If You Could See Me Now in Heaven

Bad Theology About Heaven

Kim Noblitt’s song, “If You Could See Me Now” is a new standard at funerals. Seeking comfort in the wake of a loved one’s passing, many Christians are finding it in the words of the chorus.

If you could see me now,
I'm walking streets of gold.

If you could see me now,
I'm standing strong and whole.

If you could see me now,
You'd know I've seen His face.

If you could see me now,
You'd know the pain is erased.

You wouldn't want me to ever leave this place,
If you could only see me now.

North American Christianity has taught for the last Century that the ultimate destination of the Christian life is to pass on to heaven, a spiritual place where the streets are made of gold, where we are healed of our sicknesses, where pain is erased, and where we finally come face to face with our loving Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In our grief of the loss of a loved one, we are assured that this person is in a better place, and would sing to us, “You wouldn't want me to ever leave this place.”

While Noblitt’s song brings comfort to those who grieve, it gets only part of the biblical story right.

It is certainly true that when a believer passes from this life, he or she comes into the presence of the Lord. As the Apostle Paul wrote,

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ for that is far better.” (Phil. 1:21-23)

It must also be true that upon death, the pain and suffering that leads to death is erased.

But here’s what we need to get straight: Christianity is a faith that proclaims the hope of resurrection. Redemption in Christ is not just for the immaterial part of us (what is often called the “soul”), but also the material part of us – our bodies.

In other words, the ultimate destination for Christians is not when we die and go off to be with Jesus. Our ultimate destination is when our bodies are redeemed, set free from the ravages of sin. The redemption of our bodies will only occur when Christ returns and raises our bodies from the dead.

We wait eagerly for “the redemption of our bodies…for in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:23-24).

This hope of redemption is a physical thing – our material bodies and this material world. For not only are we, in our bodies, subject to the frustration of decay, the whole creation is as well. But the great Christian hope is that when our bodies are reunited with our souls and our bodies are resurrected imperishable (1 Cor 15:42), the “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21).

In other words, this world will be redeemed, made new (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1), for the purpose of our inhabiting it for all eternity. Our ultimate destination is not the heavenly existence we might experience after death, but the eternity of the “New Heavens and New Earth.” So, our loved one would not sing, “You wouldn't want me to ever leave this place.” They would probably sing, “This is great to be with Jesus now, but I really look forward to my ultimate hope - my body being resurrected so that I can dwell in the presence of God for all eternity, just like it was always meant to be.”

We will be “standing strong and whole” only after the resurrection, when our bodies will be glorified for eternal existence. The song gets a little confused here: Noblitt has wrote lyrics about the time when our souls are separated from our bodies. However, this is not the “End State” for the believer; it is what theologians call the “Intermediate State.” It is a temporary place.

As Mike Wittmer writes, “The Christian hope is that our departure from this world is just the first leg of a journey that is round-trip. We will not remain forever with God in heaven, for God will bring heaven down to us.” (Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God, p. 17)

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, “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. 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.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

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