I asked some of my students this question this morning, and it was striking to see how quickly the question was broken in half.
Do you mean eternal life or earthly life?
One student immediately recognized that we will live forever, so it’s not a hypothetical question. But, he went on, if it’s talking about living forever here on earth, it might eventually get kind of boring.
But students quickly reassure me that living forever “in heaven” will be great. What will we do there? Praise God forever, of course. Will that get boring? Of course not…
In some ways it’s grand to long for eternal life with God, and recognizing that worship is the end for which God created us is absolutely true and wonderful. But having these “default” settings without thoughtfully digging into some of our presuppositions can actually obscure what God is up to.
For instance: God created this world, this universe, with billions of stars and galaxies, with jellyfish and rainbows, volcanoes and dragons, oceans and pineapples, and God created Adam and Eve and intended for them to live forever in this world. And apparently God loaded this world with enough treasures to last forever. God didn’t give Adam a job that would get boring after the first 30,000 years.
And this world is piled so high with treasures that Adam was going to need lots of kids and grandkids to help him with the project. Billions of people living forever in this world was part of the plan, digging into the ground, exploring the depths of the seas, and figuring out how to sling shot our grandchildren into other galaxies.
And of course we’ve done our best to screw that up, and slow the project down. We got old and cranky in our sin and told God it couldn’t be done. But God came to make us young again, young like Adam and Eve, young like children who see the universe as their sandbox, young and fearless and creative.
In Christ, God did not come up with the Great Escape Plan. The New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven in Revelation is not a Flying Saucer come to beam up all the good guys and then fly away into some other dimension, some other existence. The New Jerusalem is coming down out of heave to earth. And John hears a voice saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).
The promise is that in Christ, God has come to be with us, and the hope of the Gospel is that God’s Life, His Kingdom will come here on earth as it is in heaven. The promise is that God will come wipe away every tear; He isn’t going to wipe away the entire creation and start from scratch. There will be no more pain, but God isn’t busy trying to make this world go away. God has come in Christ to heal this world, renew this world, refashion this world.
So the question is not what would you do if you could live forever. The question is what are you doing since you’re going to live forever? Death for Christians is a nap time. It’s a wonderful, Sunday afternoon nap, dreaming with Christ. Only we won’t wake up groggy or grumpy or still tired. The resurrection will wake us up with the energy of little kids and the wisdom of the mind of Christ. We will wake up refreshed, ready to get back to work. We will wake up healed of our diseases, our afflictions, our hurts, our pain, and our sin will be no more.
And then what will we do? There will be mountains to jump, oceans to walk, magic to learn, volcanoes to swim, stars to explore, and dragons to tame. And of course people, billions of interesting, intelligent, funny, strange people.
If in our old age of sin and death we have fumbled about in the dark and come up with antibiotics and iPhones and space shuttles, what might we find if we could actually open our eyes?
And of course, living forever is all about worshiping the Brilliant Creator of this mind blowing project, but I wonder if it won’t be a bit more active and vigorous than we sometimes think. If Jesus made this world, He is far more into it than we are. He’ll be leading the comet riding ventures and the solar surface tours.