I came to faith in a standard evangelical American church, where the gospel was most often framed in Evangelism Explosion terms, where the question that needs answered is:
“Suppose you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say?”
According to this question, the greatest issue of the Christian faith is this: We need to get into heaven.
I affirm that the gospel addresses the afterlife, but I think that we may need to reframe the gospel to reach a new generation of post-Christian and post-modern people. Rob Bell’s term for this is “repainting the Christian faith,” the subtitle of his book, Velvet Elvis.
Maybe instead of focusing in on the benefits of placing our faith in Jesus for the afterlife, we should start talking more about how doing so changes us and our world now.
Maybe we should see heaven and hell here on earth in our present experiences, and be used by God to be transformation agents, shifting the tide from hell toward heaven. Things like 9/11, the Virginia Tech shootings, corporate greed, shady politics, abortions, pandemics, poverty…they all can be seen as hell on earth.
But the Christian community has a prayer to combat this hell on earth. We pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
“Now if there is a life of heaven, and we can choose it, then there’s also another way. A way of living out of sync with how God created us to live. The word for this is hell” a way, a place, a realm absent of how God desire things to be. We can bring heaven to earth; we can bring hell to earth. (p. 147)
“For Jesus, this new kind of life in him is not about escaping this world but making it a better place, here and now. The goal for Jesus isn’t getting into heaven. The goal is to get heaven here.” (p. 148)
We look forward not to a time when we will go up to heaven to be with God; we look forward to the time when God will come down to us and live with us here on earth forever.
“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, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev. 21:2-3)
I’ve written about this Reformational worldview a lot here at Vanguard Church. It states that God’s ultimate goal is to restore the Creation. This is why we talk about rebirth, redemption, reconciliation, resurrection, renewel. God is reclaiming his creation, renewing his creation, restoring his creation.
In the end, Jesus does not proclaim that he is starting from scratch to make all new things. No, his proclamation as the Alpha and the Omega is “I am making all things new!” (Rev. 21:5).
He brings to its culmination what he began with his resurrection. The renewal of all things!
Posts in this series: TRUE – Velvet Jesus
TASSELS - Velvet Jesus
NEW – Velvet Jesus
Is Rob Bell a Godless Man, Condemned by God? Review of John MacArthur's The Truth War
technorati: emerging church, missional, spiritual formation, Christian Worldview