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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!
Why does God not take us to Heaven immediately after we’re born again? I was pondering this years ago, and the only reasonable answer I could come up with was: to help others being born again.
We can, and will, worship in Heaven. We can hang around, have a good time, and organize Marquee festivals in Heaven. But we can’t invite others to Heaven when we’re well there.
This is why the Great Commission to make new disciples (Mt 28:18-20) is not just a mission, it is the mission and the primary reason why we even have church.
This is why we need to advertise and tell people about our meetings and events. We need to evangelise and share our testimonies to people we encounter. We need to be present in the public sphere and show an alternative to the consumerism, patriotism and false religions that are already being proclaimed out there. (more…)
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:
I was listening to a TED talk the other day on this topic by philosopher Jim Holt. In a detailed manner he described the puzzle of existence and explained why it cannot simply be “pushed back” one level by saying “big bang did it” or “the multiverse did it”, because the question is more fundamental than so: it is not just about why this or that happened but why anything happens, why there are whys.
As an atheist, he quickly also excludes God from the equation, saying that we then must explain what created God and that the universe is way to non-perfect and mediocre to have been created by an all-powerful, intelligent being.
What solution does Holt then himself have to the puzzle? I waited curiously to the end to hear it, but it was a bit of an anticlimax. Holt says that we can theoretically imagine three types of realities: (more…)
Biggest Christian news story of the week: The boy who came back from Heaven didn’t come back from Heaven. In fact, Alex Malarkey never left earth in the first place, he now says in a public letter:
I did not die. I did not go to heaven.
I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough.
Tyndle Publishing House stopped producing the book and deleted its facebook page and web page pretty immideately after Alex’ released his statement. All this created a lot of debate about the authencity of other books about supernatural experiences, particularly “heavenly tourism”. Once again, cessationist Christians join hand with atheists and skeptics in refuting all charismatic litterature, claiming that this shows that books like this are a fraud. And by books like this we’re obviously thinking about the other book about another boy who shares his visions of Heaven in Heaven is for Real, published the same year (2010) as The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. (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!
In my last blog post, I said that prophecy has multiple purposes: practical information about the state of things here on earth; personal revelation about God’s plan for an individual’s life; and repetative teaching about God and the spiritual realms that are in line with the Bible. I argued that evangelicals do not need to worry about that these kinds of prophecies would challenge the authority of Scripture, and thus there is no need to ban all prophetic activity or to wrongly argue that the prophetic gift has ceased. However, now I want to turn to the dangerous type of prophecy – that reveals stuff about the Lord and His Kingdom that you can’t find in the Bible.
Let me take one example. Many of you have probably heard about Colton Burpo, a young boy who started to tell his parents when he was four years old about how Heaven looked like. Amazingly, he even knew about dead relatives that his parents had never told him about. Colton’s visions of Heaven were in large parts in line with the Bible’s visions – something his parents also were really amazed by since they hadn’t taught much of that to him – but it also exceeded the Bible. For example, he said that Jesus had a rainbow horse. And that the Holy Spirit was blue.
Now, evangelical heresy hunters weren’t late to proclaim Colton Burpo as a young false prophet. On my Swedish blog, one of them told me “This is totally non-biblical! Show me in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is blue!” And I simply answered: “Would it had been more biblical if the Holy Spirit had been transparent?”
Over and over again I see how some fellow Christian activists want to de-emphasize the importance of Heaven. It is often claimed that the reason why traditional evangelical and charismatic churches have not been so involved in promoting peace and justice is because there is too much focus on Heaven, salvation and evangelism – they don’t want to waste their energy and time on politics and activism when they can use it to save souls instead.
To revolt against this heresy, some Christian activists go to another extreme, meaning that giving people eternal life wasn’t Jesus’ main concern, that the Kingdom is mainly here and now and not there and then, that evangelism is not so important, etc. God’s focus is primarily earth, not heaven, and we should mimic that, they claim.
However, Paul wrote:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col 3:1-2)
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Phil 3:19-21)