By Mark A. Taylor
“It’s hard to imagine no crying and no mourning.”
The statement came from a group member when our weekly Bible study was nearing the end of Revelation. We had stopped to ponder the significance of Revelation 21:3, 4:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
That list of items excluded from eternity is reason enough to anticipate it. Think of all the energy we exert trying to avoid death. Try to calculate all the money we spend hoping to eliminate pain. Hardly a week passes that we don’t encounter someone mourning a serious loss, and our days are sprinkled with tears.
I remembered this discussion a few weeks later as my wife and I were enjoying the vacation of a lifetime with several dozen other Christians in a group cruising around Italy and Greece. Our theme was “Fourth Missionary Journey of Paul,” and we enjoyed lectures by Roy Lawson as a part of the package. But the apostle Paul never could have imagined the comfortable surroundings, pampered service, and delectable meals we enjoyed. It was a wonderful trip.
But not perfect. For one thing, it ended! “We’re going to enjoy 12 wonderful dinners like this!” I said to our table partners as we ordered our meal the first evening. But 12 days are really not many in a year characterized by deadlines and duties. We ate the final dinner of the trip with a bit of melancholy.
Midway through the experience I was reminded that we really can’t purchase paradise on earth. Even in the midst of luxury there is illness. (Our trip was free of any shipwide pestilence, but the doctor onboard treated throat infections and head colds for more than one of our group and sent one person to a hospital in port for tests to diagnose her pain.) Long lines, crowded venues, missed sleep, sore muscles, stinging sunburn, airline snafus, and concern one day for a couple that didn’t make it back to the bus on time—all these were a part of our experience, along with unanticipated rain and chilly weather.
This is typical for life on this earth. But every disappointment, every limitation, every self-doubt and fear and foible will be forgotten when God himself comes to dwell among us.
We can’t fully picture such an existence. All of us are pushing against some obstacle every day of our lives. What will it be like simply to relax in the presence of God? Certainly it will be better than any vacation we’ve ever experienced.