God's End Game - Part 55

Series: God's End Game

March 29, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

God’s End Game - Part 55

We are one message away from finishing the record breaking series, God’s End Game, that I’ve been in well over a year. This is sermon number 55! At the end of the end we have zeroed in on our future forever heavenly home.

As we’ve put the pieces of the puzzle together, hopefully you’ve gotten a clearer picture what it will be like. It’s not a place of clouds and harps, but a new heaven and earth, something familiar. Like it was in the beginning but also different.

The more you know about something, the more questions you have. In fact, it’s my experience a person’s intelligence can be measured more by what they ask than what they can answer.

No doubt, you have more questions about heaven than ever. I could never address them all, but I do want to tackle a few various and sundry ones this morning.

Quick disclaimer: I’m going to be quoting from Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven, a lot.

The first question is…

Will we be angels in the new heaven and earth?

There are many things in Scripture so hard to understand, so deep to fathom, we may still not figure them out even when we make it to our future forever heavenly home. The question about being angels is NOT one of those things.

The answer is no. Nice sentiment. But no. God doesn’t need another angel in heaven.

As it was in the beginning, angels were angels. People were people. So it will be in the end, angels will be angels in the new heaven and earth and people will be people. But because heaven has now merged with earth, we will live alongside them. Talk with them. Get to know them.

Here’s another good question…

Will we be ourselves in the new heaven and earth?

Some think we’ll be completely different versions of ourselves in future heaven. That our old selves with their unique personalities and memories will be wiped out. And our new selves will become part of a heavenly hive consciousness, kind of like the Borg in Star Trek. “We will be assimilated” into one collective throng of souls praising God for all eternity. Individuality and personality are left behind. I used to believe that, until I understood how Jesus’ resurrection relates to ours and to the new heaven and earth.

If you remember, our Lord’s resurrection is important to us because it’s the precursor to ours. Paul calls Jesus the firstfruits of the resurrection. That means whatever is true of his resurrection body is true of ours at the final harvest when he returns. Jesus’ resurrection body was physical, so will ours be. Which makes perfect sense since the new heaven and earth will be a physical place. But there’s more here if you know where to look.

Here’s the account that opened that up for us…

Luke 24:36–43 (ESV) — 36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

Jesus was trying to prove two things to the terrified disciples:

(1)  He wasn’t a haint, and he did that by letting them touch his physical body made of flesh and bone. 

(2)  He was the same Jesus they knew before he was crucified. How did he do that? Verse 40…

40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

What’s significant about that? His hands and feet had been nailed to the cross! They must have retained the scars from the crucifixion. Jesus’ resurrection body that we will one day see and touch ourselves in the new heaven and earth bears those scars as a reminder of what he did for us. Jesus’ new resurrection body wasn’t a complete wipe of the old one. Neither will ours be.

This does not mean the scar on my hand from when Randall shot me with a BB gun will carry over, but it does mean we have to be able to remember our old life or Jesus’ scars wouldn’t make sense. If our memories carry over then surely our personalities, the part of us that really makes us, us do too.

And not only that, Alcorn writes…

Jesus called people in Heaven by name, including Lazarus in the present Heaven (Luke 16: 25) and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the eternal Heaven (Matthew 8: 11). A name denotes a distinct identity, an individual. The fact that people in Heaven can be called by the same name they had on Earth demonstrates they remain the same people. In Heaven I’ll be Randy Alcorn— without the bad parts— forever. If you know Jesus, you’ll be you— without the bad parts— forever.[1]

What makes you you? It’s not only your body but also your memory, personality traits, gifts, passions, preferences, and interests. In the final resurrection, I believe all of these facets will be restored and amplified, untarnished by sin and the Curse.[2]

Another very practical question…

Will there be time and seasons in the new heaven and earth?

Look back at the beginning…

Genesis 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years,

As it was, there were seasons. Why wouldn’t there be in the new heaven and earth? Look at Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning that day…

Ezekiel 34:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. 27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land... 

Here’s one a lot of the kids want to know, and most Baptists…

Will we eat and drink in the new heaven and earth?

We’ve really already answered that. Jesus asked for and ate a piece of broiled fish in his resurrection body. But even beyond that, he talked about the marriage supper of the Lamb at the end of the age. That’s a feast, a banquet. I don’t think it’s symbolism. If we have physical bodies living in a physical place with trees bearing fruit and such, why wouldn’t eating food be a part of our existence?

I can’t wait to drink my first cup of coffee in the new heaven and earth!

Here’s a big one…

Will we be married and have families?

Some say “no” based on what Jesus said to the Sadducees when they quizzed him about a woman having multiple husbands on earth (all who died!). They tried to catch him in his words asking whose wife she would be in the resurrection…

Matthew 22:29–30 (ESV) — 29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

Jesus just said people don’t get married in the new heaven and earth, not that their old earth relationships are severed. I’m going to let Alcorn help us again…

… the Bible does not teach there will be no marriage in Heaven. In fact, it makes clear there will be marriage in Heaven. What it says is that there will be one marriage, between Christ and his bride—and we’ll all be part of it. Paul links human marriage to the higher reality it mirrors: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

The one-flesh marital union we know on Earth is a signpost pointing to our relationship with Christ as our bridegroom. Once we reach the destination, the signpost becomes unnecessary. That one marriage—our marriage to Christ—will be so completely satisfying that even the most wonderful earthly marriage couldn’t be as fulfilling.

Earthly marriage is a shadow, a copy, an echo of the true and ultimate marriage. Once that ultimate marriage begins, at the Lamb’s wedding feast, all the human marriages that pointed to it will have served their noble purpose and will be assimilated into the one great marriage they foreshadowed. “The purpose of marriage is not to replace Heaven, but to prepare us for it.”

