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It is difficult to relate time in this world and time in the world to come. We tend to think of the new world as something that comes at the end of time in this old world. That is why we think in terms of our life here, followed by our death, followed by some ‘intermediate state’, followed by the world ending when Jesus comes again. Then we imagine God creating the new world, and the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, as described in the book of Revelation. But I suspect that looked at from God’s point of view, and the point of view of those who have died and gone to be with Jesus, the sequence of time looks different.

I know a place where a river bends round a hill in an almost complete circle, an ox-bow loop. For people travelling down the river the scenery unfolds bit by bit; no-one on the river can see beyond the next bend, and certainly not the river’s ultimate destination. But to someone sitting on the hill-top the whole length of the river, and the movement of all the craft upon it, is visible all at once. Can this provide a way of understanding time in these two worlds or dimensions: time in this world and time in the world to come? God sits on the hill and can see all time in this world at once, from the Creation to the End of the World. In his timelessness, all those who have faithfully served him, who have welcomed and loved his Son Jesus, are all gathered together, to him and to one another, in a new ‘time’.

If that is conceivable then we can dispense with an ‘intermediate estate’ and imagine that when we die we go at once into the new world and a new timescale, clothed with our resurrection bodies, and united with all those who have gone before us in the Lord Jesus, and indeed all those who, in this world’s time, will come after us in the Lord Jesus.

As to what this New World is like physically, even the Bible leaves us with more questions than answers. Almost everything that the Bible says about this new creation, in both Old and New Testaments, is more in the way of parables, of likenesses, of visions, than of concrete details.

From the beginning of the story of salvation, from the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the vision is of the Promised Land. But the Promised Land that Abraham and his descendants sought was only a vision or mirage of the country that God has prepared for them and for us all: ‘a heavenly country’. Jerusalem itself is only a vision or mirage of ‘the city with foundations whose builder and maker is God’. (Hebrews 11.10,15.)

Jesus himself spoke of going to Paradise, a new Garden of Eden, as the destination both of himself and of the ‘penitent thief’ as they both died on the cross. Jesus also spoke of going to ‘his Father’s house’, a house with plenty of room for his followers, for whom he would return, in order to take them to be with him, so that where he was, there would they be also.” (John 14.2-3.) These are very different pictures: a country, a city, a garden, a house. I doubt if we can be any more specific about the nature of the new world. It is a matter of putting together all our hopes and longings, and believing that they will all be fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, in the life of the world to come.

As I get older, I am more and more aware that this world is not my home. It was a feeling that the Apostle Paul shared, “As long as we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. I would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5.6-8.) At home – with all that that means in terms of work done, peace at last, love, joy, comfort, security, and freedom from all anxiety and fear - that is the place that God has prepared for us, and to which Jesus will take us, all who love and believe in him. Journey’s end.

A verse from on old hymn:

‘Forever with the Lord,’

Amen, so let it be.

Life from the dead is in that word,

‘Tis immortality.

Here in the body pent,

Absent from him I roam,

Yet nightly pitch my moving tent

A day’s march nearer home.


Next week: Endurance.

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