Act Six, Part Two: The Vocation Forever Realized

Act Six, Part Two: The Vocation Forever Realized

Our study this week is going to bring us full circle in the Biblical story. Over the course of five different Acts, we have watched the story of the Bible unfold for us. That story has been filled with drama, beauty, adventure, and even danger–grave danger–but as the story comes full circle, we find that it arrives at the most beautiful place we could imagine. Indeed, the apostle Paul says that we can’t even imagine the grandeur of how this story will reach its conclusion. Even though we don’t know the specifics, what we can know is some generalities about our future to come. What is crucial is that we see that God’s original purposes for his creation will not ultimately be thwarted. God’s original intention was that human beings would rule over his creation, taking on his image and his wisdom in order to do so. They were to bring the glory of God to the ends of the earth. As we draw our study of the Biblical story to a close, that is exactly what we see happening. The final picture of the Bible is the remaking of the heavens and the earth. Everything corrupt and evil will be eradicated from it. Heaven and earth will be married at last, and God will dwell with his people, and they will worship him as their God.

This Biblical picture of the renewal of the heavens and earth goes all the way back into the Old Testament period. As the prophetic book of Isaiah draws to a close, it gives a vision of a “new heavens and a new earth,” where all the evil that was present in the previous heavens and earth has now been done away with. This tradition carries over into the New Testament in the letter of 2nd Peter, where Peter promises that God will lay bare all the elements of the present heaven and earth, and they will be refreshed and renewed as the home of righteousness.

Finally, the Biblical picture of the new heavens and earth comes to its fullest expression in the last two chapters of the Bible–Revelation 21 and 22. There the picture is not of all God’s people flying off somewhere to live in heaven, but of heaven coming down and making its presence known on the earth.

Why is this image important? Because without it the Biblical story does not arrive at its appropriate ending. The story must end as it began. God’s desire was to rule over all of creation through his image bearing creatures. That plan was thwarted for some time because of evil. But God will not ultimately be thwarted. He will find a way for his will to at last be fulfilled. When God unites heaven and earth together at last, we human beings will finally take our place over creation as always intended. But we will not do it alone. We will reign there with Christ, who has already taken his place at the right hand of God. The completion of God’s purposes will be for us to take our place there beside him as his fellow brothers and sisters. That will only happen when Christ has fully defeated all of his enemies. Those enemies include Satan, evil, and last of all, death.

What this means from a practical point of view is that for those who have put their confidence in Christ, the best is yet to come for us. Some of us have been blessed to live a fulfilling life here on earth. Others of us have not. But whatever the case may have been for you in this life, the true fulfillment of your potential is yet to come, and no one will be disappointed.

What will it mean to reign with Christ? Will it mean that we will rule over other human beings? Not necessarily. Certainly, there may be some role in the future for a structure of authority. But this authority will be nothing like it is on earth now, where everything is tainted by evil. In the new heavens and the new earth, we will all be given a task that perfectly fits our temperament, personality, and skill set. For some that may mean ruling over cities and nations. For others, it may mean watching over animal life. For others still, it may have some purpose in working the land. We don’t know the specifics of any of this; we are only speculating. All we know is that God will lead us to our full potential, and there will be no end to the great joy we will experience in God’s great future.

The resurrected life will not be like one eternally long church service, though I imagine there will be times of amazing worship. The resurrected life will not be one of passivity, sitting on a cloud strumming our harp. Though, no doubt, we will experience rest like never before. But there is more to it than worship and rest. As Dallas Willard liked to say, “We should think of our destiny as being absorbed in a tremendously creative team effort, with unimaginably splendid leadership, on an inconceivably vast plane of activity, with ever more comprehensive cycles of productivity and enjoyment.” This is the future that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined.

So the good news is, a grand future awaits those who have committed themselves to Christ. Whatever disappointments we have experienced in this life, they will all be made up for and corrected in the next. Justice will finally flow like rivers and the goodness of God will pervade every part of creation. There will be no more evil, suffering, pain or death. Never again will we visit a hospital or attend a funeral. Never again will we worry about our health or our future. All will be provided for in the world without end.

Have you contemplated this future in Jesus Christ? Have you let this vision of the new heavens and earth pervade your thinking? This is what our future will consist of if you put your trust in Christ. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Only Christ has the words of eternal life. Where else would we go?

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