They're Only Half Right
Chick Yuill looks at what some people think Christians believe
THE truth is that for the larger part of the Bible – the part we know as the Old Testament – there was no clear belief in life after death. By the time Jesus was teaching – a period reflected in the New Testament – some Jews had come to envisage immortality and a future resurrection of the dead. When Jesus rose from the dead, his followers understood the event to mean that everyone could, through him, discover a life that even death could not destroy. However, for all that, the main thrust of the Bible’s teaching is not how we get to Heaven, but how Heaven becomes a reality in our lives here and now.
Some people have the impression that the good news Jesus brought is nothing more than an invitation to have their sins forgiven, escape from this wicked world and go to a better place – what some cynics have called ‘pie in the sky when you die’. But that kind of escapism doesn’t represent what the Bible teaches or what Jesus is all about.
At its heart, the Christian message is not about escaping from the world but engaging with it. And it’s significant that throughout 2,000 years of history, Christians have often been at the forefront of efforts to correct injustice, alleviate human suffering and make life better here and now.
The prayer that Jesus gave to his disciples as a model for all their prayers sums it up: ‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven’ (Matthew 6:9, 10 New International Version).
And that’s what the Bible is really all about. It’s an invitation to follow Jesus and to enlist in God’s great project to transform this broken world into the place of peace and love God means it to be – and which the Bible promises it will one day become. That may seem a long way off, but people who respond to that invitation catch glimpses of Heaven, right here, right now.
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