You already know the gospel isn’t “believe in Jesus so you’ll go to heaven.”
But what does the Bible actually say about heaven? I’ve been a Messianic believer my entire life, yet “going to heaven” has always been fuzzy to me.
Pop religion has misled us into thinking Jesus is returning to earth in order to take us to heaven. It’s almost become a goal of Christian life: believe in Jesus so that you’ll go to heaven when you die. We think of heaven as the ultimate destination, as our eternal home.
While the Bible does tell us we will dwell with God after death, heaven is only temporary. Our eternal residence will be here on earth, not in heaven. It will be here on earth, with transformed and resurrected bodies, not in heaven as a disembodied soul.
Despite Judaism and Christianity sharing the hope of the resurrection -- as assured by the Tenakh and the New Testament -- many Christians mistakenly think Messiah is coming back only to bring us to heaven. In this perspective, resurrection is almost an afterthought; eternal life achieved by disembodied soul in heaven, rather than resurrected physical body on earth.
Renowned Christian scholar N.T. Wright comments that this unbiblical view of heaven has even made its way into traditional Christian hymns. He points out that many well-loved hymns in the church paint an unbiblical picture of Jesus returning to earth in order to take everyone to heaven.
In his book, Surprised by Hope, Wright says of the much-loved How Great Thou Art:
Wright is calling out misleading hymns that suggest Christ is returning to earth in order to take us to heaven. Such a view is contrary to the Bible’s picture of the Messiah’s appearance.
The Bible’s picture is Messiah coming to earth as king/leader/president/prime minister. It’s David’s descendant who will sit on the throne of Israel forever. This is the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. It’s not in heaven, it’s here on earth.
The Bible says he’ll be king over the whole earth: all nations will be folded into one nation: the nation of God, what the gospels call the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven.
Messiah will bring us, his people, into that place – centered around Jerusalem, yes, the earthly Jerusalem in the land of Israel.
Going to heaven isn’t our final destiny.
It is true that when we die, we will be with the Lord. Paul says in the New Testament, “I desire to be absent from the body and be with the Lord.”
Likewise, the Jewish Maccabees said of their eternal destinies, “For if we die, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will welcome us, and all the fathers will praise us.”
But that’s only a temporary state. Going to heaven is not the end goal.
The end goal is to be with the Lord here on earth. He will be king over the whole earth, over all nations. This nation of God, this Kingdom of Heaven, with its capital in Jerusalem, ruled by the Jewish Messiah instituting world peace – this is our eternal home.
Dead? A miracle from God will resurrect you, transforming your body into a state without sickness, suffering, or death. Its pristine state. Then he’ll bring you to his kingdom in Jerusalem.
Alive? You’ll be caught up with Messiah in the air as he descends to the Mt. of Olives just outside Jerusalem’s gates, and you’ll join him with the saints in his coronation in Jerusalem.
That’s our eternal home. Not the airy spiritual place of disembodied souls.
Our eternal home is the earthly nation of God, where Messiah reigns as the Jewish king in Jerusalem over the whole earth, raises the dead, removes sickness and disease, puts death away forever, culminating in the restoration of all things.
That’s your eternal home, fine Kineti reader, and it will take place right here on earth, the place where God put you.