Christian Living


John Eldredge on All Things New

Best-selling author John Eldredge is known in Christian circles for his book, Wild at Heart (highly recommended reading). But, his latest release, All Things New, is such a timely and God-inspired work that has the power to change the hearts and minds of believers in such a way that gets the world's attention as we live with hope in these uncertain and troubling times.

Recently, Eldredge spoke with us about his new book, how hope is all we need, and how God intends to restore, not just redeem. Here are excerpts from our heartening conversation:

Hannah Goodwyn: When readers pick up this book, their eyes are going to catch the subtitle: "The Restoration of Everything You Love." How do you deliver on that promise in All Things New?

John Eldredge: It's the most breathtaking promise of the Gospel, that no one knows about. We've all heard about Heaven and we've heard about the eternal church service in the sky. But in Matthew 19:28, the disciples have asked Jesus a question.

They said, 'Look, this has cost us a lot to be your followers. What's in it for us? What do we have to look forward to?' And in this incredibly beautiful response Jesus says, 'I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the son of man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed and is lost.' Then He gets very specific, He says, 'It will all be restored to you.' So you go, 'Wait a second, wait, wait, wait, the offer is the renewal of all things?'

The Greek there is palingenesi. It's a conjunction of two words, páli meaning "again" and génesi: "genesis." God's intention is not to scrap this world and start over. The promise is actually the restoration of everything you hold dear.

Now, I'm not building it only on that verse. The theme just carries on, like Peter in Acts. He gives this very famous sermon and he says the exact same thing. He says that Jesus must remain in Heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything. The word he uses there is apokatastasis. It's a Greek word that's used in the Gospels when Jesus heals a man's hand. So, there's a withered hand and Jesus restores it. That's restoration. Apokatastasis means "bringing things back to their created goodness," their original intention.

Then you get to Revelation 21:5, "He who is seated on the throne says, 'I am making everything new.'" He doesn't say, 'I am making all new things.' So the mind blower is that, one, you actually don't spend your eternal life in Heaven. You spend it here on the new earth. Jesus comes to the earth, the city of God comes to the earth in Revelation, and the restoration of all things. Jesus promises very particular things, the very things that are dear to you. Once you have that, then you look back at the Gospels and you look at the miracles and you go, 'Oh my gosh, that's what He's doing all the time.' Jesus is not a destroyer. He's a restorer. The blind see, right? The deaf hear. It is the restoration of what God intended, not the annihilation of all of this and we go somewhere else for eternity.

Goodwyn: It's really interesting that this book is coming out now in terms of a longing for hope, and maybe not even consciously thinking restoration, but really wanting that.

Eldredge: Yeah, exactly. The world is aching and longing for hope though they might not know how to name it. They just want to know good is coming. What do we have to look forward to? We've got this incredible hope to offer the world, but we've got to first get our theology straightened out and go, 'it's not the airlift to Heaven. It is literally the restoration of all things. God intends to heal humanity and to heal the earth, not vaporize it like the Death Star.'

Goodwyn: There was a line in the book that says the human race is not doing well at all. It just seems like a crazy world right now.

Eldredge: I think it is. Time magazine's cover story last year was, 'How did we lose the Internet to the culture of hate?' You look at the raging going on online and you're like, 'Whoa, people are thin.' It doesn't take much to trigger hatred, and envy, and judgment. That just shows you the human condition is very dry. Everybody's well is empty. I think it points to both the era that we're living in, that we're close to the end of all things, the end of the age, but it also points to this deep need in the human heart for hope.

Goodwyn: How does this revelation of the restoration that God has for us change our worldview, how we view God, and how we view each other?

Eldredge: Oh man, it's huge, because it's the hopeless who give up, right? It's when you lose hope that you give up on a marriage. It's when you lose hope that you give up on a community or you give up on your hope for justice. It's the hopeless who abandon the cause, who abandon caring and loving, and the earth itself. People who are filled with hope love better. People who are filled with hope find it easier to forgive. Hope is huge. Paul says in Colossians, I think it's from the first chapter of Colossians, he says that our faith and our love actually spring from the hope that we have in the restoration.

Now, let me just tell you how real this is. I didn't plan this, but just recently I got this precious email from this gal. There's a couple in our fellowship that had lost their first child. It was, of course, devastating, and incredibly tragic. It didn't just break their hearts. It totally shattered their faith. And somehow, she got a copy of this, of All Things New. Here's what she wrote me. She says, 'I just want to thank you for writing All Things New. I can't tell you fully what it did in my heart because I don't have the words yet. But, I can tell you that I have a hope and a peace that I haven't felt in years.'

In the email, she talks about, 'I actually love God again.' Hope does wonderful things for the human heart. And it's really interesting. I was actually just reading some research. Hope actually changes the structure of your brain. Like, it heals the neurochemistry of your brain and it does really fabulous things for overcoming illness and actually defeating cancer. Isn't that cool? Hope is amazing.

