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William Dyke had been blind since he was ten years old. All he remembered visually of the world and the people in it were fading images recorded by his eyes when he was a child. Yet despite his handicap, he grew up to be an intelligent, witty, and handsome young man who was eager to experience all that life had to offer.

While attending graduate school in England, William fell in love with the daughter of an English admiral, and soon the couple set a date for their wedding. For the up-and-coming groom to be, love truly was blind.

That’s when his future father-in-law made a suggestion. A new surgery for William’s type of blindness had just been developed and was showing signs of promise. “You need to try it,” the man urged. “It might work for you.”

After some thought, William agreed, but with one condition. “The gauze will be removed from my eyes during the wedding ceremony,” he said. “I want the first thing I see to be my bride.”

On his wedding day, William stood before a packed church with his head wrapped in white cotton strips as the love of his life made her entrance at the back of the sanctuary. The moment the organist fingered the wedding march, the future Mrs. Dyke began her long walk down the aisle. Simultaneously, William’s father began unwrapping his son’s head. No one knew whether the operation had been a success. No one knew what would happen when the last strip of gauze was pulled away from the young man’s eyes.

Just as the bride reached her place before her betrothed, the last piece slipped away. William blinked a few times, and then stared at the woman standing before him. The organ fell silent. There wasn’t a sound to be heard anywhere in the church.

A smile spread across the groom’s face. In a voice shaking with emotion he said softly, “You are more beautiful than I ever imagined.”

Whenever I hear this story, I think of the new earth and a verse from the Bible that fills me with hope and encouragement. The apostle Paul, writing to Christians in Corinth, shared a truth of which many lose sight while living in this sinful world. His words can serve to lift our thoughts out of darkness. Quoting a text found in Isaiah, Paul wrote, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).

Active Imagination

I consider myself to be a person with an active imagination—a condition shared by most storywriters. But according to the Bible a day is coming when those of us who spend copious amounts of time tapping on computer keyboards will find ourselves at a loss for words. It’s probably going to take many, many years of experiencing God’s new world for our vocabulary to reach even the rudimentary level necessary for describing it. And I’m totally willing to take that challenge.

In spite of this, I believe three of the amazing things I’ll notice upon my arrival have already been described by John Newton, an Anglican clergyman and former captain of a slave ship. Here’s what he wrote: “When I get to heaven, I shall see three wonders there: The first wonder will be to see many there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people whom I did expect to see; the third and greatest of all will be to find myself there.” Amen to that, John Newton!

After I’ve recovered from the shock of finding myself there, I plan to do some serious exploring. The Bible offers enticing glimpses into the unimaginable. To help us along, Isaiah chapter 65 contains a series of descriptions of what we won’t see in God’s new earth. These can be just as powerful as what the Bible says we will see. Listen:

  • “Never again will there be in it an infant that lives but a few days” (verse 20). There’ll be no more tiny coffins resting amid flowers at the front of a church. No more refugee children washing up on foreign shores.
  • And there’ll never be “an old man who does not live out his years” (verse 20). Have you ever buried a friend or relative in his or her youth? Have you ever watched a struggling father or mother fade away under the unstoppable progression of cancer? That won’t happen in God’s new world.
  • “No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat” (verse 22). Ask any internally displaced person fleeing from an occupying army what that’s like, and they’ll tell you: it breaks the heart.
  • “They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune” (verse 23). Visit the poorer areas of your town or city, and you’ll see what we’ll be missing in the new earth.
  • “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain” (verse 25). No more death and dying. No more factory farms slaughtering millions of God’s creatures each day to satisfy out-of-control appetites. No more wars, genocide, terrorists, or ethnic cleansing.

All Things New

So, what will be there that we can’t imagine? The last two chapters of the last book of the Bible offer these breath-taking hints.

Seems we will live in a city that shines “like . . . a very precious jewel” (Revelation 21:11). There’s a good reason for that. Its walls are jasper and the city itself—including its streets—are pure gold (verse 18). We’ll pass through gates of pearl (verse 21), and God Himself will be our single, more-than-sufficient light source (verse 23).

Nearby we’ll find the river of life, “clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God” (Revelation 22:1). And arching over this river there’ll be a most peculiar tree “bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month” (verse 2).

Gone will be the terrorists marching innocent people to their deaths. Gone will be heart disease, diabetes, cancer, strokes, and the bereavement they engender. Gone will be depleted soils, drought-encrusted crop lands, out-of-control forest fires, and flash floods. Neighbors will actually love neighbors. Everyone will have everything they could possibly need or want, and all knees will bow to the same loving, benevolent God whose love radiates from every living being.

Unimaginable? Well, not really. I believe we know more about the new earth than we realize.

Have you ever felt loved? Perhaps you were with your mom or dad, best friend, or spouse, and you looked at this person and just knew that he or she is important to you and you’re important to them. That’s what it will be like every day in God’s new world. You’ll be important to everyone!

Have you ever stood at one of the overlooks at Yosemite National Park or strolled along Yellowstone Lake? Have you ever been to a place in this world where the vista spread out before you simply took your breath away? The new earth will be like that at every turn.

Have you ever been so satisfied with an accomplishment that you actually felt good about yourself—proud of what you were able to do and confident that you can do it again? Welcome to God’s new world.

Have you ever eaten a piece of fruit or some homegrown vegetable whose taste transcended anything you can buy at the grocery store? That’s mealtime in the new earth.

Have you ever stood and gazed up at the night sky, dazzled by the number of stars and humbled by the thought that the very same God who spoke them into existence knows that you’re standing there gazing up at the night sky? That’s the new earth.

It seems that the unimaginable is not quite so elusive after all. We can experience bits and piece of it right here on this earth!

The Way Home

I don’t know about you, but the very thought of the new earth fills me with feelings of hope. This old world isn’t permanent. It’s like an airport terminal, where I’m forced to wait for a connecting flight. I’m not home, but I’m on the way.

Airplanes are sometimes necessary in order to get us where we want (or need) to go. The food is unhealthy, the noise is deafening, the crowds are unbearable, and the flights are cramped, turbulent, and endless. But we endure them all because of what comes next.

So hang in there, fellow passengers. Our long journey is about to end. Gather up your hopes and dreams, put aside your fears and stresses, place your attitudes in their upright and locked position, and fasten your faith. Our Captain is making an announcement: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).

Can you see the runway lights in the distance? Can you feel our planet vibrating through the final turbulence as we start our descent? We’re almost home. There are unimaginable joys waiting for us just beyond the pain and suffering we call life.

John the revelator had the right idea when he closed the saga of the Bible forever with this emotional cry recorded in Revelation 22:20: “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Yes, we’ll soon be home. Imagine that!

Beyond Imagination

by Chuck Henning
From the April 2016 Signs