Sunday, September 15, 2013

Checkmate For Hell - Part 12: Deconstructing Our Ideas of Heaven

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts, meant to be read in order.  In the first post, I introduced the concept of Universalism, and introduced the concept that I would be defending my position through a series of "chess moves".  I mentioned that I believe I have checkmate in 2 moves, but because a lot of questions would be left, I would use a series of further moves to keep the king in checkmate while I systematically removed the rest of the pieces from the board.  I would highly suggest you read the previous parts of this series before reading this one:
Part 1: Moves 1-3
Part 2: Moves 4-5
Part 3: Moves 6-7
Part 4: Move 8
Part 5: Moves 9-10
Part 6: Move 11
Part 7: Move 12
Part 8: The Six Line Narrative
Part 9: Two False Gospels, and a Man in a Pit
Part 10: Creation/Fall and Spirit/Soul/Body
Part 11: The True Gospel

Deconstructing our ideas of Heaven
Now you may already be getting an uneasy feeling here – a sense that the common views on “heaven” are incorrect.  They most likely are.  I believe it is a modern heresy of the majority of Christians (in America, at least) to believe that the whole goal of the Christian life is to lead a pious life, being careful not to associate too much with “the world”, so that we can one day escape and “go to heaven.”  “Going to heaven” is a Greek idea, not a Christian one.  It stems from Platonic thought of this world being the cave of delusion, and the spiritual realm being the ultimate reality – an ideal static being.  But if you try to force this view into the Bible, you run into some problems, such as the following passage:

Acts 1:6-8
Then they gathered around him and asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Do you see what just happened there?  Jesus was asked, in very plain language, when the physical kingdom of Israel would be restored to them.  And his reply?  He didn’t say “you sillies – you’re all going to leave this filthy mortal plane and come away to a spiritual realm; a kingdom in the skies called Heaven!  We’re going to escape this cave of delusion!”  No, that’s not what Jesus said at all – rather than correct them in this fashion, he said “it is not for you to know.”  Implying that the restoration of the kingdom of Israel would, in fact, happen.

But that’s not the only passage you’re going to have problems with – try this one on for size:

Romans 8:18-27
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Now, most people who believe in “heaven escapism” also believe in an apocalyptic end times scenario where this world, creation, will be destroyed.  Why would creation be "waiting in eager expectation" for that, as it says in verse 19 of the passage above?  And how is complete annihilation a "liberation from its bondage to decay and being brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God", as in verse 21?  And how does the metaphor of childbirth fit this idea, as in verse 22?

But there’s another problem with the “heaven escapism” view that is presented in this passage – see how it mentions firstfruits in verse 23?  The view of “heaven escapism” doesn’t adequately explain what that means and how it fits into the picture…but I’m getting ahead of myself.  We’ll talk more about firstfruits later.

Here’s another passage that is problematic for “heaven escapists”:

Isaiah 65:17
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

New heaven and new…what?  This is not the only place this pairing appears:

Revelations 21:1
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.

Later on in the same chapter (note I switched to ESV for this one – I like that version because it uses the word “BEHOLD!”  I like that.  I should say “BEHOLD!” more often.):

Revelations 21:5
And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

What’s all this about making ALL things new?  I thought it was just going to be the disembodied spirits/souls of us humans floating up on the clouds playing harp music for all eternity….

Now, one might say “well, this ‘new earth’ is going to be like, some sort of spiritual earth – up in the spiritual realm!”  Well, then this next one is going to be a little problematic for you:

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Ok, so if I’m a new creation NOW…and I have a body…I thought “new creation” meant no body any more…no material….

Once again, we're going to take a break.  But when we continue, we are going to dismantle the rest of The Six Line Narrative.  Here's what you have to look forward to: 

Dismantling The Six Line Narrative: The Role of the Resurrection
Dismantling The Six Line Narrative: But What About Spiritual Bodies?
Dismantling The Six Line Narrative: A New Diagram
Conclusion: Testing the fruits.

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