The Bible’s promise of heaven for everyone (Everyone Is Going to Heaven) pushes back the boundaries of human existence. One way or another, we ‘re going to live forever! This promise gives us a context for understanding all human experiences, including less dramatic ones like washing clothes, finding a job, and raking the yard.
The promise of heaven even helps explain who you are, where you came from, and where you’re going. I can go ahead and tell you that you came from God, and you’re going back to God. I can also tell you that you are very important to God, and to the rest of us, too. Just think more about heaven and you’ll see why I say these things.
How Heaven Redefines Life
Going to heaven can’t be just a matter of God making us happy and removing us from earthly troubles. If that’s all He had in mind, He could have simply put us in heaven to start with and avoided all the rigamarole down here. We already knew life must be more than putting food on the table and retiring to fish. Now we find out that it is even more than making the cut for heaven. The promise of heaven invites us to rethink the meaning of life itself.
Heaven liberates our minds from restricted views of life that rob it of meaning. Viewing your life in the larger context of heaven and the longer time span of eternity, reveals the significance that it holds both for God and you. If the space-time continuum in your mind includes only the world you can observe and only the lifetime you can count, then life can become frightening and depressing. Humans are the highest form of life and they can’t all get along; the world can be a scary place. But when your space-time continuum is stretched out to its proper limits, God is the highest form of life and His lack of any disagreement within Himself makes this earthly environment begin to look a lot more negotiable. Even when things are at their worst, you always can grit your teeth until heaven – time will be on your side!
Compare the brief life span you have on earth with the time you are going to be in heaven. The time you spend down here is infinitely shorter. I know it doesn’t always seem that way. But when you add up all your days – the short ones and the long ones – and compare them to heaven’s, they amount to little more than nothing. Plus, the infinitely greater time we’ll spend in heaven implies that it’s a fuller and greater expression of the life we have here.
This Life Is Part of a Greater Whole
Comparing life on earth to life in heaven is like comparing life in the mother’s womb to life outside it. Inside the womb there is life and hope. There is sustenance and there is growth. But everything in it is nothing but preparation for greater living beyond. By comparison to that greater life, the womb is dark and confining. Leaving it is a shock to the baby’s system – an unwanted disturbance of the status quo. But leaving is the natural course of things. It’s what the whole gestation period was building toward, and…life beyond is better!
Likewise, our earthly life is like the seed and our heavenly life is like the tree that grows from that seed. The seed is buried and smothered. It lives, it grows. But everything is preparation. It’s a wondrous thing that a seed breaks apart and sends forth roots. But what’s far more beautiful is its shoot which breaks the ground and heads for the sky. The apple seed dies so that an apple tree might live. The tree is the goal of the seed. Similarly, heavenly life is the flowering of the earthly one – a fulfillment of destiny.
Consider, too, that heaven is God’s home. He is spirit, that is, unseen. We are spirit, too, though we’re clothed in an earthly body right now. At death we shed that body for a heavenly one and ascend to live as angels do. Therefore, you are something of an embryonic angel. Jesus’ resurrection appearances to His disciples indicate that our heavenly features will bear at least some resemblance to our earthly ones. But the reproductive process, which pervades every aspect of earthly life, is unnecessary and nonexistent in heaven. People don’t die there! Therefore, heaven will be a mixture of change from, and continuity with, the life we know here.
Earth is like summer camp: there are moments that are glorious, but there’s no place like home. So, what purpose are we to accomplish before we leave? If this life is only a piece of a much greater whole, what are we to do with it? How do we make this stage of life meaningful to the next? How do we make sense of the rigamarole? To find the answer to these questions we turn our focus away from where we’re going to where we’ve come from. We’re going to rethink the story of creation in the light of heaven.
Why Were We Put Here?
Consider the story of Adam and Eve, our mega-great-grandparents. God creates them and gives them dominion over the whole earth. They are not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Other than that, the earth is theirs. But before you finish the third chapter of Genesis, the first couple has already yielded to a serpent’s temptation and chomped down on the forbidden fruit. This disobedience opens a Pandora’s box of ills that the earth still endures. The human race was hardly out of the starting gate before this crippling incident occurred. What gives?
