I want to take a step back in this post to get on solid ground.
Over my last four posts I have opened your mouths wide and jammed a 20-pound heavenly turkey down your throats, if you will. I certainly didn’t carve it and then allow you to savor and appreciate the tastes, textures, and aromas. To that end, I know the digestion process was a bit difficult. Some of you may have chewed on it quite a bit, while others may have let it pass as violently as it was received. Either way, you have had time to digest, so let me offer up the second course and give you time to close your eyes and enjoy how good it is.
The primary dilemma in front of many Christians, maybe you, is- I have always been taught and then believed that when a person dies he/she goes to heaven. Now you are telling me that a disembodied, spiritual heaven is not the end. I am not sure that is something I can believe.
I can assure you that there was a day many years ago when I said the same thing. It doesn’t make you a bad person for vocalizing your internal conflict; in fact, it is quite normal and healthy. It means that you are, at a minimum, wrestling with it rather than putting up your dukes, acting like you already know everything there is to know about our future hope, and then resisting to listen and potentially giving up the opportunity to learn something new.
Listening and dialogue is so important. It is obviously the place where we may learn something new, but it is also the place where we walk alongside each other in love and grace while uncovering more truth.
My perspective on heaven is not some new idea that I just decided to throw out there. I have wrestled and prayed over it the last six years. I have studied, researched, prayed, and left no stone unturned in the process.
When I wrote my book Unearthedin 2010, I so badly wanted to include all of this information on heaven in it to synthesize and solidify my position on the Kingdom of God, but realized even at that time that I was not ready to write about it or discuss it.
About three months ago I was contemplating whether or not I ought to keep writing. To be honest, the weight and implications of the topics I write about at times is almost too much for me to handle. Many people get mad, frustrated, and sideways with me about the way I write about and present Jesus (because it contradicts what they want to believe about Him and His mission). I don’t prefer to be the guy that people get angry with. Down deep in my heart I would rather be the guy that everyone loves.
But God finally got my attention and made me realize that not all of the fish he created were meant to swim with the current. Some must swim against the current no matter how much the river rages.
It was at that same time that I felt something opening up about the topic of heaven and the renewal of all things. For every way my writing felt blocked or forced a couple of years ago on the topic, it was now coming to me at lightning speed. It was time for people to hear a different perspective. It was time to introduce people to a more complete understanding of the hope Christians have. It was time to challenge the culturally-developed idea of heaven the Church has adopted. It was time to reconnect with the belief and understanding that Judaism, Jesus, and the Early Church had concerning God’s redemptive plan for all of His good creation.
Let me be clear here- my first four posts were not discussing what happens to a person as soon as he/she dies or where that person goes. I have focused only on the culmination of the Age and the return of Christ. So while it is certainly worth discussing what happens immediately after a person dies, that is not my interest within this series. There are other books, blogs, and writings that discuss that topic.
Instead I want to direct us beyond that to begin a dialogue about what God’s plan of redemption and our future hope look like when Christ returns. Just because there may be a waiting place for those who have died, it doesn’t mean that it where it all ends. My point has been that Scripture offers a surprising twist that is different than what many of us have been taught. And, I believe the beginning of that surprise begins simply and straightforwardly with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So, what was the point of the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
The simple answer- for God to demonstrate decisively that sin and death does not have the final victory over that which God created as good at the very beginning. In fact, the resurrection declares that God wins…and through Jesus…there is more where that came from! Death will no longer have a sting! What was evidenced in Jesus, the resurrection, is promised to those who put their hope in Him.
So the logical question at this point is- what does sin and death have an affect on?
That’s right…physical things.
Think about it… if death’s sting has been enacted upon a physical body, does not the defeat of death through resurrection mean that this body shall live?
Again, what would be the point of a physical resurrection evidenced in Christ if our own future is spirit or ghost-like?
Even more, since a bodily resurrection demonstrates God’s victory over sin and death, and the promise that death will no longer have a sting on God’s people, it can only mean that death will no longer have a stranglehold on that which God created as good from the very beginning.
The resurrection screams, “IT IS WORTH SAVING!”
It simply would not make any logical sense for God to create something as “good” only to discard it when the oppositional forces of evil disrupt or mar it. For the sake of logic alone, not even considering Church history or Scripture, I can deductively conclude that the redemptive plan of God has never been to destroy the creation and whisk people off to a disembodied, spiritual heaven for eternity.
So where do we go from here? Chew on this stuff. Pray over it. Don’t just discard it. Then, in my next post, I will begin to paint a picture, based upon Scripture, that will give us a clearer idea of what the new heaven and new earth will be like.
I look forward to the conversation.
Here is the next post in the series.