“If you die today will you go to heaven?”
My Sunday School teacher would often ask me this question to make me repent. As a child I would have nightmares of missing the rapture.
Now when I think of it I ask myself, ‘if Christianity is indeed about heaven and hell, then how is it different from any other religion?‘
Before I begin, let me assure that I believe in the existence of both heaven and hell. Heaven is the presence of God and hell is the eternal separation from God. And on the last day God will save us (who believe in Christ) from the presence of sin by bringing us into His eternal glory.
But the question remains, is Christianity all about heaven, hell or the judgement day? If it is, then isn’t our whole belief system driven by fear? Is that what Christ preached? Is the gospel’s real focus on life after death?
Somehow the gospel and the teachings of Christ is ultimately equated with us going to ‘heaven’ i.e. life after death.
Let us take some references for example:
1. Matthew 7:14, “… narrow the road that leads to life.”
General interpretation is “narrow is the road that leads to heaven”.
2. John 3:16, “… whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.”
General interpretation is “whoever believes in Him will go to heaven.”
3. John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
General interpretation is “Jesus is the way to heaven.”
I’m not saying that our general understanding is entirely wrong but we have definitely watered down the profoundness of what it really means.
What did Christ preach?
He spoke about the kingdom of God and eternal life. But did he ever equate them with ‘heaven’ a place after death?
John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Eternal life as defined by Jesus is knowing him and the Father. The important question is not ‘will you go to heaven?’ but instead should be ‘do you know Jesus?’. It is true that we will completely know Him when we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). But while living on this earth we have been given this opportunity to know Him as He lives in us.
Luke 17:21, “… the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
You and me are the kingdom of God because God reigns in us (1 Corinthians 3:16). God establishes His kingdom on earth through us. He has partnered with us on this mission. What a great purpose all of us have! Yes we will go to heaven after death but progressively we are called to establish His kingdom on earth. Yes, the creation is decaying but is also in eager expectation of the children of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19-20).
What is Heaven?
If the “presence of God” is what heaven is, then isn’t it more appropriate to say that heaven is in us?
If we truly carry heaven and are ambassadors of the heavenly kingdom, then why is it that we only look forward to the future enjoyment of the benefits that heaven has to offer?
Are we really experiencing heaven on earth or are we still waiting for an after death experience?
The greatest miracle is that we are the chosen vessels of His presence (1 Corinthians 3:18). Christ in us, indeed the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Friends, it’s not about making it to heaven, or not making it to heaven. Nor is it about facing judgment. It is ONLY about knowing and believing Jesus Christ, the One who gave us eternal life. And because He makes His dwelling in us, God, through us establishes His Kingdom on the earth. The true purpose of Christian living is to preach and establish the Kingdom of God. Therein is the Gospel, i.e., GOOD NEWS, too good to be true.
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