Reading Systematic Theology with Wayne Grudem – What is heaven? Is it a place? How will the earth be renewed? What will it be like to live in the new heavens and new earth?

This post is part of a 50+ post series from the classic work by Wayne Grudem (PhD, Cambridge), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. The aim of each post is to provide an overview of each chapter in the book and related resources for each topic.

Synopsis of Chapter

In this final chapter in Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem gives an overview of heaven, the new heavens, and the new earth. Grudem starts with providing the Scriptural basis for these places. He later shows how heaven should be a great motivation for eternal rewards instead of earthly riches and comforts. Finally, Grudem points to God’s central place in heaven and our fulfillment in him. 

The Bible on Heaven 

After the final judgment, believers will enter into eternal life (Matthew 25:34). Christians often refer to this place as “heaven,” though it is actually a renewed creation. This is foretold in numerous places including Isaiah 66:22, 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:2. Isaiah wrote of the renewed creation, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)

Heaven can be defined as “the place where God most fully makes known his presence to bless.” Some have asserted heaven is a state of mind, but the Bible teaches otherwise. As Stephen “gazed into heaven” Jesus stood at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). Jesus also promised his disciples he would prepare a place for them (John 14:2-3). Heaven is indeed a real place. 

As for creation, it will ultimately be renewed. The Scripture speaks of a “new earth” (2 Peter 3:13). Some have suggested the earth will be completely destroyed, but the passage that they point to (2 Peter 3:10) does not mention the earth being completely annihilated. The earth may be decimated, but it will not go away. Instead, Paul talks of “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20-21). So the earth is under bondage now, but it will ultimately be released into a new freedom bought by Christ’s redemption. 

Moreover, in heaven our bodies will be different. We will not float around with disembodied spirits, but we will enjoy resurrected, glorified bodies. We will eat and drink at the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). There will be real rivers and real streets and real fruit trees (Revelation 22:1-2). So there is a physical aspect to heaven, though different and better than what we experience now.  

Beauty, Abundance, Joy and the Presence of God

Heaven will be a place of great beauty and joy. It’s described as a “holy city” and as a “bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). It’s constructed of many jewels of various colors (21:18-21) and no sin (21:27). The beauty and joy of heaven are tied to its holiness. And God’s people will rule over God’s creation “for ever and ever” (22:5).

The most glorious aspect of heaven is God’s presence. In heaven, “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.” (Revelation 22:3). God will be there. And since we have been created for fellowship with God, this will be the culmination of our existence: complete fellowship with God through Jesus our savior. Believers will cry out with David, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)

Application: Storing Up Treasures in Heaven

Considering how long eternity is and how short our lives are, we should really look forward to heaven more. Some of us live 20 years, others 50 years. Some people even live to be 100 years old! But no matter how long we may live on this planet, the net result is the same: death. We will die. And we will face eternity with God as Christians or in hell as unbelievers.

We should consider our lives in light of the eternity we all face! Whatever good thing we may enjoy here, it pales in comparison to the glory we will one day see. And this is why Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

By God’s grace, may we live out Christ’s words!

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

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