Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | May 5, 2008

In Heaven, Part 2

Jesus has taken you to heaven, but if you don’t believe that you’ll be miserable.

A friend emailed me after my post on Friday regarding Ephesians 2:6 and my discussion of how Jesus carried humanity into heaven in his ascension. My friend worries that if I don’t talk about our faith response to the gospel then people will go away with the wrong idea – thinking that our faith doesn’t matter.

But of course, faith does matter!

It’s just that I’m more concerned that we 21st century Christians have made our faith into an idol. We think we go to heaven because we have faith in Jesus but the gospel is that Jesus has carried us into heaven by permanently uniting himself to humanity (1 Tim. 2:5, Eph. 2:6, Col. 3:3-4).

If we don’t have faith in this truth, that we are in heaven in Christ, then we are miserable. In fact, that is the very definition of hell: you are in Christ but you hate it and/or don’t believe it. So faith is extremely important! Faith doesn’t get us there but it does allow us to enjoy the place in the Trinity that Christ has given us.

Heaven and hell aren’t two different places, they are two different experiences of the same place. There is only one place for us to exist: in Christ (Acts 17:28, Hebrews 1:1-3). And since Christ is seated in heaven, at the Father’s right hand, our existence in Christ is an existence in heaven.

If we choose to live our existence in Christ (in heavenly realms) by faith then heaven feels as it should – heavenly! But if we choose to live our existence in Christ (in heavenly realms) by doubt and fear then heaven doesn’t feel as it should – it feels hellish!

I believe the shortest and simplest route to believing that we are in Christ, and the shortest route to experiencing heaven in a heavenly way, is to fix our eyes on Jesus and focus on who he is as the union between Trinity and humanity and the one who brings together heaven and earth.

That’s why sometimes I write posts like I did on Friday, even though they can sound a bit shocking. Once we get over the shock of the gospel we can hear the truth about ourselves: “In and through Christ we belong to the Father and are included in the life of heaven.” Just hearing those words bolsters our faith and confidence in the truth about our real identity. The simple declaration of the gospel increases the chances that we will believe the truth of our place in Christ and therefore be able to enjoy heaven for all that it is.

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Responses

  1. You said “Heaven and hell aren’t two different places, they are two different experiences of the same place”

    Huh? What do you do with passages like Matt 7:22-24 when Jesus say “…I never knew you, depart from me”

    Are you saying the difference is all in our minds?

  2. I think our starting point has to always be Jesus himself. Since he is the Word of God we interpret the word of scripture in the context of who he is.

    As the Word in the flesh, Jesus is the one in whom everything exists and through whom everything is sustained in its existence (John 1:3, Acts 17:28, Col. 1:17, Eph. 1:10; 4:10; Heb. 1:3).

    So, when Jesus says “depart from me” he can’t mean “go somewhere that I am not” because there is no place where Christ is not present.

    What he means is “go to a place where you can’t harm people anymore”.

    It’s like when I send my 4 year-old to his room. He is still my child, he’s still in the same house with the rest of the family, but he is in a place of restraint where he can’t ruin things for the rest of the family. He remains in that place, a place that is included in my life, until such time as he is willing to participate in a loving way in the life he already has with me and my family.


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