It happens every time I stare into a radiant sunset. Or when I gaze upon the beauty of a warm technicoloured beach. I feel it in the joy that comes from family fellowship, food, and fun, or when I hear the contagious laughter of my son giggling uncontrollably on the bedroom floor.
It is in those moments that my soul is altogether satisfied and yet strangely lacking
It is in those moments that my soul is altogether satisfied and yet strangely lacking. Almost as if I get the shadow of the thing, but never the substance. C.S Lewis described it best:
If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.
Somewhere deep within the heart of each and every person made in God’s image, is a longing and desire for a world beyond this world, a place beyond this place, somewhere that is free from sin, suffering, sickness, and death. And I believe these small glimpses of happiness and joy are wonderful moments that awaken our hearts for the longing of our true home to come.
John Bunyan referred to this home as “the Celestial City.”
C.S Lewis described it as “another world.”
Saint Augustine simply referred to it as “the place of Rest.”
But listen to how John describes it in Revelation 21:1-4:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. 3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His peoples, and God Himself will be with them and will be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.
I love how Phillip Ryken describes these verses:
What we find in these final few chapters (of Revelation) is a sanctuary for the heart of every lonely pilgrim who is longing for home…
Amen, and amen!
Renovation, Not Recreation
Now there is so much we could say about these incredible verses, but I simply wish to focus our attention on verse one—John writes:
Then I saw a New Heaven and a New Earth…
‘Kainos’ suggests that God is going to renew/renovate/qualify the current world, not make a new one.
This is one of those times when the Greek actually matters. The word John uses for new here is the word Kainos – it simply means ‘a newness of quality’ or ‘a newness of state’—the emphasis, in other words, is on a qualitative change rather than replacement. When we read that together with Paul’s comments about creation groaning to “be set free from its bondage to corruption,” it suggests that God is going to renew/renovate/qualify the current world, not make a new one ex-nihilo. God is going to take the old world—with all of its beauties and pleasures, and splendours and glories—and beautify/qualify it in such a way, that it will no longer be bound by the effects of sin, corruption, evil, or death (Cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:4).
A Practical Approach for Today
So that’s all well and good for us to look forward to in future days—but what about now?
How should this truth affect us today?
Well I believe that one of the reasons God has given us so much beauty to enjoy is because these things are windows of grace into the stunning beauty of what’s to come!
Every good and gracious gift given by the Father of lights is but a mere shadow of our future home.
Every good and gracious gift given by the Father of lights (James 1:17) is but a mere shadow (a window of opportunity) for us to behold and rejoice because it is a glimpse of our future home: that world beyond this world, the home where God and man will dwell in perfect unity!
I love what Saint Augustine said one day as he was staring out at the sunlit Mediterranean Sea:
If these are the beauties afforded to sinful man, what does God have in store for those who love Him?
If creation is that beautiful today, then how beautiful is God, and how infinitely better will the new creation be in the place of absolute joy and perfection!
C.S Lewis would come along several decades later and say something similar in his own words—and just listen to how Lewis describes the things of earth as windows, he writes:
…The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
How Much Better
So what Augustine and Lewis are saying—is the same thing we experience when we look out at creation and see the shadow of our future home to come!
Those gifts given by our heavenly Father are gifts meant to be enjoyed by His children because those gifts reveal to us what we truly long for and desire. The earthly gifts are glimpses of the eternal and heavenly gifts to come—and these earthly gifts are abundant; things like football & sports, family & food, fellowship & fun, eggs & bacon, cheese & wine, a good book & tea! All of it, given by a good Father in order to bless His children!
Now obviously there are times when the children of God abuse those gifts and exchange the Giver for the gifts, and those are the times that (as Lewis describes) turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers… Whenever we take the gifts and make them into ultimate realities they will always disappoint the hearts of men—but in so far as we enjoy those gifts in a true and proper context, then we are free to engage in glorifying God and enjoying Him today through those gifts!
False Christian Guilt
Far too many Christians I have spoken to feel this sense of guilt every time they begin to enjoy the things of earth, because they have been constantly taught that self-denial and asceticism was the only proper way to live. But on the contrary, Scripture seems to paint a very different picture:
1Corinthians 2:9 …
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him….
1Timothy 4:4 …
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…
Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 …
This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labour under the sun during the few days of life God has given them–for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.
We must remember that a child on Christmas morning can have 2 reactions to a gift given—both as debasing and sinful as the other:
1. The child who receives a gift and takes it into their room to completely shut out the giver (i.e. hedonism).
2. The child who receives a gift but rejects it in favour of spending more time with mum and dad (i.e. ascetism).
We are supposed to enjoy the gifts! But we are also supposed to let them point us to better things
Both are sinful and both are wrong ways to enjoy God’s gifts. We are supposed to enjoy the gifts! But we are also supposed to let them point us to better things—to make us long for the things of heaven and the God who gave them.
The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob exemplified this affectional pulse as they lived in tents in the Promised Land:
By faith [Abraham] went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Heb. 11:9–10, emphasis added).
God has given an innumerable number of gifts and pleasures in the world for His children to take and enjoy—but, at the same time, the beauty that we’re currently in is not what it was meant to be. It’s broken, flawed. fickle and dark…
And yet if creation is that beautiful today—then what does God have in store for the children of God?!?!
How infinitely better are the New Heavens & New Earth going to be, when our heart is at home & our souls are at rest!
So please, eat, drink, and be merry, not for the reason that tomorrow we die, but because these gifts given by God are meant to be enjoyed by His children as a foretaste and a shadow of what’s to come.
Praise God for His ever-extending goodness and grace given to his saints!
 C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1966), pp. 4-5.