Have you ever noticed that the words "new and improved" often turn out to be neither? Most of us have been consumers long enough to lower our expectations when we read an advertisement suggesting that some product has been improved upon. In our most cynical moments, we might even roll our eyes in disgust as we realize the only thing "new and improved" about this product is the price.
But that kind of disappointment will not always be the case. A time is coming when God's people will discover something that will be even better than they could have imagined. It is a place of eternal joy and perfection in God's eternal presence — Heaven.
Five of our local churches have participated in a weekly series called "The Story." This series, which began last September, is a chronological overview of the entire Bible. I find it interesting that God's first connection with humankind begins in a garden (Eden), and it will end in a truly "new and improved" garden (Heaven).
While the first garden began perfectly, it did not remain so. Shortly after creation, Adam and Eve sinned and introduced sin into our world, which so infected us that it has become part of our human nature that passes from one generation to the next. It separates us from fellowship with our loving Creator.
For 30 chapters (Genesis to Jude), the Bible gives us front-row seat to God's rescue plan to restore a relationship with Him. With each unfolding chapter, it became increasingly clear that our human nature needed more than a few tweaks.
In the Old Testament, God created a chosen nation to advance His rescue plan. Out of this nation, God sent a Messiah, Jesus, the perfect Son of God, to deal with our sin through the sacrifice of His own life for us.
Those who respond to God's plan of grace and love by believing in Jesus as their Savior and Lord are transformed and are commission to share that good news with others. God's Upper Story touch on our Lower Story lives is part of the ongoing story of God's truth.
But that is not the end. The final chapter is a book called Revelation that reminds us of a perfect time and place called eternity/ Heaven, where God will literally dwell with His people in perfection. It also tells us that Jesus will one day, literally and visibly, return — not as a baby as he did the first time, but in power and splendor to make all things right.
Listen to just one of the descriptions of Heaven in Revelation.
Revelation 22:1-3 says, "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life bearing 12 crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse."
Notice how the same tree of life that was in the first Garden of Eden is now forever part of the landscape of the perfect garden in God's presence in Heaven.
We don't need to worry about over-exaggerating heaven. Heaven is the place where God will dwell with us in perfection, and it truly is the only "new and improved" that will never disappoint.
The Book of Revelation is either an encouragement to remain faithful to God or a warning to become ready by trusting in Jesus. Salvation of our souls is found, not in this imperfect world, but in a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus.
There are a lot of things in this world clamoring for your allegiance. Don't miss Heaven for the world.
Perry Kallis is senior pastor of Temple Baptist Church.