What lies beneath our yearning for relationship and our longing for home? Today, Barry Cooper points us forward to the glorious climax of God’s story of redemption.
In 2014, a group of artists and musicians in the United Kingdom asked thousands of people one question and based a live show on the answers. The question was, What is your happiest memory?
As you might imagine, there were lots of first dates, first dances, first loves, first houses. Memories of weddings. Memories of births—lots of births, apparently. Then there were memories of glorious holidays, and memories of precious faces—the faces of loved ones now lost.
And as they collected these memories of happiness, the creators of the show noticed three things.
The first was that less than 1 percent of these happy memories had anything to do with material things.
Secondly, the memories were nearly always about relationships of one kind or another. Family or friends or lovers.
They discovered the third thing when they fed all the happy memories into a database and looked for recurring words and phrases. The word that came up most often was the word “home.”
So anyway, they put the show on; they toured it all round the U.K. And when the director was interviewed afterwards, he said that the performances were extraordinary—like a cross between a wedding and a wake. It was a celebration, but it was mixed with sadness—sadness, because of course these were memories of happiness. The happiness had gone; it had faded into nostalgia.
What was left was a longing for relationship, and a longing for home.
Why do we have these desires? Could it be that we were made for another world, one in which these longings are fully and finally satisfied?
We were. Open up Revelation chapters 21 and 22, and you’ll catch a stunning glimpse of the world you were made for. It’s the reason why our earthly homes and our earthly relationships—even the very best ones—can never fully satisfy.
The Bible calls it “a new heaven and a new earth,” “the kingdom of heaven,” or simply “heaven.” A universe of perfect joy, perfect happiness, perfect love. It’s a world where we experience both the ultimate home and the ultimate relationship that deep down we’ve longed for all our lives.
Think of it. What is it that makes home so desirable? Is it comfort? Acceptance? Refreshment? Rest? Being with those we love? Protection from everything that poses a threat to those things?
That’s the biblical picture of heaven. All the suffering, rejection, exploitation, and loneliness—it’s dealt with, removed. Everything sad comes untrue.
All that happened in Genesis chapter 3 is undone. The garbage is dealt with; the glory re- stored.
But this isn’t earth written off and replaced with something completely different. This is the earth renewed, healed, restored. Filled with people who themselves have been renewed, healed, restored. A new creation filled with new creations. Just as real and [knocks the wall] physical as this creation.
But with no more pain. No more crying or cruelty. No more injustice, unrequited love, concentration camps, loneliness, hospitals, or hearses.
It’s a new creation that takes all that is beautiful and joyful in this present life and
magnifies it to an infinite and eternal degree, like a book in which each new chapter, each new page, is even more wonderful than the one before.
But heaven isn’t just home—the home we’ve longed for all our lives. It’s the relationship we’ve always longed for too.
Read Revelation chapters 21 and 22, and you’ll see that at the heart of heaven is a wedding. The love story that began in Genesis chapter 1 reaches its climax. The promise God made to Abraham, that He would draw to Himself a multiethnic group from every different social class and background, from across every era of history—this is where we see it finally fulfilled.
“I saw [says the writer of Revelation] the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).
The Holy City represents all of God’s people, a bride perfectly prepared for her husband. After the desperate centuries of tragically giving her heart to other lovers—all the idolatry, the spiritual adultery—she is made clean, made beautiful, and drawn finally into the bridegroom’s arms.
And who is this bridegroom, this husband-to-be?
He is Jesus Christ, the One in whose everlasting arms we were made to rest.
That’s the new heaven and the new earth. The home—and the relationship—you and I have longed for all our lives.