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QUESTION: Will We Live Eternally on the Earth or in Heaven?

I received this question via the Question Box on our congregation’s web page. You can read the hundreds of questions archived there at http://www.Plymouth-church.com. For almost three years, I have answered an average of about two questions each week there. Some of those I have also posted on this blog.

After the rapture and Jesus meets us in the sky, will we live eternal life on earth or in the outer most part of the universe? Are there really 3 levels of heaven?   Thanks

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This World Is Not My Home

This World Is Not My Home

When we speak of “the world” in this post, we do not mean the physical cosmos or universe. Rather, we speak of the moral-social-political-cultural world in which human beings live and interact with one another – and with God. This is the arena where the combat between good and evil, between God and the devil occurs. Scripture uses “this world” to contrast with “the heavenly realms” (cf. Ephesians 1:3).

In the World But Not of the World

As creatures of flesh and blood who are also living as disciples of Jesus, we occupy a unique place. We are in the world but not of the world (John 17:14). Jesus occupied this same position, but with a difference. He came down from heaven to be in this world to redeem it; we, the redeemed, are going from this world into the heavenly realms. His origin was there; our origin is here; but both of us belong there.

Yet, we have a mission in this world, just as Jesus had a mission in this world. While we are here, we are to give glory to God in this world. We cannot turn our backs on the world to live in a monastery. If we do, we refuse to walk in the steps of Jesus. Nor can we adopt the thought patterns and the life style of the world. That would also refuse the heavenly walk.

As disciples, we are to demonstrate heavenly patterns of thought and life in this world. That is what Jesus did, and that is what his disciples today do as well. To decline this challenge is to decline the life of a disciple.

That is why the first concern of the disciple is not the essentials of life in this world. Disciples are told, seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness all the physical necessities of life will be given to us (Matthew 6:33). This promise challenges faith – but it is a solemn promise from our Master himself.

Do Not Love the World

The problem is that the world presents a constant, powerful appeal to physical, human senses. It is so much with us we are tempted to fall in love with its charms. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you (1 John 2:15). The things in the world in this context are moral: the cravings of sinful man, the cravings of his eyes, and his vain pride in his accomplishments. When we love our lusts and are proud of our petty accomplishments, we have fallen out of love with God and into love with the world.

It is life’s worries, riches and pleasures that originate in these lusts and pride that choke the word of God so it is unfruitful (Luke 8:14). Entanglement in these affairs keep a soldier of Christ from pleasing his commanding officer (2 Timothy 2:4).

Many times, these pursuits are harmless except that they distract us from the important things of life for empty pleasures. Though not sinful, they become sin because they steal our hearts from the one whom we are to adore and love beyond all others. Thus, they become weapons in the Devil’s arsenal to separate us from our God.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

When the Devil can turn our hearts from God, he has taken us captive (as spiritual POW’s). Yet, the disciple’s heart is fixed firmly on the heavenly city. That is his homeland even though he has never been there in person. People who are third or fourth generation New Zealanders used to talk about going “home” to England. They had never been there; their parents had never been there. But that is still what they thought of as home. This changed when England entered the European Common Market and cut its former colony off from the British market. When it was evident the “homeland” had little “love” for its erstwhile children, the children began to think of “home” in different ways.

We will be justified in turning our love away from heaven when heaven shows it has turned its love away from us. But nothing will separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39) – so we never have an excuse for turning our hearts away from him. And if our heart is with him, our homeland will be in heaven.

We live in this world as strangers and pilgrims. We are here. We have work to do here. But we know one day we will go home. So, we do not “put down roots” in this world. Our “roots” are in heaven.

Christian Non-Conformity

As people whose hearts and homes are in heaven, we live in this world without adopting its way of life. The apostle charged us, do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). This transformation comes through the influence of our Master. The effect of this non-conformity is seen in 1 Peter 4:1-4. There, the one who has suffered with Christ (that is, who is crucified with Christ) is one who no longer lives as the pagans do: living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and idolatry. If these words did not come from a book nearly 2,000 years old, you would think they were written about the very world we live in today. The disciple of Jesus consciously rejects the life-style of the world because, in the words of the song, “I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

This rejection is to be complete – and will be obvious. Peter went on to observe that the pagans think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation – and they heap abuse on you. From the time of Cain and Able, evil men have abused those who choose to serve and love God.

It is no different today. Why do we think the American democratic society has somehow neutralized the powers of darkness and robbed them of the power to persecute those who choose not to conform to the patterns of this world, but to conform instead to the image of God’s Son?

The Church: A New Society in This World

Disciples of Jesus, each of them a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), form a new society in this world, a city of light that is set on a hill (Matthew 5:15). After talking about not being conformed to the world of darkness, Paul continued in Romans 12 to talk about the new society God is forming in this world with his church.

This is a society where love is sincere, where people are devoted to one another in brotherly love. In this society, people honor each other over themselves and share with those who are in need. They bless instead of curse. They are not arrogant, but associate even with those of low position. It is a society that is harmonious, not vengeful.

In reading this description of the heavenly society, I am reminded of the story of the boy whose father told him what a Christian is: one who loves everyone, is patient, kind, forgiving, and pure. The boy then asked his father, “Have I ever seen one?” Can we honestly say we have seen a society like this? Yet, this is what Jesus, by the Holy Spirit within us, is training his disciples to be. Are we willing to be trained?

– (13) Discipline As Disciples

– (11) Examples of Disciples Praying

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