Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Mis-Placed Hope Of Heaven

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!”
(Job 19:25-27)

I do not especially have the hope of heaven in my heart, if by the hope of heaven we mean hope that when I die I will go to heaven.  As I read the overwhelming testimony of the Old Testament concerning the nature of the grave, and the New Testament writings concerning the resurrection of the dead in Christ – see 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, as well as Revelation – my best guess as to what will happen when I die is that I will be dead.  Really dead.  That while I live – in this life – I may visit heaven in dreams and visions; but that only those who die as martyrs (which I might, in which circumstance I have the hope of heaven in my heart) will reign with Christ in heaven, as heaven is for now.  That when I die I will be dead, and will remain dead until the Day when Jesus returns – a visible, bodily return – to this earth in order to make it new, to give it its own imperishable body, and to bring a made-new heaven and a made-new earth together.  And on that Day, Jesus will also give me an imperishable body: resurrection life.

But I’m not sure where it says, as a blanket-statement, “If you believe that Jesus is your Lord and Saviour you will go to heaven when you die.”

Job’s is chronologically one of the oldest stories recorded in the Bible.  And ever so early on, his insight is one of the most profound statements in the whole of that great story of God and humanity.  His hope is my hope.  Not a primitive fore-runner to a hope of heaven, but a hope far greater and more glorious.

Let’s stop holding out a non-biblical hope of instant gratification, a hope of heaven, and instead hold out the hope of seeing our Redeemer – Jesus – with our own eyes on the earth.

If, on the other hand, by the hope of heaven we mean hope of God’s perfect life-affirming reign breaking-in, however imperfectly, to our present experience of the world, then I do have the hope of heaven in my heart...

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