On April 17, 2012, the space shuttle Discovery, bolted atop a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 747 aircraft, soared over the nation’s capital in a salute before landing at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Thousands of people lined the National Mall to catch a glimpse of the famed spacecraft as it headed for the airport and its final resting place in the Smithsonian Institute.
It’s difficult to imagine that Discovery traveled a total of 148,221,675 miles on 39 space missions. This is the equivalent of 311 round trips to the moon. What an incredible accomplishment! No wonder so many people wanted one last lingering glance at America’s most beloved spacecraft.
There’s something fascinating about space travel. It captures our imagination. It stimulates our thinking. It fuels our dreams for a better tomorrow. Maybe—just maybe—there are answers to our deepest questions out there beyond the stars.
Some private companies are already advertising trips into space and booking seats on rocket ships. A March 24, 2006, Associated Press article on space travel made this intriguing observation: “If floating weightless and peering down on a shimmering-blue Earth sounds appealing, you might consider being a space tourist. As long as you’ve got a fat wallet.”
The ultimate space journey
There is, however, another space journey that’s open to more than just a few astronauts. It’s a journey each of us can take, and it will bring us face-to-face with destiny.
What’s more, we won’t have to build a warp-speed spaceship in order to take this trip. We’ll travel beyond the stars, beyond the planets, and through Orion’s open space to the heart of the universe. But it begins with Someone’s return.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the One who paid such a remarkable visit to this planet 2,000 years ago, is going to pay us another visit sometime soon. And He’s going to make quite an entrance the next time He comes. He won’t be coming as a babe in Bethlehem’s manger but as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). And the heavens will rumble with a great shout as trumpets blast and the angels sing out.
Imagine that Jesus and the heavenly host swoop down in a cloud of glory and circle the earth faster than any spaceship. The ground shakes. Lightning flashes. Mountains tumble into the sea. Graves split open, and those who have died in Jesus rise up from their graves in the cold ground, alive and transformed, now having glorious, immortal bodies.
Believers who are still alive at Jesus’ coming will join the resurrected ones, and everyone will rise up into the air, drawn to the glorious light of Jesus’ presence.
Life beyond the stars
A number of years ago, a NASA official made this statement: “In the next 10 to 20 years we’re going to find potential habitable planets within 100 light-years from us.”
Most scientists don’t expect to find a cuddly creature like E.T. anytime soon. They’re looking for one-celled organisms that can survive harsh environments. Nevertheless, human beings are curious about life out there among the stars. We can’t help wanting to make contact somehow. Who knows what we might find? Who knows what intelligent being might start talking to us?
I have good news about life out there among the stars. We’re going to find it. I have good news about signs of intelligence in the universe. Intelligent beings are going to start finding us—in a very big way. We’re going to hear the voice of our Creator echoing around our planet. We’re going to hear the voices of angelic beings rumbling across the sky like thunder. We’re going to have a cosmic rendezvous!
That’s the great event that Jesus told us is coming. He Himself said, “I will come back and take you to be with me” (John 14:3). It’s more mind-boggling than the Hubble Space Telescope sighting a new galaxy or scientists discovering some single-celled organism on a distant planet. We’re going to come face-to-face with the greatest Intelligence in the universe. His countenance is going to shine down on this world like the sun at high noon.
The sign of the Son of God is going to appear. His glory is going to fill the sky. And all those who have committed their lives to Jesus are going to journey with Him beyond the stars, through the galaxies, to heaven.
When we human beings think about space travel, about journeying from one galaxy to the next, the huge distances are overwhelming. How do you reach a star thousands of light-years away? Scientists today can’t conceive of traveling faster than the speed of light. So real space travel faces huge obstacles. But Jesus’ second coming is going to remove all those obstacles. The One who created all those stars and calls each one by name—this God can transport us through the universe as fast as He wants to.
Distances won’t matter. Black holes won’t matter. Even the speed of light won’t be a barrier. It’s God who beckons us home, and that’s all that matters. We’ll all arrive safely at our destination, and we’ll arrive together. We’ll all stand together on a sea of glass around the throne of God and sing our hearts out in exultation!
Now that’s the ultimate space journey!
Our final return
What may surprise you is that our journey to eternity won’t be a one-way trip. The Bible says that we will make a return journey to earth. King David stated this in one of his psalms: “The meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11, NKJV).*
However, the earth we’ll return to won’t be like the one we live on today. It will be a better place. Sickness, suffering, heartache, and death will be gone forever. Disease and disaster will disappear. Chaos and calamity will be finished. Think of what it will be like to descend from heaven with Jesus, His angels, and all the rest of the heavenly host, to a magnificent earth made new in the glory of Eden.
God will burn this world clean of sin and suffering. Then He’ll remove the scars. He’ll replace the ugliness. He’ll re-create the earth.
And a whole new city, the New Jerusalem, will settle down on our planet. It will be our home on earth. God will live here with us, and from that eternal city we will colonize this renewed planet.
The transparent gold that paves the New Jerusalem’s streets won’t wear out. Its gates, made of enormous pearls, won’t fall off their hinges. The sapphires and emeralds in the city’s foundations won’t crumble away.
The citizens of the New Jerusalem will be refreshed forever by the river of life that flows through that city. They will be forever renewed by the tree of life in that city, which bears 12 kinds of fruit.
This is the picture of the new earth that Revelation gives us. And this picture assures us that we are going to find a forever home of peace and blessing. God Himself will be our God. He will light up that city with His everlasting glory. We will live in the warmth of His love and the joy of His presence through the ceaseless ages of eternity.
I want to take that ultimate journey with God. I want to take that great space odyssey. There’s got to be more to space travel than mining minerals on the moon. There’s got to be more to it than poking around on asteroids. There’s got to be more than finding renewable energy resources. We need a bigger answer for the longing in our hearts. We need the glory of the Sun of Righteousness.
Jesus assured us that He’s coming soon (Revelation 22:7). He’s going to make a spectacular appearance the second time He comes. One day we’ll be swept up into the air and into His arms.
One day we’ll journey to heaven in that angelic craft of light.
One day we’ll journey back through space in a golden city.
One day we’ll live with God on the earth made new.
So be ready.
So look up.
So reach out to the One who is preparing a place for you in His Father’s house.