Abe W. Ediger
My wife, Anna Marie, passed away unexpectedly on August 12, 2005. I miss her dearly. Because of her death, I began meditating seriously on the life hereafter. This meditation shares some of the encouragements I received from my study.
The heaven we anticipate is so glorious that we can barely begin to picture it. But "'what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him'these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:9–10). We need to diligently glean all we can from what God has revealed to us.
Paul was granted a glimpse of heaven that was so wonderful he was forbidden to speak about it (2 Cor. 12:1–4). When we embrace our hope through faith, it produces inexpressible joy that is filled with glory (1 Pet. 1:8–9). If the mere anticipation of the fulfillment of God's salvation can produce such joy, the actual fulfillment of it will be all the more glorious.
After each day of creation, God pronounced his work good. When all was completed, "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). Had sin never entered the world, God's creation would have remained very good. For God to prepare a place of glory without any regard to his good creation would be a victory for Satan, I believe. It is therefore not surprising to read in Romans 8:19–25 that God will restore his original creation at the time of our glorification.
It seems from this that, in the final state, believers will be living on this earthalthough it will be an earth cleansed from all effects of sin. "According to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pet. 3:13). I expect that we'll be completely overwhelmed at the intensified beauty of the flowers and the trees, as well as that of the hills and mountains and valleys. As wonderful as our rivers and lakes and oceans are, they are marred by sinful abuse and by God's curse. In the restored earth, they will be absolutely pristine in their beauty.
When I say that God will restore his original creation, I do not mean that he will return the world to its original condition. No, God's covenant history moves forward, not backward. God's renewed creation will be even better than the first. But I do mean that there will be continuity between our present, fallen world and the renewed world.
Revelation 21–22 describes the new heavens and new earth (at least symbolically). At the least, we can say that God is preparing a place that will meet all the needs of all his people (cf. John 14:1–4). God himself will dwell with his people. There will be no more pain, sorrow, or tears. Life will be always and only positive and prosperous.
But what will we be like in glory? What was Jesus like after his resurrection? His triumph consisted not just in his soul going to heaven, but in his body rising from the dead. Because he won the victory, death could not hold him (Acts 2:24).
Likewise, the salvation that Jesus won for us is more than our bodiless souls going to heaven. "Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.... Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ" (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). Our bodies will be raised from the dead and reunited to our souls, and we will be made like the glorified Christ. "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). Since we will be made like Christ, we too will have flesh and bones and will be able to consume food (see Luke 24:36–43). As one commentator writes, "There is a continuity between the mortal and the immortal body. Jesus was raised in the same body in which he died. Paul compares the mortal body and the resurrected body to a seed and the plant that grows from it (1 Cor. 15:35–44)."
Our resurrected bodies, however, will not be as they are now. "Our present bodies, like Adam's, are natural and earthy, subject to weakness and death. The resurrection body, like Christ's, will be spiritual, created and sustained by the Holy Spirit, and will belong to the eternal, imperishable, heavenly order (1 Cor. 15: 45–54)."
Our bodies, then, will be renewed and glorified, but they will be the same bodies. Paul comforts us with the information that we will recognize each other (1 Thess. 4:13–18). As we get older, we more and more enjoy our fellowship with friends, brethren, and loved ones. In heaven there will be no interruption of fellowship. Rather, such fellowship will be considerably heightened and expanded.
But what will make heaven so heavenly is that our joy and rejoicing will ultimately center on God himself. One of our first occasions of celebration will be the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6–9). The central theme of rejoicing is set forth in the song we will sing: "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns" (vs. 6). God promises us that his path of life leads to "fullness of joy" and "pleasures forevermore" (Ps. 16:11).
Joy is to be a significant part of our lives. As the Shorter Catechism affirms: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." Even today our joy is often inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Pet. 1:8). How much greater will it be when our hearts and minds are set free from the deadening effects of sin? Just imagine myriads of brethren joining together to sing: "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted to her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure" (Rev. 19:6–8).
God reveals these things to encourage us to be steadfast in our Christian walk. He calls us to live in a manner that is fruitful for his kingdom. When we do, however, we meet resistance and may even suffer persecution. To encourage us to persevere, God promises to reward us in heaven. Our Lord says: "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:11–12). How we live our lives here on earth, in other words, will impact our lives in heaven! As R. C. Sproul says, "Right now counts forever!"
We must not imagine, however, that we can in any sense be entitled to heaven by our own doing. "All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" (Isa. 64:6). Even our best works deserve God's wrath and everlasting curse. Thank God we don't have to earn salvation! Jesus has won it for us. He says: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
Jesus is the only way to heaven, but he is also the sure and certain way to heaven. He reassures us: "Whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37). As the Shorter Catechism reminds us, saving faith is resting on Christ alone for salvation, as he is offered in the gospel. In amazing grace, God "made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). It is what Christ has done that makes us right with God. The way to heaven is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Dear reader, look away from yourself to Jesus Christ alone for your right standing with God.
While our faithfulness can in no sense merit heaven, nevertheless God's Word also reveals that a life of faithfulness to the Lord here on earth can enrich the quality of our life in heaven. There will be rewards in heaven. This too is amazing, since God is the one who works in us to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). God is the one who graciously causes us to walk in the good works that he prepared beforehand (Eph. 2:10). And then God will turn around and graciously reward us for what he graciously gave us in the first place! Hallelujah!
Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that it is the most painful experience of life. Never have I had to turn so fully away from earthly comforts and rely so completely on God's promises. Meditating on his promises has given me a new understanding of how vibrant the afterlife will be. I had never dreamed of such possibilities and reunions that I now see awaiting us in God's eternal glory. I hope to see you there.
 "There was direct continuation from the pre-fall to the post-fallen world. Similarly, there will be direct continuity between the dying old earth and the resurrected New Earth. The earth-shattering fall divided history, but it didn't end history. The resurrection of all things will divide earth's history, but it won't end it" (Randy Alcorn, Heaven [Tyndale, 2004], p. 234).
 The Reformation Study Bible (Ligonier, 2005), p. 1666.
 See Cornelis P. Venema, The Promise of the Future (Banner of Truth, 2000), pp. 405–19.
The author is a retired OP minister. He quotes the ESV. Reprinted from New Horizons, May 2007.