Hello Baysiders! Hope you are all in the holiday spirit and holding onto Jesus in all that you do. Happy Advent season church. May we all dig deep in our waiting, despair, and hope for our coming Lord.
What I like about Advent is the grittiness of it. It is not fluffy, fun, sentimental or cheery as Christmas. Now of course there is a time for all that good stuff and I can’t wait for Christmas to party for Jesus’ birthday. But it’s that “I can’t wait” that is the problem. Why can’t I wait? Advent reveals our rushy spirit and impatience with God. Advent is a teacher that instructs us to slow down and contemplate and live through the cries, sins, hardships and troubles of our world, personally or globally. Advent instructs us to have our hope for the second coming of Christ where all will be made right and when our future is made perfect.
This season of Advent is a time to reflect on our future state, judgement, hell, repentance, and end time prophecies. As a teacher and preacher of the Bible, I admit there is not a whole a lot about heaven in scripture. Most of what we believe in heaven is from pop culture, wishful thinking, folklore, and misunderstanding. Let’s explore for a little bit on the subject of heaven and how it relates to Advent.
First we need to define the term. What do you mean by heaven? If you mean a place where God lives, you would be correct. But if you mean a place where we will go after we die because we are faithful Christians, then you are wrong. We will not be in heaven forever. Heaven from the Biblical view is not where we will live forever. Heaven is where God is and lives forever, not us. Where we will be forever is earth. I know, this is not what you expected on your afterlife bingo card. No one has ever told you this in church and that’s a shame. We as Christians have been hoodwinked or just poorly taught on our future home and it ain’t heaven. The future place of the disciples of Christ is, surprisingly, earth. And here you thought you were going to get your own private cloud to sleep on and harp to play Led Zeppelin’s stairway to heaven.
The fact of the matter is scripturally speaking, we get commercials and trailers but never a full movie about heaven. BUT! From the little bit we do have in the Bible of heaven, it is amazing. A sneak preview example is found in Isaiah 11:6-9. In context, Israel is doomed to judgment by falling into exile for their disobedience to God. But in a range of images and prophecies, Isaiah prophesizes about the future state of the world, like the coming of God to rule and reign and in the last days, all will know and follow God, Israel as a nation will be reestablished, the temple restored, Zion the holy city of Jerusalem magnified by all people, and weapons and war eradicated. Then in chapter eleven he goes further with the heaven prediction: no more violence between animal and humans.
Isaiah is describing earth. Not some ethereal, non-material glowy reality. Heaven is earth fully covered in God’s presence. This is the description in the original plan with the Garden of Eden, it was a little heaven on earth and Adam and Eve was to spread that presence and enlarge the territory of the garden to the whole world. But we know what happened. By the second page the Bible they failed and forfeited that opportunity to bring heaven on earth.
Because Advent is about the second coming and also the first coming, there is a dynamic to heaven’s territory. This is why Christmas comes right after. God’s return is two fold. The past and the future. The past is Christmas. We are reminded every year God does not lie and celebrating the birth of Jesus is assurance God is worthy to be trusted. The past was worth the wait, trust, and hardship because it was glorious, fulfilling and joyful. Advent’s logic is surely the second coming of God will be the same and much more. We are confident with our hope because the second coming has already come in the first coming. Its already hear but not quite yet. We have some of the promises now and available but other features of future heaven is still to come. We live in a strange time of history. Theologians call this era the already but not yet. We can have a little taste of this heaven today. When we forgive, we live as though it is heaven. When we love and help the needy, we make heaven arrive on earth. When we stop fighting and end war, we make heaven visible. When we welcome everyone and not judge based on appearance, we make heaven touchable. All these things can happen are possible and why it’s already. But some things are not yet happening, like evil, suffering, sin is still here, and death is always a threat to our bodies.
But this is why Isaiah’s words in chapter eleven is so powerful and beautiful. We can hope and long with joy for a better tomorrow for earth and everyone in it. Did you catch verse 6-9? Isaiah predicts, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain.” All animals and humans will best friends and dogs will no longer be the ones to have that title. This might mean that Vegetarianism will be the diet for all of us! But who cares when we can swim with great whites, walk among lions, and run with leopards. This means I can finally have a bear as a pet! Our ecosystem and planet will thrive and we will be part of that thriving with them. No more violence against each other. We will be like Adam and Eve how it was supposed to be, perfect harmony with fellow humans, living creatures and God.
Is this heaven description and hope the best Christmas gift to long and hope for? It’s what Isaiah wanted for Christmas. Is this on your Santa wish list?