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As natural disasters pummel the earth, John Eldredge's message of hope shines like a beacon.
"I think one of the big surprises for many Christians is that God doesn't destroy the earth. The new earth is this very earth we love, restored. In Romans 8, when Paul says 'all creation is groaning for the day of its redemption,' he's clearly talking about this earth, because he says that it was subjected to a curse, and it's waiting for the sons and daughters of God in our day. So when John sees, in Revelations 21, 'I saw heaven and earth recreated,' God literally takes this beautiful broken world. And he restores it at the coming of Christ," Eldredge tells Charisma News.
Eldredge's new book, All Things New, dives into the new heaven and earth as described in the Bible.
Eternity, he says, isn't a giant 24/7 worship service. Rather, we will be living in a thriving kingdom; one that isn't heaven.
This is another really big idea that Christians have kind of lost. You actually don't spend your entire eternal life in heaven. You spend it here on the new earth. Revelation makes it very clear. It says, "and they shall reign on the earth." In fact, in Revelation 21, when John sees the new Jerusalem descending out of heaven, it comes to the earth. It says, "now the dwelling of God is with humanity." It's really the marriage of heaven and earth. We get the whole cosmos. God doesn't destroy the universe either. This beautiful creation that he cares so much about, the creation that we were actually designed to be lord over, small l, under Him. Adam and Eve were created to reign. The beautiful thing is in the coming restoration we reign again, right here, over a restored earth. We get heaven and earth.
I think a couple things have happened. For one thing, our images, our imaginations of heaven are anemic. We are impoverished. The best people can come up with is that it's the eternal church service in the sky. How many times have you been in a church service and they said we're just going to worship the Lord forever? It's unbiblical. In the parable of the minas, in the parable of the talents, when the master returns—clearly he's Jesus—he rewards his faithful ones by giving him the entire estate. He says, "Well don't. I'm going to put you in charge of 10 cities." That doesn't sound like eternal church. What's beautiful is that if we look at our story from God's perspective, God the Father creates this beautiful world—all the places you love, the waterfalls, the ocean, the sunsets, all of it—and he gives it to us like a wedding present. We are created to reign. Now tragedy enters by the fall of mankind. The enemy gets dominion. In the next chapter of our story, our powerful and creative father restores the earth. He restores us, and then, he tells us to do exactly what he told Adam and Eve to do: reign. So heaven and earth, the coming kingdom is not going to be boring at all. All the things that humans have wanted to do—the guy who's always wanted to be a cellist, but he's pouring concrete, or the gal who always wanted to be an architect, but she's selling coffee at Starbucks—your gift, your calling, all of those beautiful things that God put in you, he restores them. Then you get to live it out like you were meant to be. It's anything but boring. It's so exciting.
Eldredge, who authored popular books including Wild at Heart and Captivating, says there is much about the end times that Christians just do not understand, which has given the spirit of fear a stronghold even in faith communities.
As the earth literally quakes and hurricanes raze entire countries, many believers are quick to proclaim these natural disasters as signs of the end times. But in sounding the alarm about the coming of the Lord, Eldredge says some Christians have fallen into the enemy's snare.
I think the enemy knows we're very close to the return of Christ. We're very close to the end of his time. So, what he's trying to do is put his spin, zombie apocalypse movies, post-apocalyptic cities, it's doom. People look at the future with darkness, even Christians. They kind of fear the coming of Christ. But listen, the coming of Christ is the great hope of the Christian faith. It means beauty. It means goodness. It means restoration. One morning you're going to wake up, and your body is going to be completely restored. And your soul is going to be completely young and new. And the hope of this that—and the end of Revelation, at the end of the Bible, the verses are the church crying out for the return of Jesus. Come back Jesus. Maranatha, come. It's because they want him to. It's because they're excited about it. It's because we ache in our hearts to see the beauty and the restoration that he's going to bring in our lives and on the earth. It's something to look forward to and not to fear.
As for other end-times misconceptions, Eldredge says:
There's nothing to fear. The enemy is really trying to use fear to cause us to lose our hope about the return of Christ. I am stoked for the return of Christ. I pray for it every day. Paul says some pretty outrageous things, frankly. In 2 Corinthians 4 he says, "These momentary light afflictions are attaining for us this eternal glory." You go, "Come on, Paul. Little boys and girls forced into prostitution. How dare you call that light and momentary?" But it's because of what he knows. In Romans 8 he says, there is no comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. That's when he says, "All creation is groaning for this day." This is something to look forward to. It's something to imagine, something to begin to plan for. Just let your heart go there. What are the first three things you're going to do when you step into the kingdom? The heavens and the earth are yours. You are restored. You are with those you love. What are you going to do? Are you going to ride horses? Are you going to learn to play an instrument? Let your imagination go here, because the more you begin to realize how totally real this is, the more it's going to fill your heart with hope.
Jessilyn Justice is the director of online news for Charisma. Born and raised in a pastor's family in Alabama, she attended Lee University and the Washington Journalism Center. She's passionate about sharing God's goodness through storytelling. Tell her what you think of this story on Twitter @jessilynjustice.
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