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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Debunking Heavenly Mythology IV: Christians Will Spend Eternity In Heaven

Does it really matter where we’re going to spend eternity, frankly?

I mean Christians, of course. It matters a very great deal indeed to the lost where they end up, whether they recognize it now or not. Time will tell, but if the teaching of the Bible turns out to be the truth, the fact that a person doesn’t see fit to believe in or respond to that truth does not mean he or she can escape the eternal consequences of his choice, or of hers. And those who fail to value the Lord Jesus Christ at his true worth — who fail to see him as his Father sees him — will spend eternity without him.

If that doesn’t seem like a big deal now, bear in mind that there is no cause/effect relationship between what is coming to us after death and your opinion or mine about it. That is the nature of objective reality. The idea of “true for you” or “true for me” is a vapid modern platitude to which no rational person genuinely subscribes, though it makes for a great means of deflecting enthusiastic truth purveyors one doesn’t really feel like dealing with.

Trust me, spending eternity without the Lord Jesus Christ will definitely be a big deal when there no longer exists the opportunity to choose it or reject it.

But to Christians, to those who believe, Paul says, “[T]he Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

We will be “with the Lord”. That is our destiny as believers, and the goal, the true hope of every believing heart. So for Christians, does it really matter where we spend eternity as long as our Lord is there?

Yes and no.

No, in one sense it doesn’t matter where we are as long as we are with him. Of course that is the most important thing.

On the other hand, what Scripture says about the specifics of our eternal destination and destiny may tell us more about God and our relationship with him than we presently think. And Scripture does not teach that believers will spend eternity in heaven.

Here’s what the word of God actually says:
“I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’ ” (Revelation 21:2-3)
This is the end of the word of God, the climax of the whole thing, the final residence of the only portion of humankind that ultimately matters in the plans and purposes of God (and consequently the only portion of humankind that ultimately matters at all).

So who really cares if we call where we will spend eternity “new Jerusalem” or think of it as “heaven”? It’s a distinction without a difference, isn’t it?

Sure, except for this: New Jerusalem comes down OUT OF heaven from God.

That’s a little bit like — if I may say this reverently — a loving dog owner moving into the kennel to live with his best friend, or a farmer moving into the barn to live with his animals — except, of course, that my analogy is hopelessly, pathetically inadequate to describe the magnitude of the accommodation involved and the difference in kind between a dog owner or a farmer and the self-existent, eternal God.

A really nice kennel, to be sure. A really nice barn, if you like. But let’s not miss the significance of this: “God himself shall dwell among them.” Among us. Not us dwelling with him, but him dwelling with us.

That absolutely boggles my mind.

It really shouldn’t. “Immanuel” means “God with us”; not “us with God”. This has always been the plan. It is exactly the reverse of every humanity-centred religious doctrine in the history of theological thought. Religion tells you what you need to do to get to God and ends in monumental failure, when the truth is God both came to us and is coming to us. When something needs to be done for us, only the Lord himself can do it.

Heaven or new Jerusalem? It think it’s a distinction with a very big difference indeed.

But there are plenty more misconceptions about heaven ...

Next: More on that. Possibly

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