By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo
Where will we live after death? Won’t we miss earth and live in heaven forever? It is written in Revelations 21:1, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Since the world was in a way made for man’s sake, it follows that when man shall be glorified in the body, the other bodies of the world shall also be changed to a better state, so that it is rendered a more fitting place.” St. Thomas meant that after the last Judgment, when Christ has separated the good and the bad in His second coming, we will live in a new universe, with a renewed earth gotten rid of all evils of the past because our resurrected bodies which are new bodies deserve a new place or a new earth.
We think a lot about this earth and we think a little about heaven. But we hardly think about the new earth, the new universe, “the new heavens and new earth” that Scripture promises. The heavens referred to here is the outer space. Our natural expectations for life after death are either nothingness (for unbelievers of God), Heaven, Purgatory and Hell but not about a new earth. But we will still be living eventually on earth as our final home because we are meant for it. We are not meant to live in heaven forever as spirits without bodies. We are meant to live in a corporeal world as corporeal bodies or with our body and soul joined together. God did not make a mistake in creating a material world and a material body for us. He made the whole universe for us. The purpose of the universe is not just to have gases and galaxies exist in themselves but these exist for us. God will not get rid of our earth but will just perfect it as “grace perfects nature” in Christ’s second coming. As C.S. Lewis would say, “the old field of space, time, matter and the (human) senses, is to be weeded (uprooted) and dug up for a new crop. We may be tired of that old field; God is not.”
The main “improvement” of our earth will be the eradication of sin and its effects on the world. Genesis 3 mentions some of these effects: death, pain in childbirth, pain in work (tiredness), conflict between men and women, and spiritual war between good and evil, between “the seed of the woman” (Christ) and the seed of the serpent (Antichrist). The material world God created is declared by God Himself, to be good, not evil; matter is not the cause of sin, but it does carry the effects of sin. It is a battlefield, and it needs to be cleansed at the end of the world. St. Thomas opines that the very same purifying fire that cleanses the good will torture the wicked. The fire of divine justice, divine righteousness and truth, which the good people love and the evil people hate, would simultaneously blisses the blessed and curses the cursed. The cleansing element God uses is His love, which is loved by the good and hated by the wicked because they only love themselves.
If there is a resurrected body, there must be a resurrected world for that body to inhabit. And just as the new body will be better, so will the new world. And both will be better in ways we cannot imagine, just as an unborn baby cannot know or imagine either the better, bigger body or the better, bigger world that awaits him outside the womb. “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived — the things God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)