Everlasting Joy: New Creation (Inexpressible Joy #6)

Everlasting Joy: New Creation (Inexpressible Joy #6)

In recent years it has become quite popular to talk about having a bucket list. A quick google search reveals that “a bucket list is a list of the experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.” I also found the following Instagram tags that really sum up the whole idea of it:

  • Life is short, make every moment count.
  • Checking off another item from the bucket list!
  • Living my best life, one bucket list item at a time.
  • Collect moments, not things.
  • Adventure awaits, time to tick off another item!
  • Dream it, wish it, do it.

I wonder what you like or dislike about the notion of a bucket list? On the one hand I quite like the idea of having goals that we work towards completely during a lifetime. For instance I have been working on trying to climb the 214 Wainwright fells in the English Lake District and to walk the full length of the South Downs way. These goals are stretching, while still realistic for me and in some ways I’d be sad if I don’t get to complete them. But there are other kinds of goals that I would put in another category entirely, things like climbing Everest, jumping out of a plane or travelling into into space. I can’t say I am particularly motivated to do any of them and I am certainly not going to devote valuable time to doing so.

All such lists fail to appreciate that our eternal future will be full of pleasure and joy. It is not that time is running out and we have to grasp every moment to capture every shred of joy before it is too late. We therefore have no need of bucket lists! The truth is that if we know and love Jesus, then we are going to live in the new Heavens and the new Earth. There is more pleasure and joy to come than we could ever imagine.

A sincere believer once told me, ‘I hate to admit this, but I don’t look forward to Heaven. I wish I could live with Jesus on this Earth. I hate sin and suffering and death, and I want it all to end, but I wish the Earth would go on forever. I don’t want to stop enjoying the beauty of God’s world.’ As much as this man loves Jesus, the Heaven he’d heard about seemed terribly boring and tedious. He thought eternity would mean living in an inhuman realm and that death would mark the end of his opportunity to enjoy music, literature, adventure, travel, learning, discovery, work and service. So he hoped God would understand why he spent his time and money on his bucket list. After all, he thought, now was his only chance to experience what made him most happy. Ironically, what this man wished for is exactly what the Bible promises!

Happiness, Randy Allcorn, 2015 Tyndale House, pg. 393.

In this post we are going to examine 3 passages which help us paint this picture of an everlasting joy:

Photo by That’s Her Business on Unsplash

In Psalm 16:1-6 David speaks at length of his confidence in God. It is God in whom He takes refuge and apart from Him he says that has no good thing. He sees that it is folly to chase after idols. God is his portion, his cup and He alone makes his lot secure. David marvels about where the boundary lines have fallen and reflects that he has a delightful inheritance. In that context David then speaks in v7-11 about the benefits of having such confidence.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:7-11

Knowing that God is at his right hand, David is confident that he will not be shaken. His heart is glad, his tongue rejoices and his body rests secure. He is confident that God will not abandon him to the grave or allow him to see decay. Then in v11 we hear David speak of joy in God’s presence and eternal pleasures at His right hand. David had full confidence that his life with God, both now and forevermore, would be marked by the very best pleasure and joy. 

The greatest joy is joy in God. This is plain from Psalm 16:11. Fullness of joy and eternal joy cannot be improved. Nothing is fuller than full, and nothing is longer than eternal. And this joy is owing to the presence of God, not the accomplishments of man. Therefore, if God wants to love us infinitely and delight us fully and eternally, he must preserve for us the one thing that will satisfy us totally and eternally; namely, the presence and worth of his own glory. He alone is the source of full and lasting pleasure.

John Piper, The Pleasures of God

David’s confidence is in God and that confidence has an impact on how he approaches life. He certainly knows that there is nothing we can miss out on in this life that won’t be dwarfed by all that awaits us when we arrive in God’s Presence. C.S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters writes from the perspective of a senior devil complaining about the “unfair advantage” God had over them in their everyday work because of these pleasures forevermore:

“He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a façade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures forevermore’. Ugh! I don’t think He has the least inkling of that high and austere mystery to which we rise in the Miserific Vision. He’s vulgar, Wormwood. He has a bourgeois mind. He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side.”

The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

Human history will culminate when Jesus comes back and creates a new heavens & a new earth. We often think about going to heaven which is indeed what will happen when we die. However, ultimately the Bible also promises, that heaven will come to us. God will live with us in a renewed and restored heaven and earth. Just listen to N.T. Wright’s explanation of this:

Heaven, in the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other, hidden, dimension of our ordinary life — God’s dimension, if you like. God made heaven and earth; at the last he will remake both and join them together forever. And when we come to the picture of the actual end in Revelation 21-22, we find not ransomed souls making their way to a disembodied heaven but rather the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, uniting the two in a lasting embrace.

