Heaven will be a new earth. This biblical doctrine isn’t novel or controversial, yet I’ve known more than a few people to push back against the idea. As they’ve heard me explain it and expound relevant passages in Scripture, I’ve watched them fold their arms and stare at me quizzically. Most don’t openly object, but they react like I’m trying to sell indulgences. They give me a look that says, “I’m not buying.”
If you wonder why people would be apprehensive about such a sweet and straightforward facet of eschatology, one particular woman expressed her concerns succinctly when she replied, “I’ve never heard that before in my life.” Sadly, her comment says less about the future reality of a new earth than the teaching’s absence in many Christian circles.
I’m fascinated by the subject for the very reason J.C. Ryle gives in his book Heaven: Priceless Encouragements on the Way to our Eternal Home. He writes:
The man who is about to sail for Australia or New Zealand as a settler is naturally anxious to know something about his future home, its climate, its employments, its inhabitants, its ways, its customs. All these are subjects of deep interest to him. You are leaving the land of your nativity; you are going to spend the rest of your life in a new hemisphere. It would be strange indeed if you did not desire information about your new abode. Now, surely, if we hope to dwell forever in that “better country, even a heavenly one,” we ought to seek all the knowledge we can get about it. Before we go to our eternal home, we should try to become acquainted with it.
Barry Morrow tells the story of someone asking an English pastor what he anticipates after death. The pastor replies, “Well, if it comes to that, I suppose I shall enter into eternal bliss, but I really wish you wouldn’t bring up such depressing subjects.”
As believers, we do ourselves a tragic disservice by remaining ignorant regarding our eternal state. While we may readily admit that heaven will be perfectly wonderful, I’ve had enough candid conversations to know that our excitement for paradise is often tinged by fear—fear of the unknown. If we perceive heaven as altogether otherworldly, unimaginably foreign to us, we will naturally feel uneasy about the prospect. But if, on the other hand, we grasp what the Bible says about the new earth, a familiar place minus sin and its consequences, all reluctance dissipates.
Let me steer you in the right direction if you want to learn more. Derek W.H. Thomas offers a profitable primer in his short book Heaven On Earth: What the Bible Teaches About Life To Come. In my opinion, though, the best resource of all is Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home by Randy Alcorn. It’s thorough without ever becoming tedious or overly academic.