“There’s a better place waiting for me
In Heaven” -Chris Tomlin, Home
“All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong” -Building 429, Where I Belong
It’s common, when people die, for the living to describe them as going ‘home’. It’s an understandable and comforting way to think about death. The Christian believes, rightly I think, that the departed person is at peace, no more pain, with Jesus. In heaven.
But heaven, with earth left in the trash heap, was never meant to be our home. This world is not a discarded plan. Heaven was never meant to be the place we ultimately belong. God didn’t make us for heaven, He made us for earth.
Return with me to the very beginning of the Bible. God creates this good earth. Good. He says it over and over. Good. He fills it with good things. He creates people. Embodied, physical people. Very good. He puts them in a garden. Home.
Sin and chaos enter. The people and the earth are corrupted. Not all is well at home.
So God decides He is going to burn down the home and carry the peoples’ bodyless souls off to heaven forever, right? no?
No. He aims to redeem the people and their earth. Follow the story through and what we get is a picture of renewed creation, renewed people. We see an earth at peace, flourishing. People who are resurrected- literally- physically- healed, reconciled, renewed. A new Jerusalem from heaven comes down to this restored earth.
So I like to say earth IS my home. Now not all is well at home. But God’s plan isn’t to abandon this world. It’s good. We are good. Our bodies- good. God didn’t make us for heaven. He made us for earth.
“But the Bible talks about heaven!”, some will say. Of course! It’s God’s space, and it’s where we go after we die.
But as NT Wright likes to say, “heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world”.
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Jesus proclaimed.
This isn’t saying it’s time to be whisked off to heaven.
This is really saying “the reign of God is breaking into this world!” This world, broken as it is, is fixed and healed when it’s King returns. He returns and restores all of what has been lost. He is King and the world operates in flourishing and peace. The world set right. Home is set right.
This distinction can really matter. It matters because we don’t live as quite fully when we believe we are biding our time till we ‘go home’. We don’t appreciate our bodies when we believe they are just something tying us down till our spirits can escape to heaven. We don’t care as much for this amazing world if we believe God is abandoning it.
Or to express this a different way, we miss a huge chunk of the gospel when we believe that the good news is that our souls can go to heaven and sing worship songs for eternity. NO! God is rescuing and renewing ALL THINGS. Not just our non-physical souls.
So someday, assuming I die before the King returns, I’ll go to heaven. But I’m not going home. I’m going to wait with Jesus. I suppose I’ll be worshiping God, cheering the living on, and probably pestering Jesus with questions. That will be rad.
But then- The King will return. There will be resurrection of our physical bodies. There will be judgement (a whole other post to be sure). The creation will experience a transformational renewal. We will be home in the most full and complete way.
Meanwhile I’m making my home in our imperfect home. I’m working on the restoration God intends for it, working on the restoration He intends for us. Someday this fixer-upper will be fully renewed. The whole family will be together. God will fully dwell with us in place He made for us. Home.
Note: a great follow up on this topic is this Bible Project video on Heaven and Earth.