I get to live on this earth forever. I’m really happy about this because it’s what our hearts are undeniably longing for: I want to live where I’ve come to love my surroundings. I want to live where my memories are. I want to live in and with what God has created for his glory and my joy. I want to see what this earth would look like if there were no sin and no curse – it’s got to be breathtaking.
This earth has been subjected to groaning and futility (Romans 8:20) – it’s cursed because of my sin. But this same creation will be set free from its bondage to corruption (vs. 21a). Notice that Paul does not say that this creation will be destroyed and a different creation will take its place. But rather this creation will be “set free to obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (vs. 21b). This creation, with its massive Oceans teeming with life, its Grand Tetons, its majestic Himalayas, its towering Redwoods, Appalachian Mountains, and its Swiss Alps, will get what’s coming to her: Resurrected children of God who will live like Kings and Queens forever with their Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I get to live forever on this earth and you can too. Not even Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra, and Robin Williams can story-tell what awaits us, though they tried in Vincent Ward’s, “What Dreams May Come.” Reincarnation via will-power is powerless to give us what our hearts long for.
Speaking of stories, Mankind has a thousand versions of the afterlife and how to get there, that’s because man really does want to live forever on a real physical sphere where unending delight is really found. And no wonder: Man was made to live on this earth forever. This is not the opposite of going to heaven. To say that I want to go to heaven is the same as wanting to live forever with God, on this earth, but without anything broken:
“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. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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. 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.”(Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)
Not to exhaust many other relevant texts, but clearly here, what passes away is not our physical bodies or the physical world, but the things that cause death, tears, brokenness, and pain. These are the things that will be left behind. To give assurance that God will never break his covenant to love forever all those who are part of the new covenant family in Christ (Jer. 31:31-34; Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8:8-13), upon this earth, he made a promise that this fixed order of our Sun, Moon, and Earth will never go away:
“Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD of hosts is his name: If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever” (Jeremiah 31:35-36).
God says that if this fixed order of our earth, moon, stars and sun ever cease to exist, then so will his children in Jesus Christ cease to exist. But neither will happen. Which means, for all those who are in a covenant relationship with Christ, they get to live on a cleansed and renovated earth – that’s what will be new about it. As Isaac Watts sang, “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found” – (3rd verse in “Joy to the World! The Lord is Come”).
Since we are promised that we will be known as we were known (1 Cor. 13:12), I look forward to life in a painless, deathless, sorrowless body, where upon this earth, in the same Appalachian Mountains where I grew up, I will enjoy all that it means to be a complete human: to know Christ and to dwell with him with no barriers of sin. This means that I will enjoy a oneness with Christ as I reflect upon the graces that I experienced before my resurrection (Eph. 2:7). So many of my moments of growing in Christ and receiving his grace took place in WV. I’ll walk with Christ and those who “loved his appearing,” and see the same landscape of my childhood, my life with my parents and grandparents, my experiences meeting and living with my wife and the years of a growing family, pursuing higher education in Chattanooga and St.Louis, and then shepherding a church family near Chicago (one day, no more sin in Chicago, no more of its governors going to jail!). I’ll be learning more and more of who Christ is without a single plateau of boredom. In the newly renovated WV (since the “new earth” will be this earth all cleaned up) I might take up new areas of stewardship to serve others – explore and harness resources – enjoy an unending fellowship with a good dog and a horse – take in an evening of delicious food for about 10 years, then move on to dessert! (Isaiah 11; Luke 19:17-19; John 21:9ff; Rev. 19:6-9).
Simply, as I get a little older, and feel a little more of the effects of our sin,
. . . I can’t wait to go to Earth!