Have you ever wondered what heaven is like? I asked a bunch of questions about heaven in this post, when I previewed this five-part series on Ezekiel chapter 34. Now we get to an answer.
In Ezekiel 34 verses 23-31, God shares a new vision of hope for the people.
While God says that he will be the shepherd for the sheperdless, he will also bring them into a land where they can flourish. He is talking not about sheep, but he people, Israel. Though the people were in exile in Babylon, and though it seemed that Babylon was more powerful than God, God will rescue them. He will restore them, and he will give them the land. But it won’t be like it was before the exile. The wealthy powerful kings who betrayed them will be gone. There will be a new king, a new shepherd king, of the line of David. God will be their God, and this new Davidic king will be a servant prince.
God will also make a new covenant of peace. The old covenant was broken. But this will be a wonderful, better covenant. That word “peace” is very expansive in meaning. When we think of a peace deal, we think of the end of an armed conflict between nations. A peace treaty. God is thinking of something much more than that. It is the idea of human flourishing. A place and a means for people to be fruitful and multiply. No more injustice. Justice will reign. No more wealthy, powerful kings hoarding the resources, as there will be enough for all. This is not socialism or communism. It is the loving generosity of God, that flows from him into his people and through them to all. It is not coerced. It is the natural outflow of God’s covenant of peace, as his people are living in that peace.
There is safety. There is food. There is rain. There is freedom. Most of all, there is God. What a vision of hope! This is the place where the longings of your hearts are satisfied because God is there.
This is our hope too. In Jesus, we see that God absolutely has kept his promises. I think one of the best pieces of advice I ever heard about the hard times in life, the times when God seems absent is to remember the cross. On the cross, the Shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Remembering that he gave his life for us. It doesn’t mean the pain or doubt will leave. It means that we have a hope in life. Jesus has defeated sin and death and we will live again! There is more, so much more, than what we see in the news. Jesus is our Good Shepherd!
As we fast forward into the New Testament, we see how this is fulfilled in our lives. God gave us the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and correct us as needed. Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us, and we see how that is true by the Spirit living with us.
So is what we read in Ezekiel 34 a vision of heaven? It certainly is that. Heaven is the ultimate expression of the Kingdom of God. But remember what Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What we read at the end of Ezekiel 34 is also attainable now. Jesus said that we, his disciples, are to usher in the Kingdom. We are to help all people experience human flourishing. Just like a good Father wants his children to flourish, so does our heavenly father!