A World of Life?

Do you think there will be seasons in heaven?

At our weekly staff meeting this Wednesday morning, we were discussing John 12:20-36. We were particularly struck by the words of Jesus in verses 24-25.

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

In our world, it is impossible for life to exist without the death of another. Perhaps most obviously, we must kill animals before butchering them and using them for meals. But even individual stalks of corn are alive and they must go to their own death before we are able to enjoy the fruits that they provide. Jesus points to the idea that the Christian life is the same way: We must enter into the death of Christ before we can receive his life. This happens for the Christian in their baptism.

Yet, Pastor Simonson asked a thought-provoking question, “Are there going to be seasons in heaven?” He went on to explain that he doesn’t think there can be in the same way as here, because even our seasons are built on the constant cycle of death and life that our world experiences. It is this same cycle that would lead many Eastern religions to generate the idea of samsara or reincarnation. Yet, as Christians, we do not believe that we will die many times, but live forever in a place without death! What will it be like? God has promised us a marriage feast, how will we eat without killing anything?

There’s an excellent book that points to the inherent tension and discomfort that can be found in observing the necessity of death that is built into creation. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard is an account of a woman reflecting on creation as she walks and observes a small creek near her home. How many tadpoles must perish in order for the frogs to sing in the summertime? How many baby rabbits must be eaten to provide the sustenance for a fox’s den? Fallen logs become homes for fish and turtles. Yet, for Annie, God has still created an unimaginably beautiful world teeming with life in spite of the death.
As fallen creatures living within a fallen world, it is impossible for us to imagine a world without the need for constant consumption and, ultimately, death on every level. Yet Scripture promises that God’s kingdom in the new creation (not a cloudy heaven but a new Earth!) will have no death or tears and that God himself will provide for his people. It describes the garden-city of Jerusalem having a river of life with trees that provide fruit in every season (Rev. 22:1-5). Just as some trees in this world give us the gift of fruit freely, God will provide life in abundance in the new creation. Just as Jesus says in that John 12 passage, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” The ruler of our world now is Death and its consuming appetite. But, our new world will be ruled by Jesus, the Lord of Life. He will walk with us and give us life forever! It's not possible for us to get a good enough picture of eternal life, but I am certain that we will not be dissapointed!

Pastor Briton Nelson