What the Bible Says About the Christian's Future
"Heaven is never in fact used in the Bible for the destination of the dying...The reading of 1 Corinthians 15 at funerals reinforces the impression that this chapter is about the moment of death: in fact it revolves around two points, `the third day' and `the last day."' So wrote a former learned professor of NT at Cambridge. A massive propaganda, reinforced from early childhood and regularly in funeral sermons, has deprived Christians of a biblical view of the Christian destiny -- which is to rule with Yeshua the Messiah in a renewed earth, when Yeshua returns (Rev. 5:10; Matt. 5:5). Why be in heaven when the Messiah won't be there? He is coming back to the earth (Acts 1:11).
It is a joy to quote the contemporary Bishop of Durham whose books on the New Testament are being read worldwide: Professor N.T. Wright is reflecting on Ephesians 1:11-14 in his commentary on that book:
"But what is this new promised land? What is the promised inheritance? The standard Christian answer for many years and in many traditions has been: `Heaven.' Heaven, it has been thought, is the place to which we are going. Great books like John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress have been written in which the happy ending, rather than an inheritance suddenly received from a relative, is the hero reaching the end of this worldly life and going off to share the life of heaven. But that isn't what Paul says, here or elsewhere.
"The inheritance he has in mind, so it appears from the present passage and the whole chapter, is the whole world, when it's been renewed by a fresh act of God's power and love. Paul has already said in verse 10 that God's plan in the Messiah is to sum up everything in heaven and earth. God, after all, is the creator; He has no interest in leaving earth to rot and making do for all eternity with only one half of the original creation. God intends to flood the whole cosmos, heaven and earth together, with his presence and grace, and when that happens the new world that results, in which Jesus himself will be the central figure, is to be the `inheritance' for which Jesus' people are longing.
"At the moment, therefore, the people who in this life have come to know and trust God in Jesus are to be the signs to the rest of the world that this glorious future is on the way. Equally, the sign that they themselves have received which guarantees them their future is the holy spirit. The spirit is to Christians and the church what the cloud and fire were in the wilderness: the powerful personal presence of the living God, holy and not to be taken lightly, leading and guiding the often muddled and rebellious people to their inheritance.
"But the spirit is more than just a leader and guide. The spirit is actually part of the promised inheritance, because the spirit is God's own presence, which in the new world will be fully and personally with us forever...The spirit marks us out, stamps us with God's official seal, as the people in the present who are guaranteed to inherit God's new world."
Why not stop talking of "heaven" and start speaking rather of the coming Kingdom?
Hope of Israel
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.