That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. (THE MESSAGE)
We need to rethink a popular view that our planet earth is going to be burnt to a crisp and when we die or when Jesus returns, we go off to a place called heaven. This passage urges us to think again. Our world has a glorious future, not in its present broken state, but a world as it was originally made to be.
It seems as if when we become who we were made to be, the created world becomes what it was created to be. Right now the created world is in pain, but Paul likens the pain to labour pains: they foreshadow a happy ending.
What this means is that when we think of heaven, we best think of it as this earth with all the bad removed and all the good intensified. While we can’t speculate in any detail, we must not succumb to the mythology of sitting on clouds playing harps forever. Heavenly life will be bodily life, relational life. It will be the fulfilment of all the good things, all the pleasures we experience on earth. All such pleasures now are foreshadowing the deeper and perfect pleasures of eternity.
Our world may be bent out of shape, but it seems God has not written it off. Nor should we.