So You Wanna Go to Heaven When You Die?

The traditional Christian view of life is get right with God by saying a sinner’s prayer, then wait for him to rapture you away from this awful, sinful world, or die and go to heaven. Sound familiar? This story has captivated the church and is the story that many, many Christians live in.

There is another story and it is well articulated by Tom Wright in his article from Time Magazine. Go ahead, take a look, which story do you want to live in? It’s your choice.

I echo Tom Wright’s view in my book God’s EPIC Adventure:

If you went to the streets today or within the corridors of the church and asked what Jesus meant by “repent and believe,” you would most likely hear that he meant “Give up your private sins (most likely sexual, alcohol, and drug abuse) by accepting Jesus and gain some “inner peace” by believing a body of dogma and joining the local church at the corner of walk and don’t walk so you can go to heaven when you die.” God’s EPIC Adventure, 187.


With the resurrection of Jesus, God created a new world and sent Jesus’ followers off to announce it to the world. If you go to the resurrection chapters in Luke 24, or in Matthew, or Mark, or John, and say, “What do the evangelists think this stuff means; why are we telling this story?” The answer is not, “Jesus is risen again, therefore, we can go to heaven when we die and be with him.” It’s interesting they never say that, those resurrection chapters. Rather, they say, “Jesus is risen from the dead. Therefore, God’s new creation has begun, and you are commissioned to go off and make it happen.” That’s the emphasis. And it’s a new world of justice and freedom; it’s the exodus world, the return-from-exile world, the world where Jesus already reigns as Lord, it’s the world with good news for all, especially, as in the New Testament, for the poor, 213.

Also see Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Alden February 11, 2008 at 5:47 pm

I agree with everything you say, except, “… which story do you want to live in? It’s your choice.”

I think I know what you mean. However, this sounds too much like the post-modern “choose your own reality” shtick. If there is a real story, and it is God’s story, then we’re in that story whether we “choose” it or not. What we choose is whether or not to be blind to reality, which I think is what you meant.

I am finding that some of the “emergent” language seems inadequate.


drwinn February 24, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Some folks think that the story of Christianity is “get saved by saying a prayer, get silo-ed in a safe place, i.e., the church, so that when you die you can go to heaven. That is a specific story, but I don’t think it is a Biblical or Christian story. So my point was: you have a choice, live in that unbiblical story or chose God’s story which doesn’t really flavor the story above. Yes, I think we do have a choice.

All language has Inadequacies, including emergent language and traditional Christian language as well.


marion (U.K.) June 20, 2008 at 4:11 am

I am reading this book now and quite excited about it…it ties in with so many things the Lord has been teaching me.
I agree with Tom Wright on so many things – but still wonder why some talk about ”an intermediate state” after bodily death…as we lose the constraints of Time, then, as well as Space, so speaking in the terminology of Time ‘i.e. a waiting time before the General Resurrection and consummation of the Kingdom,’ just doesn’t make sense to me.’

I have just finished reading ‘Velvet Elvis’ by Rob Bell which also touches on some of these issues.
It is wonderful how the Lord seems to be speeding up our understanding of these matters in these days…does anyone else sense that – or is it just me and my life?…maybe my time for the understanding? [having been raised in a Dispensational ‘Plymouth Brethren’ household]


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