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Many Christians seem to think that God’s ultimate plan is to obliterate Earth like a Death Star and transport bodiless souls into an immaterial, heavenly realm.
They think that Bible passages like 2 Peter 3:10 means that God will nuke our universe and start from scratch.
But that’s not what the Bible says.
God’s mission is for the Kingdom of Heaven to fully embrace and renew Earth. As theologian N. T Wright points out:
“Rather than rescuing people from the earth in order to reach heaven, the creator God would finally bring heaven and earth together in a great act of new creation, completing the original creative purpose by healing the entire cosmos of its ancient ills.”
The core ideas of Christianity are 1) the incarnation, which means that spirit and matter should unite, not be apart; and 2) the resurrection, which means that the afterlife will be bodily and physical.
2 Peter 3:10 isn’t about God deleting creation but restoring it to its original, sinless state. As Paul says:
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom 8:20-21)
Then we will enjoy eternal, joyful life with him in the New Universe, with endless worship, adventure, and love.
I was recently interviewed on the Rethinking Hell podcast who talked with me on how I got saved and what my thoughts on life after death look like. As I was born again, I quickly realized that Jesus is the only way to eternal life and that we cannot live without him. Eternal life is a gift, not something we already possess:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)
“Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Jesus… has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Tim 1:10)
Thus, from Day One of my Christian journey I’ve believed that immortality is conditional, not universal: it is something imparted to us through the grace of God in Jesus Christ. This means that those who reject the grace of God will not inherit eternal life but will instead die, and be dead forever:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10:28)
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Mt 25:46)
“He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes as an example of what is coming on the ungodly.” (2 Pet 2:6)
This of course goes against the Platonic idea that the soul is innately immortal and that hell therefore would be some alternative form of eternal life, but in torment rather than in bliss. This idea, known as traditionalism or tormentalism, I’ve never found any strong support for in the Bible.
More on this in the podcast episode, which you can listen to here!
Every Good Friday I usually go outside to pray when the time is approaching 3 PM. That’s when he died. He who transformed my life.
There was a time when I didn’t care at all about Jesus. He was cool, sure, but he didn’t have as many superpowers as Superman and he was far less badass than Samus Aran. The church, in my opinion, was a boring museum. The Bible was hard to read and lacked pictures.
But when I was confronted with my own mortality and understood the message of Easter – that he died for us to live forever – then I could not get enough of him. I opened the gospels and read. I can honestly say that I have never encountered so much wisdom and love from any other person, before or after.
Some want to reduce Jesus to a non-divine moral teacher. As C. S. Lewis has pointed out, it is impossible. A reasonable moral teacher does not claim to be the Son of God, the light of the world, and the door to eternal life – unless it is true.
But I understand why people recognize Jesus as wise and moral. He is! That’s what makes the painful killing of him so incomprehensible and wrong.
God died on that cross. God himself died for our sake so that we would have the eternal life we in no way deserve. This eternal life, in eternal happiness, is greater than anything we can imagine. No other gift is so great and as wonderful as the gift of living in paradise.
All the peace and justice we long for will be realized to its fullest in heaven. That’s no reason to stop promoting such Kingdom-values here. On the contrary, when we truly have the eternal perspective we will become even more zealous to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. As John says:
“Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.” (1 Jn 3:1-2)
What I realized 13 years ago is that when we celebrate on Sunday that Jesus arose from death, it is not just that we are happy for His sake. His resurrection shows where we are going if we follow him. His path is the path of life. A life that never ends. It is because of his painful death on the cross that we can go that way.
Today at 3 PM, think of Jesus and pray to him. He loves you so much that he was subjected to one of the world’s most evil execution methods. He gave everything for you. You are too precious and loved to be lost in the bottomless darkness of death. God, your Creator and Friend, calls you to eternal happiness.
Every weekend I evangelize on the streets together with the Pancake Church, and last week’s Holy Saturday was no exception. I started to speak with two guys about Jesus, and one of them said that he really liked Jesus. He thought that Jesus was a good moral teacher and said: “I believe that when it says that he healed blind people and lepers and stuff, he didn’t actually physically heal them, but he was kind to them and taught that they should be accepted into society.”
“That’s a very tragic and pessimistic view!” I said. “Wouldn’t it be better if He actually physically healed them? As the Son of God He’s surely able to do it, right? Miracles exist, medically verified healings happen all around the world even today. Surely that’s good news, isn’t it?” He was actually a bit speechless when I said this.
