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Concerned about Heaven, Here and Now—Not Hell

Many people are discussing hell right now. I'm more concerned with the kingdom of heaven—what God wants here and now.

Imagine one idea that could distract Christians from some of the biggest problems we’ve ever faced: people suffering around the world, the world’s super power (the US) in an economic crisis, the most strategic and intense part of the world crumbling (the Middle East), and the rise of poverty everywhere. These issues are not what most Christians are discussing; instead, we’re talking about hell and one person’s opinion.

I’m disappointed in us.

A few years ago, the big issue was a pastor who openly talked about sex on stage. And before that, gay marriage was all Christians could seem to talk about. Five years before that, the rapture is all Christians wanted to discuss. All of these are important issues—and things we need to sort out—but how many opportunities have we missed by focusing on the “issues” rather than on Christ?

Here are some of the mistakes we made when we were distracted by other issues. The Rwanda genocide happened on our generation’s watch. One in ten people you know became unemployed. And HIV-AIDS took Africa by storm. Are Christians responsible for this? We all are.

These are not government issues or political issues. These are kingdom of God issues.

Our focus should be on making significant change in the world by bringing God’s kingdom to people everywhere: hope, liberty and eternal life in Christ. That’s what Jesus set out to do: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand [present, but still coming in fullness]; turn the other direction and believe in the good news [of Jesus Christ, the Son of God]” (Mark 1:15). Jesus starts his ministry with this message.

If we’re truly about following Christ, this is what we should be focused on—not yelling at each other. We need to focus on the things that matter to Jesus.

Jesus modeled what mattered to him. First, Jesus calls disciples to follow him and teach others to do the same (Mark 1:16–20). He then walks into a town and starts casting out oppression—an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21–28). Following that, he heals more people (Mark 1:29–34). He prays, preaches some more (Mark 1:35–39), and then goes and heals even more people (Mark 1:40–2:12). Jesus cared about the physical things, and he tied everything he did to eternal ideas: God’s good news had come in the form of a man named Jesus—he was God’s anointed one, here to save us from ourselves and the evil powers at play.

Many people didn’t get it, though; they were distracted by other things (e.g., Mark 2:23–27). We’re distracted now. The grand scheme—put on by evil forces—to keep Christians from accomplishing God’s purposes has been at work for quite some time. It is at work now. Sure, we should fight for what we believe and discuss what the Bible says. But we shouldn’t do anything at the cost of helping others and showing them that Christ has saved them from their sins. There is too much at stake in the world right now for us to be bickering.

If you want to know about hell, go talk to some of my homeless friends. They will tell you that they’ve experienced it. Hell is anything, any place, where God isn't. I'm concerned about where God should be. I want to storm the gates of the hells on earth with the good news of Jesus.

God desires you and believes in you. He wants to give you freedom in Him—a new life that none of us deserve. This life is made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection for us. It’s our duty, our obligation, to live like this life means something. If it’s not for the kingdom of God, if it’s not furthering it, then we’re on the wrong path.

“[Christ] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13–14 ESV). Let’s make that our message.

Tags | Theology

Comments

While I completely appreciate your focus on Mark's gospel and the advice to direct our efforts towards addressing practical problems that everyone can recognize, the fact is that doctrinal and dogmatic issues often have their own pernicious effects in the real world. It may therefore be worthwhile to clear out at least the silliest ideas from one's head before striking out to fix the world (according, of course, to one's possibly misguided ideas of how the world should be fixed). To that end, Christians might do well to reflect a little bit about what they've been taught to assume about hell, sexuality, politics, other religions, and even the moral status of a human zygote.

Let me be clear: the classical Christian doctrine of hell is one of the most pernicious and absurd beliefs a person can possibly have. And, at least for many people, a little honest and critical reflection is often enough to see why.

I think it's clear where I land on this, but it would be great if others chimed in. Should we address doctrinal issues before trying to change the world? Which is more important: doctrinal issues or lasting change?

--John

It of course depends on, among other things, the content of those doctrinal/dogmatic issues, and on how they are influencing one's attempts to change the world.

Religiously motivated suicide bombers should probably address their doctrinal "issues" beforehand.

Your worldview effects your actions. It is so important to know what you believe and why you believe it. If more Christians were fully convinced that the truth of God's word is reality then they would be spurred to action.I think that as Christians are fully convinced that hell is a reality then they will be moved with compassion to meet the physical needs of the people for their spiritual good. All physical healing is just temporal.

It seems from your article that you live in a Christian environment that seems very hostile and one sided. But God is doing amazing things in the church still today. He is engaging people in great conversation and reach hurting people at the same time. You seem to suggest that Christians cannot reach out to the world and discuss important topics at the same time. Did Jesus only want us to reach the physical needs of the world? No, you see Jesus throughout the gospels talking about Hell. It's an important topic. This world needs to be spiritual healed. I appreciate your honesty and transparency in your article.

Thanks for engaging in the conversation.

Would anyone else like to chime in?

--John

People should be concerned to where they will go, either hell or heaven. The judgment of God is once and it is final. So we should now do things right from now on. - James P Stuckey

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The Infinite God is everywhere, are you looking? I am dedicated to finding God in all aspects of life – the Bible, the news, and the arts. Because I find that the most fulfilling journey of all is searching for heaven here on earth.