Where is your hope set these days? A very good question asked by a well-known Christian author. John Eldredge released his latest book All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything You Love about this time last year. I remember the anticipation of its release. I found myself lacking understanding of what life in heaven could be like. Frankly, all I had ever heard from a lifetime of attending church was we will worship Jesus forever, like an eternal church service in the sky. I knew I was supposed to be thankful to be in heaven, so if that’s what it was going to be like, then it sure sounded better than the alternative, eternal separation from God in utter torment. But honestly it sounded, well, kind of boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love to worship Jesus, I really do, but forever just singing all the time…that’s all there is? Or so I thought.
John’s book came along at a good time for me, but it served an even greater role this past week. In the book, John takes a deep look at what heaven will actually be like. The Apostle John described what he saw in the Book of Revelation:
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! 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. 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.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5, NIV.
The key phrase from Jesus is, “I am making everything new.” Jesus did not say I am making all new things. The premise of the book is we get to live on the new earth. Heaven comes to earth. John’s takes the reader on a journey about what life in heaven will be like on the new earth and with each turn of the page, I could feel my heart swell with hope, a hope I had never had before or even understood to be available.
This played out this past week in a profound way. Last Monday, I was awaken at 4:00 am by our dog, Bruno. He was not feeling well it seemed. Frankly, as was the case many times, he was acting like he had eaten himself a healthy portion of grass for dessert that night. But something was not right. I let him outside and came back in to fire up a cup of coffee so I could actually awake fully into consciousness. I gave him some time but noticed he was lying down by the fence, not really moving. That was not normal for him. I got him up and brought him inside and he took a drink of water, which was a good sign. He laid down on the kitchen floor and relaxed. I was doing some reasearch on possible symptoms that matched his behavior when I noticed his stomach. It looked like an inflated balloon. I knew immediately he likely had a twisted intestine and we had an emergency on our hands.
I helped him get into my truck and called the emergency vet. When we arrived at the vet, his situation had deteriorated and I had to carry him onto the gurney. The situation was not looking good. I called my wife and told her she needed to wake our children and prepare them to come to the vet. After examining Bruno, the vet came out and gave me the bad news. Bruno did indeed have a twisted intestine and the x-ray revealed a grapefruit sized tumor which had likely caused the intestine to twist and was likely cancerous. Emergency surgery was an option, but he would likely not survive, but if he did then he would have to try to fight off the cancer post surgery. It was clear he was facing his mortality.
Shortly after receiving the sad news, they brought Bruno out into a private room and my family and I shared our last moments with this precious, beautiful member of our family. We held him, cried, and cherished every breath he took as we soaked up every last moment we could with him. They made him comfortable, but the time came to say goodbye to our Bruno. We were with him to the very last. It was tragic, unexpected, and beautiful. What kindness Jesus showed us to be able to all be together with him for his last moments in this life.
As we left, surprisingly, hope began to rise up in my heart. I remembered the chapter in which John discussed the presence of the animal kingdom and the heart of God being on full display in heaven. John pointedly asked the question, “why would God not include the animal kingdom in heaven?” He would destroy these magnificent works of creation and leave them out of heaven? If that were the case, why did he put them in the Garden of Eden in the first place, with Adam and Eve? One of Adam’s first tasks was to name each of the animals, so why would God not include them when he makes the earth new again? But dear friends, he will and he even says so:
“The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid.
Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them.
Cow and bear will graze the same pasture, their calves and cubs grow up together, and the lion eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens, the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent. Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain. The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive, a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.” Isaiah 11:6-9, The Message
We know there will be animals in heaven, on the new earth, so why not also the animals who were a part of our family? I read the portion of the chapter that talked about family pets and loved ones being restored and reconciled with us on the new earth to my family when we arrived home. I wanted them to have hope restored after the loss was so fresh, as an antiseptic to the sting death had left on our hearts.
It was wonderful to see them smile through tears as we pondered about what a renewed and restored Bruno would be like. What will he look like restored? Radiant and abounding with more love and joy, which hardly seems possible given the joy and good he always showed and gave us every day. Surely this is what he will be like.
But it’s true, the hope is real. All the things we love we will have again. We could feel hope bubble up in us as a family and the rest of week we reminded one another, we will see Bruno again, oh yes, we will see him again. I could see our hearts healing and hope rising with each passing day.
Where is your hope set these days? The below video is John speaking about the book and my prayer is you will find hope too in this message.
I leave you with this from the Apostle Paul:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:18-25, NIV