Heaven (1): Pie in the Sky or Meek Inheriting the Earth?Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Contemporary Ethics, eschatology, Exegesis, Heaven, Kingdom
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1.1)
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1.31).
“Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen 3.17b)
“So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden” (Gen 3.23)
“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth” (Isa 65.17)
“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure” (Isa 66.22)
“For creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice” (Rom 8.20)
“Creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the
glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8.21)
“The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Rom 8.22)
“We wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8.23)
“In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth” (2 Pt 3.13)
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Rev 21.1)
“I saw … the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven … ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men‘” (Rev 21.2)
“No longer will there be any curse” (Rev 22.3)
Some of my closest friends believe that the goal of God’s salvation work is a pure “spiritual” existence they call “heaven.” These friends have loved ones that ask questions, reflecting that pure “spiritual” existence idea, like “will we know each other in heaven?” They ask this question because they have assumed that “I” won’t know “you” because you aren’t “really” you anymore. Rather you are some kind of disembodied spirit.
I believe in “heaven” fervently and pray for its coming everyday. Yet I completely reject as not only unbiblical, but as alien to the tenor of the scriptures that notion of pure “spiritual” existence some claim as heaven. The idea seems to reflect common Platonic and neo-gnostic views of creation and matter than what I read in the Hebrew Bible, New Testament and the Jewish literature of the day that illuminates the world of Jesus and the apostles. (This may or may not be true and will be investigated more fully. I do not wish to engage in ad hominem reasoning myself … just to point out there in the beginning of Christianity there were at least two very distinct worldviews and they have a bearing on this discussion). Some of my friends, when we have talked about this, have gone nearly ape on me. I think their emotional reactions are unfortunate. They have engaged in very little argumentation and even littler exegesis to demonstrate this pure “spiritual” existence.
I have no, absolutely no, desire to get into a debate on this matter or to be contentious about it. I hope to share my thoughts (briefly) on things I think pertain to this subject. Because I am a poor communicator I am sure that I will fail to do justice to the issues at hand Yet over the next several days I will be posting a series of blogs that deal with the criticism of renewed earth eschatology. I began the blog simply quoting Scripture. It is amazes me how the beginning of Genesis, the “plot” of Scripture that follows, and the end of Revelation all tie together around the idea of creation and new creation. God’s goal in redemption is to reverse the curse and restore the intimacy that was lost in the Garden. I believe the narrative of Scripture more than sustains this proposition.
Renewed earth eschatology has been around long before anything looking like the premillennialism of Tim Lahaye and Hal Lindsey. Anthony Hoekema even articulates the view nicely while critiquing the premillennial point of view in The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views edited by Robert G. Clouse. Further Alexander Campbell and Jonathan Edwards were anything but premillennialists. Neither is John Piper or James Packer. New Earth and premillennialism are separate issues and trying to stick them together is a mistake.
Rather renewed eschatology is rooted in a specific belief regarding God’s purposes and goals in creation and what he accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is further rooted in a specific understanding of the purpose of God’s good creation. It is rooted in the belief that Christ’s resurrection was bodily for a reason and that our own resurrection will be like his. And further it is rooted in the firm theological belief that Satan did not thwart God’s plan. Redemption goes as far as the curse is found. If Christ’s victory does not go as deep and far as the curse then what victory is it? But the blood of Jesus did overcome and the resurrection did overturn the curse.