During this crisis, I am sure many have thought about death, the afterlife, and all that it entails. Many Christians look forward to heaven, its spenders, and lack of coronavirus, corrupt governments, and greedy neighbors. But is heaven really our final destination?
I was watching an episode of Star Trek Voyager called, Emanations. In this episode, the lost crew of the starship Voyager encounter a race called the Vhnori who believe when they die their bodies are transported to the afterlife – a new dimension in which they evolve into beings of greater consciousness and understanding of their universe. The crew of the Voyager discovered their bodies are really transported through a space anomaly that dumps them on asteroids.
The Vhnori believe in the afterlife as a better place than their current existence. Many look forward to death, and even those suffering disease or injury seek an early death to elevate their suffering and the suffering of their loved ones.
It reminded me of a question I came across in Christian literature: Why does God not take us straight to heaven when we get saved? Why wait until we die? After all, isn’t this the point of salvation, the end goal of the Christian?
I too once believed our goal was heaven. I have even taught this in the past, even to my children. I remember my son asking me, “If we read all of the Bible, then can we go to heaven?” We were taught heaven is the final goal, the existence beyond death that is better than this life now; a better country, paradise. Why wouldn’t my son want to go to such a wonderful place?
It was Billy Graham who said, “My home is in heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”
I am sorry Billy Graham, but heaven is not our destination. It is not the goal. What is the goal is a new age that is to come right here on this earth. Not the same earth, but transformed earth. One in which God has made all things new set all wrongs right, and has made the mortal immortal. The Bible calls this existence the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21:1). We could use the shorthand “heaven” to describe this existence. But, it comes with centuries worth of baggage: fantasies of winged people sitting on clouds strumming harps.
Our citizenship is in heaven. But, in the end, heaven and earth combine to form the new heavens and new earth where God will dwell with us for all eternity. Until then, we are agents working with God in the transformation of this world. First, our transformation in salivation. Second, our work in this world to bring heaven to earth by the good that we do to our neighbors and the world.
Father, we pray, let your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.