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Our eternal hope: life with God on the "new earth"

April 30, 2022

Daily Scripture

Revelation 11:15-18, 21:1, 22:1-5

Revelation 11

15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying,
“The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ,
and he will rule forever and always.”
16 Then the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God. 17 They said,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and was,
for you have taken your great power and enforced your rule.
18 The nations were enraged, but your wrath came.
The time came for the dead to be judged.
The time came to reward your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name, both small and great,
and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

Revelation 21

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

Revelation 22

1 Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb 2 through the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations. 3 There will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will be no more. They won’t need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shine on them, and they will rule forever and always.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Scholar N. T. Wright wrote that for too many Christians, “the aim of Christianity as a whole, and of conversion, justification, sanctification, and salvation, is seen in terms of leaving earth behind and going home to a place called heaven.” Instead, he said, “For the early Christians, the resurrection of Jesus launched God’s new creation upon the world, beginning to fulfill the prayer Jesus taught his followers, that God’s kingdom would come “on earth as in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), and anticipating the “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17, 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1) promised by Isaiah and again in the New Testament.” * That was why Revelation said judgment awaits those who “destroy the earth”—it did not see the earth as temporary and disposable. Rather, God’s goal (in which we can join) is to recreate and restore the world to the beauty and harmony God always intended.

  • What if “heaven” is not some far away, misty corner of the universe? Had you ever noticed how consistently the Biblical prophets said our eternal hope is in a “new heavens and a new earth”? How does it shift the way(s) you think about this planet if God’s plan is that God’s people spend eternity on this earth restored, redeemed and made new? In what ways have you, your community and your country cared well for the earth? Can you identify areas in which you want to alter your lifestyle to more actively join in God’s work of restoring and caring for God’s earth and ours (including, of course, yourself and your well-being)?

Lord Jesus, I see many ways in which your creative power works in this vast universe, yet much remains mysterious. But I not only believe, but count on, your promise that I can be with you for all eternity. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Shannon Greene

Shannon Greene

Shannon Greene is the Confirmation Director at Resurrection Leawood. She loves to read, drink coffee, write for her blog, and cheer on her favorite baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

(Shannon first wrote this blog post to follow a sermon on creation care in 2019. We still need its message three years later.)

Some glad morning when this life is over,
I’ll fly away
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (lyrics by Albert E. Brumley, 1929)

Many Christians—myself included—grew up singing this popular gospel hymn. While the tune is catchy and the lyrics are certainly memorable, I’m not quite sure that “I’ll fly away” is the best attitude to have when it comes to caring for God’s creation. Sadly, many Christians in the last hundred years have taken exactly that approach. They believe that it doesn’t matter what happens to our earth now, because one day we will die, go up to heaven, and leave this world behind.

However, as the GPS readings show, both the early Christians and the New Testament writers emphasized that when Jesus comes again, he would set up his Kingdom on this earth. Part of our job is to help make this earth look more like that eternal Kingdom of God, even now. As we partner with God’s mission in the world, we get to be a part of bringing a little bit of “heaven on earth” as we shine like lights for Christ. We reflect that light every time we work to heal the brokenness in our world through caring for others, helping those in need, striving for justice for all, and even by caring for God’s creation.

No matter what we believe about the afterlife or what happens to us when we die, an “I’ll fly away” mindset is short-sighted and potentially damaging to our world. A large part of creation care is asking the question, “What kind of world do I want to leave behind for my children and my grandchildren?” Even when I am dead and gone and buried, what sort of legacy do I want to leave behind for those that follow in my footsteps?

While it may seem complicated or overwhelming, creation care is as simple as making small decisions now that will greatly impact future generations. We can commit to taking steps today that will make a difference later on, even if we aren’t around to see the end result. Together, we can take on the challenge to care for God’s great and beautiful earth now and until that day when Christ comes again to restore all things and make creation new once more.

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.