Previously, I averred that God never intended us to live in heaven permanently. Yet the church’s message and our understanding somehow accommodates the notion of eternal life with Jesus in heaven, a transcendent realm, where we’ll have an immortal, but ethereal existence forever (maybe even with our own harp).
However, I emphatically contend God built us to live on earth (not in heaven).Jesus coming into this world, to deal with disruption caused by sin didn’t change the plan.
There is no Plan B (ie: Oh! let’s go to heaven because Plan A failed). Plan A, living on earth remains unchanged. Jesus mission was to get Plan A back on track, his people living with immortal and physical bodies on a restored planet earth.
Mother Earth Was Purpose Built For Us.
The opening chapters of Genesis clearly convey Plan A. Everything must be put in place before the first man and woman can occupy the newly created world. Preceding the creation of the first human couple, we have the land being separated from the oceans, vegetation being placed as food, then fish for the sea, and animals to occupy the land. It looks like comprehensive preparation for something very special, to me.
Furthermore, in Genesis chapter 2 verse 7
Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
There’s a lovely poetic phrase in this verse, God made Adam (man) from admanah (earth). That’s right folks, the name “man” is linked etymologically to the ‘earth”. We dust people, people of the earth. The 118 elements of the periodic table which comprise all known types of matter/atoms is the stuff we’re made of. We were built from the earth and for the earth, to bear God’s image on the earth.
So, God sending us off to heaven as our permanent place of existence, creates a massive discontinuity or hiatus. However, returning to our origins, mother earth with resurrected-immortal bodies restores the continuity, and fulfils God’s original intention for us as earth dwellers. But this time He’ll be hanging out with us (at the moment our sin has kept him away).
A Spiritual Body or Physical Body - I’m Confused?
Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:42 ff
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. It is sown perishable; it is raised imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body.
Oh boy, no wonder we’re confused, Paul’s just spent 41 verses defending the bodily resurrection, based on the historical fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, and now he starts talking about receiving a ‘spiritual body”, at the time of our resurrection. Somewhat confusing don’t you think?
In reality there is no confusion, other than the confusion created by the translation of “physical and spiritual bodies” and our default Platonic bias. We immediately think of the “material” we’re made of, when we read ‘physical and spiritual”.
However, the adjectives (oh no! not grammar) psyche-ikos and pneumat-ikos in Greek denote empowerment, and not substance. In other words, Paul’s telling us that our new ‘spiritual bodies’ (which are material bodies) will be empowered by God’s spirit, and as such not subject to decay and death. Unlike our current ‘physical bodies’ which are empowered by the life force God gave them in Genesis 2, but are doomed to decay and death.
Tom Wright’s comparison of a steam powered metal ship and wind powered wooden ship is helpful. We shouldn’t think of the ships in terms of the material they’re made of ‘steel or wood’ but in terms of what drives them ‘steam or wind’. Likewise, we need to see our resurrected bodies as physical bodies which are animated by God’s spirit, so they cannot decay and never die. Will You Take the Hard or Soft Option?
Not being someone to shy away from a fight, when it comes to something worth fighting for, I make the following controversial comment, ‘We as Christians and our leaders are selling the God’s comprehensive salvation, short’. We’re taking the soft option.
Telling an unbeliever that when you die, you’ll go to heaven to be with Jesus forever is prevarication. The world can handle a Platonic heaven, it sits comfortably within their worldview. They can accept a free spirit floating about in some ‘transcend realm’ after death. There’s nothing disturbing about this message. But we’ve preached another gospel, not the gospel hope found across all the pages of the New Testament.
On the other hand, telling someone that when you die, you’re waiting for God to judge, restore and renew this world, and you’ll walk on this earth again in an immortal body, takes guts. It’s the hard option, but it’s the truth.
Vic Matthews, has three degrees B.Optom, B.Arts & B. Christian Studies. He is a kiteboard tragic, who now works as a Christian Copywriter. He can be found at http://trustworthycopywriter.com/writing-services/christian-copywriter/
Vic Matthews previous articles may be viewed http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/vic-matthews.html