I was checking out at CVS today when the cover of the current issue of Time Magazine caught my eye–“Rethinking Heaven.” I’d love to tell you I purchased the magazine, but seriously, I don’t have money to waste on finding out what the modern world thinks about Heaven. I trust the mainstream media’s ideas about Heaven about as much as I trust Hollywood’s ideas about Noah. Zero.
I am, however, refreshed by the idea that we are talking about Heaven. The popular movie Heaven is for Real has generated a lot of enthusiasm, as has God’s not Dead…and hold on, Christians, more films are coming! I’ve read For Real, and I’ve seen Not Dead. The former neither offended me nor added to my faith, and the latter inspired me. Neither, however, are foundations upon which I base my understanding of Heaven or Christ.
Also generating talk of Heaven and Jesus are global current events taking place in Israel, in culture, and in astronomy. I’m fascinated by the unfolding of prophecies foretold centuries ago, yet these do not make or break my faith. They serve to remind me that everything Christ promised would happen will actually come to pass exactly as he promised, including his return to us.
Is it important to remember that Christ is coming back? The answer to that lies in Exodus 32:1, when the Israelites decided Moses wasn’t really coming down from Mount Sinai: “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” (ESV)
I propose to you that this passage serves as a foreshadowing of what the world would do after Christ’s ascension into Heaven. Even though he has come down to us as God incarnate, performed miracles, raised the dead, delivered us from the bondage of sin, and was crucified and raised that we may live eternally, he hasn’t returned quickly enough for us to keep these things in our hearts. In essence we have declared, “Let us make our own gods. As for this fellow Jesus who delivered us from sin, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
But Moses came back. The Israelites had turned to every god they could fashion out of material items they owned and had turned to every form of pleasure. They had pushed Moses and his God far from their minds and their choices. Because they turned away to other gods, they suffered severe consequences, just as we will if in growing weary in waiting for Christ, we turn away from him to other gods (materialism, false religion, self-worship, or other forms of idolatry).
I have to tell you, I am excited about Jesus’s return. Jesus, you see, is for real. History backs him up. The stars and the sun and the moon and all of creation reveal his glory. Most importantly, his Word, the Bible, tells me everything I need to know about him–that he is the Way and the Truth and the Life and no man can come unto the Father except through Him. (John 14:6), and that if I put my faith in him I will live eternally (Acts 16:31). I know that he is coming back to the earth (John 14:3), and I know that he calls me to live a life worthy of his calling (Eph. 4:1).
Hebrews 10 sums it all up for me: 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
And so it is that I base my faith upon what Scripture tells me, not what a little boy or some journalist or a nun or Oprah might say, but on Scripture. On their points, I may agree or disagree, but Scripture will determine that.