Q & R—Part 2
This is Part 2 to some questions a dear friend of mine sent me. Part 1 is here.
Do you believe that God sent [Jesus] for [the] purpose [of dying for our sins], so you might believe and join Him in heaven one day?
Again, yes and no (I know. It’s the Irish in me.). I know that Jesus came from God, that God sent him, that the will of God is to believe in Jesus, but I’m not sure that God sent Jesus to die for our sins. Again, I think that is one way of looking at it. But I’m convinced it’s not the only way. It’s the language of a people immersed in a sacrificial system. That’s how they would understand the imagery. It would be like Joseph going to Egypt. His brothers sold him into slavery but Joseph understood it as God sending him there. I completely believe that Jesus knew that he would die for what he was doing and saying. But I think it’s more than just “dying for our sins.” I think it was to completely destroy evil. Paul wrote that through the cross and resurrection Jesus defeated evil. That’s another way of looking at God’s purpose in sending Jesus. Evil emptied itself upon Jesus and Jesus rose victorious on the third day, thereby defeating evil at it’s core.
Another purpose of God sending Jesus is that of restoring all of creation to the way it was “in the beginning.” This leads me to the next point.
Concerning “joining Him in heaven one day”: I don’t believe this. It’s a falseness that’s been proposed upon the church but is lacking biblical support. The “goal” is not “going to heaven when you die.” The goal is being resurrected in God’s New Creation. According to Scripture (Isaiah 40-55, 64, 65; Revelation 21-22; etc.) the goal of all creation is a time when heaven and earth are joined together. Notice, for example, in Revelation 21, when the “New Jerusalem” (i.e., the realm of God) comes down to earth. The imagery is that of “heaven” (meaning God’s realm of existence) and “earth” (our realm of existence) becoming one. All of history is moving to that goal. Our vocation as people of faith is to try and find ways of implementing that ultimate future now. For me, that was why I became a vegetarian. In the beginning, all created things ate only vegetables (Genesis 1.29-30). The images in Isaiah 11, for example, point to a restoration of that very thing.
A follow up question, to the concept of “believing” in Jesus, would be: “What about Gandhi?” Do we honestly believe that the God—who is Love (1 John 4.8)—would look at Gandhi with a list of his accomplishments, and say, “Well, let’s see. Helping the outcast, good. Helping the oppressed, good. Living a peaceful life, good. Oops. I don’t see where you believe that Jesus died for your sins. Sorry Gandhi. You can’t come in. You have a one way ticket to hell.” That man has done more for the Kingdom of Peace than most people I know. He saw that the here and now is just as sacred as the “there and then.” The justice he proposed was exactly the same that Christ proposed. In fact, Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” This quote should shake us to our knees. It reiterates all of the teaching of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament. That is, that the whole life will be examined in the end and we will be held accountable for our actions. Look at every judgment scene in Scripture (Matthew 25, for example, or Romans 2). Every one of them is about what we have done, not about what we believe. The two should go hand in hand. Our belief should empower us to do good works (see James 2). If not, we should question our belief for belief alone will not save us (again, James 2).
So the question then is what is meant by “believing”? I think the biblical support is that belief means something like trustful action. That is, trusting in the promises and then doing what those promises tell us to do. But the promises are not just for the souls of people. The promises of God are for all creation. This, again, is alluded to in the prophets I mentioned above and throughout the New Testament.
I hope that these answers will speak to you deeply and help you see things a little differently. To be specific, I trust in Christ as my Lord and my God. He truly is Lord of all creation.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
1. Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.