Whenever the church is wrestling to understand or recover some treasure of the faith, it is always a good idea to return to what Jesus himself had to say about the matter. After all, this is his story. It is his teaching on the palingenesia* that set us out on our wondrous journey here. Where exactly does Jesus want us to fix our future hopes?
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. ... After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.” (Matthew 25:14, 19)
He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.” (Luke 19:12)
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42)
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet.” (Luke 12:35–36)
Jesus clearly wanted us to interpret the story from the vantage point of his return.
Heaven is very, very precious. Heaven is the paradise of God. But if you will notice—I say this reverently, carefully—heaven is not the great anticipated event the writers of the New Testament look forward to.
And we are eagerly waiting for him to return. (Philippians 3:20 NLT)
... as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (1 Corinthians 1:7)
... looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. (2 Peter 3:12 NKJV)
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (1 Peter 1:13)
The great hope and expectation of the Christian faith is focused on one dramatic, startling event, sudden as a bolt of lightning, sharp as the tip of a sword: the bodily return of Jesus Christ, and with that, the renewal of all things. The two are united, as surely as God the Father and God the Son are united—the renewal of all things awaits the coming of our Lord, and the coming of our Lord ushers in the renewal of all things.
*Palingenesia, the Greek word for “renewal”, which is derived from two root words: paling, meaning “again,” and genesia, meaning “beginning,”