Imagine you received, what you thought was an invitation to a party. This was no ordinary party, though. On the front of the party invitation was as a picture of an outer space visitor in a distant galaxy.
The place you saw in this picture was so remarkable and beyond anything you had ever seen. You were so excited to attend this party with your new distant friend in the far away galaxy, that you began building a rocket ship and preparing to head to outer space.
Now imagine, after years of building your rocket ship and preparing for your journey, you decided to read the instructions on the back of the invitation. To your surprise, you found out that it actually wasn’t an invitation at all, but a request. Your friend actually wanted to come visit you and wanted to hold the party down here. He had sent you the picture of his homeland, so that you could know how to make a welcoming environment for him.
The Christian Invitation
To most Christians the good news message, is that God has invited them to go to heaven.
The ‘gospel message’ commonly taught is this: “Jesus died for your sins so that you can go to heaven when you die.”
“Do you know where you’d go if you died tonight?” is often the leading question to prepare someone to hear the gospel invitation.
“I know for certain where I’m going when I die!” boasts many preachers.
When we go to a funeral of a believer, we hear “We don’t have to guess about where he is right now!”
What if like the silly example of the outer space party invitation, God never invited us to go to heaven at all. What if instead he wanted to throw a party down here?
What if we’ve been busy building rocket ships and preparing to go to heaven, when were supposed to be preparing for the king of heaven to come back to earth?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 ESV)
First I want to clarify what exactly heaven is…or should I say the heavens are!
The bible starts out by telling us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. I think most now what the Bible means by the earth, but what does it mean by the heavens? And why is it plural?
Well it is plural because there are 3 heavens actually!
If we pay attention to day 2 of the creation account in Genesis 1, and observe what is known to us in creation, we can get a better understanding of what these 3 heavens are all about.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. (Genesis 1:6-8 ESV)
The creation account starts out with “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2 ESV), but on Day 2 God begins to separate “waters from waters.” Although that sounds like a confusing phrase, what it is talking about, is separating water from air.
What is the difference between water an air?
Well, a basic difference is that water is heavier falls to the ground, while air floats above the earth. We need both air and water to live, but water we have to drink several times throughout the day. Air, on the other hand, is just kinda there. Water you can see, air you can’t see.
Water is somewhat limited, even though it is more tangible to us (for example consider the refreshment you get when drinking a glass of water when you are thirsty verses the refreshment of breathing air). However, although air is invisible and less tangible to us, it is in fact more limitless and actually necessary to us (you can go a few days without water but only a few minutes without air).
This is somewhat the difference between the first and second heaven.
The first heaven is the air we breath, the second heaven is the spiritual world where God and angels live.
The third heaven, is the place outside of space and time where God dwells in his full glory that even the angels can’t see, although Paul got to take a trip there (2 Cor 12:2).
If the physical world is like land and water, and the 2nd heaven is like the earth’s atmosphere, you could say that the third heaven is like outer space. It’s infinitely big and rather dangerous for humans to go to.
A Quick Human Anatomy Primer
One more quick tangent than I will tie all these concepts together:
Most Christians know that God is triune (Father, Son, and Spirit), but not a lot have been taught that they themselves are also triune.
Humans are composed of Body, Soul, and Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Our body is the physical part that lives and interacts in the physical world.
Our spirit interacts with the spiritual world (ie God and Angelic beings that are in the 2nd heaven). Though it’s invisible to us and we don’t really see it, it is there.
Our soul, is comprised of our mind, will, and emotions, and is somewhere in between the Spirit and the Body. You could think of it as the expanse between the water and the air, that was created on Day 2 of creation (or the atmosphere layer that separates our air from outer space).
Genesis says that God took dirt, breathed life (ie spirit) into it and man became a living soul.
Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)
The basic flow we were designed to live in is that our spirit wants to express itself through our physical bodies and the soul is the in between layer that brings the two together.
Unfortanely this flow got messed up since the fall.
The main point, however, for me bringing this up is to get across the point that God designed our bodies so that the finite (our bodies) could express the infinite (our spirit) not the other way around, and the world we live in works the exact same way.
The World To Come
‘The World To Come’ (also known as the Age To Come, the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven), is a concept that is very common in Jewish thought and if you know to look for it, you will find it all over the Old Testament Prophetic Books, and New Testament. However, it is rarely talked about by Gentile Christians (though thankfully this idea is starting to be recovered some folks in our day).
The letter to the Hebrews, says that ‘The World To Come’ is in fact what his exhortation is about:
“For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.” (Hebrews 2:5)
What is this World To Come? And how does it relate to all this other stuff I brought up?
The basic idea behind ‘The World to Come is this:
- The Biblical story line starts out with man living with God in a paradise on earth called the Garden of Eden.
- Man however fell into sin and had to leave the Garden.
- Ever since man’s fall into sin, the world has been marked by Satan, sin, and death. This time period is referred to as ‘This Present World’, or ‘This Present Age.’
- However, in Genesis 3, there was the first promise of a Messiah that would come from the line of the woman (ie humanity) and would crush the head of the serpent (ie Satan).
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15 ESV)
- Because of this promise the, the Jews for thousands of years have believed that a Messiah would come and destroy Satan, sin and death, resurrecting the righteous dead and bring the world back into the state it once was when man was in the Garden of Eden.
- The transitional period is know as ‘The Messianic Age’. Other names that it is refereed to are ‘The Time of Restoration'(Acts 3:21) or ‘The Time of Reformation’ (Hebrews 9:10), or ‘The Millennium’ (Revelation 20:4).
- The endless time when this is completed and God once again lives with man in paradise on earth like he did in the Garden of Eden, is then what is meant by ‘The World to Come’
Here’s s an simple overview of the flow:
This World [The Current Age] -> Messianic Age [Time of Reformation] -> World To Come [Age To Come]
We are currently in the ‘end of this age’ (1 Peter 1:20) and the time of Reformation will begin at Jesus’ return (Acts 3:21).
If you flip to the end of your Bible, to Revelations chapters 20 and 21, you will find that it describes the World To Come (here Called New Jerusalem).
What you will find, is that it comes out of heaven down to earth. Just like Jesus came out of heaven down to earth, and like the Holy Spirit comes out of heaven into us.
You see God never sent out an invite for us to get out of earth into heaven he sent a request for him to come down where we are and to bring heaven with him.
Like the rocket ship analogy I started the post with, we’ve flipped the invitation upside down.
It’s time we blow up our rocket ships and get ready for the king of heaven to come down to us!
I am going to divide this series into 3 parts.
The first part will look at a few false teaching and misunderstandings that have contributed to our confusion over the destination.
The second part will expand on the concepts of ‘The Messianic Age’ and ‘The world to Come’ so that you can better understand where the destination is.
And finally the third part I will expand on what the Lord’s Prayer teaches us about our part is in welcoming God back to earth and how we can experience a taste of the World To Come Now.