I recently taught a class on the churches of Revelation 2 and 3, and while you can mostly avoid the eschatological issues of Revelation, some things do come up. In the messages to a couple of the churches, there is reference to the final chapters of Revelation. The last week I drew this biblical timeline on the board.
I’ll point out a few things. The two green books at the beginning and “end” represent Genesis and Revelation – which we can think of as bookends for God’s story of redemption. In Eden, God sometimes walked in the garden and communicated with Adam and Eve. In Revelation, we learn that it will be like this once again – Heaven and earth will merge, and God will dwell with us. Note I put “end” in quotes because it really isn’t the end – but the beginning of life on the new, redeemed heaven and earth.
When we die, our soul goes to heaven (if we have trusted Christ as Savior) and the theological term for this is the “intermediate state” – which you can see on the timeline. Some Christians are fuzzy about this. We know our soul goes to Heaven, but then what? We await the return of Christ, and at the resurrection our soul and body will be re-united. We will live, body and soul, on the new earth.
It seems in the last 50 or so years of Christianity, we have somehow made Christianity all about “going to heaven when you die” and have forgotten about the “end” of the story. We have made the “intermediate state” the end-all. But we are not going to be disembodied people for eternity! We get our bodies back. But more than that, salvation and redemption is about more than just us as individual humans – All things will be made new. Creation groans and waits for this day too!
**Note that on my timeline I lump together “end time” events, not intending it to be “in order” or precise – as that is not the point of the timeline.**
I’ll end with Romans 8:19-23.
19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.