–in the new earth. They started that way.  Nature was a safe place, every part of it. Not anymore. Sin corrupted everything, the atmosphere, the earth, the forest. We’ve heard the stories of bears overtaking campers in Yosemite, alligators attacking vacationers in Florida, and lions sneaking up on a village in Tanzania. Sin has devastated the landscape. Not only did we fall, but it even changed the personality of animals. They began fighting with each other, and many of them turned against humans, the cause of the problem. They don’t know why they do it, but we do.

Kids ask the perceptive question, “Why did God make mosquitoes?” They seem to serve no good purpose. They did before the fall. And in the new earth they will not be sucking blood out of bodies. Guaranteed. So said a friend on a recent trip to Tanzania, when we spent a little time swatting them. (And I’m not sure if we will have blood).

Paul writes that “creation was subjected to futility” (Romans 8:20). Thankfully, “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (21,22). Creation includes the ground that was cursed and has produced weeds ever since, and the animal kingdom that in part turned against the crown of God’s creation. Nature, including the animal kingdom, will partake in the great makeover!

God is not going to trash the earth and start over. Jesus spoke of “the renewal of all things.” As ˚one writer wrote, “ God said, ‘Behold I make all things new,’” (Revelation 21:5),  not “all new things.” We will be back to the beginning, when “God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25). Sin turned creation from good to not-so-good. Tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and avalanches are nature’s way of saying, “Something went wrong.” In the new earth we will all be friends, so much so that “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

Notice that “they shall not hurt or destroy.” The new earth will be filled with animals and humans who have a new nature. Love will prevail. “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). Little children (and there will be little children in the new earth according to the passage above) will not need babysitters or parents to protect them in the woods. We won’t even have parents, but we will all have one Father. And He will make ALL THINGS NEW! Those things that now destroy or threaten or cause us to lose sleep will be tamed or eliminated. And we probably won’t sleep, because “night will be no more” (Revelation 22:5). I can only imagine!


So how thin is the veil separating time and eternity? Do those who have left us see us? Could we send them a message? Or is there no interaction between this life and the next? It can get exciting to think about the possibilities. It can also get weird. We don’t pray to them, but some form of communication is likely. Many worship ancestors and pray to them for success, as if they now have special powers. Digging into the world beyond may put us in touch with the underworld. Satan has a toolbox he uses to bring down the living–accusation, intimidation, temptation, and perhaps the most common–deception. He “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9), often through sorcery, the illegitimate use of the non-material world to impact the physical world. Those who naively seek afterlife realities may be dabbling with the devil.

However, the writer of Hebrews spoke about “a great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). He had just referenced saints who had gone before in the Faith Hall of Fame (ch. 11), so the witnesses are those who have passed on to glory. That includes loved ones who put their trust in Jesus. Can they see us? Witnesses are called to testify, not because they think something but because they have seen something. We know that the dead are not dead. Paul said, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). So they definitely see Him, and most likely others who are there. Happy reunions are probably occurring.

Do they see those still on earth? We know they are aware of some things. Martyrs before the throne ask the Lord when he is going to avenge their blood (Revelation 6:10), so they knew that it had not yet happened. But wouldn’t their knowledge of happenings on the earth give them grief? Not if eternity gives them a transformed perspective of suffering. I believe, thanks to Randy Alcorn’s excellent book, Heaven, that the veil between earth and heaven is thinner than I once thought. That does not mean contacting the dead (necromancy, which is really talking with demons), but it may mean some form of communication.

We had a series at our house church on “Heaven, the Happiest Place on Earth.”  Audrey, one of our members, sent me this story hoping it would give those who have lost loved ones some peace. “My Sister, Tsungie, passed away in December 2001 at the age of 13 after suffering a brain hemorrhage. Although we knew she might die at a young age due to her Sickle Cell Anemia, we were devastated. We had prayed that she would live a long and happy life. My parents spent years going from one doctor to another to ensure the best and most affordable medical treatment.

