And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” – Revelation 21:2-4
The hope of a place without death, sorrow, crying or pain must have sounded so sweet to the persecuted Christians at the time these verses were written. Likewise to my Mennonite ancestors being hounded for their beliefs. Many African American Spirituals express a great longing for the end of suffering and sorrow.
It’s less obvious, and rarely celebrated, that the New Heavens and the New Earth won’t have other things. Without pain or sickness, all medical professions will be unnecessary. Without sin or violence, the police and the whole justice system will be obsolete. Psychiatrists and counselors will find they have no clients. Preachers, missionaries and Bible translators will find their purpose is gone. Many professions are considered nobel because they apply great skill and care to helping people. But what if no one needs help?
It has been my life-long pursuit to help see everyone have the Bible in their language. Heaven will have no need of that. What will happen to my sense of self-worth and identity when that is gone? Forever gone?
In the United States, we are obsessed by identity – ethnic identity, racial identity, sexual identity, political identity, professional identity, and more. Getting one’s identity to be respected drives political discourse. Lack of respect for an identity is roundly condemned. But most of our identities aren’t eternal even if they are useful or even necessary in this life. It’s possible to pour huge amounts of energy into protecting and projecting one’s identity only to lose it in the next life.
On the other hand, everyone who seriously follows Jesus has an unchangeable identity as his brothers and sisters, and children of the King of Kings. Be sure to invest in that identity. Don’t let your temporary identities steal its place.