In our Middle School youth group at Redeemer, we spent 4 weeks on the topic of heaven (Revelation 21:1-8; 22-27) and its current application for our lives NOW. It seems strange, almost counter-intuitive, that thinking about something so seemingly “other-worldly” would have any sort of real impact in our lives today. But nothing could be further from the truth.
For starters, the concept of the final state of heaven (heaven as it exists now is only a “third base”) as the New Heaven and Earth in Revelation 21 is anything but “other worldly.” God comes down to Earth and dwells with His people DOWN here. It is described as city, where there is non-stop action going on. The gates never close their doors; we called it “the city that never sleeps.” Kind of like a Las Vegas without much of what goes on in Vegas. It won’t be boring. The best of all cultures will be present and the worst of them will not.
After opening with the lie from John Lenin’s “Imagine”-that if people imagined there were no heaven then they would live for today-we moved into some brief review questions. Then I decided to let the kids, as we’ve done several times before, create a skit to demonstrate to each other (we always break into two groups for these) what heaven is like and what difference it makes in life. This helps reach those with differing learning styles, as well as challenges the kids to really chew on how to communicate and apply deep truth.
My group, led by a Sr High and myself, came up with the idea of a group of guys wasting their lives away in a bar talking and dreaming about the next thing to cross off on their bucket lists. These Middle Schooler’s, on their own (as far as I can remember) came up with this idea. They recognized that there is no need for a bucket list for Christians. If heaven will one day come down to Earth, there will be plenty of time for those things you don’t have time, money, opportunity, or quite frankly God’s approval, to do now.
As a result you are free to live without the burden of “I wish I could do such and such” but just can’t. Or you can live without the burden of “I need to go do such and such to make me happy.” Whatever you way you slice it, the theology of the New Heaven and Earth, is not as much “other-worldly” as it is “down to Earth.”
So begin to believe in the final promise of the gospel-freedom from the presence of sin-and live more radically and freely than you would have if you were unaware of the last chapter in God’s Story of Redemption. There’s more joy here than crossing of another one off your bucket list.