Children have a way of asking hard questions and forcing you to give an honest answer, which is often, “I don’t know.” Recently, my four-year-old told me, “Dad, I don’t want to go to heaven.” The gut instinct of most Christian parents would probably be first to panic, and then to try to convince their child that heaven is way better than earth. But I resisted that temptation. Instead, I considered why he felt that way. The answer is simple. He likes living here on earth. And why shouldn’t he? Genesis 1:31 says, “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” My son loves this world because God created it for him and everyone else to enjoy.
Heaven is not our home
If you’ve ever been to a funeral, you’ve probably heard someone say about the deceased something like, “The Lord called them home.” The sentiment is not entirely wrong. After all, being in the presence of Jesus is our home. However, if what we mean when we refer to heaven as our home is a new location, then we’re missing something. Heaven is not so much a place as it is a person. It’s the presence of God. While Scripture is clear that when a Christian dies, they are immediately in the presence of Christ, it doesn’t teach that heaven is our final destination. In fact, the Apostle John teaches us quite the opposite in Revelation 21:
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people.'”
Notice, it doesn’t say, “The people’s dwelling place is with God.” Our final destination is not heaven. Rather, after all is said and done, heaven’s final destination is the earth. God will bring His throne to the world to rule in peace on the earth forever. Heaven is a temporary holding place for those who die before Jesus returns. It’s not our final destination. Like Professor N T Wright says, “Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world.”
Wanting to leave the world behind and go to heaven is not necessarily an indication that someone is a mature Christian. In fact, the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He prayed for His disciples in John 17 and said, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” Even in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says, “Let your Kingdom come.” He doesn’t say, “Let us come to your Kingdom.” God does not call us to reject the world but to redeem it.
So when my son told me that he doesn’t want to go to heaven, I didn’t correct him, nor did I try to convince him that heaven is better than earth. Instead, I realized that he simply enjoys life on earth. He enjoys God’s beautiful creation. I looked in his eyes and said, “Don’t worry, buddy. Heaven will come down here.” That’s exactly what Revelation 21:1-3 teaches.
So why does this matter?
Besides putting my little boy’s heart at ease, why does it matter whether we think we’re going to end up in heaven or on earth? It matters because it changes how we live here. If heaven is our final destination, then there’s no reason to take care of this world. There’s no reason to worry about global poverty, climate change or caring for nature and wildlife because it’s all temporary. The only thing we need to be concerned about is saving souls, not the planet. But if we understand that earth is the beautiful home God has designed for us to enjoy, then perhaps we’ll take better care of it and strive to be faithful stewards of it.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Let your kingdom come.” Like most other prayers, God will primarily use His people to answer that prayer.