Last Sunday was Easter – resurrection Sunday! It was a wonderful day to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior as well as a reminder that every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection. I know that in the sermon a lot is said and sometimes I don’t have time to fully explain a thought or statement. I made one of those statements on Sunday that I figured I had better say more about. “Heaven is not our final destination.” I could see your faces and the “say what” on them. So a little more explanation is in order.
One view is that heaven is our eternal resting place – some of us have been taught this by our pastor’s and religious teachers. Here are a couple of scriptures that can lead us this direction:
John 14 – Jesus says “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”
Matthew 6 and Luke 18 – Jesus says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”
Philippians 3 – “…our citizenship is in heaven…”
I Peter 3 – says that we are saved “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”
These are just a few of the scriptures that mentions heaven and from which we have built a theology of eternal life in a disembodied or ethereal state of spiritual existence.
The only question that comes to mind is “why then would God take on human form, die a horrific death, and then resurrect the body if heaven is our final home?”
Let me suggest an adjusted view of this – “heaven or God’s presence (for more appropriate terminology) is the place our soul/spirit goes after death and awaits the final resurrection of the dead and the recreation of the earth.” So what are the scriptures to support?
Revelation 21 – John the Revealer says “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’…He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
I Thessalonians 4 -“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of the world, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”
Romans 6 – “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”
I Corinthians 15 – “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
God created the heavens and the earth and it was good! Human willfulness and disobedience brought brokenness and distorted God’s good creation and relationship. But what we have broken, God is on a mission to make whole, perfect again. And God invites us to participate in restoration both now and forever. If Jesus does not return during my life time then I believe my soul will rest in God’s presence and wait for the resurrection of my body – imperishable and incorruptible so that I might reside on God’s new earth for eternity.
Either way – here is what matters the most. Some of us will dwell for eternity in the presence of God! Hallelujah. Others will be eternally separated from God – not a place any of us want to be. Our task as a church is to reach those who are outside of God’s love and grace so that they might live now in God’s transforming power and live eternally in God’s presence.
I hope this clarifies some of where I was coming from on Sunday. Thanks for reading and blessings for the journey.