Two weekends ago, I went to Orlando with my wife and three kids on our annual Florida pilgrimage. We usually visit different theme parks during our trips, and this year we went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure. The heat was oppressive, the lines were short, and much water and ice cream was consumed. It was a great trip capped off by a visit to the beach before heading home.
There are plenty of worlds to visit within these parks, both real and imagined, but the highlights are the alien world of Pandora at Animal Kingdom and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. I’m a scifi guy so Pandora is more exciting for me but my wife was eager to try the new Hagrid’s Motorbike ride with our son, and they said it was well worth the one-hour wait time. Apparently this is where all of the thrill seekers went because the lines for the other rides were just ten minutes, but I wasn’t complaining.
If you’ve ever been to these parks or similar recreated worlds, it can be a truly magical feeling, seeing places and things that only existed in your mind or on the big screen. I’ve never been to New Zealand but I imagine that the LoTR tour would beat anything that a theme park can produce. Yet walking among glowing alien plants or weaving your way through the halls of Hogwarts has a transportive effect that stimulates your senses along with your imagination.
Countless fictional worlds exist only on paper, and many would not translate well into theme park experiences. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn books take place in an immersive world but making rides and attractions out of swallowing vials of metal flakes suspended in alcohol would be a difficult task. Even the world of Westeros from the Game of Thrones books and TV show seems too big for a theme park, though I wouldn’t be surprised if one was already in development.
There is one world which so far exists only on paper but is far from fiction: the new heavens and new earth that will endure for eternity after Jesus returns. This world will be the home of God’s children, not a heavenly paradise in the clouds. There are numerous interpretations of what is depicted in Scripture, but since we love to use our imagination, let us consider what this new world would look and feel like.
What does the Bible say about our eternal home? Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1-5 tells us that everything will be new and that the former things have passed away. All pain and sorrow will be forgotten and God will be the joy of our existence. We don’t know if this means we won’t know one another in eternity, but there will be no memory of past hurts or sins. Every moment will be pure joy in the presence of God.
What will this new world look like? The book of Revelation indicates that there is no more sea (21:1) and that believers will dwell in a massive city made of gold and jewels (21:10-21) and that there is no more sun or moon (21:23). This seems to be in contrast with how God’s creation was originally set up, with man and woman living in a garden to cultivate. It seems like a poor use of the world’s space to corral everyone into a city, especially with no more sea. But of course, if that is how God designs it, that is without question the absolutely best eternity possible.
The most important thing is that we will be with God, physically and spiritually. Rev. 21:22 tells us that there is no more temple, because God is the temple. Regardless of how the new world looks, the best part will be enjoying the presence of God in its fullest sense. That’s something that no depth of imagination can ever approach, and we will just have to wait until that glorious day comes.