After her death, my mother would often cry alone. Like us all, she missed her deeply. One day  my mother was crying inconsolably and asking herself why such a tragedy had happened. That night my sister appeared to her in a dream and asked her, “Mom, why are you crying? I am happy where I am.” She showed her the white robe she was wearing, surrounded by others wearing the same. Tsungie looked happy, and so did everyone. Since that dream my mother has accepted her death and has had some closure.” How kind of a loving Father to bring about communication to console a grieving mother. He is truly “the God of all comfort.”`


After my second year of seminary, I took a year off to travel overseas. I taught for two months at a Bible College in Kenya, then studied for eight months in Israel. Travel came next through Europe. Then I joined a team with Operation Mobilization in Eastern Europe. I decided to finish up in England. I was on my way to the most famous archeological museum in the world, but I said, “I’ve seen enough museums. I want to go home,” and I headed for the airport with my open ticket. I arrived at LAX two days later and went through customs. The customs officer looked at my passport with multiple pages stamped and said, “Welcome home.” I got so choked up I could barely eke out a quiet, “Thanks.” Moments later I was met by family and thirty friends who sang the doxology in the terminal.

Our son Gabriel served in Iraq in the Air Force. He returned to American soil on his mother’s birthday.  He came home to Minnesota two weeks later. There was no little emotion when we met him at the airport. People knew what was happening.   When we drove into the driveway, he could read the huge sign spread across the garage, “Welcome home, soldier.” His grandfather, who had served in Iwo Jima, got choked up when he read it. When we had an open house, three WWII veterans were on hand, and they said, ‘Thank you, soldier. Welcome home.”

My wife grew up as a missionary kid in Japan. Sociologists call her a “third culture kid.” When her parents returned to the States on furlough, they told the kids they were going home. But third culture kids don’t quite know where home is. When she was asked in college, “Where’s home?” she wasn’t sure how to answer. “Do you mean ‘home home’ or where I grew up or where I sort of live now?” They thought she was weird. But home was more Japan than the States, and furlough was leaving home, not going home. Some missionary kids or children of diplomats struggle with this lack of definition all their lives. They feel like vagabonds. They literally don’t have a place they can call home. But this is true of us all. Peter calls us “aliens and strangers in the world” (I Peter 2:11). And he says, “Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear” (I Peter 1:17). When we are truly home, there will be no more painful goodbyes.

Much of life is waiting. We wait to be born, to walk, to go to school, to graduate. Then we wait to get a job, then to retire. Then we wait to die. In heaven–no more waiting. Missionaries were returning on a boat that included some famous people. When the ship docked on the east coast, the explosion began, with people shouting their praises to the celebrities. The missionaries, who had given their lives overseas, were saddened that they had no one to receive them, to applaud their work. When they asked the Lord why not, they heard Him quietly answer, “You’re not home yet.” When we pass through death to endless life and walk through heaven’s door, the words will be more wonderful than ever: “Welcome home!


Do they know what is happening with loved ones? Do they pray for us in the presence of the King? If they do, would their prayers be more powerful than ours? If we have great victories–or defeats, do they know about them?

Paul said, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). I have always felt that meant no more contact with earth, no more praying, no more awareness. After all, wouldn’t hearing bad news impact an otherwise pain-free experience? On a car trip up to San Francisco, I read from Hebrews 12:1 about how “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” My wife and Steve and Betty Luttio said, “Sounds like they can see what’s going on.” I disagreed and looked at commentaries. They confirmed my outlook that death brings a separation from earth and from knowledge of what takes place.

Then I looked at what Randy Alcorn , who wrote an excellent book called Heaven, had to say. He disagrees with me and opened my eyes to the possibility that people on the other side can see us. He said, “The key to heaven’s joy is not ignorance but perspective.” I could buy that. He brought up several good arguments:

1) After Moses and Elijah died, they met with Jesus on the mountain and talked about His impending death like they knew what was going on.

2) Revelation 6:9-11 speaks about martyrs asking God when He is going to avenge their blood. To ask they would have to know that it had not happened yet, so they were aware of what was taking place. They also remembered that they were martyred. One big difference between being on earth and in heaven is that on the other side we are “the righteous made perfect (Hebrews 12:23).

