The final day of the conference began with seminars, so Julian and I decided to attend one led by Dr. Bruce Ware who spoke on “Worshiping the Triune God.” As I expected from the man who wrote such a convicting book on the Trinity, Dr. Ware covered the topic thoroughly and biblically. This is a seminar that you may want to consider purchasing a listening to a couple of times. It will prove well worth the hour-long commitment and will nicely complement his book, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And now we look forward to the last general session of WorshipGod06. Randy Alcorn of Eternal Perspectives Ministries will be the special guest.
It turns out that, while I enjoyed Alcorn’s talk, it proved quite difficult to encapsulate in a few short paragraphs. This became even more clear as it continued and I guess he began to run short of time. So please take these notes as merely an indication of some of the things he said.
What is the essence of heaven? The essence of heaven is to be with God, to see His face, to never have anything between us, to be unimpaired by sin and curse. While we will never sin again, we’ll never lose the memory of sins we committed in that we’ll see the scars on the body of Christ. We’ll know why He needed to become our redeemer, but the details of sin and the remembrance of sin will be real but will no longer have a grip on us. There will be nothing between us and God. We’ll be fully and finally redeemed.
Where is heaven? It is where the omnipresent God chooses to make His central dwelling place. Heaven is not everywhere but is the place where God’s throne is. He rules everywhere, but His throne is specifically located somewhere. Here is a surprise: God will relocate heaven. It is not now where it will be in the future. Heaven will one day be right here right now—on earth. This earth will be made new and will be heaven. Will the bodies we have right now be our bodies forever? Yes and no. It will not be the body as it experiences the curse but will be made new with continuity between the old and the new. The doctrine of the resurrection means that we will not hover around as ghosts for eternity, but we will live forever on what God calls “the new earth”—an earth that was redeemed because God was not content to only redeem souls, but also bodies and the earth itself (see Revelation 21:1-3).
So the teaching of Scripture is that God will relocate Heaven to the physical realm of the New Earth. Sin’s curse will lose its grip both on us and on the earth. Sin will no longer be. This is a magnificent promise but where does it say that the throne of God and the Lamb will be located? It will be located in the New Jerusalem, the capital city of the New Earth.
The eternal incarnation, Immanuel (God with Us) is not “Us with God.” It is not ultimately about us going up to dwell with God and angels in their place, but God coming down to dwell with us in our place. God Himself will dwell with them on the New Earth. He will make Earth, our home, into His home. This has implications on how we view eternity, eternal life, and our lives right now. Evangelical Christians have developed a theology of destruction and abandonment, but the Bible teaches a theology of redemption and renewal. We believe that the universe is such that God will not have to abandon and permanently destroy it. God is going to take the earth, which will be destroyed, and reassemble it much like the earth was rebuilt after it had been destroyed in the flood. This should cause us to worship God for His greatness because it is a lot more magnificent to redeem and renew than abandon and destroy. The word “redemption” is used a lot, but perhaps we don’t really understand what it is saying (see Ephesians 1:10). The ultimate is not that earth and heaven will be separated but will be brought together under Christ.
We now live life on earth and when we die, we will go to an intermediate heaven. But when Christ returns and we experience the resurrection, we will be brought to live on the New Earth. We can learn about this state by observing the resurrected Christ who had flesh and bone, who ate and drank. Regardless of eschatology, the promise of Scripture that is emphatic and we can all agree on is that we will all live together on a New Earth. We don’t have to debate about the eternal destination as we debate about what happens before. “God will make the new earth his dwelling place…Heaven and earth will then no longer be separated as they are now, but they will be one. To leave the new earth out of consideration when we think of the final state of believers is greatly to impoverish biblical teaching about the life to come” (Anthony Hoekema). This is true, but when was the last time most Evangelicals have heard a message on the New Earth? We talk more about the end times than about the New Earth—the means rather than the end.
Worship on this earth is a foretaste of and preparation for life on the New Earth. God is the Fountainhead, the Source, of all the lesser streams we desire. When I desire food, friendship, work, play, music, drama or art, I am desiring God. God has made me to desire Him. There is an almost infinite gap between us, yet of all creation only we are made in His image. We should be desiring God in our desiring of other things (see Philippians 1:7-8). Christ is the primary who gives to us the secondary so that in anticipating the secondary we may worship the primary. So In all we do, we should do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Here are a few more random quotes or near-quotes:
The original Great Commission can be found in Genesis 1:26-28 which is a command to fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion. Not once are we told that God has abandoned this. God’s kingdom is forever and God’s people will rule over it.
A lot of people treat the Bible as if it has no resolution.
We live now in a fallen culture. We will live in a redeemed culture that will accurately reflect God’s glory. Earth will not end as a failed experiment. It will continue forever a glorified success.
The “spiritual” corrective to idolatry: seek the Giver, not the Gift. Better: see the Giver in the Gift.
Narrow worship to its one true object: God. Worship leaders need to broaden worship to see God far more in his creations than sub-creations. We are not Creators but we are creators.
And this brings us to the end of the WorshipGod Conference. In only a few hours I will be making my way home. I do hope that in the coming days I will be able to reflect further on this week’s events and share my convictions, thoughts and reflections. Thanks for dropping by the blog to follow along.