The other day I made an "end of the world" joke that made me start thinking about when 1999 was ending and 2000 was beginning. This cultural phenomenon was dubbed Y2K and was supposed to signal the end of the world. Computers weren't going to be able to make the jump into the new millennium, and life, as we knew it was going to change or end. We had neighbors that stockpiled grain and barley in case they needed to have provisions for the next year. We even knew a few families that had built modern-day bomb shelters under their homes. When New Years Eve came my family went out on the back deck and shot off a couple fireworks, exclaiming that we, "made it!"
The memory of Y2K makes me realize that we have so many differing ideas about what the end of the world looks like. The idea that a bomb shelter would be needed to outlast the supposed cyber winter seems ridiculous 15 years later.
Imagine being trapped in a small concrete cell, unable to leave, surrounded by a few of the people that can annoy you the most. Yet, as terrible as it sounds I think its how so many people and churches in the Church (worldwide) spend their lives. Theologically, a bomb shelter version of belief goes against our call as God's people.
Not even waiting with great expectation. Just waiting.
Waiting because too many churches teach that you need to, "believe in Jesus and you get apparated when you die to a fluffy place called Heaven that has gold everywhere." I've read the same bible as the people who teach those beliefs and nowhere in scripture does it teach that heaven is a place you go to but a place we get brought to and also actively bring in.
People that support the belief that Heaven is a 90s Christian song with "lots and lots of rooms!" love to drop the scripture: My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14).
Jesus isn't saying that He got Martha Stewart on the design team with God. He is saying that the Kingdom is for everyone. The biggest division at the time of Jesus' life was between Jews and Gentiles. Jesus saying that there are "many rooms" signals the truth that all people are free to receive the unconditional love of the Father.
So what is Heaven?
Heaven is eternity with God. Forever. No bomb shelters. No hiding out and waiting. Heaven is perfect communion with God.
In the book of Revelation it says: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21)
That is hope. Heaven is no more crying, death, or pain. With God. Forever.
I think the Church has an important role in ushering in the Kingdom.
We need to figure out our identity as the people of God. The kingdom is going to come and yet it is also already here. We get invited to show up. I think we get to see peeks at the kingdom, at what God intended, all the time. That's why I believe in dedicating my life to telling God stories and helping people engage their lives in the kingdom.
I think part of our role as the people of God is breaking out of the bomb shelters that much of Western Christianity has given us and to start showing up. Show up. That's the start. I think that the Kingdom being ushered in doesn't depend solely on us but God chooses to use us. This belief has given me a newfound understanding of the urgency we should have for issues of social justice and compassion. If the church is the vehicle through which God's spirit moves in the world then we need to be the kind of Christ-followers that actively engage. We need to step out of comfort zones and realize that the best way for the kingdom to be ushered in is through us fully seeking the kingdom.
We can't be part of ushering the kingdom into our world until we have let it be ushered in to our souls.
Further reading: I love lists. Read this list for awesome practical ideas and ways to live as worship and usher the Kingdom of God in.