As a kid, nothing made me happier than early Saturday morning cartoons. I loved waking up early and watching as many as my parents would allow.
Who didn’t love the epic battles between Tom and Jerry or the Roadrunner and ole’ Wile E. Coyote?!? Nothing says children’s entertainment like violent cartoon characters finding creative ways to kill each other.
This is not a critique of children’s entertainment at all. I just wonder if our theology has outgrown our childish TV shows. I cannot remember a single episode where at some point someone died and their angelic, opaque spirit, complete with wings and a harp, drifted towards the clouds and heaven. Does our theology look any different or do we still hope and pray for our spirits to drift towards a heavenly bliss when we die?
Is that really something to hope for? Is that really all there is? Books say it’s real. Blogs say it’s real. Radio personalities and TV preachers warn about the times and say it’s time to get ready for our spiritual rapture ride into the clouds. Did Jesus really come to die and rise so we could float up like Wiley? That seems a little weak…what good is Good News if it’s not actually good now?
Have you ever noticed how many times Jesus used present tense verbs to talk about the Kingdom of Heaven? Didn’t he proclaim that the Kingdom is Heaven is here now? Didn’t he say things like the Kingdom is heaven is like this…not it will be like this one day just hang on? Didn’t he say you will do greater things that even I when the Advocate comes?
How we view heaven matters. It matters because it affects how we live in the here and now. It matters because there are people who are living in hell right now.
Hell is real in the life of an addict. Hell is real in the life of someone not comfortable in their skin when they look in the mirror. Hell is real in the life of someone who feels alone in a crowd. Hell is real in the life of someone who sees sex as a means to an end or a way to feel worthy. Hell is real in governments and systems of oppression and in justice.
Isn’t it time the church began proclaiming that heaven is for real now? Isn’t it time for the church to believe that the Good News is good now?