Friday, February 19, 2016

Source Sunday: The Kingdom of Heaven

Source Sunday

What is Heaven Like?

For our Source sessions with the Junior Highs we have been looking at the questions that they had about faith. This past week's question was, "What is heaven going to be like?" I think that perhaps we have to look a little more broader and look at the questions "where do we go when we die?" and "where will we spend eternity when Jesus comes back?" The answer to both of these is heaven but not quite the way we usually picture it.

I first asked them "when you think of heaven, what do you picture?" The answers were a mixture of the usual answers given when we think of heaven: lots of clouds, everything is gold; and a some that surprised me like we will somehow know everyone. From the Bible all we know about heaven really is that it is God's dwelling place (Psalms 33:13; John 14:2); It is where Christ is today (Acts 1:11); it is where Christians go when they die (Philippians 1:21-23); It is a city designed and built by God (Hebrews 11:16); an that it is a better country (Hebrews 11:16) or paradise (Luke 23:43).

We get his image of clouds and heaven being in the sky from the confusion of Greek which uses the same word for the skies (the heavens) and for heaven (God's dwelling place). However they did not necessarily believe that heaven was in the sky. For them heaven was wherever God dwelt and so the Temple's Holy of Holies was where heaven and earth met.

Paul seems to support that heaven is where we go when we die in Philippians 1:21-23 but the idea that we will spend eternity in this heavenly realm after we die is more of a Greek idea. They viewed everything that is physical as evil and therefore paradise is being able to shed this physical body and live a soul forever in paradise (or heaven). This is where we get our idea of spending all eternity in heaven as our ultimate hope but the reality is that this is not the ultimate hope. We see the ultimate hope in Revelation 21:1-5:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone, and I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a lout shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new!" And then he said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true."
Technically we will live in heaven forever but we are not going to heaven forever but heaven is coming to us! Heaven is going to be on earth! God is not going to destroy the world and take us away but he is going to set up his dwelling place with us. John Eldredge paints this picture beautifully in this video here.

This view radically changes our theology. If God is going to come and take us away and destroy the wicked earth than what point is there in caring for our planet or helping the poor if everything is going to be destroyed in the end anyways? But if God is going to renew the earth and bring heaven to earth than the things that we do on this earth will have lasting significance. It means that we can start living this "heaven on earth" in part now. We can get a taste of this heaven now by caring for our planet and caring for the poor. Those things we do towards that end will last forever when God restores our world!

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