(An excerpt from the sermon Good News About the Future. Reading Time: Less than three minutes.)
Some things will, thankfully, be missing from the future. But some of the things that are missing now will, thankfully, be there in the future. The most important is God’s presence. Because of Adam’s sin in the Garden, the God-with-us became the God-away-from-us. All our woes followed on that absence. All of us have experienced the feeling that something is missing. That’s because something – no, Someone – is missing and nothing has been right while he has been away. Or, rather, while we have been away. But he will be God-with-us again. That is good news.
The promise of God’s presence has sustained his people. To Jacob: “I will be with you” (Genesis 26:3). To Moses: “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). To Joshua: “I myself will be with you” (Deuteronomy 31:23). To Gideon: “I will be with you” (Judges 6:16). To his people: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:2). The promise of the New Covenant, which was brought into effect through Jesus, was: “I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:10-11).
These are promises we cherish and yet how often God has seemed far away! Like Zion, we say: “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). God-with-us has been, because of sin, God-away-from-us.
But here is what the future holds (Revelation 21:3): “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
But if God has desired to be with us all along, why hasn’t he? Because we couldn’t endure his presence. I don’t mean just emotionally but in every way. Sin has so unraveled us that the near presence of the holy God would unmake us entirely.
Well then how can he be with us in the future? What has changed? Christ has come. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ has sent his Spirit into our hearts. The resurrection will transform us, remake us, into People of the Presence. We will grow and thrive in God’s presence, like a plant that loves the sun. That is good news.
What else awaits us? Every good thing awaits us. In God’s future, nothing good will be lost. “The kings of the earth (Revelations 21:24) will bring their splendor into it.” This echoes Isaiah who said that the wealth of the nations will be brought into God’s future kingdom.
(Want to watch this sermon? Click here.)
Picture it this way. You are standing in a train station. There are two tracks, running into the distance, as far as the eye can see. One comes from the east and ends at the station while the other, after a span in which they overlap, begins at the station, and runs to the west. The trains that run on those tracks are unimaginably long. The first, which arrives at the station with innumerable cars, is filled with all the riches of earths’ history.
Its treasures include business, technology, art, music, science, literature, sports, games, and more – all the good things a society (whether ancient or modern) has ever produced. But these precious things are like raw ore and are filled with impurities.
Mixed in with these good things, even embedded in them, are toxins, injustices, greed, hatred, bigotry, and inequality. The sheer volume of these evils outweighs the good things they pervade.
As the first train reaches its terminal point, it is unloaded and all its treasures are purified of their contaminants. The ugliness that has defaced earth’s beauties, the toxins that have poisoned them, the hatred that has scarred humanity’s best efforts, is removed and incinerated. This is called “The Judgment.” What is left – and there is a great deal left – is loaded onto the second train.
The age to come will not start with a blank slate. “The wealth of nations” will be brought into it. Earth’s natural beauties and every good work will be preserved by the God who never wastes anything – least of all people. The things we have rightly loved will not be lost but they, like us, will be purified. That is good news.