We are at the climax of the Book of Revelation with chapters 21 and 22. We finally turn from the terrible troubles, suffering, and tribulations of the Church on earth and the judgments of God on those causing the trouble, suffering, and tribulation. Beyond judgment, there is the creation of a new heaven and earth. God gave the promise of a new heaven and earth to the Prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah, God promised that he would “create new heavens and a new earth” (65:17), which would last forever (66:22).
We are given a brief, but beautiful, description of it in Revelation 21. We are told that God will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no more mourning, crying or pain. The old order of creation has passed. But the best part of the new creation is that: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (v. 3). As N. T. Wright indicates, the centerpiece of the new creation is God dwelling among his people. God Himself will come again as He did in the incarnation of Jesus. We will again have the very embodiment of God’s presence. This will be a second incarnation. A re-incarnation, if you will, of God’s presence with his people. That is all God has ever wanted from Genesis on.
What that means is that the prize of heaven is God Himself. In fact, heaven is God. Where Jesus is, there is heaven. Jesus is our reward. No doubt, the absence of death, crying, mourning, and pain will be awesome. Freedom from Satan, the beast, and the false prophet will be truly liberating. The experience of a new body and a new heaven and earth will amaze us. But the real benefit or perk of the new creation is the new relationship we will have with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Nothing will compare to it. It will be complete bliss and all manner of things will be well.
For some, this might be a disappointment. I once had a conversation with a woman who talked about heaven as a place where she would finally find romantic fulfillment. She had been married and divorced a couple of times. She confessed to me that she had had over 90 sexual partners in her life. She was looking forward to the day when she would finally find her “soul mate” and live in a mansion in heaven. She drove a Mercedes with the bumper sticker ‘Like my car? My real treasure is in heaven’. When I told her that Jesus taught that: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Mt. 22:30), she became visibly distraught and disappointed.
What are you looking for in heaven? Anything less than God Himself will be a complete and utter let-down. God will not disappoint. In Him are all things. He is the Source and Giver of life. New life in God’s presence will not be second to anything else. Not even the joys and pleasures of this life.