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(I have attached an accompanying song with this blog)
It’s one of the central purposes of the Christian faith. It’s the end-game of the whole enterprise, so to speak. One day, after we die, we will make it to those beautiful “pearly gates.” One day, we will make it to heaven.
Without question, going to heaven is a worthy goal to have. Or, it would be a worthy goal . . . if it were actually what we should be hoping for. But it’s not.
Dying and “going to heaven” is not what the Bible depicts as the final horizon for believers.
More than that, it’s not even the place we will go between death and the resurrection. It’s not even a “temporary stop,” so to speak. My entire case for that view is laid out very clearly in The Death Myth.
So, if heaven is not the goal, what exactly is? I mean, didn’t Jesus come (in part) to provide a way that we could live with him for the rest of eternity? Yes. Unequivocally, YES.
But he had in mind something different than many of us do. While a lot of churches are preaching about living in heaven as some type of disembodied spirit, the Scriptures have always told another story.
The real goal is not heaven, but a remade creation. We should be hoping for what will really be awaiting us: a new heaven and a new earth. While both God and the angels live in a realm of existence that we call “heaven,” it is not for us. Heaven is for them, and them alone. However, we are heading to the same place that the angels are: to the same place that God Himself is heading towards. We look for a world where,
“There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).
There is even more to this. Despite the obsession with living as immaterial souls or spirits when we die—which is an idea that comes much more from ancient Greek philosophy than from biblical testimony, I have to add—the Bible is crystal clear that the afterlife is a tangible thing.
We will have bodies. We will not be immaterial “spirits.”
The apostle Paul—who authored nearly half of the books within the New Testament—was absolutely emphatic about this, when he dealt with a group of Christians (the Corinthians) who believed that the goal was to get rid of these useless bodies and live as spirits. To that notion, he offered the following advice:
“Earthly people are like the earthly man (Adam) , and heavenly people are like the heavenly man (Jesus). Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.
What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies” (1 Cor. 15:48-53, NLT and my emphasis)
We are never getting rid of bodily existence. Instead, God will replace our fallen bodies with incorruptible ones.
And we will go on to live in heaven at that point, right? Nope. Once again, we will not. The book of Revelation explains the type of place we will inhabit—the new heavens and new earth.
“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, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them . . . He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new’!” (Rev. 21:1-3, 5 NIV)
A new creation: a new heaven, and a new earth. There, we will live with God and His angels, apart from sin, death and suffering. And we will do it with, guess what, new bodies. My hunch is, so will the angels and even Jesus himself (because they already do).
I don’t want to die and go to heaven—I would rather have what God has promised us.
Thank you for reading! If you found this blog interesting, please see all the other posts on this site. You can purchase The Death Myth by clicking here.