I don’t need a ticket to heaven, please!

Luke — Prodigal God | Makoto Fujimura

God, man, and rest of creation were in perfect unity, peace, and complete flourishing with each other as in the Godhead from the beginning.

Why am I created?

Bible teaches us that, God is love in the community of Godhead from everlasting to everlasting. This love is radical, self-sacrificing, gracious, unmerited, everlasting etc., which we may not completely understand in our present lifetime to describe it well. New Testament writers call this ‘Agape love’. God created everything out of this love for his glory with a purpose. (Isaiah 43:7) He created man in his image and to have dominion over all his creation and care for it. He charged them to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. (Gen1:28) This is what it means to be human in God’s sight. God, man, and the rest of creation were in perfect unity, peace, and complete flourishing in harmony with each other just like it is in the Godhead from the beginning. This is beautiful. This is Shalom as old testament prophets call it. This shalom is God’s purpose for all creation. Cornelius Plantinga explains shalom as “…the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfilment, and delight…Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight — a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Saviour opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” In shalom, we have an invitation to partner with God, to care for, and work the garden as his image bearers. (Gen 2:15) This we call Cultural Mandate.

Why am I sinful?

But, man rebelled against God and choose to become his own god and cut himself from God, the source of all life and love. All created order has turned into chaos because of this separation. Our nature has turned from love, justice and peace to pride, selfishness, and fear. We lost our calling, shalom was broken and we died. The result of this rebellion was death. (Rom 6:23) We are eternally separated from God. This is why I am sinful. That is why the Bible says we have fallen short of the glory of God. His image in us has been marred. Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey describe it as, “Every part of God’s handiwork was marred by the human mutiny. At the Fall, every part of creation was plunged into the chaos of sin, and every part cries out for redemption.” In this fallen state, humans are unable to realise the calling that they were made to fulfil. In response to the brokenness and chaos, we and all creation try desperately to break free from the bondage of sin.” (Rom.8:20,21)

Even though we rebelled against God and died, even though God’s beautiful creation as turned into chaos, God is still love.

What is salvation?

Even though we rebelled against God and died, even though God’s beautiful creation as turned into chaos, God is still love. He did not abandon his creation but because of his love he wants his dead creation to be made alive and united with Him again. He desires to redeem and restore what was lost. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1) First he chose Abraham and through him formed His people, spoke with them and tabernacled among them, but in Jesus, He became man and lived among us in flesh and blood and through his death and resurrection to offer us new creation to all fallen creation. “In love, he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1:5). Remember the image, Jesus talks about “I am the true vine and you are the branches”? (John 15). We chose to cut ourselves from the vine, but God through Jesus wants to graft us back to Himself. Today He persuades us to unite with Him again by offering us eternal life and restore our purpose and calling. (Rom. 5:8) (Rom. 6:23) (Eph. 1:3–10) “Those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom8:30) He restores His image in us. (Gal4:19) He restores our son-ship, priesthood, citizenship. (1 John 3:1) (1 Pet 2:9) Redemption without restoration is incomplete. Here is our problem. We understand redemption as an escape from as it were a sinking ship to heaven. This is not what the Bible teaches. That’s why Paul says that without resurrection (new creation) our faith is worthless, we are still in sin and without hope. (1Cor15:14) (By the way many of us think resurrection mean coming back to life like how Lazarus came back to life. No. Resurrection is not coming back to life but inauguration of new creation.) It is part of God’s plan and His intention to make right the damage of sin by offering new creation, not just redeem and take us to heaven. This redemption and restoration is our great salvation.

What is my salvation for?

So, glorifying does not mean going to heaven beyond the clouds. As Jesus was risen and glorified we too will be like him. “…but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) Paul describes this restoration in Jesus beautifully, “… to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”(Eph 1:9,10) “… to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col 1:20).And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:22,23)

Tea Bowl, 2011 | Tim Mills

To be fully Christian is to be fully human as his image bearers.

Unfortunately we believe the Gospel has no power to change this dark world now. We limit its power to only ‘saving souls’. We ‘saved souls’ believe restoration is God’s responsibility when Christ returns in his “millennium kingdom” but Church has no part in it now, as our only hope is beyond the clouds. So some of us isolate from the world (like putting the lamp under a basket) where as some on the other extreme accommodate the world. How can this be? When our sin lead to the fall of all creation how much more our restoration in Jesus to all of creation? Here I am not saying ‘all of creation’ mean environment alone, it is all of human existence. It is all of life, culture, and nature. Well some other Christians think they can do it by themselves by dominating the world. This has lead to tragic consequences in the past and even today. Hugh Whelchel says “Our duty is not to bring the Kingdom into existence, nor is the Kingdom something we build ourselves. The Kingdom is brought and built by the King – our duty is to serve the King.”

Restoration can happen only in love.

Restoration can happen only in love.(John 3:16) That’s why God commanded us to love God and our neighbour as ourselves. It can only happen through the power of his Spirit in us who enables us to love. Then we can be the light in this dark world. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 5:13–16) “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices.” (Pro11:10) Yes when Christ returns he makes all things new, but the kingdom of God is already in the midst of us. Theologians call it “already but not-yet kingdom”. Don’t we see it? “… unless you are born-again you cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)(This does not mean everything will be perfect now. The Kingdom of God will flourish, so will the kingdom of darkness until Christ returns. (Mat 13:24–30))

The purpose of my salvation is to partner with my Lord and King in his work of redemption and restoration in the posture of love and worship.

Ki-Seki (Miracle) | Makoto Fujimura

What about heaven?

So, what about heaven? Is God not destroying this earth and taking us to heaven? NT Wright in his book Surprised by hope writes “Heaven, in the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other, hidden dimension of our ordinary life — God’s dimension, if you like. God made heaven and earth. At the last he will remake both and join them together forever. And when we come to the picture of the actual end in Revelation 21–22, we find not ransomed souls making their way to the disembodied heaven but rather the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, uniting the two in a lasting embrace.” Yes, we will be with our Lord after we die (Rev 6:9) (Phil 1:23) a waiting place — until our “perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor 15:53) to dwell in renewed heaven and earth when Christ returns. C S Lewis in Mere Christianity says, “Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.”

My true destiny lies in God’s perfect Shalom.

What is my true destiny?

This great hope in the Bible that we see from Genesis through Revelation is God’s Shalom. God, and his creation will live in perfect unity, peace, and complete flourishing. (Eze 34:25–29) (Isa 11:6–9) (Lev 26:4–6) (Eph 2:14) (Isa 32:16–17) (Heb 4:1) So our true destiny lies in God’s Shalom - the new heavens and new earth, where “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” (Isa 65:21–25) God’s sovereign rule coming on earth as it is in heaven (Mat 6:10) through Jesus who is the prince of shalom. (Isaiah 9:6) (Rev 22:1–5) Scott Kauffman writes “…shalom characterises the Garden (the way it was supposed to be) and the eternal City (the way it is going to be), and so provides the vision for our existence in between.”

What a marvellous hope we have! Let us live it to proclaim it!

P.S. You may ask what about John 14:1–4 where Jesus mentions about the Father’s house. Is that not about taking us to heaven? What about 2 Peter 3:10 that God is going to burn this earth? I hope to write on those also, later.

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Mark Raja

Mark Raja

Product designer, Systems thinker, Creative catalyst, Amateur writer, Father, Husband