What is the most popular response to the claim that we inhabit the 'new heavens & new earth', or 'God forbid', even Heaven itself?! 'Look out your window, read the newspaper headlines, watch the evening news; how can you say THIS is Heaven?!', in other words, maybe, is the most popular response I've gotten lately! It cannot be denied that, according to the popular 'utopian' version of 'Heaven' that dispensational futurism, in particular, has sold to the general church-going public for years, we are not there!
At Covenant Community Church, of Whitehall, Montana, which I attend regularly, one of our teaching elders has recently begun leading us through a new series called 'Heaven 101'. In his most recent sermon, in treating the obvious response above, he reminded us that coal, as it is subjected to tremendous pressure, reveals the diamond that it is. The analogy is a good one; there is a reason why the Church in other parts of the world is growing better than the Church in America; more pressure is being exerted upon them ( in fact, one might note, there is hardly ANY pressure being exerted upon the Church in America ). If anything, the Church in America is probably losing ground as pastors steadily bow the knee to whatever governmental power claims to have authority over them, and as young people steadily grow disenchanted with her weakness & hypocrisy!
Although this is a great analogy, it could almost be viewed as somewhat 'utopian' itself! God's natural creation, here in South-Western Montana especially, can be quite spectacular! It is not difficult to indicate this natural beauty with a grand sweep of the arm, and say, 'how can you say THIS isn't 'Heaven?'! If we're feeling 'awesometastic', some might be tempted to say,'I'm in 'Heaven'! The truth of the matter is, just as 'home is where the heart is', so 'Heaven is where the heart is'; no matter where you are, if your heart is at home, you're at home, and so, if your heart is in 'Heaven', you are in 'Heaven', or rather, 'Heaven is in you! You can physically be in the darkest part of the dingiest city, and if you have ''Heaven in your heart', you are in 'heaven', and there's nothing that can take that away from you!
Certain nay-sayers will tell you that you can't be in God's Presence unless & until you're perfectly sinless! To these people I like to respond with Hebrews 10:14; 'for He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified'. Our modern definition of 'perfect' is pretty much a 'utopian dream'! As Adam & Eve were supposedly created in 'sinless perfection', so man & woman, if truly a ( made ) New Creation, is supposed to be able to achieve that same degree of 'sinless perfection'. However, what many seem to gloss over is the glaringly simple question, 'if A & E were without sin, how did they sin?' Oh right, the devil, or Satan..............( do we REALLY need to go there?! )
In the truest sense of the phrase, maybe, we, as the Family of God, ARE 'diamonds in the rough'! Though most of us look like lumps of coal, and it's often not till we are put through the wringer, so to speak, under tremendous pressure, that our real gem-quality shines through, we ARE a New Creation; as the apostle Paul wrote 'old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new' ( II Corinthians 5:17b )! This New Creation is obviously not speaking of our physicality, if it were, we would really be in 'Heaven' right?! I mean, think about it, no more brain-farts, no sickness, no sadness, no cancers eating away at our bodies, no cleft palates, no stiff necks, sore backs, in-grown toe-nails, etc.! 'Heaven'! It surely is a nice thought, yes, it surely is!
We are a Diamond in the Rough, not just as individual human beings, flawed, but flawless, broken, but unmarred; as the Body of Christ, corporately, we ARE sinless perfection! We ARE, in the midst of this rough world, a flawless diamond through which shines the Light of Christ! A wise man recently put it this way; 'the mission of the Church is to be to the world what Jesus was to the Jews'! We are His 'diamond in the rough' and while it is often not till we are put under tremendous pressure that the Light shines greatest in us, both individually & corporately, we shine as diamonds in this rough and coal-black world because He dwells in us; we are His Temple, we ARE where 'Heaven & Earth' intersect, now let's LIVE it!
Charles Haddon Shank