“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this” (Eccl. 7:10, ESV). Are your best times behind you? If so, you’re not a Christian. Nostalgia is “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition” (merriam-webster.com). It’s easy to remember the past in terms of “glory days,” good times gone forever, or the way we wish things were still, but it’s also easy to forget that every era has its share of evil and a plethora of problems. Paul’s perspective is that Christians should be “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13). John describes the scene where the first earth and heaven are no more, and a voice from the throne says, “the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). What are some “former things” that will play no part in glory?
First, the adversary will be gone. The devil is finally thrown into a burning lake to be eternally tormented (Rev. 20:10). We’ve never experienced a morally untainted atmosphere. Imagine the Garden of Eden prior to sin, or Noah’s family exiting the ark into a pristine environment. Satan will forever lose all access to us, and we will shed no tears for his demise. The former things have passed away.
Second, matrimony will be gone. Jesus said “those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:34-35). If you wince at the thought, it speaks well of the happiness of your marriage, but that divinely made institution was never intended to survive the grave. Wedding vows are “till death do us part.” We’ll still be parents, children, siblings (cf. Luke 16:27-28), but marriage will not pertain to our eternal status. The former things have passed away.
Third, mortality will be gone. When the last trumpet sounds, “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52-53). The physical body that was “sown in weakness” will be “raised in power” as a “spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:43-44). It will be “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1). Imagine a body that’s never feeble, cannot get sick, has no aches or pains, and will live for a billion years times infinity. That’s not science fiction—it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. The former things have passed away.
Fourth, deprivation and oppression—big or small—will be gone. God “will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat” (Rev. 7:16). “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light” (Rev. 22:5). Gone forever are sorrow, pain, hunger, heat, deterioration, darkness, separation, anything displeasing to God. None will have an unmet need.
Fifth, discontent will be gone. Paul said he had “learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11). Evidently, earthly contentment is a “learned” skill, especially given all the evil around us, and a thousand things we would like to change about ourselves and our surroundings. But nothing will compare to hearing the Lord on the other side say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). To say we will be content in heaven may be the understatement of the ages. “Contented” cannot begin to encapsulate “the joy” of our Lord. The former things have passed away.
Sixth, affliction will be gone. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Do your problems seem insurmountable? Have you suffered beyond what the apostle Paul went through? After experiencing a litany of trials chronicled in 2 Cor. 11:23-28, he was eventually executed for being a Christian. How can Paul say a life of pain is just “light momentary affliction”? Our afflictions may seem crushing only because we lack a reference point of comparison. We’ve not yet been to heaven. Once there, we’ll have a corrected perspective on all earthly pain. Meanwhile, we have to take God’s word for it. Afflictions are “light” and “momentary” and the coming “weight of glory” is what lasts. In the bigger picture, our troubles have the duration and gravitas of a bubble that floats a few seconds before popping. Glory is forever. The former things have passed away.
Seventh, bad company will be gone. There may be plenty of “characters” in heaven, but no unsavory ones. Its population “are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Rev. 22:14). Heaven will harbor no violence, no danger, no animosity, no disrespect. Everyone there will be religiously the same—worshipers of the only God, able to approach his throne by the blood of Christ. All our neighbors will be ideal. The former things have passed away.
Eighth, time will be gone, at least as we now know it. In eternity, time takes no toll. That’s why God’s servants “will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). The Bible does little to elaborate on what reigning forever looks like. Remember the Lord’s remark, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much”? Maybe that gives a hint. We know we will worship in heaven. What God might give into our hands to accomplish is not stated. Whatever it is will be grand. But we won’t have clocks ticking away minutes we’ll never get back as we speed toward the end of a lifespan. “Forever and ever” isn’t a long time. It’s infinity. The former things have passed away.
Ninth, distance between God and us is gone. We’ve never seen his face. We’ve never set foot in his home, yet. Meanwhile, God has given his people on earth his own Spirit in our hearts as a downpayment to guarantee what is to come, “until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). Finally, saints “are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence” (Rev. 7:15). On earth we seek shelter beneath a shade tree, in a vehicle, under a roof. In heaven, the shelter is “his presence”! “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev. 21:3). The former things have passed away.
– Weylan Deaver