Recently, a member of my church stopped me after Sunday service and talked to me about our recent commentary regarding the book and movie, “Heaven is For Real.”
His point, which I want to share with you today, is that while, as Eric Metaxas told us, heaven is definitely something to look forward to, it’s by no means the only thing to look forward to.
The scripture clearly describes a place of refreshment—Jesus called it “paradise”—where the faithful departed are in His presence. As the Apostle Paul wrote, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, something I know to be true of my grandfather who recently passed.
But the end, in the sense of the final fulfillment of history, is not an existence away from the earth; it’s a renewed heaven and a renewed earth. It’s where all things are made new again, as Jesus said in the book of Revelation.
N.T. Wright, the English New Testament scholar and historian, is especially helpful in understanding this vital point. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope,” and “The New Testament and the People of God” series, serve as much-needed correctives to the long-standing Christian tendency to ground Christian hope in a matter of being “saved” from the material creation.
As Wright tells us, from the start, Christianity, like its parent faith, Judaism, embraced what he and others called “creational monotheism.” They affirmed the goodness of creation and of God’s continual activity within creation. Thus, for them, “salvation” was not a matter of being delivered from the material world to a state of disembodied bliss, but instead, a restoration of God’s intended order for the creation.
The proof that God had not “given up” on His purposes for what he called “good” was, of course, the resurrection of His Son. As Eric Metaxas recently said on BreakPoint, “the resurrection of Jesus was seen by Christians as about a great deal more than what happens to us just after we die. It was, in a sense, a second creation. In raising Jesus from the dead, God had demonstrated that he intended to set the world aright and do for the entirety of creation what he had for his son.”
And this means, of course, when Christ returns, those who died in Christ will be resurrected from the dead as well. Just as Jesus’ earthly body was raised and transformed, so will ours be. As we read in 1 John 3:2, “We shall be like him.” Or as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15, we shall “bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
And what will that body be like? In that same chapter, Paul tells us it will be “imperishable,” raised in “glory” and in “power.” And yet we also know it’s a type of body that can eat fish, as Jesus did after his resurrection in Luke 24, or that can suddenly appear or disappear as in a room filled with disciples. A body that’s recognizable, that has tangible signs (like Jesus’ wounds), as being our body.
The implications of the resurrection and this new creation for Christian life and mission are profound. As Wright tells us, “what you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it . . .” That’s why Paul admonished the Corinthians about their sexual practices. Our bodies are not something we will discard someday.
Instead of immorality, our bodies are to be used in the process of “[colonizing] earth with the life of heaven.” God is in the business of restoring all things, and he has called us to be his agents in the process of restoration. And “all things” means just that. Hebrews 2, quoting Psalm 8, speaks of “putting everything in subjection under [Jesus’] feet.”
Or as Abraham Kuyper put it, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” so our job, as Chuck Colson often said, is to proclaim, by word and deed, that every square inch is “His!”
Heaven is for real. So is the new creation. And both are assured by the indestructible life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: May 5, 2014