Jesus saves us from both guilt (through forgiveness) and slavery to sin (through the Holy Spirit). He transforms us to live as renewed human beings in God’s eternal kingdom!
So this means we get to ditch earth and go to heaven when we die, right?
Um…yes and no. Yes, we’ll be in heaven. But no, not in the way people usually think.
For many, “going to heaven when we die” is the movie script they imagine when they think of salvation. It’s been a basic notion of popular religion over the past two hundred years or so, and it’s shaped the way millions of people live.
But when we rightly understand the Bible story, we’re immersed in a sweeping plot with an ending we could never have predicted.
Heaven and Earth
The first two pages of the Bible tell us how God made an amazing place (earth) for people to live and work. He made humans “in his image”—i.e., He made them to reflect His goodness and creativity as they cultivate His good world and bring flourishing to all life.
Here’s the cool part: God was with the humans in the space He’d created for them. God’s space (heaven) fully blended with our space (earth).
But things take a turn for the worse on page three. The humans decided to run the world without God, and they rebelled against Him. Life unraveled, and the world was flooded with evil.
Keep in mind that God’s space (heaven) is utterly unique in its perfection (holy). Since human space (earth) is corrupted by sin, we can no longer enter God’s space. Heaven and earth are divorced.
But who are we to think we can kick God out of His own world?! God had other plans: He decided to save the world through one man’s family (Abraham). Then, He gave these people exclusive access to a place where heaven and earth still overlapped (the temple).
And then something big happened: God Himself came to earth—in Jesus. Jesus became the place where heaven and earth overlapped—the place where all life flourished.
The Kingdom of God
This movement of God toward us is what the Bible story is all about. Heaven is invading earth. The “kingdom of God” is invading “the kingdom of this world.” But God’s kingdom isn’t like other kingdoms—it doesn’t advance through coercion and violence. The kingdom of heaven advances as people enter it—i.e., as they come under the gracious rule and reign of God.
In the Bible, God invited His people (Israel) to live under His rule and reign, but they failed because their hearts were bad. But there was one Israelite who responded and fully obeyed God’s rule—Jesus!
As a result, God is now gathering a new people who’ll live under his reign—a reign exercised through Jesus, his anointed King (Messiah). When we believe this message, God transforms our hearts and ushers us in into his eternal kingdom. We’re the place where heaven and earth overlap!
So, we still get to go to heaven, right?
Not so fast. Remember how the Bible depicts the relentless movement of heaven toward earth? And remember how this movement reached its climax in Jesus?
Well, when Jesus returns to earth He’s bringing heaven with Him. Read the last two pages of the Bible: Jesus will come and renew the earth. The city of God (heaven) will descend, and the temple of God (the place where He lives) will be here.
We’ll reign with God and get to do all the things we were made to do! (See Revelation 5:9-10.)
All this will happen when God’s kingdom comes “on earth as it is in heaven.” The bride will feast with her bridegroom. Heaven and earth will become one. We’ll begin a new chapter, and all life will flourish forever!
“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:3-4).