Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Systematic Theology: Heaven

The modern Christian view of heaven is quite construed. Where is heaven? Is it out beyond the stars in some distant galaxy?

It is highly unlikely that one day an astronomer scanning the universe with a giant telescope will ever come across a distant galaxy full of puffy clouds and the righteous drinking pina coladas in “paradise.” Therefore, if heaven is not a “place” then what is it?

It is my understanding, that heaven is in fact not a place but a state between man and God and creation and God. Sin corrupts the sate of God’s relationship with man and creation causing a broken relationship between both of these with God. It is thus God’s main purpose since the fall of man represented in Genesis to restore his relationship with man and creation. This comes to complete fruition in Revelation when John describes heaven breaking in to our present sinfully laced reality to wipe away tears, end suffering, erase pain, and do away with sin. Thus it is my understanding the heaven is not necessarily a specific place (although I don’t discount this possibility) but a state of perfect union between man and God and God and creation.

In this light, Jesus' confusing and seemingly paradoxical claims in the Gospel about heaven and the coming the kingdom makes sense. Jesus says in the Gospels that heaven is now, I am heaven, and that heaven is yet to come at the end of times. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross and the grace one receives through faith, one can experience heaven (as I have described it) on earth, before, death in this present reality. Yet, as long as sin persists in this reality one can never fully experience an unadulterated relationship with God. That is why heaven is also yet to come.

It is my understanding of the Biblical text that at the “end of times” God will enact a process in which “heaven” or the New Jerusalem will break into our present evil and sinful world to fully restore creation and man to God. Everyone that has professed faith in Jesus Christ (including the dead, that are in some state that I do not fully understand) will rise from the dead and experience this new reality, free of sin, evil, and suffering. A new reality that is in fact the heaven we have been longing for and trying to figure out how to describe.

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