For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23).
A Great and Present Sickness
The creation waits with eagerness because it is suffering from a great and present sickness. All of creation groans like a woman in the pains of childbirth because it is laboring under a curse that has bound its original glory and goodness in the shackles of suffering, sin, and corruption. This great and present sickness originated from the pinnacle of creation, mankind, when Adam and Eve sinned against a holy God. Balancing the scales of justice and mercy, our glorious God provided redemption for the saints through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. Believers in Jesus Christ are now the “firstfruits of the Spirit” but wait with similar groaning for the eventual redemption of our bodies in the last days. Speaking of this resurrection, Paul writes our natural bodies are raised imperishable, in power, and as spiritual bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-38).
If Paul declares for us that our bodies will be resurrected, where will they go?
A Future Hope
There is a future hope for every believer that their resurrected bodies will inhabit the new heavens and the new earth. This is not to say believers do not enjoy the presence of Christ after their earthly bodies fade. Scripture is clear that being away from the body is being at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Paul himself said death is gain because being with Christ is far better, and he even desires it above his own life (Philippians 1:21-23). The basis of Paul’s desire corresponds with Stephen’s words during his stoning, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 8:59). Though there is immediate presence with Christ upon the believer’s death, there is also a future hope of resurrected and glorified bodies inhabiting their final resting place in the new heavens and new earth.
The prophet Isaiah relays the words of God, “For behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (65:17). The New Testament writers echo the same longing of mankind for the final resting place promised by God. Peter declares, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
The apostle John records his vision of a time when he “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” (Revelation 21:1). It is in this renewed heaven and earth where God will once again dwell with mankind as they were intended to live from the beginning (Revelation 21:3). It is in this place that God will allow comfort, eternal life, and joy to reign while expelling sadness, death, and suffering (Revelation 21:4). The new heavens and the new earth are the fulfillment of the one seated on the throne who said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (21:5). This is a future hope that brings comfort to every believer.
A Great and Present Reality
As Christians, we live in light of a great and present reality. Hope for eternity brings a great and present reality to bear on our today. Our spirits find comfort knowing death brings ushering into the presence of Christ. Our bodies find comfort knowing they will be resurrected and glorified at the sounding of the trumpet when Christ returns (1 Corinthians 15:52). Our days find motivation in living for eternity and not for today. The words of Jesus bear increasing urgency for the believer today:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19).
Though a great and present sickness darkens today, a future hope of heaven shines brighter in tomorrow. May our future hope impact this great and present reality, bringing comfort to our spirits and bodies, and motivating a life lived for eternity and not for today.
The question posed for us today is, “How does your future hope impact your present reality?”
This is the third entry in Heaven: A Blog Series.