An eternal Heaven is a reality the Bible often speaks about. In fact, the Bible speaks about a new heavens and a new earth. This is long hand for saying a Renewed Universe. Just as in Genesis 1:1 where “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, Isaiah 65:17 says that God will create a new heavens and a new earth for His glory and the good of his people.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy and her people to be a gladness.
Not present day Israel
The great hope that Isaiah gives to his listeners and readers is not the restoration of the state of Israel, but the creation of a renewed, restored and renovated universe! The modern geographical state of Israel today is not the fulfilment of prophecy. Isaiah is looking forward to something much greater, much more excellent, the very re-creation of the universe without the scars of sin. Within this renewed universe, according to v18, there is a new Jerusalem. It’s not present day Jerusalem that will somehow be the headquarters of God’s new kingdom, but it’s a new Jerusalem that God will create. The city symbolizes the dwelling place of God with his people. In the New Testament, John in the book of Revelation chapter 21, sees this New Jerusalem coming out of heaven from God to the renewed earth. The picture is of a renewed creation where God’s dwelling place is no longer in heaven, but with his people.
The Bible starts with creation (Genesis 1-2) and end with re-creation (Revelation 21-22). From Genesis 3 sin has scarred, marred and defaced the original creation. The rest of Bible tells us how creation is restored and renewed – ultimately in and through Jesus.
Commentators differ on the meaning of the second half of v17. V17 says, “the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” Some would contend that God will wipe our memories of this life and we will not remember who we were, or our sin, or who we were married to, or our children and friends. However, I don’t think that’s right. I think that there is a deeper, more substantial continuation with who we are in this world and who we will be in the world to come.
Randy Alcorn writes in his excellent book “Heaven”:
‘Isaiah 65:17 should be read in context. It’s linked to the previous verse in which God says, “because the former troubles are forgotten and are hidden from my eyes.” This doesn’t suggest a literal lack of memory, as if the omniscient God couldn’t recall the past. Rather, its like God’s comment to Jeremiah: “I will remember their sins no more. It means that God chooses not to bring up our past sins or hold them against us. In eternity, past sins or sorrows won’t preoccupy God or us. We’ll be capable of choosing not to recall or dwell on anything that would diminish Heaven’s joy.
Jesus promised in Luke 16:25 that those who endured bad things on earth would be comforted in heaven. The comfort implies memories of what happened. If we had no memory of bad things, why would we need comfort?
Our minds will be clearer in heaven, not foggier. Memory is basic to personality. The principle of continuity requires that we remember our past lives. Heaven cleanses our slate of sin and error, but it doesn’t erase our memory of it. The lessons we’ve learned here about God’s love, grace and justice surely aren’t lost but will carry over to heaven…
If we forgot we were desperate sinners, how could we appreciate the depth and meaning of Christ’s redemptive work for us?
God’s acts of sovereign faithful grace will never be erased from our minds. Heaven’s happiness will be dependent not on our ignorance but on perspective. We’ll see and know as never before.’
Memory is important
In other words, when Christ returns and establishes the renewed universe, we will remember that we are sinner saved by Christ’s death for us, we will praise God for his goodness and we will remember the lessons we’ve learnt in this world. God could have called us straight to heaven when we were saved, but he didn’t. He left us on earth to enjoy his good creation for a reason. God would have us to enjoy this life – living under his rule, growing as Christians, having children, showing love and learning endurance – all equipping us for heaven.
Should old acquaintances be forgot?
I think by implication we will recognize each other in heaven. You will know you you were married to. You will not be married in heaven as Jesus taught as marriage is a just a picture of the perfect relationship between Jesus and his church. That relationship will be fulfilled in heaven and we will all enjoy perfect interpersonal friendships. Yet, I think, we will no doubt know who we were married to on earth and be able to talk and reminisce on our marriage. The Christian friends we had on earth we will have in heaven too. Of course we will all be friends, but I think there will be opportunities to invite close friends over for dinner, or to enjoy a hike or listen to music. After all, Jesus himself had a closer, inner circle of good friends.
Not denial, but made perfect
Here is the big principle: Heaven is not a denial of God’s good creation, but the perfection or fulfilment of it. Friendship, culture, technology and work etc. will be continued in the Renewed Universe. Everything that was intended for humans in this creation will be achieved perfectly, without the rot of sin, in the re-creation.
The Renewed Universe is not dismembered souls floating in the clouds or memory-less bodies playing harps all day in the heavenly choir. No-one would look forward to that kind of heaven. In stark contrast to this, the Bible says the Renewed Universe is this creation reloaded and reworked without sin. It will be physical, geographical and real. We will have friends. We will enjoy sport, music and culture. We will go on hikes and climb mountains. We will work (work was initiated before the fall in Genesis 3). We will be with Jesus. No sin. No death. No deformity. No curse. Isaiah says that this is the vision we should hold before us.