When I was a boy, I loved going camping with my family. We’d jam our car full of all sorts of equipment and head for the mountains. Once we arrived, my dad would set up our tent, a spacious canvas structure with a floor to keep the critters out. Our tent was fairly good sized for a tent, but it had to provide shelter for six people, my parents and three siblings in addition to me. As you can imagine, six people living in a tent for a couple of weeks was quite an adventure. It facilitated family closeness, along with the occasional squabbles that come when people are stepping all over each other (literally!). (Photo: I’m peeking out of my tent while camping with my wife in the mountains of Northern California. Just two of us this time.)
The vision of Revelation 21 tells us that this world matters much more to God than we have been led to believe. And it suggests that how we live in this world also matters much more to God than we have been led to believe.
There’s something in us that loves a garden. Whether it’s a small herb garden in an apartment window, or a neatly manicured English garden, or the wild “garden” of a natural forest, our hearts gravitate to the beauty and vitality of gardens. (The photo shows a flower from a dogwood tree in my garden.)
One of the peculiar features of Revelation 21:1 is the final phrase: “and there was no longer any sea.” If you like taking long walks on the beach, enjoying the crash of the waves and ocean breezes, you may be disappointed by the “sea-less” vision of John. And if you’re a surfer, I expect you are majorly bummed out.
When John reports his vision of “a new heaven and a new earth,” we hear echoes from the past. The first and most obvious echo is of the first creation. The opening line of Scripture reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). The new heaven and new earth seen by John are also created by God, along the lines of Genesis 1. As we’ll see, in some ways the new creation is consistent with the first creation and in some ways it is distinct from it.
By all means, I preferred everlasting life to endless death. But I wasn’t all that sure about the rest of what Heaven involved. Hanging out with Jesus and my relatives seemed fine as something to do for a while. But forever?
The Bible tells a story, a grand story that begins in creation and ends with new creation. Curiously, though, many Christians don’t think of the Bible as a story.