Do you ever wonder what will become of all the movies, stories, and artwork that we make here in this life? Will God cast them off into the dustbin when he makes the new heavens and earth? To this question E. Stephen Burnett gives a resounding “No!” in his article “Yes, New Earth Will Have Movies!”
Many people will be surprised by his answer. Unfortunately, many Christians have been taught that God’s ultimate plan is to toss away this old world, burn it up, and start over. Our existence in Heaven will be purely spiritual, it is argued. It is then that those troubling images of clouds, harps, and eternal choirs flood our minds making heaven sound uninteresting and dull.
This unbiblical view of eternity has often tended to lead Christians to ignore the world, focusing only on saving souls, to the exclusion of caring for the creation and of creating culture. The only things that matter in this view are spiritual things and “saving souls.” However, while sharing the Gospel is a core part of Christian faith, this view smacks of an ancient heresy called Gnosticism, which, among other things, taught that matter was evil and that the way to be free from the world was through a secret spiritual knowledge.
For other people, Heaven is a place where we will be lounging around in giant mansions, eating luscious fruit all day, playing golf, and sitting on verandas. Though the Scriptures certainly teach that Heaven will be wonderful, it is also clear that our end goal is not an eternal chill-out. This view of Heaven is actually closer to the Islamic view than the Christian view, and has sometimes led Christians to despise our God-given work.
Fortunately, Scripture is clear in presenting a different view of our final destination—the Kingdom of God. Instead of throwing this world into the rubbish heap, God is going to remake this place. Genesis clearly rejects any form of Gnosticism by showing that God made matter and called it good (Genesis 1). Furthermore, since work is not a product of the Fall, we can assume that work is a part of our human calling both now and in eternity. Imagine working at the things you love for all eternity without the problems of unreasonable customers, deadlines, or sweat and tears.
This biblical vision of eternity is what causes Burnett to argue that popular culture will survive into eternity. Burnett says that creating culture is a natural human activity. Therefore, he says, “As long as humans exist, human culture along with popular culture will exist. And on New Earth God will make us more human, not less.”
Some might question this notion, since most movies contain depictions of sin and suffering. Won’t God “wipe away every tear?” Will all of our movies and culture be sanitized? Will we only remember the good things? Scripture doesn’t explain this for us as we might like it to, but Burnett shrewdly observes that “Scripture will last forever,” and we know that the Bible contains a lot of unsavory stories of sin and suffering. Perhaps God will let popular culture including movies like Schindler’s List or Silence survive to remind us of where we have been; or even movies like Hugo or Cheaper by the Dozen because God enjoys laughter.
Of course, we don’t know exactly how this is going to work out, which is why this sort of thinking takes a little imagination. However, Burnett is clear that if our biblical doctrine about eternity is robust enough, we can see a way in which pop culture might survive into eternity. If we don’t believe “that at least some stories and songs would last forever,” he argues, there isn’t any reason to get excited about them or to create new ones.
We need stories and songs, Burnett argues. “That’s another reason I believe we will enjoy stories and songs forever—because these works help us eagerly groan for eternity and the wonders God has in store.” Whether you agree with Burnett or not, there can be no doubt that the wonders God has in store for us are beyond our wildest dreams.