Think about your favorite story (book, movie, whatever…) and ask yourself why you really like it so much. The stories we tell and fall in love with reflect the Story of the Bible. This “Drama of Redemption” we’ve been looking at is the big story that all our stories are pointing towards:
- We love stories that tell us where we came from (Creation)
- We are drawn towards stories that make it painfully obvious that something has gone terribly wrong… we aren’t in paradise anymore (Fall)
- We resonate with stories of redemption, where a character in the story is the one who fixes what has gone wrong (Redemption)
- We dream of stories where paradise has been perfectly restored, everything that went wrong has been made right, and there’s no risk of losing paradise again (Restoration)
Tim Keller (a pastor & author) has said, “The way you live now is completely controlled by the way you think about your future. … The now is controlled by the then.” This sounds confusing until you think about it this way – Imagine you have the guaranteed promise of love and wealth coming to you after graduating from High School so long as you finish with a B average. Do you think that would change your study habits and whether or not you pay attention during class?! What you believe will happen in the future greatly changes what you do today.
The Apostle John received a vision from God about the Perfect Restoration of all creation. Here’s what he saw:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)
Here’s the big picture of what the Bible teaches about eternity:
- “Heaven” is a physical place, not a ghost-town. You will have a body and walk on the ground. I remember growing up always thinking that “Heaven” meant I would be a ghost who lives on the clouds. Not so much…
- God has made all things new! There’s continuity with this life, but since everything we know in this world has suffered from The Fall, in eternity they will be perfected. That means my body will be perfect: No physical or mental or emotional disabilities, no more sickness or death. Since we were created to be full of life, I believe we’ll be whatever “age” our body is most full of life, not whatever age we were when we died. Cool, huh?
- No more curse, the “Fall” is GONE. We will have perfect intimacy with God, with each other, and with all creation/nature. The peace and love we all so desire will be perfectly fulfilled by our restored intimacy with God, our maker and savior and restorer.
- There is Eternal Life & Eternal Death. So far, we’ve only talked about eternal life, but the Bible talks an awful lot of eternal death, too. It’s not a popular stance (never has been!), but when we remember that sin is evil because of who it is directed against rather than because of the deed that was done, then we see why sin must be judged eternally. Sin is an eternal offense against the Holy God.
Here are the next few verses of Revelation 21, continuing where v.5 left off:
Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:5-9)
One of the most amazing parts of this passage is verse 8, where God lists who will be sent to judgment. I need to be constantly amazed that I have somehow escaped judgment, because I know that by the standards listed in v.8 I’m guilty and deserve hell. In fact, v.8 could simply say “But as for the idolaters, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur…” and I’d be done with! (Remember, and “idol” is anything that is loved and honored more than God is loved and honored.)
There are 4 ways eternity needs to shape today for Christians:
- We have hope in the middle of suffering. Because we see the big picture, we don’t lose heart when the going gets tough. Legitimate suffering and pain is never easy to live through, even for Christians… but we fight through it because we know that perfect restoration is coming.
- We take sin seriously. We take our own sin seriously and we take other people’s sin seriously because God took sin so seriously that it cost him the life of his Son! When we say that sin is “no big deal,” we’re saying that Jesus was stupid for suffering and dying on the cross! Let’s not get rid of the word “Sin” by simply calling it “mistakes” or “bad things” or “offenses.”
- We take God’s love seriously. God takes sin seriously, but His love is so great that there was nothing that would stop him from defeating it! Celebrate the love of God that is most clearly seen through Christ on the cross… and tell your friends. Do you love God so much that you really desire to see your friends receive the love of Christ? God’s love is not just a good idea, it’s the very source of eternal life!
- We live today to the fullest, because today will carry into eternity. What you do today matters. Don’t take today for granted, tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. Plus, who you are today will help determine who you are into eternity! Do you realize that what you believe about the future controls what you do today?