Streets of gold. Mansions. Pearly gates guarded by St. Peter. Dwelling in the clouds, endlessly, eternally playing a harp. Everything shiny, clean, bright. Everyone wearing white. Reunions with loved ones. Reunions with Fido. Crowns, halos, robes. All of these are images of heaven perpetuated throughout the ages. Some more desirable than others. Some better left to the imagination. But imagery aside, heaven is often thought of as the goal of the believer. A real paradise, the opposite of hell. A place with no more tears, no more suffering, no more sin. A place where we finally get to meet God face-to-face.
But is heaven the believer’s final resting place? Is it the true goal?
Is it home?
Revelation 21:1-5 “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Earth is our home. Past, present, and future. It was created for us by a loving Father, who at the beginning of time came DOWN to earth to dwell with those he created.
Genesis 3:8 “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
So it was at the beginning. So it shall be again. But there will be no reason to hide next time, for sin will be conquered, the earth restored.
It’s humbling to think about. God wants us for himself. He wants to walk with us. Commune with us. Just be with us. On this earth. It’s what He planned from the start. And will do once again. But I suspect many fail to look at it this way, that He will come down to earth to be with us, not that we will go UP to Heaven to be with Him. It’s a perspective issue. One that when seen through the proper lens reveals a Father’s overwhelming love for His children.
Those who subconsciously take the other view – that Heaven is truly where it’s at, the goal let’s say – aren’t entirely to blame. Escapism has been ingrained in Christian circles for the better part of the last 150 years with the advent of the teachings of a pre-tribulation rapture, most notably dramatized in last couple of decades with the Left Behind books and movies. It’s that perspective that gives believers a way off this earth, an easy way out, escaping judgment, eagerly punching their non-refundable ticket to an observation deck in the clouds, watching, while the world burns. But there’s no promise of that in Scripture. In fact it tells quite the opposite story.
In regards to the beast of Revelation whose reign happens DURING the tribulation and his persecution of believers:
Revelation 13:5-8 “And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
Revelation 20:4 “…Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
In regards to the return of the Lord, and the gathering of believers, which happens AFTER the tribulation:
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are ALIVE and REMAIN until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are ALIVE and REMAIN shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
The second of coming of Jesus is the culmination of this temporal life, when the bodies of those whose names are written in the Book of Life will be transformed from mortal to immortal. When Jesus will establish his kingdom on EARTH, not heaven, for his children to rule and reign with Him. It is that great hope that should embolden the believer to view the earth as a worthy destination, the place that God created at the beginning of time so that he could dwell with His creation. A place proudly called home.