Our ultimate hope is the new creation . . .
“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness”–2 Peter3:13).
There we will live in a resurrected body . . . “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1
What about the Hollywood version? You know, colorless white, harps, angels, clouds, George Burns, What about my mansion on the corner of Gold Street and Diamond Boulevard? Well, first, when have you known Hollywood to produce anything true to the Scriptures? And second, Jesus uses metaphorical language in John 14 and John does in Revelation . . . This runs counter to some popular thinking about “heaven”. The Hollywood version is all white with clouds, harps, angels and (in some cases) George Burns or . Wrongly interrupting John 14: , we presume to be ushered to our mansion set beside a gold road. A (rather moving) song from a few years ago celebrated, “If they could see me now, I’m walking streets of gold . . . ” It implied that when we die, that’s where we go. But the new, restored or remade earth comes at the very end, not when we die. So where do we go when we die?
“We must agree with Berkouwer (a 20th century leading theologian of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands) that what the New Testament tells us about the intermediate state is nothing more than a whisper” (quoted in The Bible and the Future, Anthony A Hoekema). If I had written the Bible . . . Oh, well . . .
From the Old Testament, it’s clear that death doesn’t annihilate us. For example, Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. Selah (Psalm 49:14,15). And And I– in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness (Psalm 17:15). Our soul or spirit continues on until Resurrection Day when we receive new immortal bodies like Christ’s. The New Testament fulfills the Old, though, as Berkouwer wrote, only in “whispers”.
Whisper One—Luke 23:42,43. Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Ed Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Whisper Two—Philippians 1:21-23. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far . . .
Whisper Three—2 Corinthians 5:6-8. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Edenic paradise. Gain which is better by far than here in his body. Away from the body means at home with the Lord for his people.
I prefer photos.
But whispers must be enough. Enough for our imagination. Enough for or hope. Enough for our faith, which will turn to sight.