20 April 2012

Going to Heaven

heavenGoing to heaven to be with God (and, in some versions, Jesus) forever is often held out as the Christian’s greatest hope, the end of the Christian’s journey.
 
It's not true.
 
Going to heaven does not constitute the goal of salvation. If we go to heaven, we are not fully redeemed (Rom 8.23).
 
Whilst it is part of our hope for our ‘spirits’ to be with God in the heavenly dimension when we die, that’s just an interim arrangement. The greatest hope of the Christian is not found in heaven, but on earth. To think otherwise is to deny the real resurrection of Jesus. If the goal of redeemed humanity is some spiritual, rather than physical existence, why did Jesus rise from the dead? Jesus now lives in a redeemed body because the purpose of God as creator is to redeem his creation. In Rom 8 and 1 Cor 15 Paul makes clear that the whole creation will participate in the ultimate redemption – which is the fulfilment of our adoption as sons.
 
We won’t be fully saved, fully adopted, or fully redeemed until that day. The writer of Hebrews understands that all of God’s people will be made perfect together (11.40).
 
The Christian's greatest hope is to live again in a redeemed world - this redeemed planet - with the risen Jesus Christ in residence! The new world is our destination. This of course has tremendous consequences for how we understand our lives, and for how we understand the mission of the Church.