During the Arian controversy of the early church, Arius’ heresy spread through song. The heterodox presbyters wrote songs that the common man could easily learn, so while the Church determined Arianism was heresy, the popular vote went for Arianism. It’s not a stretch to say that what the church sings it will soon confess.
Many in the church today have a wrong view of end times and that has a lot to do with the songs she has been singing. In the tradition I grew up in we often sang,
This world is not my I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
A song meant to steel our nerve as we sojourn through this dark and perilous world. It’s a song that sets the Christian apart from her culture, neighbors, and the world. We do not engage and create anything in this world worth relishing, rather we are waiting to be called to Gloryland by angels where we will meet friend Jesus and shake hands with our loving family.
While we are certainly sojourners in this world and citizens of another kingdom, should we look to heaven as our final home? Are we just a-passin’ through?
The answer from Scripture is an emphatic no! We aren’t going to live in ethereal mansions in heaven for eternity. Clouds are not our final resting place. Spirits with wings are not our final form.
Our eternal future is far more earthy.
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Some were telling the Corinthian church that the resurrection had already happened or wasn’t going to happen. Paul says the gospel without a future resurrection was hopeless. Our buried bodies are seeds planted that will bloom into our perfect and final form—resurrection bodies that live in a new creation.
Our King enfleshed who now sits in heaven reigning will return to earth and he will set up his city to rule over all the earth. The old promise of a small parcel of land in the Middle East expands. The Christ and his Church will reign the entire world. The entire new creation will be his domain and every knee will bow.
As his kingdom comes, the Church will joyfully obey God’s original mandate to creature culture and exercise dominion. We will fill the earth in this new world with redeemed culture. We will see science make leaps and bounds beyond anything imagined. We will write stories that put our best work here to shame. We will produce food that would make Bob say, “Mmmmm. This is so scrumptious.”
This fundamental truth that the world is our home now and forever should transform the way we live. It should change the way we parent. It should change the we treat our spouses. It should change the way we take care of our homes. It should change the way we care for the world. It should change the way we create culture—books, movies, paintings, music.
All of this is done to obey the cultural mandate in Genesis 1-3, and our work is not vain. The best of it will last. Also, Jesus commands us to make disciples by teaching peoples everywhere to obey everything he taught. Part of that everything is the command to create culture and to exercise dominion. We do that with excellence as a way to reflect in even the smallest way possible the world we were ultimately created for, the kingdom that will come. We do that to stir up awe and wonder in the hearts of peoples to remind them that they were created for a better world.
This culture creating isn’t the gospel, but it’s certainly important work as we strive to live faithfully considering the implications of the gospel, considering the enfleshed and reigning Jesus Christ, and considering the word we were made for as revealed by the Triune God from Genesis to Revelation.
[Editorial Note: I write to be sharpened and to develop my own thinking. That’s a huge reason I do what I do. With that being said. Clarification is necessary. In the providence of God, I attended a funeral and also heard testimony from someone who just found out they had cancer this week. These events made me think hard about heaven and why it is important. I want to be careful in my push-back against the near neglect of the earthiness of our future home that I don’t swing the pendulum too far. There’s is certainly a hope for heaven even if it’s not our final home. For many of us that is where we will see our Savior first, but Scripture does some seem to portray our heavenly home as a temporary resting place until the full redemption of all things take places. Heaven then is still in many ways the gestation of our full and eventual hope (the resurrection of our bodies and our new earthly home)—but that shouldn’t diminish our expectancy for it or the eagerness with which will wait for the return of King Jesus to earth and the resurrection of our bodies.]
Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and a contributor in Make, Mature, Multiply (GCD Books). He completed over forty hours of seminary work at Geneva Reformed Seminary. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and the assistant editor at CBMW Men’s Channel. He regularly writes for a variety of publications. Mathew offers freelance editing and book formatting. He is a member at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.