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“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
It is a continual struggle around our house to keep things clean and in order. As you can imagine, four young children and a few pets wreak their fair share of chaos on a daily basis, and do precious little to repair the damage. Every night, once the kids finally fall asleep, we find ourselves amazed again at the amount of work that goes into simply maintaining some semblance of order. There exists, more so in my wife but still to some extent in me, a desire that everything would be in its right place. Every room would be neat, every chore finished, every crumb off the floor, and every piece of clothing folded neatly in its drawer. Every item on the to-do list would be crossed off, and there would be true rest from the constant work.
But such a state of order is always and forever just out of reach. Yesterday it seemed that we had just about reached a state of cleanliness in our home – only the kitchen was left to be cleaned, and some ironing to be done. And then, just as I was getting the kids ready for school and getting myself ready to leave the house, the dog pooped on the living room rug. And slowly we began to slip backwards into the inevitable state of disarray.
The British theologian N.T. Wright speaks and writes often about the new heavens and the new earth and its importance to our theology and life today. If you’re unfamiliar with that phrase, it comes from Revelation, the final book in the Bible, and refers to the end of time, when the righteous are resurrected to live on a redeemed earth, and heaven and earth are joined together as God comes to dwell with us forever (Revelation 21-22). One of the phrases that he uses often to describe that place is that everything is “put to rights.” I don’t know if that is a phrase peculiar to the British, as I don’t hear people around here using it, but he uses it to describe how when Christ returns, sin and evil will be destroyed, justice will prevail, and everything will be in perfect order. Every time I hear that phrase, I think about that longing inside of me and my wife for order, for everything to be in its right place. It may feel like a futile quest in the land of messy children and messier animals, but I am grateful that this longing in our hearts will be fulfilled on that day.
Moreover, the reality of everything being “put to rights” is a reminder of how many longings of our heart, which seem just out of reach in this world, will be fulfilled completely when we are with God. Our longing for perfect love that fills us with joy, ecstasy, security, and passion, will be ours completely when we see our God. Our desire for a community of peace, depth, diversity, and intimacy will be met when we are gathered with our brothers and sisters in a place where there is no more sin or evil. Our desire for purpose, that our lives would be spent doing that which really matters and fulfills us, will be satisfied when we are reigning with our Lord over the universe. Our desire for wonder and beauty will be rewarded when we are spending eternity captivated by the endless glory of our great God.
Heaven is more than a reward for a righteous life or a rest from the suffering of this world. It is more than a reunion with lost loved ones. It is a perfect and forever fulfillment of all of the deepest longings of our heart. Because of this, it is also a reminder not to spend all of our energy trying to fulfill those longings this side of eternity, nor to be too dismayed when we can not achieve them.
On that day the house will be clean, the to-do list will be done, and there will be rest, forever and ever. Amen.
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