I just returned from eleven days in Brooklyn, New York, the city of my birth. I loved being there. I love to walk the streets, to see the faces, to talk with the people I see there. I realized this most recent time in New York that what i feel when I’m there is joy. I cannot explain it, but it is very real. It moves me to tears even now.
I love to eat in New York. There are restaurants of every size, shape, and price. There is ethnic food such as cannot be found in similar variety and quality in any other city. I love to eat there.
I believe one of the reasons I feel so invigorated when I go to New York is that I expect to see people I know on every street corner. These are the streets of the people I knew once upon a time. The people that I see now, whom I’ve never known, still look familiar to me in some way. They’re like the people I grew up with. And the accents I hear in “Noo Yawk” tell me I am home again at last.
Another reason for my joy is that all my memories of living in New York are 50 years old and more. I left there in 1973. The children I taught in middle school are now grandparents. But when I walk the streets today I feel like I did in my youth and in my twenties, at least a half-century younger than I am now.
Of course, this all has a theological application, and here it is.
Many gospel songs tell of streets paved with gold, and Bible says that too. That’s good enough, of course! But the final destination of God’s people is not heaven, but a renewed earth where righteousness dwells, where we will all live together with all of God’s redeemed humanity in our resurrected bodies that will be like the Messiah in his resurrection, imperishable, unable to die again, free of all disease and infirmity. We will walk the streets of the renewed earth and see people that we knew and people that we’ve heard and read of. And the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Our joy in God will be deeper and more profound than anything we have even imagined much less experienced. But I am also looking forward to the human joys of being with so many people with whom I share so much in common that I feel I’ve always known them.
It's hard to believe, and for some people, I suppose it seems sappy, that human history will have a happy ending written by our father God with the blood of His Son. But that’s the way it will be. All that has gone before is but prelude to the greater reality that awaits us.