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“Stop Obsessing about Heaven”

Mike Wittmer’s post, “4 Reasons to Stop Obsessing over Heaven,” is incredibly good. I’ve come to the conclusion that so many prophetic passages which people assume to be describing a future millennium are actually describing the new earth. Dr. Wittmer’s conclusion is thought-provoking:

The Christian faith is earthy, physical, and, in the best sense of the word, materialistic. Our story begins in a sensual garden of delight and then tells how a nation was delivered from physical bondage into a land overflowing with milk and honey. It turns on an embodied God who physically died and rose again, whose sacrifice is remembered in the physical waters of baptism and the bread and the cup. The story consummates on a new earth where, in the presence of God, we will celebrate the marriage supper of the Lamb, bite into fruit from the Tree of Life, and gulp handfuls from the River of Life. From beginning to end, the material world matters. The gospel of redemption may be more than creation, but it is not less. Redemption can’t get started without it.

Malarkey’s book may be full of what his name suggests, but the title got something right. Christians will go to heaven when we die, and we all will come back. We don’t believe in the Platonic dream of an eternal, disembodied heaven. We believe in the resurrection!

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These are words often repeated after death has ended the physical suffering and mental anguish of someone who has endured much for an all-too-long period of time. Loved ones, having witnessed horrific suffering, feel relief that the ordeal is finally over for their parent or sibling or friend or whomever. “Well, at least she’s in a better place.”

That may be true, and then again, it may not be. As one who has presided over many funerals and graveside services, I neither preach someone into heaven nor into hell. I believe in the reality of both, but the eternal Judge determines that deceased person’s fate.

We must not be glib about eternity. Our loved one may be in a better place, but he is in the presence of God only because he is God’s child, having turned from his sin and believed on the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. The person in that better place than this fallen world is there only because Christ bore his sin upon the cross, taking the wrath of the thrice-holy God for the repentant one’s sin and pronouncing the believer righteous.

For our sake he [God the Father] made him [God the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV).

Otherwise, that loved one will languish in hell for eternity, separated from God and from all hope. This reality, though pooh-poohed by atheists and “Christian” liberals alike, will not fade away like a bad dream simply because one believes it unthinkable that a loving God, if indeed there is a God, would cast anyone into hell. Jesus himself spoke without ambiguity.

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, ESV).

A better place? I sincerely hope so, but it isn’t so just because we wish it. May our loved ones know the only One who will receive them unto that better place, in his presence, for eternity.

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