Ask A Pastor: Why So Little About Heaven & the New Earth?
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Why does God only give us a small glimpse of what heaven and the world to come will be like?
This is a great question. I’m glad that you are thinking on the subject of heaven and eternity. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Colossians 3:2, where the Apostle Paul tells us, “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” But the question then is, “How do I set my mind on things above, if I know so little about heaven?”
I want to answer your question in two parts: One, you’re right. God doesn’t give us a lot of detail in the Bible of what heaven or the new earth will be like. But, two, He probably does give more details than you might think.
Let me answer that second part first: For example, in Colossians 3, after he tells us to set our mind on heaven, Paul seems to move on. But actually he doesn’t. He goes on to tell the Colossians what bad and sinful characteristics they ought to get rid of from their life, (fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness), and he calls them “members which are on earth.” And then he tells them to adopt new, good and holy characteristics, (tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with one another, and a forgiving spirit). The implication is that these good and holy characteristics are not from earth, but from heaven (from “above”). And he means they come to us from One who is above—when by His Spirit He puts a new heart and new desires within us. But surely he also shows us: This is what “above” looks like! This is what heaven is like! It’s a place where the creatures living there have these good and holy characteristics. So there heaven is described for us, though we might not realize it at first glance. And in Scripture God tells us a number of times about what the atmosphere and the character of people and angels in heaven are (and on the new earth will be) like. And He tells you and me: “Set your mind on that.” So He wants us to think of heaven in that way.
But then back to the first part: Yes, God does not describe many things like, what we will look like, or wear, or what language we will talk, or how old we will look, or how and where we will live, and many details like that. And we would love to know them!
(1) Perhaps He doesn’t, in order to create this longing within us! The surprise of it!
(2) We will have an eternity to learn about all these (that is, if we repent and believe in Lord Jesus Christ here in this life).
(3) What we are going to, is not as important as Who we are going to. God wants us most to look forward to Him, then to His gifts.
(4) God’s Word is not concerned with detailing heaven for us and we have to conclude that in God’s wisdom we don’t really need to know (we’re not given an account of the angels being created either, for example). God’s main concern in His Word is for us—here and now—on this earth: To show us that we are sinners who need saving if we’re ever going to live on the new earth; and that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to that salvation. The Bible is not a handbook about everything! It’s a handbook on how to be prepared for that day on which we will meet God. And so God gives us everything that we need to know, to get ready for that day. Sometimes He gives us glimpses at heaven and the new world to come. But most often He gives long looks into your and my heart. And long looks at Him, our Triune God, as Savior and Judge. Because that’s what we need to see the most.
So all of that is to say: If you want to know more, continue to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and one day—maybe soon!—He will show it all to you. And as the old hymn goes, “What a day of rejoicing that will be.”
Pastor Tim Bergsma