There has been a tendency among several Western preachers to de-emphasize miracles, Heaven and evangelism in order to “focus” on peace and justice. They may say things like “Jesus greatest miracle wasn’t to heal the leper but to touch the leper” or “God doesn’t just want to give you eternal life in Heaven but a descent life on earth.” (more…)
A new MennoNerds Podcast episode has been released! It’s on eschatology, Heaven and hell and started off in our vlog as a conversation on waiting and patience, which made me think about waiting on the second coming of Christ and the glorious heavenly realm that He will bring:
Deborah followed it up talking about two things that Heaven is and two things it’s not:
And Paul started to talk about hell and three different theological views on its nature: eternal conscious torment, annihilationism and universalism:
Why are not everybody healed when they receive prayer? Why was that person healed but not this person, even though they both believed in Jesus? Charismatics are often asked these questions, and as they are related to theodicy and the problem of evil and suffering, they take some time to answer. I have appreciated the Kingdom theology response to why not everyone are healed developed by John Wimber, which can be read in his great book Power Healing.
In this blog post I want to address a particular type of healing theodicy, where one points to the death of a loved one as an argument for the strange selectiveness of God’s healing. I have several times heard friends describe how a dear relative was very sick and they prayed and prayed, bit eventually they died. Several of those who have told me this have then said that because of this they have some problems with the healing message; some of them have been mad at God for healing others but not the one they prayed for.
Such a scenario reminds me of how Martha questioned why Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus while he was dying:
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:21-26)
Why am I a Christian? I started to follow Jesus to be saved. Saved from what? Saved from death, destruction and suffering.
When I was fifteen, I had some very depressing thoughts about life and death. My worldview, which I shared with many of my friends, was that there was nothing after death, and that I along with all of humanity are inevitably heading for nonexistance, where it won’t be dark because we will not have eyes to see with and it will not be quiet since we will have no ears to hear with. We won’t even remember that we’ve ever lived, and in the end no one else will remember it either. Everything is pointless. It takes less than that to give you anxiety.
My Lutheran father brought me to church on April 2 2006, and I wasn’t too excited since I had been there before and literally thought that it was the most boring place on earth. But for the first time, I actually started to listen to what they were saying. The Apostles’ Creed said “I believe in the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting”. Now, these were good news! I started to read the Gospels, learned that “gospel” really means good news and that it’s central message is that when we follow Jesus into the Kingdom of God, we get eternal life:
The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. (1 John 1:2)
Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death. (Jesus in John 8:51)
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, God will give eternal life. (Romans 2:7)
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor 15:53-54)
I was thrilled, realizing this! Death will not be victorious, Jesus will be! If I believe in Him, I will be immortal. I drank deeply from the comforting words in the Bible that spoke about the eternal glorious life that Jesus promised His followers. (more…)
In September 2003, pastor Francis Shongwe was beaten to death by a violent gang in Backdoor, South Africa. He was an usher at a youth conference, and as the gang beat and kicked him he suddenly saw his body below him, and he went to Heaven. There, he saw countless people and angels worshipping the Lord, and he was so happy. Francis comes from a very poor neighbourhood with a lot of social problems, but he realized that there would be no more hunger or need in Paradise.
Suddenly, he heard a voice, calling his name. He then woke up in the mortuary in a hospital in Nelspruit, and discovered that pastor Surprise Sithole had raised him from the dead in the power of the Holy Spirit. As readers of this blog should know, this wasn’t the first time Surprise has raised a dead person.
Now, Francis actually cried and was very sad at first when he woke up, since he now was among all the troubles and poverty of the world again. However, he now realizes that because of his experience of Heaven, he preaches the Gospel about eternal life through Jesus Christ more powerfully than before.
When I visited South Africa last year, I interviewed Francis about his resurrection as you can see in the video above. I also talked to Surprise as well as several witnesses to how Francis was killed and then come back. Francis has been featured in the documentary Finger of God, and his testimony has been shared by Heidi Baker and others. I’m very grateful that I got the chance to meet him. Praise God for His resurrection!
When I was younger, I thought that the role of the church was just to remember Jesus, to be His fan club. When the church celebrated Jesus’ resurrection during easter, I thought that the point was simply “how good for Him! He didn’t remain dead. I’m so happy for Him!” What I didn’t get was that the Bible actually says that those who follow Him will rise from the dead just as He rose from the dead. He is “the firstborn from among the dead” (Col 1:18). Or as Paul puts it in his famous passage about the resurrection in First Corinthians:
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:20-22)
I seriously didn’t know this when I grew up. Even though I said that I believed in God somehow, I believed that I would disappear into emptiness when I dropped the ground, that I would simply become nonexistent. And I realized that this didn’t mean that everything would become black and silent, because I wouldn’t have eyes or ears to see or hear with. It was quite frightening to try to imagine what death would be like.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:18-21)
Christ is truly risen from the dead!! This is an undeniable cornerstone for our faith and should be central in the gospel we preach. If miracles cannot happen and Jesus has not risen, Christianity is worthless according to 1 Cor 15. But if miracles do happen and Jesus has risen, Christianity is the most important thing in the world.
But not only is the resurrection of Christ the basis for our doctrine, it should also be the fuel for how we live our lives. As Paul writes above, the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is in us. Through the Holy Spirit we have the same authority to do miracles like He did, the power of the resurrection is available for everyone who wants it!