Can we only imagine? on race and ethnicity in the eschaton

Recently, I’ve seen a couple of tweets that have caused me to reflect on how things will be in the New Heavens and New Earth. A while ago, I saw one tweet about black bodies retaining the same in the resurrected state. While I do believe this, it led me to think about how much race and ethnicity will matter in the new heavens and new earth. There is only so much we do know based on what is revealed in Scripture. So I’ll say from the outset that some of what I’m writing here is speculative in nature but bear with me.

My first thought was to wonder how much are we really going to focus on race or skin color? After all, we will be in the presence of the Savior and the sin that produced all kinds of hostilities, suspicions, and disputes will be absent.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw a holy city, new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. We will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be any mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev. 21:1-4)

It’s not lost on me the impulse behind this focus on melanin composition because of the way it’s been disregarded historically and to some extent in the present. It’s a quest for dignity and I get it, though sometimes think it’s overblown. I honestly don’t think a focus on race or skin color does justice to that quest for dignity, anyway.  I would insist the better, and more scripturally faithful way, to view dignity is based on being made in the image of God than in blackness. As the old saying goes, “God don’t make junk” and he certainly knew what he was doing to create such diverse people with varying melanin compositions.

I’m convicted that the focus on merely skin color undermines God’s handiwork in drawing a people from every tribe, tongue and nation to himself. As I pointed out in my last post, I think it’s more faithful to witness of Scripture to think in terms of ethnicity because that captures language and customs of national heritages. I honestly don’t know how much this will carry over into the new heavens and new earth but I have to imagine it will be integrated in a way that reflects the glory of God and exhibit pure beauty.

On the flip side, I don’t think we should deny the diversity that exists as I saw in a recent tweet that there would be no diversity in the new heavens. I actually think this is an insult to the Creator who made such a diverse people. Why would we not recognize and honor that?

But we have to remember that every ounce of sin that ravaged God’s good creation will be gone. That means we will see other without the impact of the Fall because the Fall’s full defeat would be realized by then. We will have pure fellowship.

So while we will see the diverse array of God’s creation, the way we see it, in the absence of sin, will take on a completely different dimension. There won’t be a need to assert dignity because it will already be recognized and valued. We won’t need to point out those brown skin people or those white people because I honestly don’t think we will see each other according to those categories. But I do think we will see the diversity because that is what God created. It just won’t have the same impact according to our earthly conversations. We will see each other purely. We will see God’s handiwork in his creation. And most importantly, we will see HIM and enjoy his presence forever.

 

5 thoughts on “Can we only imagine? on race and ethnicity in the eschaton

  1. DebbieLynne Kespert August 8, 2022 / 11:17 am

    I disagree that you’ve used any speculation, Lisa! As far as I can tell, practically everything you wrote here lines up with Scripture. And I absolutely love your emphasis on the Lord. Few people seem to understand that He is the focal point.

  2. Dave Peterson August 8, 2022 / 7:37 pm

    Very good article! To think that there would be no diversity in Heaven or on the New Earth would actually go against what the Scripture say – I am looking forward to seeing people from every ethnic group – including mine – and seeing us all, interacting with us all, and experience all of these relationships – and all without any trace of sin! What a glorious time that will be!

  3. Sherrye Willis August 8, 2022 / 7:51 pm

    Thank you for this post! I so agree with your point of view which points us back to the Word of God. You’re right we can only imagine some things.

  4. Evan Spencer August 8, 2022 / 9:00 pm

    Thanks Lisa for filling in some of the missing beauty we will one day enjoy in the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the new heavens and earth. Only it will be without the negative earthly baggage from our earthly experiences regarding race and ethnicity that we may regularly experience today.

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