Archive for the ‘heaven and hell’ Tag

Christian Misconceptions of Heaven Part 1   5 comments

To a certain extent modern Christians own the non-believers jabs on several topics, including heaven and hell. The prosperity gospel favored by many churches today paints a rosy picture of heaven as a place of temporal rewards where even a greedy person might overdose on the opulence.

Most Americans have a cliched notion of heaven as a blissful realm of harp-strumming angels. The vast majority of Americans also believe that after death their souls will ascend to some kind of celestial resting place where they will be “happy”.

There’s really no Biblical basis for that belief. First century Christian believers expected the world to be transformed into God’s Kingdom – a restored Eden where redeemed human beings would be liberated from death, illness, sin and other corruptions. They also believed that Jesus had established the Kingdom of God with His death and resurrection. In other words, they (and we) were (and are) living in the the start-up era of the Kingdom of God. This inauguration of God’s Kingdom was (and is) far from complete and required (still does) the cooperation of God’s people in spreading the gospel and being good examples of Christ-in-the-flesh, because God works through people and He is not willing for anyone to perish … if He can help it.

Which makes me sometimes wonder … is the delay in His return due to the rising tide of atheism? Is He allowing Christians the opportunity to find effective arguments to reach these misguided humans?

The idea of heaven veered off course in the Middle Ages. Writers and artists like Dante and Michelangelo and some theologians began to depict a heaven and hell (and a purgatory in Catholicism) that looked nothing like the New Testament version. Why? Depicting hell as the absence of God didn’t make such an exciting painting as the fiery hell painting? Maybe, but images like hell-fire and angels were actually pagan images from surrounding cultures, made more attractive because people couldn’t read the New Testament for themselves.

Twenty-first century Christians don’t have the same excuse. We have the New Testament literally at our fingertips. We can carry it around on our smart phones. We should read it, because our misconceptions, Christians, are crippling our faith. We have a temporal perspective rather than an eternal one. Many of us live only for the here and now and we don’t study that much about the world to come.

The Bible actually commands us to think about Heaven.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

When we understand what heaven really is, it changes how we live life now.

My cousin Rick (the research doctor) works with patients who have debilitating diseases and very little chance of long-term survival. I’ve met people from third-world countries where they faced difficult and dangerous situations, where sharing the faith can get them imprisoned or killed. Those who face adverse circumstances think about heaven a lot! Their perspective is not on their temporary lives, but on their hope for the future.

On Jesus’ last night on Earth, He told his remaining 11 disciples “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. My Father’s house as many rooms, if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-4)

Heaven is about a restored relationship, which is what Christians have signed onto. The relationship we have now is intermittent because we are bent and twisted by sin. The relationship we will have with God in heaven will be in sharp focus. We will have renewed relationships also with our fellow believers and with ourselves. Heaven will be a place where sin, death and sorrow are absent, adventure, work and discovery await us and God will be present in a way that even we who seek Him have never experienced.

Now doesn’t the sound better than floating around a cloud playing the harp?

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