Periodically, I come across a breathtaking book — a book so powerful in its message, my heart is filled with an abnormal amount of hope. Such books make me want to live a better story.
I have never read John Eldredge before. I recall his books being fairly popular some years back. A few of my friends have suggested I read other titles by him. I’m hoping to do that next year. At any rate, his book, All Things New, has been a breath of fresh air for me this season. It provided a needed remainder of our glorious hope in Christ. I believe the world needs hope, more so now than any other time in my life. Overall, the book is a great read because it delivers hope.
Eldredge begins his book by looking at our misplaced hopes. He accurately describes the angst and hatred in our world and believes “unhappiness and the answer to the agony of the earth are one and the same — we are longing for the kingdom of God. We are aching for the restoration of all things.”
We each have an aching inside us for the kingdom. Many times, we seek to satisfy the aching by giving ourselves to things that will ultimately harm us and let us down. If our hope is in anything other than Jesus and his coming kingdom, it is misplaced hope.
Eldredge believes “something keeps whispering to us through the beauty we love.” Sadly, instead of fixing our gaze on the hope of the coming kingdom, we turn vicious and ravenous, acting like a lion protecting her cubs. We pounce on anyone who attempts to steal our joy in this present life.
Our hope, however, does not reside in this world. The renewal of all things is about the marriage of heaven and earth — a true paradise. It’s a time when things are finally and completely made right.
Eldredge returns again and again to the theme of renewal. He teases out the Greek word palingenesia, which is derived from the two root words paling, meaning “again,” and genesia, meaning “beginning.” Jesus uses the word late in the gospel of Matthew:
“Truly I tell you, at the renewal (palingenesia) of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28; emphasis added).
Far too often, people (including Christians) believe that heaven is reserved in the clouds for those who have lived a good and moral life. Nothing is further from the truth.
Christians will live for eternity on this earth made new. They will arrive in the kingdom not because of their goodness, but rather, the goodness of God. All the beauty and wonder of this world will be magnified when heaven and earth collide. We get to enjoy mountains and valleys without the deadly results of pollution; we get to experience relationships without any amount of envy, bitterness, or hatred; we will conduct Christ-exalting, joy-producing work without the curse of the fall. Our bodies will be strong and youthful forever. All the things we love about this life will be restored. The best of all, Jesus will be present. He will govern the affairs of the nations.
Eldredge doesn’t shy away from the searing lose we experience in this life. The book describes the heartache he experienced through the death of his two dearest friends. One died of cancer during the writing of the book.
He also describes the pain of watching the parenting era end. Perhaps more than the loss of his friends, his description of closing the parenting chapter of life gripped me deeply.
I have five amazing daughters at home. They are currently in the sweet spot of childhood. Everything is an adventure; every day brings new excitement. Some of my dearest friends have raised children. They often remind me that the little years vanish like a sunset. When you set your eyes upon it, the beauty can be overwhelming, but if you take your eyes off the horizon for even a second, you’ll miss it. As I get older, I better understand the country songs that tell us “don’t blink.”
Eldredge says, “you understand, dear friends, that you will say good-bye to everyone you love and everything you hold dear.” More than a fatalistic view of the world, Eldredge’s words are a beacon toward reality. He’s trying to get our attention.
One of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes is: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” If you and I live long enough, we will be let down by the world around us. Furthermore, our bodies will reach a state of desperation as it flounders in the realm of disease, decay, and despair. Yes, something tells me we were made for another world. The renewal of all things is incredible news to those of us perishing.
Two highlights of the book come when Eldredge uses his imagination to express what the kingdom will be like. He mentions the animal kingdom and our engagement with it. Is it possible that we get to swim with whales and soar on the backs of eagles? Why not? Everything will be made new.
He also imagines our role and work in the kingdom. Since we’ll have eternity before us, is it possible we’ll pick up trades we never thought imaginable in this life? Maybe we learn philosophy from Thomas Aquinas. Perhaps Galileo gives lectures about the stars. God is creative. We should allow ourselves to dream about all the wonder He has in store for us.
I enjoyed the book a great deal. There are a couple things, however, I’d offer as a criticism. First, Eldredge overstates his case at times. For instance, in chapter four, he talks about preparing our hearts so that the renewal of all things would become the only anchor of our souls. According to the book of Hebrews, the person and work of Jesus is the anchor of our soul (Hebrews 6:19). Granted, this hope is in the promises of God, but those promises are most fully realized in the person of Jesus. Therefore, I agree with Eldredge that we should hope for the renewal, however, I disagree that it should be our only anchor. I believe Jesus is the anchor and the renewal of all things is bonus. I think it’s an important distinction to make.
Second, I became a little irritated in all the quotations from Lord of the Rings and Narnia toward the middle of the book. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the stories from Tolkien and Lewis; Eldredge’s constant use of them, however, felt a little like he was trying to fill space for lack of content. It’s entirely possible I missed his point in utilizing these texts. I just feel like his words at the beginning and end of the book were golden whereas the words in the middle lacked zeal for his subject.
Although it has some weaknesses, I enjoyed this book a ton. I even bought four additional copies to give to my friends. I’ll leave it at that. You can purchase it here.