N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, HarperCollins, 2008, pg.19

Isaiah prophecies at length about the New Creation. Although it is not mentioned by name in chapter 60, it is clear that it is speaking of the new earth. Indeed there is an inherent earthliness about what he describes there about the transformed city of Jerusalem. To this city nations, cultures and rulers are being drawn towards its light (v2-3). The greatest treasure, wealth and riches of the nations are being brought there (v5) and animals too are coming from all over (v6). There is peace and well-being and its walls are called Salvation and its gates praise. In this place there is no violence, ruin or destruction (v17-18). Neither is there a sun because God Himself will be their everlasting light (v19-20). The earth/land will finally be theirs forever (v21).

Within those hope filled verses is the promise that: “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy…” (v5). We have such a joyful future to look forward to! Jonathan Edwards summarises this chapter saying: “The whole chapter is made up of nothing but promises of future, exceeding happiness to God’s church.”

Moving on to Isaiah 65 we find a vision which specifically refers to the new heavens and the new earth. What we find is that it too is littered with references to joy, delight, gladness, rejoicing and enjoyment. Isaiah also specifically mentions here that there will be no weeping or crying. In this time God will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in His people:

17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

Isaiah 65:17-19

In these verses God says that the former things will not be remembered and they will not come to mind. There is a deliberate focus on the future, rather than the past. Reading on we find that things take a very different shape. No longer will infants live only a few days, or old men fail to live out their years. People will build houses and actually dwell in them and plant vineyards and eat their own fruit. They will not labour in vain but will be a people blessed by God! The chapter concludes with the harmonious picture of wolves feeding with lambs and no animals harming or destroying one another (v25).

Fast forward to the end of the Bible and the conclusion to John’s prophecy in Revelation which clearly connects Isaiah’s prophecies to his own vision of the new heavens and the new earth (21:1-4). Again the vision reiterates that there will be no tears, death, mourning, crying or pain. In the vision the old order of things had passed away:

1 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.”

Revelation 21:1-4

The big headline in these verses is the fact that the source of all joy is now going to make His dwelling place among the people. They will be His people and God will be with them and be their God. Our joyful future will be with the ultimate source of joy!

Rather than writing our bucket lists of things to do before we die, perhaps we need to spend more time thinking about what we would like to do after we die! Rather than being so caught up with the things of this world why wouldn’t we want to be caught up so much more with all that awaits us in the next. In that time both we ourselves, and all of creation, will finally be as God intended. No more sin, no more pain, no more death and no more frustration. There will be new joys and pleasures to discover everyday. It will be simply incredible and even thinking about it blows my mind!

Photo by Paul Hermann on Unsplash

It is no coincidence that most stories, myths and legends end with the hope of happiness – the so-called happy ever after! There is something deep inside all of us that dreams of everlasting happiness and joy. I think that’s because it is part of what it means to be made in the image of God. The world around us is seeking that joy and happiness in many things but the deep truth of what we have seen throughout this series is that ultimately this can only be found in Jesus Christ. Remember what Randy Allcorn said: “We should thank God for every stream of joy in our lives while recognising that Christ is the ocean from which every stream flows.”

None of what we have talked about in this post today should surprise us, because Jesus Himself speaks of laughing, rejoicing and leaping for joy because of our reward in Heaven:

21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

Luke 6:21-23

Ultimately, the reason for our eternal joy will be the presence of Jesus Christ Himself. If we know and love Jesus Christ then our weeping will be temporary, but our laughter will be everlasting – our joy in Christ will never end! His joy is with us here and how and there is plenty more to come for all eternity. We are to seek after joy in Christ alone – in Him there will be pleasures forevermore.

“At one point in my life, I wanted Jesus plus happiness. But this, I’m convinced, is wrong. What I first experienced as a young Christian was exactly right – happiness in Jesus. Jesus plus happiness separate’s the two, and when this occurs, happiness ascends the throne instead of Jesus. But happiness in Jesus recognises that Jesus is bigger than happiness. This keeps happiness in its place. It doesn’t become and idol; instead it’s seen for what it is – a natural and beautiful by-product of knowing and loving God.”

Happiness, Randy Allcorn, 2015 Tyndale House, pg. 422.

See other posts in this series: 

  1. No Greater Joy
  2. The Joy of your Salvation: Living in Grace
  3. Consider it Pure Joy: Tough Times
  4. The Joy of our Hearts: God’s Word
  5. Overflowing Joy: Contentment
  6. Everlasting Joy: New Creation

Cover Photo Photo by Lucas George Wendt on Unsplash

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