Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Heaven on Earth?
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:22 & 23
'God became man that man might become God.'
As the Messiah of Israel according to the Story of Scripture, Jesus came to 'save His people from their sins'. Today, depending on who you listen to, this translates to anything from 'going to heaven when you die' to, 'it's all about Israel'! In context, we can see that it IS all about Israel, but then the question becomes, 'who IS Israel?' If indeed 'Israel' is simply the People of God, of all ages, or aeons, then yes, it's all about Israel. If Israel is a certain people, however, from a certain ( specific ) region of the world, of a certain lineage, then we might be faced with other concerns & considerations. But I digress...............
Jesus told His disciples quite plainly, 'I go to prepare a place for you.[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, [ there ] you may be also' ( John 14:2b & 3 ) The apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Church at Thessalonika ( I Thessalonians 4:16 & 17 ), wrote, 'For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive [ and ] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord'. These passages & others like them might seem to lend credence to the traditional ( orthodox ) notion of 'Heaven' being our Final Destination, the end goal, so to speak, but nowhere in Scripture does it specifically say this. In fact, reading these passages in context seems to point the other direction, telling us that, rather than 'going to heaven when we die', those who belonged to Israel would join Her Messiah in a 'Heaven on Earth', not after biological death, but here & now, as a result of that salvation!
The apostle Paul also wrote to the Church at Colosse ( Colossians 1:27c ), concerning 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'. In his letter to the Church at Ephesus ( Ephesians 3:17 ), he prayed 'that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith' ( John 14:23 ). From these words & others like them, we may deduce that the whole point in Jesus coming as 'God in the Flesh', was not so that we could go to some 'pie-in-the-sky' ( 'Heaven' ) when we die, but so that we could once again dwell with our Creator, as in the beginning ( Genesis 3:8 )!
In John 14:23, Jesus told his disciples, '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.' With these words, in particular, we see plainly that those believing in Him would not go to some special place when they died, but that He would come to them, living/dwelling with them where they were. It is here & now that we dwell in the Presence of God; in a different realm, one might say. The phrase 'God with us', which is the true meaning of the name 'Immanuel', seems to have lost some of its original impact! When Jesus walked this earth, some 2,000 years ago, He was, in Essence, in Reality, God in Flesh: He showed the unbelieving Pharisees that Man could indeed be God. The Pharisees ultimately killed Him, by way of Rome, for this blasphemy, as they called it. 'God with us', however, should tell us clearly, again, that rather than us joining Him in 'Heaven', He brought 'Heaven' to Earth, to dwell with us, in us & through us!
Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, was a Man who was revealed to be God Himself! Through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary conceived the Son of Man who later proved, through His Crucifixion, Resurrection & Ascension, to be the very Son of God. The Creator God Himself deemed to enter the realm of His Creation to show the Way into Heaven itself, His very Presence. He dwells within us now, so that we may present 'Heaven' to those around us. Heaven & Earth have been joined in us, we who follow the Christ, the Savior of all Israel. As we present the Christ to our neighbor, then, we represent the Dwelling of God, what we call 'Heaven'!
Charles Haddon Shank