Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
- John 11:25-26
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
- Revelation 21:1-8
I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in the High Countries.
- C. S. Lewis, preface to The Great Divorce
In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis tries to convey one idea of what might happen after death. He prefaces the book to say that the book isn’t revelational on his part. It is simply one idea. Many of us wonder about what is to come.
Will it be strumming a harp and sitting on a cloud? I don’t know where that got started, but it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Whatever picture that you have of what heaven could be, it will be better. We will be walking the streets or country roads with Jesus.
Revelation 21 gives us a glimpse of a new heaven and a new earth. There is no temple, because God is with us. We need no symbol of God’s presence when He is right there. The New Jerusalem is beyond words. Even the description by the Apostle John falls far short of the Glory of God. John just used the best words that he could find.
There was a Bible study once that studied the New Jerusalem. One of the participants, obviously a country person, said, “Oh, that is just wrong. I want to go back to Eden and tend the garden. If heaven is just a city, even a golden city, I will have no part of it.”
Let’s pause for that to take effect…
We don’t say those words, except for this one troubled soul, but we live them. We put ourselves and our immediate earthly interests before the interests of God. We want instant gratification. I don’t want to wait for God’s plan.
I want it all and I want it now, according to Queen. Veruca Salt, of Willy Wonka fame, said, “I don’t care how, I want it now!”
No, we sing along. We don’t care for God’s plan.
I am a country boy at heart. I would love to live so far into the woods that I could scream as loud as possible and the neighbors would never hear. But I believe that if heaven is living inside a city of gold, God will make my greatest desire to do just that. I won’t even be tempted to leave the city and look for a grove of trees where I could rest. No, temptation will be gone when the great Tempter is thrown into the fiery pit.
I have someone dear to me who had a glimpse of the other side, immediately after death, in a vision. Their body smelled better than the best perfumes of earth. The things about their body – the hair, the shape, etc. – that they might not have been satisfied with on earth were now perfect. And each time that they moved, they gained strength instead of getting tired.
For an old man, that description is so wonderful that it is, in this world, beyond comprehension.
In Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis’ last novel that he published, he speaks of longing for the next life. Then, before you get the wrong idea, he adds…
“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”