If we are in Christ, and we die, our souls will go to be with Jesus in Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8, Philippians 1:23). This is a wonderful truth and significant source of comfort to God’s people.
But it’s not the end of the story. Being a disembodied soul in heaven is not our ultimate hope. Our ultimate hope is the resurrection from the dead, when our souls will be reunited with new bodies and we’ll dwell with God forever in His city on a new earth (1 Corinthians 15:12-56, Revelation 21:1-3).
It’s this hope of a perfect, embodied existence on a restored earth that has fuelled the faith of God’s people throughout the ages.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:8–10).
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13–16).
Here’s the stunning reality: this “better country,” this heavenly city, this New Creation, is still a future reality. It hasn’t come yet.
Which means that Abraham is still waiting for it. Isaac is still waiting for it. Jacob is still waiting for it. All the saints we read about in the Old Testament are still waiting for it. They have not yet received everything they were promised.1Surprisingly, Revelation 6:9-11 pictures at least some of the souls in the present heaven experiencing dissatisfaction, even in God’s presence, as they await the fulfillment of God’s purposes.
When will they receive them? When will they finally arrive in this city with foundations, in this better country they have longed for? At the exact same time as you and I will. When the events of Revelation 21 take place. After the return of Christ, after the final judgement, when God finally creates the new heavens and new earth.
And then, on that day, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Samuel, and you will arise, together, in new bodies on a new earth, and will finally experience, together, what God has promised to us. As Hebrews 11 goes on to say, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39–40).
The ESV Study Bible says about this verse, “The saints of the [Old Testament], along with those of this era, will partake together of the same end-times perfection: sinless selves in deathless resurrection bodies.”2Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2382.
We really are a part of this story today, and we really will be a part of it on that great day, when all of God’s people from all of time will be made perfect, together.