Returning to Eden (But Much More): Judgment, Renewal, and Cosmic Peace

Texts: Revelation 20:11-15; 21:1-7; 22:1-5

Days 78-80 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days.

What will “heaven” be like? It is the place where God dwells within a renewed creation, filled with renewed relationships, and an ever deepening intimacy with God, each other, and the creation itself. It is a dynamic of loving intimacy that continually grows without envy, jealousy, violence, and broken relationships. It is not static but dynamic.

Judgment is that process by which God separates evil from good. This separation not only identifies and clarifies the reality of evil, but it also refines and purifies people so that god’s people are fully perfected in the love of God. Judgment is the moment when evil is identified, humanity examined, the earth is purified by fire, and the people of God—fully sanctified by the love of God—are invited into the new creation to live upon a new earth where righteousness dwells.

The new Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God, descends upon the new heaven and new earth to fill the new creation with the glory of God. It is God’s own presence joined in fellowship with God’s people. The creation will never again be filled with pain, sorrow, and death but with joy and life. The curse has been removed, and life will flourish. Having made all things new, the people of God inherit the fullness of the Abrahamic promise, including a people that includes all nations and a land in which to flourish.

This new reality is described as a city with a garden where living water brings life to the cosmos. There is no temple there nor is there any night because God dwells there and fills the city with God’s presence and light, that is, with God’s glory. This is the fundamental goal: God dwells with the creation. Every morning God will be new to the creation because we will never exhaust God’s glory and person, and the creation will enjoy a dynamic communion with God.

In this new creation, humanity is serves the one who sits on the throne, worships God and the Lamb, and reigns with them forever. The original vocation of humanity is renewed—they will reign with God within the new creation.

This reign entails that they will continue to fill the earth with God’s glory as they live in communion with God and each other. They will cultivate the earth through their reign. We might imagine that humanity will continue to create art, songs, literature, etc. as they renew their vocation in the new creation. What exactly that looks like no one really (or certainly fully) knows. But perhaps we can say, it is more than we could ever imagine.

Lord, come quickly.

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