Heaven: Being Evacuated or Being Deployed?
Folks, we have a problem: The prevailing view of heaven is boring. Popular culture paints it like you go to heaven, get fitted for your “wings”, and wander around the clouds for eternity, strumming a harp - bored out of your mind. When I was growing up, there was a Billy Joel song entitled “Only the Good Die Young”, where the lyrics go “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, ‘cause the sinners have much more fun…”. We KNOW Billy is dead wrong (pun intended), and that there is an amazing future for those saints. Read a little Paul- the Saint’s aren’t crying! They’re banging the drum to get on with the restoration of God’s Creation. So, why aren’t we all fired up and excited to tell folks about this amazing future?
When someone dies, we default to “They’ve gone to a better place.” A child dies and “God needed another angel”. And on it goes. We’ve trivialized what the Bible teaches about what heaven will be. I’ve been chewing on N.T. Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope”. Wright challenges how well the western church understands the interplay of salvation, the resurrection, eternal life and our Christian mission. He poses two questions: “What exactly is the Christian Hope”, and “What hope is there for transformation of this world at present”? His premise starts that as long as we frame Christian hope in the simple phrase of “going to heaven”, essentially “away from this world”, we fall short of the full hope of the Gospel, and may marginalize the purpose of our time here on earth.
Salvation couched in terms of going to heaven implies getting away from here. It can be an “evacuation mentality” of simply waiting to be pulled off the beach and taken somewhere better. Seems attractive at times! But I have been troubled by the general apathy of the Church and its failure to make a huge impact on society. This “evacuation mentality” may have something to do with it. We ask, “have you been saved”, yet for many it seems to be little more than a get out of jail free card - a ticket on the Heaven Express outta here. But God has something bigger – and much better – planned.
Where did we forget that Revelation 21:1-3 speaks of a new heaven and a new earth? (ESV) ”Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … and I saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Behold, I heard a loud voice from the throne saying “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man…”
That doesn’t sound like we’re “going to heaven”. It sounds like heaven is coming to us! The resurrection, Jesus Christ’s victory over death, was the opening move in God’s plan to restore His creation. We’re not getting fitted with wings to wander aimlessly among the clouds strumming classical music. We will experience fully God’s original, unblemished, perfect creation. FOR ALL ETERNITY. I’m going to garden for eternity – with no weeds. I’m going to travel – with no airline delays. I will have a new body – without the disease and problems of the current one. Oh, folks, the saints are gonna laugh, and they’re gonna shout with joy. They’re going to have an eternity of joy and awe. So get fired up about it. You’re not being evacuated – you’re being deployed to share the Good News – Heaven’s COMING! And the Saints can’t wait!
Give Hope. Give Life. Give Bibles!