Eternal Hope for the Outdoorsman

Birds are nesting, lawn mowers have been taken out of storage, and community pools have opened; it is officially summer! For the outdoorsman, that means it’s time for fishing, hiking, and camping!

I grew up in a family that loved the great outdoors. As a kid, I spent hours and hours traipsing around the woods and fields behind our house.  My family took regular hiking and camping trips, the binoculars and bird book always within reach. From an early age I learned to love God’s creation. The sound of wind rustling through the leaves, the bubbling creek cascading down a hill, and the call of a loon singing hauntingly from across the lake, all fill me with peace, joy, and delight!

When I am in nature, every fiber of my being says, “This is good”. I feel at home when I’m in the woods, on a lake, or climbing a mountain. In the past, this has made it difficult for me to fully look forward to heaven. I often heard it said, when talking about the world, that “This is not our home”. This has conflicted with my deep sense that earth is where I belong. The idea of heaven has always seemed so lofty, spiritual, and honestly…boring!! I don’t want to spend eternity in a church service singing hymns and playing harps! I don’t want to walk on streets of gold or live in a mansion if I can walk barefoot on the sand and sleep in a tent! If you are an outdoorsman like me, or if you’ve had a difficult time getting excited about “going to heaven” I have some good news for you today!

The eternal hope we have as Christians, isn’t that we get to go to heaven when we die (although we do), but that heaven will someday come down here to Earth! Yes, that’s right, heaven isn’t our ultimate destination; Earth is heaven’s ultimate destination. Our eternity will not be spent floating on clouds in some spiritual existence, but will be spent here on a renewed Earth, fully being what God intended it to be!

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea” (Revelation 21:1).

Don’t panic ocean lovers, this doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be large bodies of water on the new earth. For the people in biblical times, the ocean represented chaos, danger, and the unknown. Many scholars believe this is a metaphorical statement, not a literal one. In the new earth there will be no chaos and no danger. That sounds like a sweet deal to me.

The foundation of our Christian faith is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. In his resurrection, he defeated death, and now we too will participate in His resurrection! We look forward to new physical bodies, in a new physical world. That is the hope of the Gospel, and that is what we look forward to.

“For as by a man came death, by a man has come the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

This is the good news, the eternal hope, for the outdoorsman. Our love for God’s creation is not in vain, but is there because God loves His creation too. So get out there and fish, hike, swim, and camp. The glory of God we see now in creation will pale in comparison to the new Earth we get to enjoy for all of eternity! We’ll get to be in relationship with the one who first looked on this world and said, “it is good”.

“And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).