In a short and surprising video from the Bible Project, Tim Mackie and Jon Collins challenge many of our common assumptions about heaven and earth. Mackie opens the video with a simple, yet revolutionary idea:
“In the Bible, the ideas of heaven and earth are ways of talking about God’s space and our space.”
Many of us grew up believing that heaven and earth were ways of talking about this life and the next life. But that isn’t the story of the Bible. The story of the Bible is that God and man are separated and that God’s mission is to be with His people — to bring heaven to earth.
This simple idea transforms nearly every story we read in the Bible.
The Garden of Eden in Genesis, for example, was not just a physical location on the earth. It was a place where heaven and earth overlapped. “It’s a place where God and humanity dwelt together perfectly,” says Mackie. That’s why we see God physically walking in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:8). But when humans sinned, we left the presence of God because we wanted to do things our own way. However, God still wanted to be with us. So He created another type of meeting place between heaven and earth where people could be in His presence: a temple.
Mackie says, “In the Biblical world, you experience God’s presence by going to a temple…and these temples were decorated with fruit trees and flowers and images of angels and all kinds of gold and jewels and so on. And these are designed to make you feel like you’re going back to the garden.”
It was, in a very real sense, recreating that Eden experience, where God and man met together. However, the temple wasn’t a perfect system. Only one man, the high priest, could meet with God in the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people. But God wanted to be with His people Himself. That’s where Jesus finally stepped into the story.
“In the Gospel of John, we hear this claim that God became human in Jesus and made His ‘dwelling’ among us,” Mackie says. The Greek word for “dwelling” means temple. So John is calling Jesus a temple. Mackie says, “He is the place where heaven and earth overlap.”
Everywhere Jesus went, He basically created little pockets of heaven where people could encounter God’s presence.
Jesus started a movement, bringing heaven to earth one conversation, miracle and act of love at a time. We, His disciples, are called to continue that movement throughout the whole world. That’s what the Great Commission was about: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
The book of Revelation teaches that one day, a final and full redemption will take place. Not one where we all get zapped into heaven once and for all, but where heaven comes down to earth and God dwells with His people forever (Rev. 21:2-3).
In the Bible, heaven is not primarily a place where we go when we die. Actually, the word “heaven” almost never describes the afterlife in Scripture. That doesn’t mean people don’t go there. The apostle Paul is clear that to be “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). But the story of Scripture is not about God making a way for us to go to heaven when we die. It’s about God making a way to bring heaven to earth.
This has huge implications for how we live our lives. For example, we as Christians can’t say, “This world is not our home.” Because, in fact, it is. Heaven is not an escape plan. It’s a redemption plan. It’s not our ticket out of the world. It’s God’s plan to restore and redeem everything. Let’s get to work helping Him bring His kingdom to earth.
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