2 Peter 3:13, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
Have you ever heard of this phrase, “already but not yet?” It’s the tension that we live in as Christians… “already, but not yet.”
The best way to grasp this concept is simply to walk through it. “Already, but not yet” describes the tension between the benefits of our salvation already experienced in this life and those benefits, which await us at the consummation. Christians enjoy the “alreadyness” of our salvation—remission of sins, adoption as children, the indwelling Holy Spirit, etc. However, there is a sense in which we will not see these realities in their totality until the last day, and so they always remain objects of faith.
The church enjoys the “alreadyness” of the community of the redeemed; but her “not yetness” reminds her to uphold her purity through discipline. She must guard against false teachers, immorality, and apostasy. Christians should be dealt with as forgiven sinners: neither above reproach, nor wholly incapable of any good.
It’s a balance is it not? And it’s a hard thing to grasp. Yet, we must. Because here in 2 Peter, when we focus our eyes on heaven, and we see the songs of praise being proclaimed, it’s easy to discount what’s happening because we aren’t there. Yet, these worship scenes mean something for us right now.
Focusing on our Eternal Rest
Of course, any mention of our heavenly dwelling demands for us to journey to the back of our Bibles to the Apostle John’s Revelation of New Zion. Some of my favorite chapters in the Bible come from Revelation, and in particular chapters 6 and 7.
From chapters 6 of Revelation to chapter 7, we have one of the most amazing contrasts in the Bible. We have some of the most graphic descriptions of the suffering that Christians go through in chapter 6. But, that great suffering quickly turns into a beautiful reception by God himself, and experiencing his tender care for all eternity.
These verses lift up the eyes of God’s people, as we travel through a land that is not our home. Indeed, a land that is hostile and full of tribulation. And our eyes are upward to our God, so that we can see where we are going! So, we can step with hope and assurance. So, we can step with determination and fixedness.
I think that this is the reason that God let’s us see into the courts of heaven. To know where you are going, to be able to focus on our destination; providing strength and hope for the journey that is before us.
Isn’t this already the “already, but not yet” that we just discussed a few moments ago? Focusing on our eternal home gives us strength and endurance for the journey now? I think this is exactly what John is illustrating here in Revelation 7. For songs are being sung out underlining our eternal rest in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
We do need to notice what the saints in heaven are singing. Salvation is the theme of these songs. The saints raise immediately a song of praise when they leave this sinful world. Immediately, when we step into the presence of God, we will sing this song…a song of redemption and security; a song of assurance and salvation. Why do you think that this is? Because we are only in this matchless place because of the One who is now seated on the throne. Therefore, the first things we want to do is praise him and to shout out thanksgiving for our hearts of perfect, eternal peace.
Focusing on our Eternal Fellowship
In Revelation 7: 15, John shows us a wonderful picture of another characteristic of the life the saints are living in heaven. John paints a picture for us to see that there is the most wonderful fellowship ever experienced in heaven.
What a wonderful thought?! Yet, it implies something that we must take into consideration; that our fellowship now must be an appetizer for what we will experience for all eternity.
The most important thing in our life is our relationship with God and with other people. No matter how solid your bank account, no matter how large your house may be, and no matter how great your professional accomplishments, what really make life worth living is your relationships.
This is no surprise to us. When Christ summarized the Law to those seeking in the gospels, he quickly says that the Law teaches us how to love the Lord our God completely and how to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, in this life we are to be devoted to one another. We are to treat one another has infinitely precious and important. We do not concentrate on our image, position, and needs, but on the needs of others.
Our fellowship as Christians means that we are to love others at cost to ourselves; not to earn someone else’s love, or God’s love, but in view of the love that Christ has already lavished on us.
With a love like that…a sacrificial love for one another…giving us just a foreshadow of the love that we will have for our God and each other in heaven, can you imagine what a family reunion we will enjoy with the other believers in eternity?!
Focusing on our Eternal Service
There, in Revelation 7: 16-17, we see an absence of all pain and distress in our heavenly home. There, in that heavenly city, we will experience tender care from our God. Indeed, he will tenderly serve us.
Can you imagine that? It’s certainly hard for me to imagine! But think about the language here in verse 17: the God who spoke all things into existence out of nothing, who holds all things together according to his perfect will; the One who was crucified for our sins, and was raised from the dead for our justification; the One who is the final judge of all men; the One who now sits on his throne high and lifted up…He will tenderly care for us.
God himself will wait on us. It’s mind-blowing isn’t it? This is why Peter was so shocked when Jesus took a towel, put it around his waist, took a basin of water and began washing the feet of the disciples. Do you remember Peter’s response? “Be it far from Your to do this, Lord! I am not worthy, nor would it be proper, for you to wash my feet!” But remember what Jesus said? “If I do not wash your feet, you have no part in Me.” Jesus was showing that in the heart of God there is a desire to serve his people!
Jesus brings the very meekness and lowliness of the heart of God to bear, when he washed the disciple’s feet on earth. But in the same way, with that same heart of service and humility, Jesus wipes our tears away. Jesus welcomes his bride into the heavenly courts, and he tenderly takes care of all our needs.
How we, like the Apostle Peter, wait for this new home prepared for us by our Lord!