What comes to mind when you think of heaven?

Do you think eternal life will be good?

Do you think you will enjoy it?

God promises that our experience of the new creation will be one of perfection. In God’s word, the new creation is described as a joyful wedding party (Matthew 22:1-2); the long-awaited union of a good God with his beloved people (Revelation 21:2).

On my most reflective and spiritually-aware days, I long for the new creation. I see it as God describes it: a beautiful city (Revelation 21:21-25), a safe haven (Revelation 21:27), a place where we can finally rest after a lifetime of waiting (Philippians 3:20), where we are finally “clothed … with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4).

On other days, however, I do not long for eternity. The new creation does not even cross my mind, let alone touch my affections. I get so caught up with my earthly life: scrambling for today, worrying about tomorrow, forgetting God in the process.

As Christians, we must remember: We are on a one-way trip to the new creation. Our life on this Earth is a passageway to our final destination: the new heavens and the new earth. We cannot afford to forget this truth. To do so will make it far too easy to give up on our faith; our hope in things that, though unseen today, will certainly come to pass (Hebrews 11:1).

How can we remind ourselves that eternal life is real, and we are heading for it?

How do we increase our desires to be in the new creation?

Here are four ways to help ourselves and others along the journey home:


1. Meditate on the Promises of the Next World

I think we Christians do not desire the new creation because we do not dwell on what is in store for us. We can easily let our ideas of eternal life slip into popular depictions of ‘heaven’: Flying cherubs, harps and lyres, an almost pointless, emotionless existence of souls whiling our after-lives away. Put this way, eternity really doesn’t sound like the place to be.

But I don’t think that’s what God says eternal life will be like. Although the biblical descriptions need to be read with caution, as eternal life is described as a whole new existence, I think we can rightly meditate on the following:

Firstly, the new creation will be harmonious. Imagine being in perfect relationships across all possible planes—with God, with each other (Is 2:4) and with creation (Isaiah 11:6). In the new creation, we will see God as he is (1 John 3:2). We will experience the fullness of his love and mercy and worship him in all purity. We will love those around us perfectly, and we will care and steward all of creation without fault.

Secondly, eternal life will be joyful. It will be life without worry. It will be life restored. We will never, ever, experience sin and death. We will never have to mourn or cry (Revelation 21:4). For in the new creation, death will be finally done away with. There will be nothing from which we must hide or escape.

Thirdly, the new creation will be fruitful. We can engage in meaningful, productive work that will not be sabotaged by death. We will not bemoan as the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, on the pointlessness of toil, work and gain, as we are all going to die anyway (Ecclesiastes 1:3). In the new creation, we will experience the fulfillment of the Teacher’s longings. Our efforts will not crumble from the effects of time. We will not need insurance policies, or have to plan for those metaphorical rainy days. We will not need to worry about passing on our toil to an unpredictable next generation (Ecclesiastes 2:18), or fret over the ultimate legacy of our efforts. We will have good and meaningful work to do, to God’s glory, the world’s good and our joy.

In other words, the new creation will be strange yet familiar: it will have echoes of this life and yet be sharply, gloriously different (1 Corinthians 15:35–58).


2. Reflect upon Death

Christians, more than anyone else, are most equipped to consider death.

We can afford to think hard about death for two reasons. Firstly, because we are no longer ruled by it. We need not fear death., for Jesus has defeated it (John 11:25-26). Thus, we are free to meditate on the fact that, unless Christ returns first, we are going to die. Of course, there are unhealthy ways to think about death. Ways that are fatalistic, morbid, or depressing. But, we can think about death in healthy ways—ones that enable us to be realistic about it, without being paralysed by doom. Ways that help us to orient our lives, put our priorities into focus, and help to discern between fruitful and frivolous pursuits.

Secondly, we need not fear death because we can see death as the preliminary step to seeing Jesus again. This is why Paul is able to consider his death a gain—even longs to die—so that he can be with Jesus again (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). We can be confident that the end of this life kicks off the start of new life with Christ and leads on to the eternal resurrection life of the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:1–5). This does not mean we should chase after death, but it does mean we can be okay with the fact of death, and perhaps be more equipped when it comes knocking.

This is the hope all Christians have— hope that enables freeing, contemplative, even joyful reflection upon death.


3. Cultivate a Healthy Dissatisfaction for This Life

So much of our story-telling about life, the news, and current affairs end with a shrug and a resigned “This is just how life is.” When I catch myself doing this, I wonder how we have ever gotten so comfortable with the suffering and injustices of the world.

We need to cultivate the spiritual equivalent of our taste buds. We need to realise there are aspects of this world that plainly suck, are deeply unfair, and incredibly dissatisfying. It is only when we start recognising how broken this world is that we start longing for a better one. Only when we start realising our deepest yearnings for peace and joy are yet to be fully satiated, then we start to hope for a better world, and be met with God’s comfort that there truly is one to come.

We acclimatise to things of lesser value because we can’t begin to contemplate the beauty and ecstasy of God’s greatest gift to us—new life in his Son and all that comes with that: the assurance of a restored world, the promise of never thirsting, eternal peace, and a world without sin.


4. Discuss the Above with Your Fellow Christians

Our conversations with fellow believers help fuel our belief in the promises of God. So, ask your Christian friends: “What comes to mind when you think of eternal life? Do you think it’ll be good? Do you think you’ll enjoy it?”

Some of my most comforting memories are created in this sequence: first, I sit around the kitchen table with fellow Christians, exhausted by difficult discussions about thorny pastoral issues, with no clear way out. Second, we pause. Third, we exhale a collective sigh of relief when we realise that these issues—no matter how weighty—are but temporary, belonging only in this lifetime. Finally, we rejoice together, and allow ourselves to imagine the night-and-day difference between life in the here and now and the life which is to come.

Fellow Christian, we are destined for the new heavens and the new earth. God is longing to bring us home. Are we longing for the same?