Sports in the Age to Come

Will there be touchdowns in the new creation? Grand-slam homeruns? Three-pointers at the buzzer? When heaven comes down to earth (Revelation 21:1–2), we shouldn’t expect anything less.

Or, to really bring it down out of the clouds, here’s one way a pastor might go about recruiting for the church’s men’s retreat: Make a brief but winsome case for sports and recreation in the age to come.

In October of 1991, John Piper wrote this to rally the men of Bethlehem Baptist to a retreat that would include its fair share of athletic competition:

One reason I think there will be sports in the age to come is that there are crippled and paralyzed men in this age who never knew the joy of agility and physical freedom. It would be like God to make this up to them. Not because he owes anybody anything, but because he is so good. When God restores the fortunes of his people what will we do with all our time?

Zechariah 8:5 says, “The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.” I cannot imagine that those of us who love to run and kick and throw and dodge and jump and bat and hit and whack will be told that we cannot join the children. In fact, we are commanded to be like children in order to get into the kingdom. Shall we get there and be told to grow up? (“For Men Only: Playing, Planning, and Paradise”)

We do well to expect that the new heavens and new earth will not disappoint in holding out to us the kind of multifaceted joys we experience now through sport and athletics and play. And in the age to come, our appropriation of sports will finally be gloriously dialed in to its perfectly Jesus-exalting place, free from our sinful tendencies to either make sports an idol or downplay their goodness as God’s gifts.

Enjoy the games — as a foretaste of heaven.