This week we are honored to have Randy Alcorn with us as a special guest. Lined up are several of the most common questions about heaven. And he’s written a large book on heaven, entitled Heaven — an expert on heaven (no, he hasn’t been there and back). So let’s get this week under way Randy, who joins us over the phone from his home. I presume, Randy, much of the fully revealed new earth — what we often refer to as “heaven” — will be completely unrecognizable to us. The new earth will be re-created. But there will be continuity, too. So how much of it will be familiar to us? For example, will the Himalayan Mountains remain, or will every visible feature of this creation be completely changed?
Well, the short answer would be I think the Himalayan Mountains could very easily remain, and I would not expect every visible feature of creation to be changed. And the reason for that would be that I think our proper understanding of the new earth has to be based on some kind of model. And what would that model be? Well it is the new earth in the same way that in the resurrection, we will have new bodies. So, resurrected bodies, resurrected earth.
Our Resurrected Bodies
What do we know about our bodies? Well, Christ’s resurrection body is the prototype for ours. We know that he was recognizable. His features were the same. The great majority of time that he is seen in the recorded appearances by the disciples, they knew immediately who he was.
Now a lot of people focus on the two or three times when he wasn’t immediately recognized, but there were special conditions in those cases. First, there was Mary at the tomb. It is dark; it is early in the morning. A modest woman doesn’t look into the eyes of a man whom she doesn’t know or she thinks she doesn’t know, and that is why she thinks it is the gardener. And Jesus her Lord is dead, and she knows that. So, of all times, you could easily explain her not immediately recognizing him. And as soon as he says her name, she recognizes his voice (see John 20:15–16).
Likewise, on the Emmaus Road some people say, “Well, look, they didn’t even recognize Jesus. So he must not have looked like he did.” But actually, in Luke 24:16, we are told “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” And as soon as “their eyes were opened . . . they recognized him” (Luke 24:31).
The same thing is true when Jesus is on the shore fixing breakfast (see John 21:1–7). The disciples are in the boat. They are a long way away, but then all of a sudden they realize, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:1–7). And it says, “They knew it was the Lord” (John 21:12). See the continuity of the nail prints in his hands (see John 20:27).
A Continuity: Old to New
Theologian Herman Bavinck said, “God’s honor could consist precisely in the fact that he redeems and renews the same humanity, the same world, the same heaven, the same earth that have been corrupted and polluted by sin.” In other words, it is the importance of that continuity.
So, I think there is a new Jerusalem. Well, there was an old Jerusalem, since there is a new Jerusalem, and we are told that people will bring their treasures from all over the earth. The kings of the nations of the earth will bring their treasures into the new Jerusalem. It says that at the end of Revelation 21 (see Revelation 21:24–26). Well, why would those people not look like the people of those nations? And why would the treasures they bring in — perhaps as tributes to the king — not have a continuity to the kinds of handmade cultural treasures that we would have today?
I think there is every reason to expect that in the majority of cases that there would be a continuity between old earth and new earth. If there is a new Jerusalem, why not a new Los Angeles? Why not a new Chicago, a new Paris, a new London?
Fascinating, yes, “grace restores nature,” as old Herman Bavinck liked to say — which seems to have big ramifications for heaven. Thank you, Randy. For more on this and so many other topics, see his bestselling book, simply titled Heaven. Also, check out Randy’s ministry, Eternal Perspective Ministries.