Is heaven simply some far off place that Christians go to after they die or is there something they should be actively taking part in while living to help bring heaven onto earth?
Chris Kugler, a theology major studying at a private Tennessee university, tries to answer the question in his first book, Being Christian: A Journey from the Boat to the Shore, Culminating at the Cross. In it he explores the subject of heaven.
Kugler believes the Bible tells Christians that they do have a part in preparing for God’s return, when the earth will become a “new Creation" or “new heaven.” In his book, he writes about other areas of the Bible, but chose to focus on the subject of “heaven on earth” when he recently spoke with The Christian Post.
He admits that his belief that Christians can be a part of the “new creation,” as written about in Revelation, is a view not frequently heard at church. However, Kugler says his book is about giving American Christians a fresh way to understand Scripture and “the story that God is telling with Scripture.”
“For many Christians the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is read as kind of a book of abstract truths that kind of fell from heaven that anybody can read and obtain spiritual direction as if they we were reading a Max Lucado book or a John Piper book, or whoever,” Kugler said. “The point of the book (Being Christian) is that Scripture just doesn’t function that way. That it’s much more interesting than that. That it is much more compelling than that. It’s much more historically rooted than that.”
In his interpretation of the Bible, he said he sees something different than what is traditionally taught in church.
“Scripture is the story of the Creator God with His creation and a creation that has gone wrong and God’s plan specifically through Israel, and through Israel’s messiah Jesus, a plan to put the world right – to heal and restore the whole creation,” he explained. “Unfortunately, often times it can be cast in this light that basically the Bible is about this: God created the world, it got off track, and God’s solution was [that] the world is spinning off in chaos and He wants to take you somewhere else (heaven).”
Kugler emphasized that the earth, with its people, are part of the biblical equation.
“Jesus prayed and lived, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be the name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ And the whole scripture ends in Revelation with heaven coming to earth … a new heaven and a new earth.”
So, how should Christians act if they were to believe they are part of the new creation to come sometime in the future?
“I think the message is that God loves this place. God wants to restore this place. It’s not so much that we were made for heaven as that heaven was made for earth,” he said.
“What [does] it look like to bring heaven to earth right now? We can, in the power of God’s spirit, prayerfully help restore the Creation so that when King Jesus is unveiled behind the thin veil that He is behind right now, and heaven and earth come together at last, this place will then seem to be a place that is fitting for the King that’s come home. That is the Christian vocation.”
Obeying God’s commandments, including loving your neighbor, is how Christians can “bring about the new creation, bring heaven to earth,” he said.