A Happy Anticipation of Heaven on Earth

In this episode of the Holy Joys Podcast, Johnathan Arnold and David Fry discuss why the church has lost its happy anticipation of heaven and how a robust theology of new creation can help to recover this vital hope which has grounded the church throughout the centuries. See also the continuation of this discussion: “Heaven, the Resurrection of the Body, and Mourning as Christians.”

Quotes from Fry:

  • An experience that led me to preach a series on heaven was sitting through a funeral service in which almost everything that was said about heaven had to do with the material descriptions that Scripture gives us—streets of gold and gates of pearl. There was nothing said about beholding the beauty of God. I began to realize that we really lack almost any understanding of the beatific vision that calls Christians to a happy anticipation of heaven.
  • People have a hard time looking forward to heaven when they have bought into—or have been sold—a fairytale idea of what heaven is like. On a nice Fall day, I’d rather walk through the woods than walk through a massive city with streets of gold.
  • We need a biblically-based concept of what heaven really is in order for us to have a happy anticipation of it.
  • People latch onto the biblical images for heaven and take one verse, one little element—such as streets of gold—and try to build a whole world based on that element, and make it something other than what it actually is.
  • I have heard preachers say, ‘We all want to go to heaven, but we don’t want to go tonight,’ and that’s terrible. That is not the attitude of the New Testament believers, and it’s certainly not the attitude of the saints throughout the ages.
  • Who wants to be strapped to a rocket and thrown into outer space where there’s nothing but space and spend eternity there? From a very young age, we are teaching our kids a very nebulous idea of an ungrounded heaven, and for some reason we don’t make the connection in our adult minds that there’s a problem with that.

From a very young age, we are teaching our kids a very nebulous idea of an ungrounded heaven, and for some reason we don’t make the connection in our adult minds that there’s a problem with that.

  • We have been thinking unbiblically about an other-worldly heaven, and we need to think more in terms of the redemption of this earth—God’s plan for wedding heaven and earth together, which is the great image of the end of the Book of Revelation.
  • One of the last stanzas of “O For a Thousand Tongues” says, “Anticipate your heaven below, and own that love is heaven.”
  • In Revelation 21, the dwelling of God is with us—not our dwelling goes to be with God. God is coming to us. That is the final image in the final chapters of Scripture.
  • We are earthly creatures, and we were created to be earthly creatures. The creation story conveys to us a pure, holy place called the garden, in which God dwelled with Adam and Eve. That’s a real, earthly place—not something beyond the blue. And so we have to ground our salvation in earthiness.
  • Peter uses imagery that refers to the redemption of this earth, not God throwing something away and starting with something different. Once we have that as our framework for understanding heaven, it revolutionizes our thinking.
  • If God plans to trash this earth, don’t let the meek know that. Because Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth. If he means that, then he is talking about the earth that they know.
  • There is more continuity between this earth and heaven—this age and the next—than there is discontinuity. Certainly, there is some discontinuity, but there’s a hope that heaven is not a fairytale. It’s real.
  • To see the completion of God’s vision for humanity or the world, we see that in Christ. We don’t go back to the first Adam, we go to the Second Adam.

Quotes from Arnold:

  • If you believe that God is going to throw out the earth, you are not only undermining one of the most fundamental themes in biblical theology, but from a systematics perspective, the whole economy of redemption. Christ comes to redeem the earth because he is the one through whom the earth was created. It is fitting that the one through whom all things were created should be the one through whom all things were redeemed. It would be unfitting that God who created this world would just throw it out.
  • Adam was never able to enjoy an earth fully subdued, but we will because of Christ.
David Fry
David Fry
Senior Pastor at the Frankfort Bible Holiness Church. PhD in Systematic Theology (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). MDiv in New Testament Theology (Wesley Biblical Seminary).