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Our Most Destructive Assumption About Heaven

Disembodied Gospel

If we believe, even subconsciously, that the material world is inherently unspiritual, we will ignore or spiritualize the resurrection. Some speak of spiritual resurrection, but as the sunrise requires a sun, resurrection requires a physical body. That’s what resurrection means.

The risen Jesus reassured His disciples, “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have” (Luke 24:39, CSB). Yet some evangelicals imagine an afterlife in which we become ghosts—the very thing Jesus reassured His followers He wasn’t.

Satan wants us to believe eternal life will be unearthly and boring. Then people focus on bucket lists, thinking here and now is their only chance at real human life. Who wants to be a ghost? Why invite others to spend eternity in a heaven we don’t look forward to ourselves? Our joy, hope, and motivation to evangelize diminish. Trying to develop an appetite for an eternity of disembodied existence is like trying to develop an appetite for gravel.

The only good news about this view of Heaven is that it’s absolutely false.

The Bible’s actual teaching should thrill us. Eternity in a redeemed body living in a Jesus-centered culture on a New Earth, capital planet of the new universe? That’s incredibly good news.

What About the Present Heaven?

God never changes, but Heaven will change. The Bible indicates that after our resurrection, God will relocate His central dwelling place to the New Earth:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. . . . I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. . . . I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
(Revelation 21:1–3)

We’re told “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it [the New Earth], and his servants will worship him” (Revelation 22:3). Heaven is where God’s throne is, where He dwells with His people. Hence, the New Earth will be Heaven on earth. When Christians die, we go to live with God in His place. That’s the present Heaven. But after the resurrection, God will come down to live with us in our place. The future Heaven, on the New Earth, will not be “us with God” but “God with us.”

We err when we confuse the present pre-resurrection Heaven with the future post-resurrection Heaven that God will bring down to the New Earth. The present Heaven is “far better” (Philippians 1:23) than our lives under the curse of sin and suffering. Upon death, we will be “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). But my point is, wonderful though it will be, we shouldn’t think of the present Heaven as if it were our ultimate home. The best is yet to come — eternal and delightful life worshiping and serving the forever-incarnate Jesus on the New Earth.

World Worth Anticipating

Spirits without bodies fit Platonism and Eastern mysticism. They do not fit Christianity. Paul says if there’s no resurrection, we should “be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

New bodies and the New Earth aren’t our inventions; they’re God’s. He created us to live on and rule the earth, and Jesus became man to redeem His creation (Isaiah 65:1766:22). God’s people should look forward to living forever in a redeemed cosmos (2 Peter 3:13). That is a life-changing perspective.

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Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (www.epm.org), a nonprofit ministry dedicated to teaching principles of God’s Word and assisting the church in ministering to the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled, and unsupported people around the world. Before starting EPM in 1990, Randy served as a pastor for fourteen years. He is a New York Times best-selling author of over fifty books, including Heaven (over one million sold), The Treasure Principle (over two million sold), If God Is Good, Happiness, and the award-winning novel Safely Home. His books sold exceed ten million copies and have been translated into over seventy languages.