One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal….The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone….The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass. (Revelation 21:9-11, 18, 19, 21 NIV)
When Christians talk about “Heaven,” we need to realize that God’s goal is to bring Heaven back to Earth, to return, in a way, to Eden. Our desire for Heaven should not lead us to escapism. Rather, it should fuel us in our mission to bring Heaven to Earth now by expanding the Kingdom of Heaven through humble, love-fueled evangelism.
What is more, as the evil of this age escalates and sin becomes the norm, let’s remember that we belong to another Kingdom. Though this Kingdom has not yet manifested itself, it is the only Kingdom that will last into eternity. We live now by this Kingdom’s laws, having been saved from this present, moribund kingdom.
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 NIV)
Judgment will come at the end of all time. The books will be opened, and all will be judged according to their actions. Thank God Almighty that the righteous, merciful actions of Jesus are greater than all of our sin and wickedness. His shed blood covers us and gives us pardon before Him who sits upon the throne.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 NIV)
Let’s never forget that Jesus, the One who saved us, is a King, a Warrior. He came once in mercy and humility as a sacrifice for our sins. Presently, however, we are waiting for Him to return as a conqueror, dedicated to punishing all who would oppose Him and threaten His people.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16 NIV)
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:18-25 NIV
“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.”
Romans 13:12, 13
I read this verse just the other night in my devotions. I think that it’s a great way of looking at how we are to be living. Even though the world is now steeped in darkness, even though the day has yet to come, we are to live as if the sun were already shining.
The Christian life is not one that is meant to be kept on hold until Heaven. We are saved now, being changed now, to live now as if we were already walking on streets of gold. It’s not an easy way to live, which is why we must be empowered by God’s indwelling presence every day.
Heaven is not just our eternal dwelling place—it’s where God’s presence is. If His presence is within us as we live out the laws of His coming kingdom, then we’ll be spreading a bit of “heaven on earth,” something our world desperately needs.
I wish I had posted this earlier in the season, but honestly, I think I had forced myself to forget about the Advent series I wrote last year. It was so challenging that I didn’t write anything for weeks afterward. Anyway, here is, for whatever it’s worth.