I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that you’re going to spend eternity in heaven. This isn’t a judgement on you personally, I’m saying that as a whole, believers won’t spend eternity in heaven. Allow me to explain…
I didn’t grow up in the church, so I didn’t understand the intricacies of Christian belief. That said, I didn’t grow up under a rock either, so I knew that Christians believed that if you were good, when you died your body stayed here, while your soul left and lived forever in heaven. I’d seen enough movies and Simpsons episodes to know what this looked like—a bunch of halo-topped ghosts floating around in the clouds.
Then when I became a Christian I realised that was what most Christians believed, except for the being good part. They taught that nobody was good enough, but if you placed your faith in God, your soul would live forever in heaven when you died, just like in the movies. I now call this idea ‘Simpsons eschatology’ (copyright pending).
So if you agree with Simpsons eschatology, allow me to blow your mind—that’s not what Scripture teaches. We’ll get to why shortly. But if, as I suggest, the aim of Christianity is not eternal spiritual life in heaven when you die, from where did this view come?
Very briefly, you may have heard of an ancient philosophy called Platonism. A core component of Platonism is that the physical world is inherently evil. Our bodies are these flabby, fleshy things that commit all manner of wickedness. However there is also a spiritual world which is pure and undefiled. Therefore, the highest aim for any person is to escape the fleshly prison (upon death) and live forever in perfect spiritual bliss. Sound familiar? This understanding has crept its way into Christianity in the idea that our greatest hope is to escape this physical world, and live forever in the clouds instead.
So now, as promised, I can very briefly take a look at what Scripture actually teaches.
Starting with Genesis chapter one, we see that God personally creates the physical world (your belief on how God did this doesn’t change this message) and declares it good at each step. He then creates physical people, with earthly bodies and declares all of it to be “very good”.
Although it then becomes corrupted by sin, what we can see here is that creation is not inherently bad. In God’s own words, the physical creation is actually very good.
From here, the Old Testament doesn’t speak too much about the afterlife, and the Jewish people had varying ideas. We see that by the time of Jesus, some believed in an afterlife, while others did not (Matthew chapter 22 verse 23).
However, Scripture isn’t totally silent on the matter. For instance, Isaiah chapter 26 verse 19 declares that “your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise…” Similarly, Job (chapter 19 verses 25-26) proclaims that in the end his redeemer will stand on the earth, and that even after Job has been destroyed, “yet in my flesh I will see God…” Finally, Daniel (chapter 12 verse 2) prophesies that the dead “will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”
So in the Old Testament, we have an attestation that God’s original, perfect design was physical, followed by a developing picture that seems to indicate that one day God is going to physically resurrect His people, rather than remove their souls to live in heaven.
Resurrection of Jesus
From here we’re going to look to Jesus, which is just good advice in general really.
When Jesus rose from the dead, He declared to His followers that His resurrection body was a physical one (Luke chapter 24 verse 39). His disciples even touched Him (Matthew chapter 28 verse 9) and ate with Him (John chapter 21 verses 12-14).
So we can say that Jesus retained His physical body when He was resurrected. Now when the Apostles looked to this event, they declared that it was the pattern for our own future. Paul taught that Christ is the “first fruits” of our resurrection, meaning that there was more of the same to follow (1 Corinthians chapter 15 verse 23). He likewise stresses that we will be united with Christ “in a resurrection like His” (Romans chapter 6 verse 5).
To be sure, our resurrection bodies will be perfected, glorified bodies (1 Corinthians chapter 15 verses 42-44), but physical nevertheless. In fact, all of the physical creation is waiting to be redeemed, including our bodies (Romans chapter 8 verse 21-24).
The end state
Finally, we get a picture of God’s intent in Revelation chapters 21-22. Here, God teaches that in the end He will create a “new heavens and a new earth”. God is making all things new, and it is in this new creation that believers will spend eternity.
Once again, this is a physical world, where we physically live and interact. Revelation chapter 21 verses 3-4 declare: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
So no, you won’t live forever in heaven, as a disembodied spirit floating through the clouds. Instead, we will dwell with God and with one another in glorified bodies, in a perfected creation without sin.
The hope of the Gospel is not that we escape this creation, but that in God’s grace He is restoring all things to Himself. So when we respond in repentance and faith, we become part of this—we are restored and are sent to restore. This means that we should actually care for, cultivate, and restore creation, but that’s another point for another day.
Haydn Lea is an Ordained Minister, and is currently serving as an Air Force Chaplain in Adelaide. He is married to Shamsa Lea, is the father of Amira, and loves running, boxing and studying history and theology. Despite leading him astray eschatologically, Haydn still thoroughly enjoys the Simpsons.
Haydn Lea’s previous articles may be viewed at