Friday, March 11, 2016

What will the New Universe be like?

Then I 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. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-27

What if I told you everything around you, every chair, every building, every blade of grass was destined for destruction?  I don't mean an esoteric diminutive destruction, I mean a simple wiping clean of a chalkboard, and the rewriting of physics, space, time, gravity, matter, and the laws which govern the universe.

Rewriting them in what way you ask?  Ah, a very good question.  The rewriting of such laws and material constructs in order to facilitate an environment of perfection; an environment, in essence set to standards that are in themselves, perfect.  An environment set for perfection, for the housing of perfected beings, and for the interaction of the perfected beings with the originator of reality: the divine architect of all things; God.

What if I told you that the entire universe was destined for renewal, along with a renewal of the Earth we sit upon?  It's true.  If the whole of Christianity is true, the real version, set within the pages of the Bible, then this is most certainly the case.  The present Earth, as it is, broken and troubled, along with the present disordered state of the universe are both destined for "fire." (2 Peter 3:7)  For removal, for renewal.  

The entire purpose of becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, to be born again in his resurrection, is for the purpose of gathering a wayward species to a Supreme Being who created them.  And for the purpose of this reconciliation is the new heaven and new earth, described as New Jerusalem in the NT. 

The heavens, the universe, the vastness of space are a description of who God is.  They describe God to us, today.  When we look up into the sky during the day or during the night, we're getting a glimpse at the awe of God.  But even further do we get a glimpse at the glory of God when we understand how large the universe is.  It is mind boggling.  We are further inspired by the glory of God when we view star clusters through the Hubble space telescope.  

I wonder, what would a perfected universe look like? Theologically we understand that the universe is broken, fallen, along with Earth and ourselves.  Might the distance between stars, galaxies and planets be closer?  Might they be traversable?  Then again, would there even be a universe in the same manner as this, in the perfected universe?  It's hard to know.  It's hidden from us today.  But God's word says that none of us could possibly imagine what he has in store for us. 

One thing is for certain: It won't be disappointing.  Most things in my life have been a disappointment.  Most things I've ever wanted did not live up to their hype or my desire.  Even when they did, I was still disappointed because such things didn't make me happy.  Life after death?  That is something different.  God doesn't disappoint.  At least not in the area of redemption.

And what will this city be like?  Think about this: When you read the measurements of the city, you realize that it's a giant cube. 
Revelation 21:16 (NIV) says, "The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long."

That's pretty amazing isn't it? New Jerusalem is a giant cube. 12,000 stadia is about 1,500 miles. If you were to look at that on a map, it would be the length from Maine to Florida, across the whole eastern seaboard. Then take that length and fit it into a cube shape.

Do you know the first thing I think about when I think about the cube shaped New Jerusalem? I think of the Borg from Star Trek. Yes, I'm that nerdy. They are kind of like space zombies. "We are the Borg you will be assimilated resistance is futile." And they shoot nano-probes into your neck and you become Borg too. It's pretty scary. Anyway, I digress.

So we will live in this giant cube-shaped city. Are you freaked out yet? Don't worry, I'm sure it'll be great. 

It's really quite hard to imagine what it will be like. We will most certainly have bodies, different from ours now, eternal bodies, but I dare say they will be material. But they won't disintegrate and wrinkle over time. We will have friends, and all people will be our family.  We'll share all things.  But we won't be married, male and female.  But we will be in constant interaction with others, the family of redeemed humanity, under God, married to Christ and in joyous peace at all times. 

We will most certainly be interacting with animals. That's something I look forward to greatly. I'm an animal lover. I've had many pets over my life, cats, dogs, gerbils, hamsters, ferrets, and other animals. It's great fun. Humanity was originally meant to tend animals, and interact with animals and be in relationship with animals. It'll be nice to get that back the way it ought to be. 

Of course the primary centerpiece of this city will be intimacy with God. God's presence will no longer be shrouded. Right now at this moment we are shrouded from the full presence of God. We can't see God. We can't necessarily feel him or his presence. At times we may feel his presence and sense his Spirit in us, but other times are desolate and joyless. 

