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Resurrection and Heaven

Resurrection and Heaven

By Chuck Collins
May 17, 2021

Most of my life I've thought that it all ended for Christians in heaven - you die and go to heaven. But the Bible doesn't teach this. This is not a bad hope, but it's so much less than what God really has planned for us. When Christians die, they go to heaven - to paradise. But there, they wait for the resurrection of the body (as we say in our Creed!). All of human history is moving towards this new reality where doctor's offices on earth will be turned into amazing art museums, and where graveyards will become dream parks where families, who were once separated by death, will come with blankets for picnics to hear musicians that make James Galway and Esperanza Spalding sound like amateurs.

The going-to-heaven-thinking casts a dark shadow on the stuff - the physicality of this world - it renders it temporary, worthless, and passing away. It is then a small step to the idea that the mortal human body is the container of an immortal spirit - which is heresy! - Gnosticism! Actually, all the stuff of this world created by God is good - very good - and our ultimate end is the New Heaven and the New Earth - the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth uniting the two in an everlasting union (Rev 21, 22). It's infinitely more than just life after death in general terms (i.e. going to heaven), but God's New Jerusalem on earth of which our being a "new creation" is the first installment (2 Cor 5:17).

We say in our creed that we believe "in the resurrection of the body," not just the spirit. We believe that God is going to do for the whole physical creation what he did for Jesus at Easter. In the meantime, all creation groans for release for its true and ultimate created purposes (Rom 8:19). We see glimpses of this when the prophets of old talk about a time in the future when the mountains will sing and the trees will clap their hands.

What this means should be obvious for those of us who wait Jesus' return: the beauty, grace, justice and love of this world will continue forever in their magnified forms in the New Jerusalem. And any effort on our part towards those ends here and now is participating in eternity. What we do in this world effects eternity! We are saved forever by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, not because of anything we do. But once we are reborn by the merits of Jesus Christ and "know" God for eternity ("This is eternal life..." John 17:3), we are invited into God's redemption story and into those things that will survive death: justice, mercy, beauty, and love.

I once heard Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft describe "life after life after death" - life after heaven - life in the New Jerusalem. He asked us to imagine a baby inside her mother's womb for 9 months who knows nothing more than that limited reality. It never crosses her mind that there is anything else. It's a great life there, Dr. Kreeft suggested. All her needs are attended to, it's warm, and she is fed and taken care of. Then one day, all of a sudden, that baby is thrust into a whole new reality that is so much bigger and more glorious and colorful and filled with new excitements than could ever before be imagined. Dr. Kreeft said, "This is how it will be when we experience the ultimate reality that God has prepared for us." Our minds know (and we see) such limited reality here and now; but then we will know reality as God created it to be in all its beauty and glory.

We will share that glory! This makes this life and the partnerships we have with justice, love, mercy, and beauty so much more meaningful. Today.


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