Heaven’s Important, But It’s Not the End of the World
20 April 2014
As a pastor, I’ve talked to many people who, when faced with the loss of a loved one, try to find consolation in the thought of their dearly departed’s soul at rest among the clouds in heaven. The image often includes a harp, a halo, some wings, and a choir’s steady chorus of Kumbaya. I’ve never found much comfort in this image, and doubt that anyone who has actually endured a choir practice would find much excitement in an eternity of it.
Whether we admit our need or not, we know that something in us just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. We can’t simply keep spouting the hollow platitude that death is a natural part of living. The reason death feels wrong is that, according to the Bible, it is. Death is the enemy. But Easter makes an amazing claim. Yes, death is the enemy, but in Christ it is a defeated enemy. As astounding as it seems to say, as outlandish as it is to hear, a bodily resurrection awaits.
And this means that ultimately heaven is not our home. Instead, the Bible points Christians beyond it to a recreated, healed heavens and earth, the culmination of our regular prayer for God’s will to be done ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ At the final consummation of God’s Kingdom, these two places—heaven and earth—will be one and the same. God’s dwelling place will be with men (Revelation 21:2-3). A groaning creation, we’re told, awaits this day of liberation (Romans 8:19-21). Creation doesn’t long to be done away with, vaporized, replaced. It longs to be redeemed. So do we. We long for what Tolkien called ‘everything sad coming untrue’ and Lewis called ‘heaven working backward.’ The world doesn’t work the way it should. We don’t work the way we should. But one day, by God’s grace, we will.
And so the hope of Easter is the hope of living physically before the face of God, sustained by him for all eternity. ...