After the second world war, this last stanza was added to this most loved Swedish hymn, “How great thou art.”
“When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.”
Perhaps seeing violence, suffering and disease here on earth, we have desired an escape to heaven outside it.
If you search, there are scores of songs about heaven as our home. Christians today generally believe that we go to heaven above, our eternal home, after we die (or even worse, when Christ returns).
We often hear phrases like, “Gone home to be with the Lord”, “Called home”, etc. These are really precious thoughts towards our loved ones who passed away. We must definitely honour them. As God’s children, we have hope beyond this mortal life; we know that all those who sleep in the Lord will remain in God’s presence. Though the Bible doesn’t describe much about our temporary state after death, it is certainly glorious.
But calling life after death our eternal home has a severe problem. Firstly it is not a biblical idea. It is more influenced by the gnostic concept of heaven, which is the final destiny of our disembodied souls. But, significantly, it undermines our current new reality in Christ.
In the parable of the “Rich man and Lazarus”, Jesus gives a picture of Lazarus, who was taken to Abraham’s bosom after he died. Yet this parable does not aim to explain our eternal destiny. Apostles and the early church did not put their hope in disembodied souls in heaven but in the appearance of Christ, the resurrection of our bodies and the restoration of heaven and earth.
Jesus, speaking to the thief on the cross, said. “Today, you will be with me in the garden”. But Paul, writing to Ephesians, says, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus!” If our present reality in Christ is already in the heavenly realms, why are we fixated on a heavenly home after death?
Our eternity is not in a place or a state we go to after we die; our eternity is in Christ. (Colossians 1:15–20) Jesus is the new temple that God raised on the third day. As Christ’s body, we “are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit.”
Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says even our perishable bodies are the temple of God. When we surrender to Christ by the Spirit of God, we are born into the house of God, where God’s presence is.
In Jesus, heaven is our eternal now. The kingdom of God has come near. We are home in Christ.
In Jesus, heaven is our eternal now. The kingdom of God has come near. We are home in Christ, now in this corruptible body, later outside this body and finally in our resurrected body. We see new creation dimly now, but it will be clear when Christ appears. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Jesus, speaking to his troubled disciples, comforts them by saying, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Isn’t this marvellous?
Old Testament prophets prophesied about the future indwelling of the Spirit of God in all people. They longed to see that day. On the day of Pentecost, The Spirit of God descended to the new temple, the body of Christ. What a tragedy we barely acknowledge our home in Christ.
If we genuinely are the house of God seated in the heavenly places, we act like one. It is foolish to wait until death when we can see glimpses of it now. Let us “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” That is by putting on Christ and putting to death our old sinful ways. (Colossians 3: 1–17)