3) Christ said that there is “rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7). Alcorn points out that these folks are not the angels as we might expect, because three verses later Jesus says that “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (10). if it is not God and not the angels, that leaves the folks who have gone before us. Looks like they are aware of those coming to faith and it brings much joy. (Hey, they were already exuberant).

4) Now back to what we started with, who does the “cloud of witnesses” refer to? It is those who have preceded us in death and have conquered the grave. What are they witnessing? The contest suggests that they are viewing our race and are somehow cheering us on. Though we can’t see them, they can see us. Thank you, Mr. Alcorn, for a new perspective of the thin veil that separates earth from heaven.

So what does it do for me? Picturing my father and mother before the throne cheering me on gives me incentive to run a good race. I know they will meet me on the other side and congratulate me if I succeed. Saying “goodbye” was difficult, but the reunion will be glorious, and even more so believing they are rooting for me. Let this truth cause your hope to swell today!


Heaven is a happy place. Tell a teenager in a dead church that heaven is like a wonderful worship service, only extended for decades, and they might say, “Great, and do I get to play a harp?”  Culture’s caricature has overtaken us. Taking walks on streets of gold hardly grabs them. I’ll offer seven reasons from the end of the book (chapter 21) why heaven will be a blast to end all blasts:

  1. Re-creation. John writes, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Rev. 21:1). God liked what He created, and He doesn’t plan to trash it. The earth is getting ready to be born again, and God is not going to abandon it. Re-creation is about making all things new (vs. 6), not about making new things, and the earth will experience a significant upgrade, an eternal makeover.

Make heaven too otherworldly and it loses its fascination. We will do much more in heaven than float on clouds and sing. We will eat—with God the cook (Isaiah 25:6). (And we will not have green jello with shredded carrots!) We may even enjoy the same pets we had on earth, because heaven (the new earth) will include animals (Isaiah 11:6-9). We have over-spiritualized heaven, and we have adopted an escapist outlook. We have been given the impression that the earth is a bad place, so we hope that Jesus whisks us out of here before the devil creams us. Truth is, heaven’s coming to us!

  1. Romance. “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband…One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’” (Rev. 21:2, 9). We know how exciting being in love can be, and heaven, the invention of a passionate God, was created for lovers. Sex is a human analogy to the intensity of that love. No one will complain of being bored. Guaranteed!
  1. Relationship. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’” (Rev. 21:3). I love prepositions. They are humble and unassuming. They draw attention to to their object. The word “with” is used three times here, and instead of saying “people with God” it is “God with people.” His new address will be on earth, and the Lord’s Prayer will be ultimately fulfilled, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Dejavu: God is back on the earth where He started with us. “Our Father, who art…on earth.”
  1. Relief.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (v. 4). I wouldn’t mind pain if it didn’t hurt so much. Between pain and pleasure I’d vote for pleasure. And God plans to remove all pain in the new earth. Cool!
  1. Refreshment. “To him who is thirsty, I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life…Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6b; 22:17). Thirst creates desire, and all desires are fulfilled in heaven.  We all know the satisfaction of having our thirst quenched.  Heaven is a place where nothing goes unresolved. Questions are answered, needs are satisfied, desires are granted. Few things are as basic as water. And God didn’t invent some new way to satisfy thirst. Water will do just fine.
  1. Responsibility. The word “city” is used eleven times in Revelation 21 and three more times in chapter 22. The word “nation” is used three times in the two chapters. For cities and nations to operate one needs government and responsibility. The new earth will include real cities and real nations, with people who speak languages, with a diversity of cultures. Most governments are full of corruption. Imagine righteous rulers and an absence of crime. And picture the richness of sharing God-inspired cultures with other nations. We love doing what we are created and gifted to do. In the new earth, we all get to, and some will have the responsibility of ruling, which is what we were made to do in the first place. Back to the future!
  1. Rewards. Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12). Your quality of life here impacts your future destiny. Those who make it by the skin of their teeth will be glad to be there. But those who invested their lives in the kingdom of heaven while on earth will have more to do there.

There will always be a thousand wonderful things going on in the new earth, and passionate people being personally loved by an ever-present God are doing it:  learning, exploring, ruling, playing, praying, celebrating!