Hebrews says "we have this hope as an anchor to our soul..." We should be living in excited anticipation of Jesus' return! Here's why.
EXCITED! There really is no other word that can capture the anticipation of Jesus’ return. Really, think of it, how would you feel if you were expecting the return of your doting father, or your beloved brother, or your very best friend, or your adored spouse, returning from a long absence? In all scenarios without sin or evil (e.g. your earthly father/brother/spouse is/was a jerk) – you are excitedly anticipating their return! So why is this not the case with Jesus?
Because we do not clearly understand what his return means for us, and we think we’re going to miss out on something great that’s yet to be experienced in this earthly life. We think our current relationships will be lost and we’re going to be whisked away to the eternal church service in the sky (yawn).
First, one needs to understand that there is a present heaven (where a believer goes when they die) and an eternal heaven (where we live with God for eternity).
The present Heaven is in the angelic or spiritual realm, where God sits today with Jesus is at his right hand. This is where we go when we die, if we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. This is what Jesus referred to when he told the thief on the cross that “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Many other Scriptures make it clear that upon death, (as believers) our spirit will immediately go to be with God in the present Heaven: Luke 16:22-31, Philippians 1:23, 2 Cor. 5:8, Rev. 6:9-11, to start. There is a lot that we can know about this present Heaven, but for now, we’ll leave it at this: we’ll be with Jesus and God the Father, and Jesus said it’s Paradise.
However, the present Heaven is not our final destination! After Jesus’ return, Heaven comes to Earth. Revelation 21 describes the heavenly city descending to Earth! God will live here, among us, his people, and He promises that he will make everything new. All of heavens and earth will be restored to his original plan. We will be restored, to all that he intended for us to be. Nothing will be lost!
Revelation 21:5 – 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.” (NIV)
“God does not merely scrap creation and our intended roles along with it. He restores everything…There is no bait and switch here. The renewal of all things simply means that the earth you love – all your special places and treasured memories – is restored and renewed and given back to you. Forever.” - John Eldredge, All Things New
Isaiah 65:17 – See, I will create new heavens and a new earth…
Matthew 19:28 – Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne…”
Acts 3:21 – Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. (NIV)
Ephesians 1:10 - …this detailed plan will reign supreme through every period of time until the fulfillment of all the ages finally reaches its climax – when God makes all things new in all of heaven and earth through Jesus Christ. (TPT)
2 Peter 3:13 – But as we wait, we trust in God’s royal proclamation to be fulfilled. There are coming heavens new in quality, and an earth new in quality, where righteousness will be fully at home.
Romans 8: 19-22 – The entire universe is standing on tiptoe, yearning to see the unveiling of God’s glorious sons and daughters! For against its will the universe itself has had to endure the empty futility resulting from the consequences of human sin. But now, with eager expectation, all creation longs for freedom from its slavery to decay and to experience with us the wonderful freedom coming to God’s children.
God's children are destined for life as resurrected beings on a resurrected Earth. We must not lose sight of our true destination. - Randy Alcorn, Heaven
Contrary to popular belief, there is SO MUCH in the Bible about what God has in store for those who love him. It is well worth your time to study it…it gives you an unbreakable, unquenchable, hope for your future. Hope is the confident expectation of goodness to come. We can have that because truly, the best IS yet to come!
"Satan need not convince us that Heaven doesn’t exist. He need only convince us that Heaven is a place of boring, unearthly existence. If we believe that lie, we’ll be robbed of our joy and anticipation, we’ll set our minds on this life and not the next, and we won’t be motivated to share our faith. Why should we share the “good news” that people can spend eternity in a boring, ghostly place that even we’re not looking forward to."
And, also from Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven...
"In order to get a picture of (eternal) Heaven, which will one day be centered on the New Earth, you don’t need to look up at the clouds. You simply need to look around you and imagine what all this would be like without sin, death, suffering or corruption.”
What Will We Do For Eternity?
It’s another question that gives one pause and creates a struggle to excitedly anticipate Jesus’ return. The Bible does have much to say about it; study the Scripture and the books I’ve referenced. But in short, we will reign over creation as we were originally instructed in the Garden (see Genesis 1 for the first instruction to reign).
“As the new head of the human race, Christ – with his beloved people as his bride and co-rulers -will at last accomplish what was entrusted to Adam and Eve. God’s saints will fulfill on the New Earth the role God first assigned to Adam and Eve on the old Earth.” – Randy Alcorn, Heaven
Revelation 22:5 – They will reign forever and ever.
Life continues. The adventure continues, only on a much larger scale. Check out how Dallas Willard describes it:
“The life we now have as the persons we now are will continue, and continue in the universe in which we now exist. Our experience will be much clearer, richer and deeper of course, because it will be unrestrained by the limitations now imposed upon us by our dependence upon our body. It will, instead, be rooted in the broader and more fundamental reality of God’s kingdom and will accordingly have far greater scope and power.”
To give you just a glimpse of what that could look like, also from Willard:
“The Time of Reigning with Jesus…We need not worry about there being a place for everyone in our new cosmic setting. We now know that there are about ten thousand million galaxies in ‘our’ physical system, with one hundred billion billion planets. That is, 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets. And it may be that the physical system we know of is but one of many that we have not yet discovered. A few decades ago we thought our galaxy was the entire physical universe….In any case we should expect that in due time we will be moved into our eternal destiny of creative activity with Jesus and his friends and associates in the ‘many mansions’ of ‘his Father’s house.’”
This should give you HOPE and EXCITEMENT for Jesus’ return!
Eldredge wraps this up nicely for now:
“If you woke each morning and your heart leapt with hope, knowing that the renewal of all things was just around the corner – might even come today – you would be one happy person. If you knew in every fiber of your being that nothing is lost, that everything will be restored to you and then some, you would be armored against discouragement and despair. If your heart’s imagination were filled with rich expectations of all the goodness coming to you, your confidence would be contagious; you would be unstoppable, revolutionary.”
Colossians 3:2 - Feast on the treasures of the heavenly realm and fill your thoughts with heavenly realities and not with the distractions of the natural realms.
Go forth with HOPE, thinking and dreaming of all the goodness that’s in store for you!