Yeshua Is Coming Back to Stay!
A popular diagram picturing the Christian future presents an arrow pointing downwards as Yeshua descends to the earth at his return. Then, amazingly, the Messiah is made to do a complete U-turn and, without ever touching the earth, he is off in the direction of the sky to "heaven." Such a picture is fundamentally nonbiblical and actual denies the Second Coming by disallowing the presence of Yeshua the Messiah on this renewed earth. (Satan would be much in favor of this idea because his present domination of the world will cease dramatically when Yeshua comes back.) The renewed earth is to be the Messiah's home, as well as that of YEHOVAH God the Father Himself, who will be the King of the future Kingdom (see Jer. 3.17; 23:4, 5).
Rance Darity adds this to our theme:
Philippians 3:19-21 states: "Our citizenship is in heaven." What does this mean? We have looked at verses in the past that have been part of the eschatology (view of the Christian future) of popular piety. The implicit assumption underlying much popular Christian literature is that the purpose of the Bible is to tell people "how to get to heaven when we die." But is this in fact accurate?
We propose that the Gospel is not about a blissful post mortem destiny for the individual. It is about YEHOVAH's victorious Kingdom that is coming to us in the persons of YEHOVAH and His Son. The Kingdom of YEHOVAH God is not about what happens "ten minutes after we die." It is about YEHOVAH's promises to recreate, restore, and redeem His creation. Romans 8 teaches emphatically that the whole creation will be delivered (including our bodies) from its present decay and bondage. The world is to be liberated politically, socially and spiritually by the coming Kingdom and the glory of the Sons of YEHOVAH God. I Corinthians 15 teaches that the body, the whole man, not just the soul, is going to be resurrected to participate in YEHOVAH's Kingdom. The emphasis of Scripture is always on its promise of a new heaven and a new earth. In fact, the angst we are taught to feel and the dread that comes at the news of the "unsaved" friend who has "entered eternity" is absent from both the Old Testament and the New.
Popular unbiblical theology breeds a Neo-Platonic "Soul-winners" approach to evangelism that distorts Scriptural perspectives. How we understand mission and evangelism is crucial to the overall understanding of the church's call to ministry. Preaching the gospel is precisely the announcement of the present Lordship of the resurrected Messiah and the news that he will demonstrate his kingship in a way he has not displayed before.
1 have watched the agony of some Christian folk as they anguished over the idea that their dear departed one was now being tortured in a subterranean hell fire. Some are attempting to pray their relatives out of a fiery purgatory. Others are frantically visiting dying patients to rescue their "souls" at the eleventh hour. Someone tell me: can this awful dread be derived from the Bible? Urgency? Yes. Judgment ahead? Yes. There is coming certainly "a day in which he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). Therefore, let "the kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him" (Ps. 2:10-12).
But what of the New Testament themes of judgment, hell, salvation, and condemnation? Aren't these about saving souls? No. In fact, they are not. It is important to read the Bible in its own historical and literary and political context. By decoupling the Bible from the long history of post-Augustinian interpretation and returning to the first-century world of Judaism, we gain a new and meaningful outlook. I leave you with this quotation from New Testament scholar N.T. Wright on Philippians 3:19-21, part of his 1993 Drew lecture at Spurgeon College.
"Many have thought that if our citizenship is in heaven that means that heaven is our real home, the place to which we will eventually go. But that is not how the language of citizenship functions. The point of being a citizen of a mother city is not that when life gets really tough, or when you retire, you can go back home to the mother city. The people to whom Paul was writing in Philippi were Roman citizens, but they had no intention of going back to Rome. They were the means through which Roman civilization was being brought to the world of Northern Greece. If and when the going got tough there, the emperor would come from Rome to deliver them from their enemies in Philippi, and establish them as a true Roman presence right there. So Paul says, `from heaven we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body.' This is, I suggest, much more integrated with a theology of a coming new heaven and new earth than with a theology of going from the present space-time world to a non-spatio-temporal one. It ties in with other passages such as Galatians 4:21-31, which speaks of the Jerusalem `which is above.' The purpose is not to escape to that Jerusalem, any more than the muddled Galatians thought they had to go and live in terrestrial Jerusalem in order to be proper Christians. No: they were under the dangerous influence of the [then] terrestrial Jerusalem, and Paul is saying, in effect, `you must be under the influence of, and act as the agents of, the heavenly Jerusalem.' Philippians 3 and Galatians 4 both speak of the dimension of the present reality which is to be informed by the mother city, not of a sense of escaping from the present reality to the mother city."
Editor: The mother city, now prepared in heaven, is going to appear on the future earth with YEHOVAH God and Yeshua the Messiah at their return. This globe is the scene of the Christian's destiny. Christians are going to assist Yeshua as he assists his Father in the restoration of sound government to the earth. Indeed YEHOVAH God "has appointed a day when he is going to administer the world through a man whom He has appointed" for this marvelous task (Acts 17:31; Paul here quotes Ps. 96:13 expressing his joy at the prospect of the Kingdom to come). And that man is Yeshua the Messiah who now sits at the right hand of the Father, pending his return to our planet, where he will be installed as the first successful ruler under YEHOVAH God the Father. Yeshua is coming back, the reverse of his departure from the earth (Acts 1:11). All systems of theology which leave him suspended above the earth, or hurrying away beyond the clouds have missed the mind of Messiah on this important topic. False ideas are to the health of the Christian as junk food is to the body.