Note: This post was written by Hugh Whelchel, Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and author of How Then Should We Work?: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work. The article originally appeared here.
“Why should I worry about work and impacting the culture around me when it’s all going to burn up anyway?” asked a young Christian I spoke to recently. “I am just waiting to go to heaven,” he added.
Unfortunately this “Theology of Evacuation” is what far too many American evangelicals believe. But is it what the Bible teaches?
It’s not, and 1,900 years of church history prove it.
The four-chapter gospel reminds us of the fullness of God’s redemptive story. Yet over the last 100 years the church has truncated the four chapters of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration to just two chapters, Fall and Redemption.
As a result, we don’t know what we were created to do and where we are going to end up in the end. If you lose Restoration, you end up with statements like the one above. You lose a biblical understanding of what theologians call eschatology, the study of the end of this age.
A full understanding of Restoration will keep us from seeing our time on earth as just waiting around at a bus stop to get to heaven.
To that end, here are six reasons why heaven is not our (long-term) home.
Heaven Is a Temporary Place
Heaven is where those who have died in Christ wait for the final resurrection.
We see those who are in heaven in Revelation 6:10, watching the events on the earth lamenting, “How long, Sovereign Lord?”
We see the whole creation groaning in anticipation of the renewal of all things (Romans 8:19, 22).
Our bodies will be physically and materially restored at Jesus’s second coming. Our souls will be reunited with our transformed physical bodies, brought back to life from the dead.
The New Earth Is Where We Will Spend Eternity
The Bible says our bodies will die, but God will raise them up in the final resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-57).
In the same way, the Earth will die, but God will bring it back in a much better condition.
That will be the New Earth, an earth that is restored to the way it was supposed to be, free from the curse of sin. This is where those who are in Christ will live with him for eternity.
Peter’s Words on Fire, Judgment, and the Destruction of the World Are Often Misunderstood
In II Peter 3:10, the Apostle Peter says,
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
Many people misunderstand Peter, believing he is foretelling the destruction of the world. He’s not.
In the context of the rest of II Peter 3, Peter is saying that God will cleanse the earth as he did in Noah’s day, except with fire instead of water.
Peter is not talking about the earth’s destruction but its renewal, brought about by God’s refining fire.
Paul’s Words on Fire and Judgment Also Point to Purification
The Apostle Paul also saw the fire of future judgment through the lens of purification rather than annihilation.
In I Corinthians, Paul uses the imagery of fiery judgment that will test individual human works done in the name of God.
I Corinthians 3:13 says,
Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
Good Works Will Carry over to the New Earth
Many biblical scholars agree with N.T. Wright when he says,
Everything you do in the present, in the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, everything that flows out of love and hope and grace and goodness somehow will be part of God’s eventual Kingdom…works of justice and mercy and love and hope – somehow in ways we don’t understand will be part of God’s new creation.
This is one of the reasons why what we do today counts for eternity!
We Will Have Good Work in Eternity
We were made to work in the world before sin entered it. When the sin is burned away and Christ restores all things, we will work again in an environment where all of our work is full of joy and purpose.
In Isaiah 65:21-23, Isaiah describes work in the age to come like this:
They will build houses and dwell in them, they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit…my chosen ones will long to enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labor in vain nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the Lord.
What a beautiful picture of restoration.