What if…there were no heaven?
Is God still worth our time? Would you still devote your life to him? Would he still be great? Would Jesus’ sacrifice be worth anything? What would we have to live for? What would we have to die for? Would any of the debates over instruments, baptism, women’s roles, predestination, etc. have any point to them?
This is a question I have been wrestling with for a while. What if heaven were not intended to be the end goal of the Christian life? What if we stopped worrying about what things will and won’t get us to heaven, and instead started focusing more on how God’s kingdom could be spread here on earth?
So what if there were no heaven? I pray that we would all still be able to abide by the two greatest commands, “Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Could we still do that? Would we still do that? I hope so.
I have come to think that maybe (and this is simply a possible suggestion) when the New Testament authors discuss salvation, they may not be simply talking about something to long for after we die. Maybe, just maybe, salvation also includes (maybe even exclusively in some instances) the transformation of our lives right here on earth, to the effect that we make the world around us better just by having lived in it. This business of loving one’s neighbor, loving one’s enemies, humbling oneself, regarding others as more important than oneself, treating others the way oneself wants to be treated, turning the other cheek, going the second mile, being meek, peaceful, pure in heart, compassionate, forgiving, patient, and the list goes one. Maybe all these instructions are not in order to get us to heaven but to get heaven to us.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he prayed that God’s kingdom would come. The prayer is in traditional Hebrew parallel-style poetry, so the next lines explain exactly how God’s kingdom would come: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We will know that God’s kingdom has come when his will is done on earth as it is in heaven. It’s not about our getting to heaven, but about heaven getting to us.
Don’t try to read into this more than what I am saying. I am NOT saying that heaven is not a worthy goal, and I am not saying that we should assume that every time salvation is discussed in the New Testament that the author is not referring to the afterlife, because he may indeed. I’m simply trying to raise the issue of whether or not heaven should be our primary focus in this life or if we are to have our focus on bringing heaven to those around us here on earth.
Maybe if we live on earth as if we were in heaven, then we may be more prepared for our place with God after this life is over. But why do we have to wait until we die to live daily in the presence of God? Why do we have to die before we see Jesus? Why do we have to die before we can be called sons of God? Why do we have to die before we are immersed in the light of the Son? Why do we have to die before we continually cry out to God, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!”?
We don’t have to wait until we die. We have that opportunity right now! Stop waiting around, worrying about the tomorrow that may never come, and start actively seeking the kingdom of God first in whatever you do. Then “all these things” will fall into place.