be a long time before I would die. My grandparents and other “old” relatives were in their’ sixties and still very much alive and well. Sixty years seemed like a very long time to a boy still in his first decade of life.

Does time still seem to go by slowly for me now that nearly six decades have passed?

Not so much.

It’s going by at warp speed. Sometimes when there is a remembrance on television of an event that happened twenty years ago, I am stunned because it seems like the event happened only a few years ago. I once reminisced with a younger co-worker only to have him kindly remind me that he couldn’t relate because he hadn’t been born yet. It just didn’t seem that long ago to me.

I am beginning to understand what the Bible means when it says life is but a vapor.

However, coming to the realization that life is short doesn’t mean that time always goes by quickly. Our circumstances may be so unpleasant that time seems to stand still. We may cry out “How Long O Lord” when he is slow to bring justice1 or when it feels like God, distant and deaf to our cries, has forgotten us.2

It is especially during times of suffering and despair that we need perspective. We need to think about the fleeting nature of our lives. We need to be reminded to look forward to a glorious future with Jesus that is really not that far away when compared to eternity.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.    2 Corinthians 4:17

Viewed from the perspective of our temporal lives, our suffering is oftentimes anything but light and momentary. Our suffering is in the here-and-now. Eternal realities may seem dim, unable to be grasped. When we suffer a significant loss, especially for the first time, we wonder if the grief and sorrow will ever abate.  Yet we know that our Redeemer lives.  We have hope.

How should we live knowing that our present life is like a watch in the night compared to eternity?
All of us will one day enter eternity. One should not presume when that will be, like I did as a child.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15 NKJV3

Making presumptions, apart from God’s will, about how long we will live or what we will be doing is childish.   Worse still, it is foolish and prideful. When we go our own way and choose friendship with the world we demonstrate hatred toward God. God wants us to forsake our double-mindedness. He wants us to humble ourselves and submit to him; then he will give us grace and lift us up. (See James 4:4-10)

For the unbeliever, denying life’s brevity or adopting a “you only live once” mentality leaves them in a precarious position.  Their suffering won’t be relieved in eternity.  The here-and-now is as good as it gets for them and completing their bucket list won’t come close to offsetting an eternity filled with torment.  We must warn them.  We must warn them that this life is not all there is; eternity awaits.  We must warn them they will be punished with everlasting destruction for not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus.4 We must warn them now and not be deceived into thinking that there will always be another day to tell them.

God has given us enough time. We should use it wisely.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Ephesians 5:15-17

Our life may be a vapor when compared to eternity, but God gives us enough time to find out what pleases the Lord and then he gives us enough time to do it, provided we make the most of every opportunity. It is possible to waste our life satisfying foolish desires.

The apostle Peter offers some ways we can use our time wisely:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:7-10

If we are not spending time with other Christians, praying for them, loving them and serving them, then we are not using our time wisely. It is not God’s will that we live isolated from those he calls us to serve. To not use our spiritual gifts is more than a tragedy of disobedience; it is a denial of the truth that God has prepared, in advance, good works for us to do.5

We should trust God in the midst of our troubled world because he will fulfill his promises. His timing is perfect.

God is not slow in keeping his promises;6 it just seems that way to us. God’s plans are perfect. Our understanding of them is not.  God will keep his promises to you and me.  He will keep them through good times and bad.  Some we will see fulfilled in this life, others in the next.  Should we live long enough to see the end of days with all of its tribulation we must remember that God sent his Son in the fullness of time7 and that Jesus will return at the perfect time.

We should fix our eyes on what is unseen and not lose heart.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Let us throw off the temporal perspective that hinders us from running the race God has marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.8

Our lives are but a watch in the night. In the morning that follows we will behold the beauty of the Lord. Forever! Let’s live like we believe it.



  1. See Psalm 35:10-18; Revelation 6:10
  2. See Habakkuk 1:2; Psalm 13:1
  3. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
  4. See 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9
  5. See Ephesians 2:10
  6. See 2 Peter 3:9
  7. See Galatians 4:4
  8. See Hebrews 12:1,3