Taken by itself, this story implies failure. It speaks of creatures who blew a good thing, of parents whose disobedience made their children into victims. It speaks of a Creator whose plans were spoiled, of an artist whose painting is marred shortly after the unveiling. For this reason, traditional theology expects God to sooner or later throw away the physical creation and start over with a new one. But in the context of the promise of heaven, we expect a different outcome because we see the problem in a different light. Our attention is drawn to the fact that Adam and Eve were tempted by another. To tempt is itself a sin. That means the original sin couldn’t have been committed by Adam and Eve. Evil originated not on earth, but in heaven. Sin was started not by humans, but by spiritual beings – angels who “fell.”
If evil already existed in the spiritual realm before this creation, then what chance was there that God was caught off guard by this encroachment of evil? And if He wasn’t taken by surprise, why would He put our human family in such a vulnerable position? Granted, the commandment to Adam and Eve was simple enough to follow. If you give two folks the whole candy store except for the chocolate-covered cherries, you have not been unreasonable with them. Even so, wasn’t God risking far too much by putting this young creation to the test? If there was already evil in the universe, why not seal off the fledgling human family so that the infection would not spread to them?
Wrestling with these questions causes us to wonder if maybe the very purpose of this creation is to do something about the evil that preexisted it. Hmmm…what if the conquest of evil is the very reason you and I exist?
This Creation: God’s Response to Evil
The creation we are a part of is God’s plan for conquering evil. His statement in Genesis that it was “good” and even “very good” was spoken in the presence of evil forces that watched Him make it. It’s not as though everything was fine until humankind sinned, for that would make our afterlife an afterthought on His part. Rather, we and all of creation were fashioned as a strategic weapons system meant to overcome evil that dwelt in the unseen realm. The origin of evil preceded and gave rise to the origin of us.
Remember the sequence of events: First, there was evil. After that, the creation. And shortly after that, the infection of the creation by evil. God would never have put us in harm’s way like this unless His purpose was to deal with the source of harm. God allowed His young creation to be infected by evil for the same reason we allow our children to be infected with the smallpox virus: vaccination. We’re not trying to give the little guys smallpox to destroy them, but to give them the opportunity to overcome it and thus become immune to it. Yes, the time taken for the earth to overcome the virus of evil is proving a lot longer than the time a child takes to recover from a vaccination. But evil is an eternal issue and a time-consuming approach is thus required.
Creation was not a lamb for the slaughter, but God’s Trojan horse that would bring down the heavenly forces of evil. Earth would be God’s means of washing the heavens. You and I are part of that plan to overcome evil with good. This purpose is one of the things that so ennobles our existence. You and I are God’s solution to a problem. We are not a part of the problem; we are part of the solution. We are not the victims in distress; we are the heroines and heroes sent to the rescue.
We advance the cause of goodness in everything our humanity requires of us, including activities which would otherwise seem mundane – such as, washing clothes, finding a job, and raking the yard. Washing clothes to help out someone else in the family is goodness. Finding a job that won’t shortchange family life is goodness. Raking the yard in obedience to your parents when you’d rather be down the street with your friends is goodness. All this goodness adds up, and God uses it in His war against evil.
But if we are to be heroically vanquishing evil with our goodness, why do we so often feel like evil’s victims instead? Why do we sometimes feel that life is a losing battle? Because of the forces we are fighting; it’s an element of their strategy. In part, we are victims. We are sent into the world in a helpless state. Even if we figure out that there’s a spiritual war going on, it’s not always easy knowing which side is which. This is one reason why God feels so much compassion for us. And why He’d like for us to know more about how the war between good and evil is waged. The starting point for this understanding – as well as its consummation and everything in between – is the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In Him you will find everything you need pertaining to life and godliness – that is, all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God.