Note from CM: For the next several weeks, we will hear some of what Michael Spencer had to say on the subject of eschatology — the last things. Today, another installment from a series in 2008 called “Too Much Heaven?”
• • •
It is possible that the evangelical version of heaven suffers from two major problems:
- It is simply not centered enough in God himself, but emphasizes details that are quite probably metaphorical and meant to be secondary to the central truth that heaven is where God reigns most directly. In other words, heaven is the God-present dimension of all reality, not a place that is located “elsewhere.”
- It does not properly emphasize the relationship of heaven and earth, which is not an “either/or” relationship, but a relationship where one is completed by the other. The Paradise in Genesis 1 and Revelation 22 appears to be the “marriage” of heaven and earth in the presence of God himself. Sin has ruptured that harmony, and Jesus Christ, the one mediator between heaven and earth, will once again restore that union.
If this is true, then there is a heavenly aspect to every human activity and the church bears witness to this in Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and its own worship and proclamation. Christians bear witness to this heavenly dimension by sanctifying everything they do with the person of Christ and the centrality of the God revealed in the Gospel.
Listen to the perspective of one of the most “heavenly” passages in the New Testament, Hebrews 12.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken — that is, things that have been mad — in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
This is not a future event. It is a present event. We are “there” now. We are receiving this permanent “heavenly” kingdom. The permanent triumph of God’s Kingdom is not the removal of God’s people to some distance city beyond space, but the appearance of the New Jerusalem in this world.
This is a much more helpful perspective on heaven, and one that preserves the holiness and sacredness of glorifying God in this world.