Heaven

What does the Bible have to say about Heaven? The Bible has very little to say about a place that people go when we die. I find this to be rather ironic because a primary focus of modern Christianity is getting into Heaven and avoiding Hell after we die.

The ancient Jews had very little concept of Heaven, so when Jesus is asked, “How do I inherit eternal life?” this is not a question about getting into a Heaven that is somewhere else. When Jesus speaks of “the Kingdom of Heaven,” He is not talking about a realm where God lives with all the saints and angels. (There is a technical reason that the book of Matthew uses the term “Kingdom of Heaven” while the other gospels say “Kingdom of God.” Do a little bit of searching if you want to know more about this.) When Jesus speaks of Heaven, the Kingdom of God, eternal life, or everlasting life, He is almost always talking about being under the rule of God in a way that God brings life, newness, and goodness to everything. Jesus’ first century audience would have related His words to the promises of the prophets for a day when God will bring peace and restoration to all things.

For me, and many others, the promise of going to Heaven (or Hell) when I die, is not good incentive to follow Jesus. Death is a long ways away. Most young teens and young adults feel very optimistic and confident about life. We don’t worry too much about death, or what comes after death.

So what if our conversations about Heaven should be directed to the “here and now” rather than “somewhere, someday?” I can relate to and be excited about here and now. Maybe the reason to follow Jesus is so that I can bring more Heaven to Earth, not just so I can help people escape earth and go to heaven when they die.

I do believe that there is a place people go when they die, but I do not believe that the afterlife should be a primary focus of Christianity. The Christian life is joy, restoration, and abundant life . . . not just someday, but right here, right now.

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