In the New Jerusalem we will exist in the consistent, full presence of God almighty. That is the best part. Joy will be constant, and unending. Every moment will be filled to the brim with joy. These days joy can be as fleeting and elusive as happiness and meaning. We grasp out for them, but they aren't there. We seek them, yet we don't find them. We long for joy in our hearts, we long for happy days and peace, and we're filled to the brim instead with bitterness, disappointment, envy, strife, and all-consuming depressions. Evil multiples evil and we wonder if we can stand another day of this lonely, hopeless drudgery to a city we can only vaguely imagine in our minds. It is not easy. But we can do it.

Today people live for now. We aren't like that. We don't live for today. We don't live to gorge our various urges and desires. We live for a tomorrow. We live daily knowing our deeds are being measured and tracked. We live for others. We aren't like the world. We shouldn't live like them. We're being poured out for others, on a daily basis. That is our purpose now. And joy comes later. Joy also comes here and there now, but joy eternal is what we are waiting for later. The presence of God is shrouded from us today, but in the next life we will live in the fullness of his presence.

In those timeless days I imagine it will make a lot of sense. We won't even really consider the former times when life was so hard. We will simply be thankful that we were careful to obey his commands and love those around us. That is the hope for eternity. It is a real hope. It is based on a renewal of reality that will in fact take place. We know from the scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and the raw evidence that Jesus Christ is Lord, He is alive today in heaven, and that he is coming back to rule over the city of God.

We are destined to live in the city of God. Yet there are so many other factors that come into play. The great city, New Jerusalem, massive, huge, will come out of heaven and rest on the Earth. This city will have twelve gates, each gate representing one of the twelve apostles, with their names on them. They were made pillars for his kingdom, and they are honored in the coming city.  

Revelation says a river will flow through the city, and on both sides of the river is growing the tree of Life. The tree of life if you remember is first discussed in Genesis, and Revelation ends with the tree of life. Jesus Christ himself is the river leading to the tree of life.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  So this imagery indicates that Jesus Christ is this river we paddle down, to reach the eternal city, New Jerusalem, where at the center of the city, at the crossing of golden streets, we find the river of Christ flowing through this giant tree of life; the river leads us directly to it. And every month the tree of life produces a new fruit. 

And interestingly enough the scriptures say these fruits are for "the healing of the nations." So it seems to indicate that the nations of the Earth will still exist, perhaps New Jerusalem will appear, rest upon the Holy Land, and the rest of the nations of the Earth, renewed in this new state of reality, will be healed through the tree of Life and it's fruit. 

This is our destiny.  This is our purpose.  You may feel free to believe it, and believe it presently.  For this is the reality that you live for.  You are destined for eternity.  Though I suppose in the new universe time has no meaning.  Or perhaps it is a reality in which one traverses time in the same way God does.  That's speculation of course.  

From the scriptures we know that this whole redemption construct is precipitated by a time of great trouble.  A time of great trouble is described, for Israel, and for the nations of the Earth.  The influence of Satan is allowed to come to full fruition.  It cusps in a great deal of violence between nations, and persecution of God's people.  At some point during this chaos, Jesus Christ returns to establish his kingdom on Earth.

This next phase is called the millennial reign of Christ.  Christ and 144,000 of his redeemed saints out of Israel rule on Earth and deal with the nations.  Those who are dead remain dead until the end of this 1,000 year period which leads up to the final defeat of Satan.  It's after this 1,000 year period and the battle which takes place afterward that finally heaven and Earth are renewed in glory, and the dead are raised by Christ for some to receive glory and other to be removed to outer darkness.  Ultimately the new heavens and the new Earth are formed, and God's people join together in the eternal city, on a peaceful Earth, with variations and realities still unknown for peace in the full presence of God, the mysterious architect of all things, for all time, if time itself even exists!

I hope your looking forward to that friends.  I know that I am.  I'm looking forward to it because of the joy, and because of the mystery of it all.  But here is something I think we sometimes lose sight of: This destiny we have for eternity in glory, is not the end of our journey; It's just the beginning.  Remember that, because God I'm certain has greater things ahead for us than any we leave behind.