There’s something about the texture and scent of a book, especially when books get together on a shelf and fill up a room. Sure, I love the convenience of ebooks. In the last twenty years, I have purchased over three hundred ebooks, starting with a Palm Pilot (before Kindles arrived). But there’s no comparison to holding a hardback book in your hands and flipping through the pages.
This is one of many earthly pleasures I fully expect to enjoy on the New Earth after Jesus returns.
Why God made people to love books
I suspect we love books because we are made of words. When God spoke words, our universe sprang into being.1 Before time itself, Jesus existed with God and is called the Word.2 Through the Word, the Father not only spoke the cosmos into existence, but spoke new life into us.3 His words are a fire in our heart, a lamp to our feet, and a firm foundation.4 The Word is a seed, food, and life, and it will last forever.56
We also consist of others’ words that can bring life or death.7 We carry the blessings and curses people have spoken over us, the lessons parents and teachers instilled in us, the lyrics songwriters sung into us, and the stories and ideas authors have written for us.
There seems to be no limit to the amount of words we can ingest.
Scientists estimate the brain’s storage capacity to be one petabyte, or a quadrillion bytes—over a billion megabytes. This is enough space for the all data available on the internet. By contrast, my new ebook takes less than one megabyte. Apparently I could read a billion more ebooks without needing a brain upgrade.
Why I expect to enjoy books on the New Earth
This is great news, because when Christ renews all creation, I plan to read a lot of books. Yes, I believe we will enjoy physical books on the New Earth. We see this explicitly and implicitly throughout Scripture.
God ordained each of our days and wrote the details in a book before we were born. 8 At the final judgment, books are opened and contain the deeds of all the dead.9 Names of believers are written in the Lamb’s book of life,10 and will be read aloud to the angels.11
But these books contain more than just our good and bad deeds. Author and scholar Michael S. Heiser says:
The whole concept of the heavenly books, the book of life, is bigger than tallying sins that can still be held in the unbeliever’s account. It’s bigger than that. He knows the things that we enjoy. He knows the things that cause us suffering. He knows your story.
Indeed, King David knew that his misery and tears were being recorded on a scroll kept by the Lord.12 We will get to read these books that chronicle our lives. Finally, we will get to know fully the details of how God worked all things together for our good.13 When Jesus wipes away every tear, it will not only be tears of grief or regret, but tears of joy while we read the story of how God’s plan unfolded in our lives.
Some Christians assume that on New Earth we will simply know all this information supernaturally, like how Neo learned kung fu in The Matrix. But I don’t believe that God will simply download all of this information directly into our brains. I think we will maintain the normal way of recording, learning, and transmitting information: through speech and writing. Otherwise, why would we need physical bodies?
Consider the scenes in Revelation where saints are singing the praise of the Lamb. How did they learn those songs? Perhaps by repetition, or perhaps with hymnals. I think we’ll need hymnals then just as we do now. This will only be a sample what we will record on paper.
New Earth’s libraries will reveal fantastic mysteries
Because we’ll have strong intellects, great curiosity, and unlimited time, it’s likely that books will have a greater role in our lives in Heaven than they do now. The libraries of the New Earth, I imagine, will be fantastic.
Wouldn’t you like to know what Jesus did before his thirtieth birthday? Or all his ministry deeds that John said would fill up the entire world if they were written down? We will get to research those facts. We’ll get to read about all the missing details of Paul’s life and ministry. What Noah and his family did for fun on the Ark all that time (although our experiences with COVID quarantines can probably fill in the blanks). The missing details from the gospels, like what Jesus wrote in the sand before the woman caught in adultery. What finally convinced Nicodemus to leave the Pharisees and become a disciple. What happened to Lazarus after the Pharisees plotted to kill him. We will get to read it all in the New Earth Library.
Here’s what I can’t wait to read: all the discussions and prayers for me among my high school Young Life leaders before and after I became a Christian. Or my own ancestors who carried the light of faith through generations. How did they endure and pass along the faith? And if we assume Jesus won’t return for a while, here’s a humbling thought: how will events play out in the lives of my children, all the way to my great-great-great-grandkids?
What happened to people I shared the gospel with on those mission trips to East Asia or North Africa? Did anyone else water those seeds I planted? Or what about that friend from my college dorm whom I handed a gospel tract, and whom I later saw walk the aisle at a Franklin Graham crusade? How did that seed end up growing? Or the many other people who I have prayed for but lost touch with?
I can’t wait to read these books.
God will reveal to us the universe’s mysteries that we can only guess at now. We will learn about anything we want: what dark matter is, how to speak in other languages, what exists on all the exoplanets, and why God allowed a particular tragedy. Any question you can ask has already been answered and written down. It will all be available for checkout.
There’s one book, though, that is pretty scary to imagine other people reading. It’s the book of all my secrets. Jesus said, “There is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, nothing hidden that won’t be made known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”14 That’s frightening.
Yes, you can read the book of my life, just as I will read the book of your life. We will know one another in radically transparent ways. And yet, we won’t feel anger, bitterness, or strife. We will find healing and redemption and laugh at ourselves.
We will also find newly published books. C. S. Lewis has probably already written a few new series over the last sixty years. Our favorite Christian authors now will continue penning their books then. Writing stories and songs—and even ebooks—is simply part of what it means to be human and make culture. And on the New Earth, we will be so entirely free from sin that we will make the best literature ever. We can’t even imagine how good those books will be.
Which books will you check out from the New Earth Library?
- Genesis 1. ↩
- John 1:1–3. ↩
- Hebrews 1:1–2; John 5:24. ↩
- Jeremiah 20:9, Psalm 119:105, Matthew 7:24–25. ↩
- Luke 8:11, Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 32:47, Isaiah 40:8. ↩
- I much prefer the idea of being made of words than the secular refrain, “We all come from stardust.” One idea traces our ultimate source to a Person, the other to impersonal forces. Yes, God made us from the dust (Genesis 2:7), but, “He also made the stars … and calls them each by name” (Genesis 1:16, Psalm 147:4). The stars in turn “pour forth speech into all the earth” (Psalm 19). Maybe it would be better to say we are made of starspeech. ↩
- Proverbs 18:21. ↩
- Psalm 139:16. ↩
- Daniel 7:10, Revelation 20:12. ↩
- Daniel 12:1, Revelation 21:27. ↩
- Revelation 3:5. ↩
- Psalm 56:8. ↩
- 1 Corinthians 13:12, Romans 8:28. ↩
- Luke 12:2–3. ↩