Hoekema in his very influential The Bible and the Future describes the outlandish confession of many Christians that heaven is our ultimate destiny. Many of these proclamations are found in the hymnology of the church, particularly in more evangelical hymnody. The emphasis tends to always be on the glory of heaven without any mention of the New Heavens and the New Earth. Hoekema argues brilliantly that the church has forgotten that the restored creation is the place of ultimate consummation. He further elaborates that the “New Heavens and the New Earth are equivalent to the created universe” and therefore, in my estimation, is a much more grandeur expression than God’s original creation. The garden was only an incomplete picture of the glorious destiny of the elect, not a replica.
Bishop N.T. Wright mentioned a few years ago at the Evangelical Theological Society that the evangelical emphasis on the life to come has detracted from the emphasis on the eternal life of God’s people. In other words, Wright’s point is that heaven is only a glimpse of the world to come. He mentioned the Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan, which gives the distinct impression that when Christian reaches the great city, this will be his final home forever. Let us not forget John’s words in describing those who are now in heaven in Revelation 6:10: They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” The saints in heaven cry out to God to bring ultimate justice to His creation and restore all things. The restoration of the cosmos is the ultimate purpose of God (or the Missio Dei). If we are so bold as Professor Richard Pratt, we may even say that heaven pales in comparison to the glorified and purified world where righteousnes dwells.