Heaven dominated last year’s Christian bestseller list. There were at least three heavenly visitation books until one young author stepped forward to confess his whole account had been fabricated. Many were duped not just by an unscrupulous author, but by an unbiblical over-emphasis on a distant place we think of as “our heavenly home.”
The great tragedy, of course, is that Heaven continues to eclipse the Kingdom. As real as it is, Jesus never once instructed us to seek Heaven above everything else. Nor did he use heaven as a hook for evangelism. “Follow me, Peter, and you’ll go to heaven when you die.” And neither did he teach us to pray, “May we come into Heaven where your will will be done…” No… His plan has always involved the heavenly-earthly Kingdom of God; the marriage of heaven and earth, and the very makeover of the world and everything in it.
The idea of spending eternity in Heaven often embraces the unbiblical notion of our disembodied spirits worshipping forever in that translucent realm. We forget that the resurrection means these earthly bodies will live again in a made-over and improved form! Whatever the unfallen Adam was, we will be. Whatever the resurrected Jesus is, we will be! God’s dream has never been to whisk us away to heaven, but to so transform His creation that “the glory of the Lord will once again cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) From the moment of Adam’s transgression, the Father, Son and Spirit has been at work undoing the catastrophic affects of the fall.
I was so encouraged last week to read that Lifeway Christian Bookstores have pulled all of the “Heavenly tourism” books from their inventory. This is a great step forward. Now maybe we can get on undistracted with the work of seeing God’s Kingdom come “on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Addendum: Below is a Google “nGram” plotting the comparative number of books published about various topics. The red line is Heaven, and the blue line is The Kingdom of God. Note how thoroughly Heaven overshadows the Kingdom.