Heaven, as a place apart from the earth, is not the goal of the Christian life, and to present this heaven as a sort of goal for the Christian life is a disservice to the gospel itself. The Bible doesn’t say much about heaven, but one thing is for sure, heaven, or at least the common conception of it as a place of repose for the faithful, is not the goal to which we as Christian strive. Rather, the goal of Christian salvation is that heaven may come to earth so that where the church on earth is, the church triumphant is also.
One common way of presenting the gospel starts with the question “Do you think, if you die, you’ll be in heaven today.” Indeed, when we hear exhortations to present the gospel as Evangelicals, it’s often framed in terms of “there are so many lost who will go to hell and not heaven.” And while this is true for Evangelicals who truly believe that Jesus Christ is the only way, truth and life, it nonetheless sets up heaven as the end of the Christian life, the goal to which we look towards as we live lives as Christians. However, I dont think this is a view that is complete enough in comparison to what God has revealed to us is his plan for the history of redemption.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father full of grace and truth. . . . Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
It is fitting that John here uses the words “Jesus Christ,” a very uncommon expression in the entirety of the gospels and one which John himself only uses in two places (once here, and once more in John 17), both places where he talks about just what has come through him who is called Messiah because it relates to what heaven was, is, and what it shall be in the future.
At first it seems as if this has nothing to do with heaven, but when we consider what heaven itself is, we realize the importance of his passage to what God will do in the future. Heaven, throughout the Bible, is where God has resided — a place without sin, a place which is lit by the very glory of God. In comparsion the earth is where we as people have resided, a place filled with sin, a place whose inhabitants cannot bear the glory of God without dying. This is why in the old testament, God needed to reside in a tabernacle or in a temple. It was a place which could contain the glory of God and not only formed not just a barrier to God for his people, but also a barrier between his people and the glory of God. So Christ coming to earth shatters this paradigm of the action of God. John writes that Jesus “dwelt” among us — he pitched his tent and became a literal tabernacle among us. Jesus was literally heaven on earth for in his physical body, the fullness of the glory of God could dwell. This is the amazingness of the incarnation and the most incomprehensible part of God. In Christ, a piece of sinful earth was fully, utterly, and totally redeemed to be an everlasting part of the second person of the trinity for what once was only spirit will now forever have a body of the flesh of the earth.
We have been saved by being united with Christ to be made coheirs of the Kingdom of God, made holy in Christ Jesus. More than that though, we are now described as the very temple of the Holy Spirit, of God himself. We are ambassadors for God. We are citizens of heaven. Therefore we are now heaven on earth in much the same way as Christ was and our goal is to live up to this perfection that is our future. Today, we are being made into the likeness of Christ and we become the very work of the reconciliation between heaven and earth. The goal of Christianity is not that we might go to heaven, but that heaven might come to earth so that what once was separate will be no longer. Christianity’s end is God dwelling in heaven on earth. This is what we envision when we pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Therefore, rightfully, in the end at the name of Jesus, at the name of he who is God, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is God to the glory of God the Father for in the future all things in heaven and on earth will be reconciled to Christ.
The end of Christianity is the coming of the kingdom of God of which believers are heirs. This heaven is not the end, it is only the beginning of the realization of the greatest Christian hope of all, the restoration of a world where God may dwell world without end. Today, we are heaven on earth, the very representatives of the coming kingdom that we strive to proclaim and build by our deeds and our words through the leading of the spirit by the power of God. Therefore let us press towards that high, upward call of God and let us, as many as be perfect have the same mind and let us eagerly await him of whose kingdom we are citizens and representatives of our Lord Jesus Christ who is working even now to reconcile all things to himself by the power of the blood of the cross. Glory to God in the highest, for in the end that is all there shall be on earth and in heaven when God walks again on earth.