In one of his Far Side cartoons, Gary Larson depicts a winged man seated in heaven on a cloud. No one near. Nothing to do. Marooned on his celestial post. The caption witnesses his despair: "Wish I'd brought a magazine."
I can relate. Eternal life? Clouds in my midst, a harp on my lap, and time on my hands, unending time. An endless sing-along—a hymn, then a chorus, then still more verses. "Whatever the tortures of hell," declared science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, "I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse."
You might have similar reservations, quiet yet troubling. Will eternity meet expectations? Jesus gives an assuring response:
Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father's home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? (John 14:1-2, NLT)
Forget the movies' images of knee-high fog banks and floating spirits. Jesus has gone to "prepare a place." Heaven is tangible: as real as the soil in your garden, as physical as the fruit in your orchard. In fact, your garden and fruit might look familiar in heaven.
You probably assume God will destroy this universe and relocate his children. But when God created the heavens and earth, he applauded his work (Genesis 1:31). God never denounced his earth, just man's mistreatment of it. Besides, he's the God of reclamation, not extermination. He restores, recovers, renews. Expect him to reclaim every square inch of what's rightfully his (Matthew 19:28).
Although Scripture uses A-bomb terminology to promise earth's destruction: "disappear with a roar … destroyed by fire … laid bare … passed away" (2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 21:1), destruction need not mean elimination. Your body provides a prototype. It will return to dust. Yet the one who called Adam out of a dirt pile will reverse your decomposition with resurrection. Amino acids will regenerate. Molecules will reconnect. The mortal body will put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53 ).
The same is true about earth. The "whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth" (Romans 8:22, NASB). Like a mother in labor, nature looks toward her delivery day. You see the birth pangs: floods, volcanoes, earthquakes. But God will cleanse and reconstruct his cosmos. And pristine purity will flow, as Eden promised.
God grants glimpses of this future state. He designed an oculus in this pantheon. Through it you see gold-drenched sunsets. Diamond-studded night skies. Appetizers of heaven.
But none of those compare to God's crowning jewel: the New Jerusalem. Scripture reveals this city's jaw-dropping dimensions: an exact square of 1,400 miles (Revelation 21:16). Large enough to contain the land from the Appalachians to the California coast—Canada to Mexico. Tall enough to stack more than 600,000 stories—ample space for billions of people to come and go.
Come and go they will. The gates will never be closed (21:25). For the enemies of God will be banished (21:27). Satan won't lurk in heaven's gardens as he did in the Garden of Eden (22:3). Just think what he's taken from you, even in the last few hours. You worried about a decision, dreaded a conversation, and resented an interruption.
But in heaven, you'll be you at your best forever. You catch occasional glimpses of your heavenly self when you change your baby's diaper, forgive your boss's temper, tolerate your spouse's moodiness. Others will be at their prime, too. Now bad moods infect the best of families. Complaints shadow the clearest of days. But in heaven, all gossip excised and jealousy extracted, no one will doubt your word or speak evil behind your back. Christ's completed redemptive work will discontinue all strife.
The resulting dramatic reunions are beautiful to imagine: a soldier embracing the sharpshooter who killed him, a daughter holding the father who abused her, a son encountering the mother who aborted him. And when they meet, forgiveness will flow like a waterfall. God's sin purging will wipe away all tears, all sorrow, all death (21:4).
No sin also means no boredom. You won't be bored in heaven because you won't be the same you in heaven. Boredom emerges from soils that heaven disallows. The soil of weariness (your eyes tire), mental limitations (information overload dulls you), tedium (meaningless activity siphons your vigor). But Satan will take these weedy soils to hell, leaving you with a keen mind, endless focus, and God-honoring assignments.
Yes, you'll have assignments in heaven. God gave Adam and Eve garden responsibilities (Genesis 1:26). He mantled the couple with leadership over the earth (v. 26) and placed Adam in the garden "to tend and keep it" (2:15, NKJV). Adam and his descendants will serve God again (Revelation 22:3). And what is service if not responsible activity?
You might serve in the capacity you serve now. Couldn't earthly assignments hint at heavenly ones? You may be a chef on Saturn or a mural designer for the New Jerusalem. God might fill heaven with plants and animals and entrust you with the care and feeding of an Africa or two.
Increase will mark this new world. You might oversee the orbit of a distant planetary system or monitor the expansion of a new species. "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:7, NKJV). Increased planets? Colors? Music? Seems likely.
And the attributes of God will increasingly stun. His grace and wisdom will progressively astound. God is so rapt with wonders that their viewing requires an eternity. And this is his invitation: "When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am" (John 14:3, NLT).
John Todd was very young when he became an orphan. His aunt offered to take him in and sent a servant to get John. As they set out for her house, the boy's questions unveiled his fears.
"Will I like living with her?"
"You fall into good hands."
"Will she go to bed before we get there?"
"Oh, no! She'll wait up. When we get out of these woods, you'll see her light in the window."
Sure enough, as they neared the house, John saw the lighted window and his aunt standing in the doorway. When he reached the porch, she kissed him and said, "Welcome home!"
John Todd grew up in his aunt's care and became a pastor. Years later, she sent news of her impending death. Here's his reply:
My Dear Aunt,
Years ago, I left a house of death, not knowing where I was going. The ride was long, but the servant encouraged me. Finally I arrived to a new home and your embrace. I was expected; I felt safe.
Now your turn has come. I'm writing to tell you Someone's waiting up, your room's all ready, the light's on, the door's open, and you're expected!
As are you. Jesus is preparing for you a place. A perfect place of perfected people with the perfect Lord. And at the right time he'll come and take you home./eb/
Max Lucado is the pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, and a best-selling author of numerous books, including 3:16: The Numbers of Hope (Thomas Nelson), from which this article is adapted. Used by permission.
Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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