Sometimes it seems there are two sides cheering in the gym. One group yells out, “More heaven!” and fans of that team repeat the cheer. The other group yells, “More life now!” and like-minded fans declare the same.
Those with enough sense to watch what is happening in the noisy, cheer-filled gym need to ask for a moment of silence to announce that there is no reason why we can’t live for now in light of Heaven. Too much focus on the future Heaven or on life in the here and now misses the dual emphasis of the Bible — and indeed of our lives.
Heaven people ought to be the most zealous about care for creation, love of others, peacemaking, and social justice. Heaven people have tasted the grandeur of Heaven, and therefore they long for Heaven to begin its work now on earth. But these same active workers can also be those who long the most for the fullness of God’s presence and the perfection of God’s people in the new Heavens and the new earth.
How then should Heaven people live now? Let’s get one thing clear first, if it isn’t already obvious: to be Heaven people we don’t need to be heroes. Heaven people live ordinary lives in ordinary places with ordinary families. They work at ordinary vocations. The practicing of resurrection on earth is tied to the heart of the Heaven Promise: the resurrection of Jesus.
To practice resurrection now means permitting our morning, our midday, our evening, and our night to be redefined by resurrection. Everything having to do with everything we do and everything we are can be swallowed into resurrection life.
The affirmative response to a contract is a signature, to an invitation an acceptance, to a covenant a commitment, and to a promise trust. God promised Heaven, and he made that promise alive and real in the resurrection of Jesus. But we are called to trust this promising God in our daily lives. We do this in how we live and how we die. Some days we walk in a vibrant faith and other days, like Peter, we begin to sink into waters of doubt.
Like the father who longed for his son to be healed, we may need to cry out in the presence of God: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” We are not promised that in trusting God we will experience constant, victorious, abounding faith. What is promised — and please don’t forget this — is that God will be faithful to his Heaven Promise.
What encourages our faith the most is to turn to Jesus, to face Jesus, to listen to Jesus, and to watch Jesus. Open your Bible to any of the Gospels and begin reading. You will see Jesus, and if you keep reading, you will see Jesus go through it all: joys and sorrows, commitments and betrayals, birth and growth, and life and death. But if you keep reading to the last page of any of the Gospels, you will encounter the resurrected Jesus. Stand in the empty tomb with him and face your past, your present, and your future in light of the resurrection of Jesus.
Trusting looks different for each of us. For the young mother and father, for the career person — single or married — for the retiring person, for the elderly, and for the widower or widow. For some, trusting will mean being faithful under pressure; for some it will mean disciplining rough edges; for others it will mean waiting, sometimes in pain and sometimes alone. But trusting is a genuine mark of Heaven people.
Heaven people have an earthly life to which they are committed, to the glory of God. Why? In the first chapter of the Bible, God interprets his own work with a word that needs to be pasted on the door of every church. The word is good. The light was good, the land was good, vegetation (surely God means strawberries) was good, the sun and moon are good, all creatures great and small (not the exact words, of course) in the waters and on the land are good, and then God made a male and female in his own image. When he was all done, God said it was “very good.” God’s own interpretation of his creation is that it is very good. In the goodness of God’s creation we begin to see how Heaven people live. Heaven people dwell in God’s good creation and are summoned by God to a task to govern this world under God for his glory.
Do what you are called to do, do it well, and do it with an eye on exercising your gifts forever and ever in the new Heavens and new earth.
The core of the Heaven Promise is that in the new Heavens and the earth, God will make all things right. Each word matters: God will do this; will make is the promise; all things means all things — all people, all actions, all systems; and right means God promises that the earth in its new-creation form will run as God designed it to run.
In Heaven God will make all things right. The God who promises us that kind of Heaven is at work in us now to infect the world with making things right everywhere we go.
Adapted from The Heaven Promise by Scot McKnight Copyright © 2015 by Scot McKnight. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.