Goodwyn: There's a picture at the beginning of one of your chapters of a treasure chest. Could you share the idea behind that?

Eldredge: We suffered a lot of loss last year in our family personally. We had a suicide and the loss of my son's first child. I lost my best friend last year. And I just began to wonder, 'do we ever see it again, those precious things we lose? We know the ending is good, but do we actually see the things dear to us restored to us in very real ways?'

One of the beautiful moments that also doesn't get talked about, by the way, in the Church is the idea of rewards. This was huge for earlier saints. This was huge for Paul. This was huge for Saint Patrick. This was huge for the Church for a thousand years, this idea of reward; and it's very particular. It's very personal.

So, I have this picture of God bringing before us these treasure chests and setting them down and saying, 'Here is the reward for your faithfulness. Here is the restoration of the things that you've lost.' In one treasure chest, you hear laughter because so much of what's been stolen from us in this life is joy. We live with a lot of disappointment. There will be day that God brings it all back and gives it to us like a present.

Goodwyn: How do they reach out for this hope and the restoration when life is chaotic and what's happening in the world is depressing?

Eldredge: It makes an enormous difference if in the middle of your loss you're able to say this isn't permanent... Really, it's the difference between heartache and devastation. Of course, we grieve. Of course, we grieve our losses, but devastation is a different thing. Devastation is when you think that they are permanent.

Just give yourself a little test. Give yourself a day, just a day where you say, 'You know what? Nothing can be taken from me that won't be totally restored.' Watch what it begins to do for your soul. It is an enormously heart-lifting thing. It's really pretty huge. And as hope begins to get in, then you're able to trust in the goodness of God again.

One of the fascinating things about trusting in the goodness of God is it actually allows you to experience it more. It's always there. The goodness of God is always there. His love is always there. When we are fortressed against it, when we're hurt or angry or shattered, it's hard to access it, but it's always there. If you begin to open yourself back up, you go, 'Wait a second. Nothing is lost. Nothing is lost.' Oh my goodness. It opens your soul to hope.

Goodwyn: Your book also dives into how holding on to hope and to God frees us to live our lives to the fullest, to fulfill our callings.  

Eldredge: It really does. Yeah, it really does. In fact, it was C.S. Lewis's wonderful line where he says, 'If you read history, you'll see that it was the people who were captured by the vision of the coming Kingdom of God that were actually the most effective in this world.' When you know that you're solid, you're good, your life is actually going to turn out wonderfully. It frees you to care and to fight for what's beautiful and good in this world because you know you're on the winning side. Again, it's the hopeless who give up. The people who have hope are very engaged, loving people.

Goodwyn: What's the biggest enemy of hope?

Eldredge: Our suffering. After a while, it just wears you down. Not even necessarily the big stuff. Of course, cancer wears you down. Of course, the loss of a loved one, you know. Some people never recover. But, I'm talking about the daily chronic disappointments. Your heart was made for the habitat of Eden and your heart lives in the Sahara desert compared to that. And so, over time, it just erodes your hope. It erodes your belief. Hope is the expectation that something really good is coming. That's what hope is. It's the confident expectation that something really good is coming. And over time, it's just your disappointments that, really, I think are the greatest enemy of hope.

Goodwyn: For a non-believing person, how is Jesus that answer?

Eldredge: Everyone in the world experiences loss and everyone in the world is desperate for hope. We have the most extraordinary offer to say, 'Did you know that God wants to restore everything that's been stolen from you? He wants to restore you as a human being and He wants to restore your life.' It opens up a new kind of conversation with the unbeliever that's not just, 'Hey, do you want to go to the eternal church service in the sky?' Like, that is not attractive. It's not biblical either. No wonder people aren't interested in the Gospel.

'What is the actual hope you have to offer me?' And man, I'll tell you what, you start talking about the palingenesi, the apokatastasis, you start talking about the restoration of all things and that losses do not have to be permanent. I think that people will want to hear. Peter assumes that they're going to want to hear. In 1 Peter 3, he says, 'be ready to tell people the reason for the hope that lies within you.' The interesting thing is he says be ready to give an answer for everyone who asks you for the reason of the hope that lies within you. The weird thing is nobody ever asks.

And the reason that nobody ever asks is that our hope, frankly, doesn't look any different than theirs. We hope our kids will turn out. We hope we get more vacation this year. We hope we get a raise, you know, normal hopes. But I think if we begin to embrace what Hebrews 6 tells us, 'Take hold with both hands, grab this promised hope,' if that hope begins to come in, then people are going to want to know. 'Whoa, why aren't you devastated? What is the secret to your life? You seem pretty hopeful.'

Wouldn't that be great? That would be cool.

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