Here on Earth we long for a perfect marriage. That’s exactly what we’ll have—a perfect marriage with Christ. My wife, Nanci, is my best friend and my closest sister in Christ. Will we become more distant in the new world? Of course not—we’ll become closer, I’m convinced.

The God who said “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) is the giver and blesser of our relationships. Life on this earth matters. What we do here touches strings that reverberate for all eternity. Nothing will take away from the fact that Nanci and I are marriage partners here and that we invest so much of our lives in each other, serving Christ together. I fully expect no one besides God will understand me better on the New Earth, and there’s nobody whose company I’ll seek and enjoy more than Nanci’s.

The joys of marriage will be far greater because of the character and love of our bridegroom. I rejoice for Nanci and for me that we’ll both be married to the most wonderful person in the universe. He’s already the one we love most—there is no competition. On Earth, the closer we draw to him, the closer we draw to each other. Surely the same will be true in Heaven. What an honor it will be to always know that God chose us for each other on this old Earth so that we might have a foretaste of life with him on the New Earth. 

People with good marriages are each other’s best friends. There’s no reason to believe they won’t still be best friends in Heaven.

Jesus said the institution of human marriage would end, having fulfilled its purpose. But he never hinted that deep relationships between married people would end.[3]

And finally, one that’s really important to my wife…

Will Fido be in heaven? Or in our case, little Maple.

First, let me tell you I’m certain there will be animals in our future forever heavenly home for two reasons. 

One, as it was, so it will be. Animals were a major part of creation in the beginning. God lovingly made them just as he made us. The Bible teaches that all creation is redeemed at the end in the new heaven and earth, so fuzzy critters and the like have to be a part of that. Animals — and the whole created order — have always been far more important to God than we’ve realized.

In the new heaven and earth, the survival of the fittest, nature being red in tooth and claw, is absent, just as it was in the beginning, with all animals dwelling in perfect harmony.

Which brings me to the second reason I’m certain animals will be in in the new heaven and earth. The Scripture confirms it. If you read John’s visions of the new heaven and earth and the holy city in isolation, you lose sight of how connected it is to OT prophecy in books like Ezekiel, Daniel, and Isaiah… 

Isaiah 11:6–9 (CEV) — 6 Leopards will lie down with young goats, and wolves will rest with lambs. Calves and lions will eat together and be cared for by little children. 7 Cows and bears will share the same pasture; their young will rest side by side. Lions and oxen will both eat straw. 8 Little children will play near snake holes. They will stick their hands into dens of poisonous snakes and never be hurt. 9 Nothing harmful will take place on the Lord’s holy mountain. Just as water fills the sea, the land will be filled with people who know and honor the Lord. 

Some say this could be in the Millenium, but Randy Alcorn asks… 

“When will there be no more harm on the earth? [or when will the land be filled with people who know and honor the Lord?] Not on the old Earth or even in the Millennium, which will end in rebellion and warfare, but on the New Earth, where there will be no more sin, death, or suffering (Revelation 21: 4). These descriptions of animals peacefully inhabiting the earth may have application to a millennial kingdom on the old Earth, but their primary reference appears to be to God’s eternal Kingdom, where mankind and animals will enjoy  a redeemed Earth.”[4]

But the real question is, will Fido be in heaven? Or put another way, do all dogs, or cats or whatever, go to heaven? I’m gonna tell you they should (Maple is the sweetest creature save her one fault: getting in the garbage). Animals have personalities. They have emotions. They are intelligent. Social media has confirmed this.

Let me take this even further and share something that may shock you a bit. Look back at the creation account in Genesis…

Genesis 2:7 (ESV) — 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 1:30 (ESV) — 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 

What do people and animals have in common? The breath of life. God animated us both with his very breath. Some say that gives us both, in some sense, souls. Biblically, what separates human living creatures with God’s breath of life and non-human living creatures with God’s breath of life is not one having a soul and the other not but humans being souls made in God’s image.

Before we drown in these deep waters, let me defer one last time to Alcorn, who always does a good job of explaining things…

Am I suggesting animals have souls? Certainly they do not have human souls. Animals aren’t created in God’s image, and they aren’t equal to humans in any sense. Nonetheless, there’s a strong biblical case for animals having non-human souls. I didn’t take this seriously until I studied the usage of the Hebrew and Greek words nephesh and psyche, often translated “soul” when referring to humans. (Nephesh is translated psyche in the Septuagint.) The fact that these words are often used of animals is compelling evidence that they have non-human souls. That’s what most Christians in the past believed. In their book Beyond Death, Gary Habermas and J. P. Moreland point out, “It wasn’t until the advent of seventeenth-century Enlightenment . .  . that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization. Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.”[5]

If God redeems us as living human souls and gives us a place in his new heaven and earth, and we know that animals have their place in it also, it’s not that far-fetched to think maybe Fido, and Kitty, will be there too. I wouldn’t put it past our God.

That’s a good place to stop.

Conclusion: As I said, no doubt you have more questions about our future forever heavenly home than ever. If you have one I didn’t cover, put it in the comments and I’ll try to post a follow up.

The biggest question of all, though, is will you be there, will you be a part of the new heaven and earth?

That life is only for those who come to God through Jesus in this life, those who take God up on his promise:

Romans 10:13 (ESV) — 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

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[1] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 5267-5270). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[2] Ibid. (Kindle Locations 5280-5288).

[3] Alcorn, Randy. Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (pp. 336-337). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[4] Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 7186-7190). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[5] Ibid. (Kindle Locations 7199-7206).

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