--Bp. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, 118.
"A new heaven and a new earth": man is not saved from his body but in it; not saved from the material world but with it. Because man is microcosm and mediator of the creation, his own salvation involves also the reconciliation and transfiguration of the whole animate and inanimate creation around him--its deliverance "from the bondage of corruption" and entry "into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8.21). In the "new earth" of the Age to come there is surely a place not only for man but for the animals: in and through man, they too will share in immortality, and so will rocks, trees and plants, fire and water."
This resurrection kingdom , in which we shall by God's mercy dwell with our soul and body reunited, i in the third place a kingdom which shall have "no end." Its eternity and infinity are beyond the scope of our fallen imagination, but of two things at any rate we may be sure. First, perfection is not uniform but diversified. Secondly, perfection is not static but dynamic.
First, eternity signifies an inexhaustible variety. If it is true of our experience in this life that holiness is not monotonous but always different, must this not be true also, and to an incomparably higher degree, of the future life? God promises to us: "To him that overcomes I will give... a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no man knows except the one who receives it" (Rev. 2.17). Even in the Age to come, the inner meaning of my unique personhood will continue to be be eternally a secret between God and me. In God's kingdom each is one with all the others, yet each is distinctively himself, bearing the same delineaments as he had in this life, yet with these characteristics healed, renewed and glorified. In the words of St. Isaias of Sketis:
'The Lord in his mercy grants rest to each according to his works--to the great according to his greatness and to the little according to his littleness; for he said, 'In my Father's house are many mansions' (John 14.2). Though the kingdom is one, yet in the one kingdom each finds his own special place and his own special work.'
Secondly, eternity signifies unending progress, a never-ceasing advance. As J.R.R. Tokien has said, 'Roads go ever ever on.' This is true of the spiritual Way, not only in the present life, but also in the Age to come. We move constantly onwards. And it is forward that we go, not back. The Age to come is not simply a return to the beginning, a restoration of the original state of perfection in Paradise, but it is a fresh departure. There is to be a new heaven and a new earth; and the last things will be greater than the first.
'Here below,' says Newman, 'to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.' But is this the case only here below? St. Gregory of Nyssa believed that even in heaven perfection is growth. In a fine paradox he says that the essence of perfection consists precisely in never becoming perfect, but in always reaching forward to some higher perfection that lies beyond. Because God is infinite, this constant 'reaching forward' or epekstasis, as the Greek Fathers termed it, proves limitless. The soul possesses God, and yet still seeks him; her joy is full, and yet she grows always more intense. God grows ever nearer to us, yet he still remains the Other; we behold him face to face, yet we still continue to advance further and further into the divine mystery. Although strangers no longer, we do not cease to be pilgrims. We go forward "from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3.18), and then to a glory that is greater still. Never, in all eternity, shall we reach a point where we have accomplished all that there is to do, or discovered all that there is to know. 'Not only in this present age but also in the Age to come,' says St. Irenaeus, "God will always have something more to teach man, and man will always have something more to learn from God.'"