On Sunday I was asked “How will we worship in the New Earth?”
It ended up being a pretty interesting conversation. While much was discussed, I felt there were two main thoughts that stood out and could be worth sharing here.
The first thought is that worship is more about how we live in relation to God and each other than it is about a praise service.
One of the commonest images the Church reinforces about life on the New Earth is that we will be constantly worshipping God. I don’t think this concept is necessarily wrong, but in a church culture where worship usually evokes the worship service, it encourages the idea that eternity will just be one long praise time. Thankfully, Scripture depicts worship more broadly than we often do.
While there are many passages that could be explored here, for the sake of summary, I think Romans 12:1 is sufficient for now. Here, in light of the new life in Christ, Paul appeals to his Roman brothers and sisters in Christ “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Notice how Paul connects worship to living the holy life. From there Paul goes on to elaborate in detail how that might be done, and if you read what he writes, it’s obvious he’s hardly referencing a Sunday praise service. He’s talking about how we do life together in the ways that reflect Jesus.
So if we frame the question in more Scriptural terms, we are really asking “How will we do life together in the New Earth?”
The second thought, therefore, is God has designed the Church’s culture to be an anticipation of the New Earth’s culture.
Much of how life will be lived in the resurrection remains a mystery. Even so, there are clues. Again, there are several passages that could be explored here, but for now, Ephesians 3:8-11 is quite instructive. Having explained how through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection all things in Heaven and Earth are being brought into subjection to Christ, Paul writes “This grace was given to me…to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
Notice how it is through the Church that God’s plan is revealed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (possibly angelic and demonic forces). They were unaware of what God was intending. Though these are things angels long to look into (1 Peter 1:12), God’s kingdom mysteries are reserved for the people of God (Mt 13:11, Heb 2:5), for whose revealed glory all creation waits (Rom 8:19).
What is so unique about what the Church is supposed to reveal? It is the life Jesus teaches us to live; the way the Holy Spirit empowers and leads us upon. As the body of Christ, the Church and her culture are the perpetual revelation of Jesus and his holy character. Jesus’ “sermon on the mount” is a prime example of what Christian culture is called to be; an “on earth as it is in heaven” way of living. If this way of living originates in Heaven, I suggest it is because the Church’s Christ-shaped culture is designed by God as an anticipation of the New Earth culture for which we shall be resurrected.
There’s an old line that goes “Heaven—I wouldn’t miss it for the world”. While the line’s enthusiasm should be appreciated, it should also be acknowledged that through the ways of Jesus which God’s Spirit has set into us, the reality of the New Earth is already partially available. To miss it, or ignore it, or wait for Heaven for it would be to miss out on the completeness of the good news God offers us.
How will we worship in the New Earth? By doing then perfectly the Life together Christ has called the Church to lean into and now live faithfully.