Going to Heaven?

Esa Hytti
January 10th, 2019

(This shares similarity to my previous post entitled Life After Death, but I thought I would briefly revisit the subject matter.)

I am not entirely certain how or when exactly the concept of “going to Heaven” entered into Christianity. However, the following idea has become the standard line of thought for many Christians in the Western world: Believe in Jesus so that when you die your soul, or spirit, can go to Heaven. The idea, however, of the afterlife being a spiritual existence in some ethereal place beyond time and space has entirely pagan roots.

This idea carries with it the underlying (Platonic) assumption that physicality is a temporary and lower form of existence. This assumption completely ignores the fact that when God finished His creation in all its physicality, He made the statement that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31, NIV). It also ignores the clear fact that when God resurrected Jesus Christ, this was a physical resurrection, which has always been the Jewish understanding of resurrection. Paul emphasizes a bodily resurrection in his letter to the Corinthians on several occasions. He makes statements such as “Our earthly bodies… will be raised to live forever” (1 Corinthians 15:42, NIV), and “Our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies” (1 Corinthians 15:53, NIV).

If we then exist as physical beings after we are raised, then the afterlife must also be physical and exist within time and space. This is indeed what we see within the biblical vision of the future. Paul sums up God’s future plan in Ephesians when he states that God intends to “bring unity to all things in Heaven and on Earth” (Ephesians 1:10, NIV). Peter talks about how it will eventually be time “for God to restore everything” (Acts 3:21, NIV). Revelation ends by talking about the new Heaven AND the new Earth. All of these passages point toward an ultimate restoration of all things spiritual and physical. What Christians ought to be anticipating is an afterlife involving a resurrected body in a restored Earth, rather than a disembodied spirit in a celestial location.

An emphasis on a restored creation is a much needed concept in a world where believers seek spiritual escapism. Why bother with seeking for God’s will to be “done on Earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10, NIV) if the Earth will not ultimately have significance? Why strive towards restoring creation when you just get to “abandon ship”? The biblical concept of earthly restoration is a necessity in a world where many Christians envision the Earth “going to Hell in a hand-basket”.

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