I am still reading Scot McKnight's book 'The Heaven Promise.' It continues to be good, but I am getting a little bogged down by some life events and my blogging is not keeping up with my reading and... I just realized today that I'd even been numbering some chapters wrong (I fixed it). So I'm going to just post some of the underlined items from the chapter today.
Chapter 11 is "The Fourth Promise: Heaven Will Be Eternal Life."
p. 82 - "I am convinced we have not learned to read the Bible well enough to think about Heaven well. Far too often we think of Heaven exclusively in individualistic terms; it is where I go when I die so I can be with God... I dare not diminish the importance of personal eternal life, but the Bible tells a story about Heaven that completes a narrative far bigger than that of personal salvation."
"The Bibles full story is the ultimate happy ending."
"God designed Heaven for those who long for the completion to God's grand story, which does not begin or end with you or me."
Here is the mistake we are prone to make: we tip our hat to the concept of the image of God and rush on to the third chapter of Genesis - often referred to as the fall of Adam and Eve. It seems we are eager to make the observation that we are sinners. Then we learn to read the rest of the Bible as a story of how to get personally saved from the Fall.
Getting saved is important to the Bible, and getting saved personally is what getting into the final Heaven is all about. One world-religions author described each religion in a simple phrase. He summarized Christianity as the 'story of salvation.' So, yes, salvation is important. But the first two chapters of Genesis teach that we are God's images, and Genesis 3 tells us that we failed in our image-bearing role of governing for God. This simple observation leads to a profound shift in how to read the Bible: salvation in the Bible is a twofold act of God: a salvation FROM and a salvation FOR. We are saved FROM our sin and the world's systems, and this salvation heals, restores, and reconciles us with God so we can accomplish our calling as image bearers.
This makes all the difference for the subject at hand. If God's assignment for us is to be image bearers, then the final Heaven will be when we live out that divine summons to be image bearers. Which means Heaven is not an escape from this world but the renewal of this world and our glorious opportunity to participate in and enjoy the created order as God designed it to be. The Bible tells the story of salvation because we image bearers rebelled against God, and that rebellion released the contagions of disorder, chaos, sin, suffering, sickness, injustices upon injustices, and systemic evil. In fact, the last item just mentioned - systemic evil - is the reason for Heaven. Heaven, in order to be what heaven is designed to be, will undo systemic evil. As that happens, all rebellions will unravel - injustices, sicknesses, suffering, sin, chaos, and disorder. Heaven is when God releases the medicines that kill the contagions, when sin is eradicated, and when God's people will be what God wants them to be in the world. When the kingdom comes, sin will be no more.
"Heaven will be a kingdom without pride, or vanity, or falsehood, or outrage, or deceit, or pretence, or blushing, or shame, or reproach, or insult, or envy, or arrogance, or pestilence, or disease, or poverty, or nakedness, or death, or extinction, or hail, or snow, or wind, or rain, or din, or thunder, or darkness, or cold...
a noble, admirable, ethereal realm, endowed with the wisdom, and radiance, and fragrance of a plenteous land, wherein is the enjoyment of every excellence."
"The Heaven Promise is that all things - tragedies and holocausts - will be made right somehow."
"Twenty-one percent of all pregnancies in the United States end in abortion. What, I ask myself, does Heaven mean for the innocent, millions and millions of children with entire lives stolen from them? In my own conscience, I stand in the tomb of Jesus and say, 'The tomb is empty. Jesus is on the Throne. Jesus will make things right. God will create a Heaven where evil and injustices will be undone and rolled up into history.'
At the great and final judgment, truth will be told, justice will be established, and the world will be put right - the world as God meant it to be. I imagine a Heaven flooded with little children who will grow into mature adulthood because God will give them the chance to live as God intended for them to live. I know that at least that much will happen. And there could possibly be even more: their repentant mothers, reunited with aborted babies, could experience deep joy and be flooded with pleasure at seeing their little ones.
Good, good stuff. That last part there - the underlined - now THAT is something to behold, is it not?