The concept and ideas around heaven is one of things that has been hijacked and subverted from its original understanding. I once heard N.T Wright eloquently say it like this: “heaven is great but its not the end of the world.”
Unfortunately most Christians believe that heaven is simply a destination and that death then heaven is what eternal life means. Of course there is something eternal to this thing we call life but the more profound understanding comes when we realize that an eternal kind of life is meant to be started right now in the here and now while we live on this earth.
When we begin to strive to live today as if all was right in the world as God originally intended, it is as if our veil is lifted and we see this world differently. This theme fits nicely into the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven reality. If only Christians would be taught more often what it looks like to be used a vessel to usher in heaven into the here and now. This I believe will be the challenge to the church over the next decade and longer.
The church has focused so much on the inner transformation that it has forgotten how to pair that vision with the transformation of the world vision as well. For some strange reason God has chosen to use his people to re-build his Kingdom on earth as it is heaven. Jesus was the first fruits of this vision and now it has been extended to his people through the profound presence of God’s Holy Breath (AKA Spirit).
I love how N.T Wright articulates this in that through Jesus God became King. When you pair that profound way at looking at how the heavenly realm and earthly realm are working toward becoming one with the Christus Victor view of the cross, you end up with a Kingdom citizens vision and mission. Loosely, to not just be recipients of new creation but to be agents of it as well. We are of course to shape ourselves into living an eternal kind of life now but we are too also look for places where the powers have strongholds and through prayer, sacrificial love, non-violence, etc tear down those strongholds and re-claim for the Kingdom what the powers have taken on this earth.
Shockingly in all of those battles Jesus has already won. All we have to do is remind the powers that they lost and send them packing. Because we are image bearers it will be our physical work and words / prayers that will accomplish this feat.
I want to end this post with an image and some reflections on it.
I have to say this image makes an interesting point. Of course it is entirely a generalization and deeply flawed, however, if the Church and God’s people were being loyal to their calling as also being agents of new creation, I believe the words describing Christians would be as follows.
Takes care of the sick
Cares for widows and orphans
Advocates for the poor and those on the underside of power
Brings food to the hungry
Brings water to the thirsty
Provides shelter for homeless
And many more things rooted in sacrificial love. Believe it or not that list above, and more, is actually what I consider “evangelism.”
Grace and Peace.