Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

10 Aug 2021

Some Thoughts about Heaven

“The Christian does not desire going to heaven; they desire to go to Christ, and wherever He is, there is heaven.”

The twitter post caught my eye, and left me perplexed. Had the statement been that the Christian does not merely desire to go to heaven, but also (and firstly) to be with Christ, I’d have accepted it. The idea we can enjoy heaven without any reference to Christ is terribly selfish and misguided, and will, in the last day, bar some professing believers from its pleasures. But to say that the Christian does not desire to go to heaven seems odd. I dearly desire to be with Christ in heaven, but also hope to find that I have in heaven considerable treasure (Matt 6:20), an inheritance (1 Pet 1:4), a rewarding citizenship in a flourishing kingdom (Phil 3:20), a resurrected body (2 Cor 5:1), and a grand company of fellow believers, many of whom I yearn to see. All of this is made possible by Christ, of course, but it is more than Christ.

The second part of the statement above reflects an idea that I have lately been hearing with increased frequency in modern hymnody, namely, the idea that heaven is not a fixed location, but the singular experience of being with Christ and beholding his face forever. It is demonstrable, surely, that heaven is a place where God manifests himself uniquely—a place designed, by all biblical accounting, to be particularly well suited to communion with him. But heaven (and its close equivalent paradise) are not reducible to communion or to a person; instead, Scripture consistently depicts heaven/paradise as material places that one can be “in.” Just like the first paradise of Eden where Adam and Eve lived, heaven is a place not only to enjoy God (in all his Trinitarian essence), but also to enjoy his manifold gifts. 

Hymns and twitter feeds are venues in which hyperbole and poetic license can be interpreted uncharitably, so I must be tentative with my criticisms here. Still, it is important to remind ourselves that Christianity is more than a Platonic experience/relationship; it features contours both material and immaterial, personal and impersonal, and includes the enjoyment of all God’s gifts good and beautiful and true. Sometimes I think we miss this. Heaven is a place that allows us to enjoy all of these things as God intended.